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Cookbook review: Vegetarian cooking for everyone in Anna Jones' 'A Modern Way to Cook'

By Anna Jones Ten Speed Press, 352 pages, $35

A Modern Way to Cook

By Anna Jones Ten Speed Press, 352 pages, $35

A Modern Way to Cook is the boldly titled second book from Anna Jones, a followup to her popular debut cookbook, A Modern Way to Eat. Both books feature healthful, vegetarian recipes, but the latest one from Jones focuses on everyday cooking. Recipes are for the kind of weekday meals aiming for the holy grail of nutrition, satisfaction and convenience.

With the use of the word "modern," Jones is referring to recipes that celebrate and incorporate vegetables for full-time vegetarians and those who don't cut meat entirely out of their diets.

This aims to be a practical cookbook, one that is often open on your kitchen counter. With choose-your-own-adventure salad dressings, fast flavor boosters, one-pan dinners and recipe snippets for dishes you'll make once and commit to memory, it's easy to work Jones' style of cooking in throughout the week.

Jones is British, and American fans of British food writers Nigel Slater or Nigella Lawson will be charmed by Jones' relaxed recipe writing, especially when a recipe calls for ingredients like "runny honey" or a mugful of something. The frequent use of a kettle is another slightly foreign concept (I use mine solely for making coffee with a French press or tea) but it's one of her nifty ways to speed up cooking. In America, we massage our kale; from London, Jones advises you to scrunch the cruciferous green.

The book is divided into a few chapters for meals requiring 15, 20, 30 or 40 minutes to cook. There are also quick breakfasts, desserts and investment cooking (which means you do it once to build several meals). She's trying to teach home cooks how to maximize flavor in a minimal amount of time, and so far, my everyday meals are certainly benefiting from Jones' guidance. Her outlook on eating well is an easy one to swallow, especially when it's delivered in a handsome cookbook with inspiration for dinner on each page. She eats mostly well, but she's not draconian about it. Like me, I don't think she subscribes to the term "guilty pleasure."

The alluring photo of zucchini noodles on the cover persuaded me to finally install the julienne blade on my mandoline. I set the timer and got started. At first read, there were a couple of steps that gave me pause for this recipe billed as a quick dinner. Jones asks you to make zucchini noodles and a pesto, fry lemon slices and bake ricotta, which may sound like a lot to do in less than a half-hour, and there are quite a few dishes to clean up afterward. It did take a bit longer than the promised 25 minutes, but I find most recipes take a bit longer than advertised. I cut one dish to clean by not transferring the pesto from the food processor to a separate bowl as instructed and instead just adding it to the noodles once they were drained.

But it ended up where it was supposed to: a flavorful and satisfying dinner that didn't take too much time. If I didn't have a dishwasher, I might cut one or two of the delightful flourishes, like frying slices of lemon and baking the honey-striped ricotta.

Another night, I turned to her section on quick flavor boosts. An herb oil made its way to Wednesday night lentils, truly transforming a simple meal of lentils and rice with avocado. Leftovers were topped with her miso-maple sauce, a quick way to make something good of that well-meaning but often neglected tub of miso in the fridge door.

Though I have a large bookcase that stores the bulk of my cookbook collection, I've started keeping a featured rotation of a dozen or so on my kitchen counter so they're closer for inspiration. Modern will keep its spot there for a long time. Fans of Yotam Ottolenghi and Jamie Oliver (Jones has worked with both) would be happy adding this cookbook to their collection, too.

The book is packed with more than 150 recipes of goodness to inspire bright weeknight cooking that just happens to be vegetarian.

Ileana Morales Valentine can be reached at


Seeded Halloumi and Harissa Rainbow Bowl

Freekeh is a type of wheat. If you can't find freekeh, Anna Jones recommends using other quick-cooking grains, like millet or quinoa. Halloumi is a cheese from Cyprus with a high melting point. If you can't find it, try using feta or queso blanco for similar results.

1 cup freekeh

Sea salt

Coconut oil

10 ounces (or a very big handful) cherry tomatoes

4 beets (I use yellow ones)

7 ounces kale (I use purple)

1 lime

1 ripe avocado

7 ounces halloumi cheese

2 tablespoons mixed seeds (I use poppy and sesame)

Juice of ½ lemon

Freshly ground pepper

A small bunch of mint

A small bunch of dill

For the dressing:

A bunch of green onions

1 teaspoon runny honey

1 tablespoon harissa

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Juice of ½ lemon

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Measure out the freekeh in a mug or measuring cup, making a note of the level it comes up to, then put it into a bowl and cover it with cold water. Rub the grains in your hands, then drain and wash once more the same way. Put the freekeh into a pan. Fill the mug or jug to the same level with water and add to the pan, then repeat so you have double the volume of water as freekeh. Add a pinch of salt and a dollop of coconut oil, bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes, until soft but still with a little bit of bite.

Meanwhile, make the dressing. Finely slice the green onions and fry them in a little coconut oil until just starting to brown, then scoop them into a jug and add the honey, harissa, olive oil and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper and mix well.

Cut the tomatoes in half. Peel the beets and use a mandoline or your excellent knife skills to slice them very finely. Remove the stalks and shred the leaves of the kale, put into a bowl with the juice of a lime and a pinch of salt, and scrunch with your hands for a minute.

Cut the avocado in half and remove the pit, then, with the skin still on, use a small knife to make incisions lengthwise along the avocado to form slices.

Put a frying pan over high heat and slice the halloumi thinly. Have your seeds standing by. Put the halloumi into the hot dry pan and cook until brown on one side, which will take about a minute, then flip over and brown the other side. Scatter seeds over top and turn the halloumi in the pan until it is coated with them. Take off the heat.

Once the freekeh is cooked, drain it and dress it with the lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Chop the mint and dill and mix them into the freekeh.

Serve in shallow bowls, topped with all the rainbow vegetables, the seeded halloumi and generous spoonfuls of the harissa dressing.

Serves 4.

Source: A Modern Way to Cook by Anna Jones (Ten Speed Press, 2016)

Cookbook review: Vegetarian cooking for everyone in Anna Jones' 'A Modern Way to Cook' 09/12/16 [Last modified: Monday, September 12, 2016 4:13pm]
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