May 20, 2018

From the Kitchens of YamChops: review and recipe

When I was first offered a review copy of From the Kitchens of YamChops, a cookbook by Michael Abramson, chef and founder of YamChops, the first vegan butcher shop in North America (Toronto, Canada), I suspected it was all about seitan and other meat substitutes, but I was wrong. That's Wrong with a capital W. When I started looking through the recipes, I was bookmarking so many I wanted to try I ran out of bookmarks, and had to tear up a sheet of newspaper so I could keep saving pages. And none of them involved seitan. Don't get me wrong, I love(d) seitan, until I realized I could continue to endure cramps and intestinal disturbance, or stop eating gluten. So I stopped. But while YamChops has its share of gluten-based recipes, if you are gluten-free, there's a ton of stuff for you, too. There's something for everyone, and it's delicious.

"Some might say that a vegan butcher is an oxymoron, but we believe plant-based proteins can (and should) be staples of any kitchen or diet," writes Abramson in the introduction. "Our recipes appeal to all types of eaters: vegans, vegetarians and flexitarians — those who are trying to reduce their meat and dairy consumption."
There are six chapters — Mouthwatering meatless mains; Selfie-worthy appetizers and sides; Bold bowls, broths and brews; Remarkable salads, slaws and dips; Sensational sauces, salsas and chutneys; Scrumptious chocolate endings. There are no ingredient chapters, no how-to chapters, no substitutions chapters, etc. It's all about the recipes. There are easy and basic recipes for everyday, and more exotic ones that would work well for entertaining.  When I look through the book, I get hungry.   

Lemon lentil soup.

The first recipe we tried came from a disagreement. My husband wanted lentil soup for dinner and I did not. I think he would eat lentil soup every night, and I get sick of it. However, when I saw there was a lentil soup recipe in YamChops, I compromised — he could make lentil soup if he used the YamChops recipe. I wasn't expecting it to be so good! This easy-to-make soup was so flavorful and delicious it's become our go-to lentil soup recipe. It was a lentil soup revelation. Really.

Cumin-lime, black bean and quinoa bowl.

Next we tried the Cumin-lime, black bean and quinoa bowl. We tend to go for the simpler, everyday recipes that we happen to already have the ingredients for, since we're not the greatest at planning ahead. Although the ingredients seemed quotidian, the results were anything but. The sauce and the roasted sweet potatoes made the bowl scrumptious and satisfying. We cut back a bit on the oil, and used arugula instead of spring mix, but the bowl was still fabulous. (The publisher has given me permission to share the recipe, and you'll find it at the end of the review.)

mozzarella cheese.

In the sauce chapter there's a recipe for mozzarella cheese, and I was curious to see if it was better than other mozzarella recipes I've made in the past. It called for a small amount of coconut oil but didn't specify virgin or refined. I knew if I used virgin, the coconut flavor would be there, but maybe the cheese flavor needed that. There was no clue from the recipe so I used half and half.

mozzarella cheese, sliced.

The cheese is slice-able, grate-able and it melts and browns. At first I didn't like it — it had a sweetish, slight coconut taste. It didn't taste like mozzarella and I thought it needed more salt. I personally wouldn't serve it sliced as an appetizer.

Mozzarella, melted.

Then, I melted it on toast in my air fryer, and I became hooked. So what if it doesn't taste exactly like mozzarella? When I sprinkled it with oregano, sea salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes, it tasted so good I just couldn't stop eating it, which was fine since I had a refrigerator full of the stuff. Look at it — you can't deny the melted beauty of this cheese. (Although the cheese is supposed to be grate-able, I didn't test this out. All of the melted mozzarella you see in the review was melted from slices.)

Black bean meatless meatballs.

I wanted to make something from the meatless mains chapter, and since I had a ton of cheese, and a stack of frozen pizza crusts from a local restaurant, it seemed logical to make a meatball and mozzarella pizza. Wouldn't you? The meatballs were tasty, with a slightly chewy texture. Though they didn't taste like meat, they looked like it, and they tasted great.

Black bean meatless meatballs and mozzarella pizza.

I cut them in half and topped them with extra tomato sauce for a thoroughly delightful pizza.

Meatball sandwich.

In the cookbook, the meatballs are shown in a meatball sub sandwich, which is kind of hard to pull off in a gluten-free version without advance planning to locate the rolls. Here's my version. The only thing I'm missing (beside the rolls) are the fried onions. Next time.

Chocolate banana cream pie.

My review wouldn't be complete if I had ignored the chocolate chapter. After much indecision, I finally decided to make the chocolate banana cream pie. Actually, I made half a recipe, and used a small pie plate rather than the nine-inch size listed. The crust was a bit scarce but I had tons of filling. The crust didn't work well for me, though I tried to follow the directions. Although it's delicious, it's very sticky and doesn't stay attached to the filling. The filling though is spectacular — thick, firm, rich, chocolatey and perfect. I may have to try again with a different crust — the pie is too good to only make once.

Finally, here's the recipe I promised. Enjoy!
(Reprinted with permission from From the Kitchen of YamChops by Michael Abramson, Page Street Publishing Co. 2018. Photo credit: Vincenzo Pistritto)

Cumin-Lime, Black Bean and Quinoa Bowl

"You know the feeling when everything just melds together in perfect harmony? This is that feeling. Warming cumin, tart lime and sweet maple syrup combine to elevate the flavor of everything else in this bowl of goodness."   Serves 6

  • 1½ cups (200 g) sweet potato peeled and cut in ½-inch (13-mm) cube
  • 1 tbsp (15 ml) olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Spring mix
  • 1½ cups (277 g) cooked quinoa
  • 1½ cups (90 g) canned black beans, rinsed well
  • 1½ cups (75 g) grated carrot
Cumin-Lime Dressing
  • 1/8 cup (80 ml) fresh lime juice
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp (10 g) grated carrot
  • 2 small cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp (5 g) ground cumin
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) olive oil
Preheat the oven to 400°F (204°C).
  1. Place the sweet potato in a bowl, add oil and sprinkle sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Toss well to coat and place the cubes on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Place in the preheated oven and bake for approximately 20 minutes until golden and just beginning to brown. Mix every 5 minutes or so. When the sweet potatoes are ready, remove from the oven and set aside to cool. 
  2. To make the dressing, add the lime juice, syrup, carrot, garlic, cumin and salt to a blender and blend until smooth. With the blender running on low, slowly drizzle in the olive oil in a steady stream. Place the dressing in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.
  3. Start with a base of spring mix in 6 shallow bowls. Divide the quinoa, black beans, carrot and potato among the bowls.
  4. Mix the dressing well and drizzle 2 generous tablespoons (30 ml) over each bowl.


  1. I haven't heard of yamchops - clearly I'm missing out! I'm glad to hear it's not overload with seitan, as I'm not a massive fan, and there are so many good things here too. That cheese! That pie!

    1. If it makes you feel any better, I'd never heard of Yamchops, either. There are so many recipes I want to try, it's overwhelming.

  2. I can't keep up with all these cookbook releases! This is another new one to me. Sounds like it's worth further investigation. Glad to see you using that air fryer more too. ;)

    1. Our air fryer is probably the most used appliance in the kitchen. When I saw our model for sale on Costco's Web site, my husband wanted to buy it just in case ours ever died from overuse. (I didn't buy it but was tempted.)

  3. Wow, that all looks amazing, but especially that melty mozzarella. Do you think you'd make it again but without the coconutty coconut oil next time?

    1. I keep asking myself the same question — I've actually grown quite fond of it. I do love the way it melts and browns, though it doesn't stretch, of course. I might try Miyoko's mozzarella again to compare, since it's been so long since I tried it. This is her latest version:


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