In WITF's Kitchen with Chef Donna Desfor

Review - A Modern Way to Cook: 150+ Vegetarian Recipes for Quick, Flavor-Packed Meals

Written by Chef Donna Desfor | Jan 17, 2017 2:48 PM
A Modern Way to Cook

A Modern Way to Cook: 150+ Vegetarian Recipes for Quick, Flavor-Packed Meals, by Anna Jones. Copyright © 2015 by Anna Jones. Photography by Matt Russell. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.

Our Summary:

It may take a bit of getting used to Anna Jones' light and carefree style of recipe writing in A Modern Way to Cook, but that's not to say a little bit of quiet time digesting a good cookbook isn't worth the investment.  Whether you're a vegetarian, vegan or eating within dietary restrictions, you'll find that the recipes in A Modern Way to Cook are clean, often full of satisfying natural flavors and flavor combination.  Satisfying dishes like Spinach and lemon polpette (meatballs) or Sweet potato and ricotta gnocchi with almond pesto.  If you're simply looking for a different approach to the hectic post-work-now-on-to-dinner-frenzy, then you'll find the calm simple investment of Jones' style a welcoming addition to your kitchen repertoire.

What you need to know:

Get it:  A Modern Way to Cook: 150+ Vegetarian Recipes for Quick, Flavor-Packed Meals, by Anna Jones. Photography by Matt Russell. Published by Ten Speed Press, August 30, 2016.  $35.00 Hardcover (Amazon $20.83; Kindle $18.99)

See it:  352 pages, with color photographs of just about every recipe; 7 chapters that define cooking times - everything from "in the time it takes to set the table," to "investment cooking," along with "quick desserts" and "super-fast breakfasts."  A vegan and gluten-free index is provided in addition to the book's index.

Make it:  150+ vegetarian recipes, including charts with several variations and options for some of the most common dishes, plus, kitchen staples like bread, crackers, tofu, and cheese. 

Our Review:

Anna Jones got her start with Jamie Oliver's food team - styling, writing, and working behind the scenes on books, and other projects.  When you understand that, you understand her no-nonsense approach to recipe writing, and perhaps even her cooking.  Jones comes from the point of view of food that is good for you tastes good.  Throughout her some 150 or so recipes, she guides you to help bring out that flavor, often in the simplest and unadorned way.  A Modern Way to Cook breaks down what Jones calls "quick, calm cooking" into time segments - 15 minutes, 20 to 30 minutes, 40 minutes and 'investment cooking,' though Jones predicates all of her recipes on the notion that simplifying the process is what helps keep you calm and cooking, when life might suggest an easier route. 

Jones' story, if you invest the few short pages of reading, is no different than yours or mine.  We work hard, we're really busy, and at the end of the day the last thing anyone wants to do is work hard in the kitchen to get a meal on the table.  You will, however, have to invest a bit of time digesting what Jones says is necessary to simplify your kitchen and your approach to cooking.  She tells you what works for her in her kitchen and suggests you do the same, though there seems little difference in boiling water in a kettle or in a sturdy pot, other than the utility of a larger volume for larger meals.  And while A Modern Way to Cook is filled with appealing charts containing various combinations for her goodness bowls and quick 20-minute stir-fries, as well as a few others, you will find that each requires a bit of study and some thoughtful consideration before you can quickly and calmly tackle the cooking. 

A Modern Way to Cook presents recipes in a light, conversation-like tone, which though pleasant might leave you a bit unnerved as you try to figure out whether you've done enough, or have enough, or whether you are even using the right size pan.  But she'll tempt you to forge ahead with compelling dishes like Kale, tomato, and lemon magic one-pot spaghetti, Smoky beans and sweet potato hash browns, Crispy chickpea and harissa burgers, and the Ultimate pecan banana breakfast bread that is possibly the best tasting banana bread I've ever tasted (and it's gluten-free) - even though I had to make it twice to get it right.  Jones wants you to, and you must read these recipes, including their sometimes lengthy headnote.  These provide you the sense of direction - and options she's making available through the recipe.  Then she sends you off to boil a kettle of water and get all of your ingredients and equipment ready, which is her lead into every recipe.

Perhaps what is most inviting about A Modern Way to Cook is that Jones promises in her opening lines recipes that create delicious, everyday food in a life-friendly amount of time.  Even her Sweet potato and malted chocolate cake, included in her Investment Cooking section, seems manageable on any weeknight.  She writes her recipes to include her tricks that, once you master, will save you time too.  And, the recipes help you make vegetables the focus of your meal.  Her last two pages are worth the book's weight in gold, too.  She indexes the recipes by category including, vegan, vegan with a tweak, gluten-free, and gluten-free, with a tweak.  For anyone that is following a specific dietary regimen, or cooking for someone that is, these two pages make everything that comes before it worthwhile.

It may take a bit of getting used to Anna Jones' light and carefree style of recipe writing in A Modern Way to Cook, but that's not to say a little bit of quiet time chewing on a good cookbook isn't worth the investment.  Whether you're a vegetarian, vegan or eating within dietary restrictions, you'll find that the recipes in A Modern Way to Cook are clean, often full of satisfying natural flavors and flavor combination.  If you're simply looking for a different approach to the hectic post-work-now-on-to-dinner-frenzy, then you'll find the calm simple investment of Jones' style a welcoming addition to your kitchen repertoire.

The Recipes (Reprinted with permission from A Modern Way to Cook: 150+ Vegetarian Recipes for Quick, Flavor-Packed Meals, by Anna Jones, copyright © 2016. Photography by Matt Russell. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House LLC.):

10 Minute Pancakes

Butternut and Cannellini Gratin

Kale, Tomato and Lemon Magic One-Pot Spaghetti

Published in Donna Marie Desfor

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