I’m a big fan of Joe Yonan, the food editor for The Washington Post. We met years ago at an International Association of Culinary Professionals conference. During the course of the weekend, I’d helped put together a “night owl” session on pitching stories. On the panel with Joe was Victoria von Biel, then the executive editor of Bon Appetit and Silvana Nardone, then editor of Everyday with Rachel Ray. Only a half-dozen people showed up. At first, I felt embarrassed by the thin turnout. The four editors took it in stride, we ended up in a hotel suite drinking wine while they doled out advice and talked about the business of food editing until midnight.
In his first book, Serve Yourself: Nightly Adventures in Cooking for One, Joe offered inventive recipes plus practical advice for small batch cooking. After all, what to do with that leftover tomato paste or half a head of cabbage? Since then, Joe “came out” as the first vegetarian running the food section of a major newspaper.So, it’s no surprise his new book is vegetarian-focused Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook. Don’t let the “single” part deter you if you’re part of a couple or small family — I’ve found that his strategies for one work fantastically well for two. Basically it’s a way to think (and cook) outside the “serves six” mantra that is fairly standard in most recipes.
I wanted to get some tips on cookbooks and his favorite blogs, not to mention his favorite recipes in the new book in a quick Q&A below.
What are favorite recipes in Eat Your Vegetables?
That’s a little like asking a mother to choose her favorite child, but OK, I’ll bite: At the moment, I’m pretty enamored with two recipes in EYV: Poblano Tapenade, because it brings a spicy punch to one of my favorite dips; and Fusilli With Corn Sauce, because it uses fresh corn in two ways (whole kernels from one cob and grated kernels and juicy pulp from another) to showcase the pure flavor of one of my favorite summer vegetables.
What are some of your “go to” cookbooks, the ones you use again and again?
Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison: a modern classic for a reason. If she doesn’t know something about a vegetable and how to cook it, then no one does. Tips galore, plus just hundreds and hundreds of recipes, most of them relatively simple but with smart flavor combinations. Some favorite recipes: Braised Fennel With Parmesan; Cauliflower, Spinach, and Potato Stir-Fry with Coconut Milk.
The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg: More a reference book than a cookbook, but an invaluable one for anyone developing his own recipes, or just looking for smart ideas. I got the idea to use corn husks in addition to cobs in making a corn broth from this book (which mentioned that Portland chef Vitaly Paley does this), and added in the silks, too.
River Cottage Veg by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall: I can’t stop cooking out of it. Whimsical writing and design, nice photography, and recipes that you want to make again and again, all from a chef and writer who is much better-known for his work with meat and fish. Favorite recipes: Baby Beet Tart Tatin, Carrot Hummus.
Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi: Count me among the legions of vegetarian fans of this book. Ottolenghi isn’t a vegetarian, but he writes about it for The Guardian, and his way with flavors makes me swoon. I don’t always follow them to the letter, but I always get what he’s after, and it never fails me. Recipes: Black Pepper Tofu, Soba Noodles With Eggplant and Mango.
Ready for Dessert by David Lebovitz: From one of my favorite writers on the planet – the food world’s own David Sedaris — this is the book I turn to when I want a seasonal dessert that won’t require too much fuss but will still impress. David’s recipes are flawless. Recipes: Fresh Ginger Cake, Cherry Almond Cobbler, Fresh Mint Sherbet with Figs Roasted in Chartreuse and Honey.
Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan: She’s figured it all out, so you don’t have to. She’s mastered the way of recipe writing that makes you feel as if, yes, she’s there in the kitchen with you, offering tips and guidance and humor all along the way. And the food! Recipes: World Peace Cookies, Tartest Lemon Tart.
Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch by Nigel Slater: To read Nigel is to enter into a dream state, really. Lovely essays, beautiful photography, and seasonal, sometimes impressionistic recipes, light on the details and heavy on the inspiration and flavor. Recipes: Baked Onions, Porcini, and Cream; Baked Tomatoes With Chilis and Coconut.
Which blogs do you visit regularly?
David Lebovitz: Because he manages to write about Paris in a way that strips it of all our overly romanticized misconceptions while also making clear how much he loves it, warts and all. Oh, and because here is where you’ll first read about genius things like caramelizing white chocolate. Wow.
Poor Man’s Feast: Because of Elissa’s prose. Like no one else, she can make the personal into something universal, and often profound.
101 Cookbooks: Because Heidi Swanson has exquisite taste and an unerring eye for beauty. To read her blog is to be infused by her glow, at least for the time being.
About Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the two-time James Beard Award-winning Food and Travel editor of The Washington Post. Joe was a food writer and Travel section editor at The Boston Globe before moving to Washington in 2006 to edit the Post’s Food section, for which he also writes the Weeknight Vegetarian column and occasional feature stories. His work from the Globe and Post has appeared in three editions of the Best Food Writing anthology. Joe spent 2012 in North Berwick, Maine, on leave from the Post to learn about growing and homesteading from his sister and brother-in-law and to work on Eat Your Vegetables.