Even those who are not up on the latest food trends seem to be aware that many people are choosing to eat less meat, cut down on gluten lactose and opt for organic, whole foods. I have been loving my latest batch of cookbooks for their focus on fresh, seasonal produce, whole grains and simple compositions. A Modern Way to Eat by Anna Jones has the tagline of “200+ satisfying vegetarian recipes (that will make you feel amazing)”and interspersed between all the recipes are useful reference lists for variations on soups, salads, pasta, grains, flours, breakfast fruits, produce by season…you name it. She writes, “the way we eat is changing” and thinks that whatever level of vegetarianism we’re embracing, we all could use some new ideas. Hence the cookbook. If you are trying to break away from traditional diets, this book will give you all the tools you need.
Jones is a vegetarian and often cooks dishes that are naturally gluten free. In the introduction she writes about her approach to this kind of eating in a way that I think many of us can relate to, saying; “I want to eat in a way that satisfies but leaves me feeling light and happy at the same time. Too much healthy food leaves me miserably hungry, but equally, I don’t like to rely on a lot of heavy carbs or dairy to fill the gaps. I use spice, texture, flavour and easy grains to satisfy without heaviness.” And so an updated version of eggs Benedict features cashews and avocados on roasted sweet potato slices instead of rich Hollandaise and English muffins. There are kale chips with tarragon mustard or sesame miso dressing but lest you think there’s no indulging, there are also recipes for both lemon ricotta pancakes and salted caramel crack brownies. It’s the meeting of clean, healthy and delicious.
I first became a vegetarian in the 90’s in a suburb of Vancouver and so I ate way too many terrible pasta primaveras and packaged tofu meat substitutes. I found my way back to a meat-based diet for a while but it didn’t stick – recently I tried to cut down on meat and found that I didn’t miss it at all. And given that my husband is celiac, the large majority of the food I make these days is vegetarian and gluten free. But these days “interesting varieties of vegetables are the norm, and more unusual herbs, interesting and different grains, spices, and ingredients from afar now line the aisles” and with the Farmers’ Market just down the street there is no end of variation on blended soups, roasted veg quinoa bowls, hearty salads and the occasional piece of grilled salmon. In short, Jones’ ‘modern way to eat’ is right in line with my own.
As a student of Jamie Oliver’s, she had to reconsider her foundation for cooking (without meat) and went after texture and flavour – and passion – to fill the gap. She writes,
“I am led by the things that got me excited about cooking in the first place: the haze of citrus oils spritzing off the skin of a freshly zested orange, the deep purple brilliance when you slice into an earthy beet; the warming scent of ginger and brown sugar baking into a crumble; the Willy Wonka magic of melting chocolate over a bain-marie, and so many more moments when my taste buds start dancing and my heart beats a little faster.”
Enthralled, I made smoky walnut and cumin muhammara – an elevated and earthy roasted red pepper dip; charred pepper and halloumi stew (really a warm salad); honey roasted radishes; sweet and salty tahini crunch greens; another warm salad of roasted kale, coconut and tomatoes; the aforementioned salted caramel crack brownies.
The first thing I made wasn’t even really a recipe. Part inspiration, part vegetarian lifestyle coach, she creates lists such as “10 Ways with Avocado toast” and “Vegetable Underdogs: What to do with all the weird stuff.” I chuckled when I saw the “recipe” for avocado toast but the rather than a how-to this is meant to get you out of your rut. I am kind of an avocado toast purist and like mine rough chopped on toasted rustic bread with a sprinkling of Togarashi spice, but my sister insists on hers fork mashed so the chopped scallion / toasted mustard seeds / chopped cilantro variation was a bit of a revelation whereas the cinnamon-honey variant was not even to be considered.
Most of the rest of the book is dog-eared and post-it noted already with all the things I’m going to make next but I feel like I’ve cooked a good enough way through it that I have a feel for the style of writing (casual and friendly), the photography (gorgeous, as she is a professional food stylist but not always available for recipes, which I find frustrating), the recipes (wordy but for the most part reliable) and vision (spot on).
It is overcast in Seattle this week so I am already thinking about one of my favourite dishes from the book – Walnut Miso Broth with Udon Noodles. I wrote earlier that I don’t miss meat but there are a few things I miss where the vegetarian version just doesn’t cut it – particularly in the unctuousness of pho and ramen (and xiao long bao) broth. The broth in this recipe could be punchier in my opinion but it is clean and fresh and once the nutty, rich miso paste is added and stirred in well, it changes the dynamic entirely. The kale feels healthy and I added a couple of drops of chili oil. to my leftovers – an affect I quite liked.
Walnut Miso Broth with Udon Noodles
WALNUT MISO PASTE
3/4 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
2 TBSP dark miso paste
2 TBSP honey or agave syrup
1 TBSP sweet soy sauce or tamari
Splash of white wine vinegar
2 scallions, trimmed and finely sliced
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and chopped into matchsticks
1 vegetable stock cube / 1 TBSP vegetable stock powder / 8 cups vegetable broth
1 head of kale, collard greens or other leafy green, stemmed and shredded
a handful of shimeji mushrooms (about 6 oz)
a handful of enoki mushrooms (about 6 oz)
9 oz / 1 package dried udon noodles
chili oil (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 425 F.
2. Put the walnuts on a baking tray and toast them in the oven for 5-10 minutes, until just browned and smelling fragrant. Set aside to cool.
3. Make the broth. Put the scallions, ginger and vegetable stock into a pan (with equivalent water if you are using powder or a cube) over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the greens and mushrooms and turn off the heat.
4. Meanwhile, bring another pan of water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook for 6-8 minutes (or follow the instructions on the packet).
5. Make the miso paste. Pulse the toasted walnuts in a food processor until they resemble very coarse breadcrumbs. Mix with the other walnut miso paste ingredients.
6. Once the noodles are cooked, drain and divide them between two bowls then ladle hot broth over top – Jones suggests two ladles for each bowl. Finally add a generous spoonful of miso paste into each and stir well. Drizzle chili oil before serving, if you desire.
A Modern Way to Eat
200+ Satisfying Vegetarian Recipes (That Will Make You Feel Amazing)
by Anna Jones
From Ten Speed Press