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 [email protected]