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Amy Chaplin takes her celebration of wholesome ingredients even further in Whole Food Cooking Every Day

Our cookbook of the week is Whole Food Cooking Every Day by teacher and personal chef Amy Chaplin. To try a recipe from the book, check out: Apple-citrus chia Bircher bowl , herbed butter bean pâté with leeks and spinach , and oat pecan crackers with rosemary and raisins .

Rarely but happily in our cooking lives, we can trace our adoration for an author’s work back to a single recipe. The experience of making and eating it so perfectly aligned with our sensibilities — the instructions so clear and reliable — that it hooked us, earning our trust and anticipation for all that might follow.

I first fell for Amy Chaplin’s singular style of cooking after a bite of her chocolate hazelnut layer cake with cherry filling and chocolate ganache. Suitably celebratory for a friend’s backyard wedding reception, sweet-tart and satisfyingly rich, I could have eaten it all night. I was still thinking about it the next morning, and clearly I’m still thinking about it now, years later.

The recipe is in Chaplin’s debut, the IACP- and James Beard Award-winning At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen (Roost Books, 2014), which conveys the Australia-born chef’s considered approach to vegetarian cooking. In her follow-up, Whole Food Cooking Every Day (Artisan, 2019), she takes her celebration of wholesome ingredients even further by laying the groundwork for improvisation.

“I really wanted to illustrate freedom rather than being tied to a recipe,” says Chaplin. “The idea is that some things that I make are so simple, yet you can add rose water or matcha or turmeric latte mix and change it up completely. I didn’t want people to feel restricted because I never do, no matter what I’ve got on hand.”

While there are technically 250 recipes in the book — all of which are free of gluten, dairy and refined sugar — Chaplin’s base recipes are a springboard to so many more. Through her role as a teacher and private chef (with clients including Natalie Portman and Liv Tyler), as well as the progression of her own home cooking, she came to the realization that much of what she makes is a variation on a theme. The book, with its myriad options and distinctive building blocks, is a reflection of the adaptable way she cooks day-to-day.

In 20 chapters, Chaplin riffs on the likes of chia bircher bowls, whole-grain porridges, nut and seed milks, beans, cakes, granola and waffles. With the exception of a chapter dedicated to “Vegetables: Land and Sea,” all include at least one base recipe and plenty of inventive takes. A foundational recipe for a chia Bircher bowl can be flavoured with apple and citrus, or cacao, maca and mesquite. Her nut or seed milk base can be spun into matcha almond milk or Brazil nut milk with star anise and vanilla bean.

In laying out so many diverse possibilities, Chaplin opens up a world. As with all her work, she explains, her primary goal is to inspire others to cook. By interspersing informative tables (e.g. nut and seed soaking times, bean cooking times, roasted and steamed vegetable cooking times, grain soaking and cooking times, and how to customize nut milks) among the base recipes and interpretations, she set out to create a playbook for “a lifetime of eating well.”

“I know that sounds like a big statement to make, but I feel like you could be happy eating like this,” Chaplin says with a laugh. “You can take it in any direction that you like — I’m just giving you a jumping-off point. I really hope that it goes beyond the variations that I did … I put in my favourites and what I think worked really well, but you can take it so much further. I hope people feel supported and guided in the kitchen if they’re not confident yet, and that it gives them confidence so that they can do it themselves.”

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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