Person chopping herbs

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Vegan and plant-based eating is gaining momentum, not just among wellness types but also with celebrities like Beyoncé, food institutions such as Bön Appétit, and even fast food chains. Whether you’re mostly munching on veggies for the health benefits or you’re interested in food sovereignty and sustainability, living an animal-product-free lifestyle has gone from being seen as extreme to (almost) mainstream.

Eat food, not too much, mostly plants,” is writer Michael Pollan’s simple instruction for a way of eating that supports both humans and the planet. His book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma and, similarly, Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals provide persuasive, science-backed intelligence on why being vegan or vegetarian is a sound choice for myriad reasons. Both books greatly informed my choice to focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, pulses, nuts, and seeds as the basis of my diet, and it’s been an incredibly positive and easy experience. 

Perhaps you subscribe to meat free Mondays” and need some inspiration, or you’re keen to go full-time vegan but can’t fathom a life of bland tofu and steamed broccoli. Well, I’m here to tell you that plant-based eating can be as tasty, exciting and as satisfying as anything omnivorous — if you keep your pantry stocked with flavor-boosting ingredients that add a punch to any meal, and transform plants from mere side dish to main event. 

Enter your new friend, umami, the Japanese concept of a pleasant savory taste.” Umami is a flavor profile like saltiness, sweetness and bitterness,” says Cindy DiPrima, co-founder of modern wellness destination, CAP Beauty, and co-author of new plant-based recipe book, High Vibrational Beauty. It is difficult to define but is best described a savory, and I find it rich as well. The infamous monosodium glutamate or MSG is sprinkled on food for its umami notes. Parmesan too. Whole food sources of umami are often meat and fish, but there are also vegetable sources.” 

Seaweed, mushrooms, tomatoes, olives, nutritional yeast, tamari, coconut aminos, and fermented foods like sauerkraut and miso are all umami ingredients. If you add notes of creaminess to this— in the form of avocado, tahini or cashew cream — and extra savory flavor via spices such as smoked paprika and cumin, plain vegetables, beans, and grains take on a whole new depth. Because I think of umami with a certain richness, I like to find the most concentrated versions of these foods to add to my meals,” says DiPrima. Naturally cured black Botija olives are a great addition and so is dried tomato powder or the smoked dried tomatoes from Cookbook in LA. I also put fermented vegetables on everything. When I want a short cut, Dark Horse Organic makes a vegan umami powder that’s amazing. I put it in soups and shake it over everything.” 

When creating their new book on beauty rituals and recipes, it was really important to us to deliver dishes that would excite anyone, not just health nuts like us,” says DimPrima. We don’t bill our book as plant-based or gluten free. It just happens to be. We want it to be delicious to all. And healthy, too.” Armed with these flavor profiles, vegan food takes on the complexities inherent in more traditional cuisines. No one likes a pushy vegan,” says DiPrima when asked what she’d cook for non-vegans to turn them onto a plant-based way of life. But I would invite them over for a meal, maybe tacos or a gingery dhal bowl with loads of cilantro and turmeric kraut.” 

Here, DiPrima shares her umami-packed recipe for Summer Lovin Tomato Tart. 

Bird's eye view of tart with tomatoes and olives

Photo courtesy of Jon von Pamer

Summer Loving Raw Tart

Recipe excerpted from HIGH VIBRATIONAL BEAUTY. Copyright @ 2018 by Kerrilynn Pamer and Cindy DiPrima Morisse. Published by Rodale Books, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.


1⁄2 large head of cauliflower, florets only
3⁄4 cup sunflower seeds
3 tablespoons flaxseed, ground
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon coconut aminos or tamari
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1⁄4 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt, plus more for sprinkling
Sunflower Ricotta (page 253 in HIGH VIBRATIONAL BEAUTY)
Tonic Youth Pesto (page 49 in HIGH VIBRATIONAL BEAUTY)
Heirloom tomatoes, sliced
Botija olives
Extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh basil


Prepare cauliflower rice” by tossing the florets into a food processor and processing until broken down and ricelike (or by grating them on a large box grater). Measure out 2 cups and save the rest for another recipe. Then, combine the sunflower seeds, flaxseeds and garlic in the food processor and process until the seeds break down, about 15 seconds. Add in the 2 cups of cauliflower rice, coconut aminos or tamari, yeast and salt. Process until well-blended. Spread the dough out on a parchment- lined dehydrator sheet, about 1⁄4 inch thick. Dehydrate at 145°F for 1 hour and then 115°F for an additional 5 to 6 hours, or until it is the consistency you like.

Add toppings, starting with a spread of ricotta and pesto and top with the
tomatoes, olives, basil and a drizzle of oil. Top with a sprinkling of salt, and

Serves 4

Note: You can bake this at 300°F for 15 minutes, checking every 5 minutes thereafter. Remove from the oven when lightly golden brown and crispy.

Articles from The Natural should not be considered medical advice. If you have any questions about your health, please consult a medical professional.