Vegetable

6 New (Mostly) Vegetarian Cookbooks to Add to Your Shelves

Your vegetables are ready for their close-up.

October  2, 2018
Photo by Mark Weinberg

It’s no secret we love (I mean, really love) summer’s bounty. It inspires us to eat all things vegetal and fresh, to embrace the sweetness of tomatoes and corn, the bright crunch of cucumbers and melons, the earthiness of marinated zucchini or eggplant charred up on the grill.

But as we say goodbye to summer, that means welcoming a different kind of harvest (bring on the winter squash and root vegetables!). There’s a place for produce in the cooler months—front and center of our kitchen tables. We’re celebrating six new cookbooks that put vegetables on parade, so you can add some of nature’s color to your meals, year-round.

Mississippi Vegan, by Timothy Pakron

“I’ve always known I was more intensely connected to plants than others,” says Timothy Pakron, author of Mississippi Vegan: Recipes and Stories from a Southern Boy’s Heart. In Pakron’s love letter to vegetables and to the South, he tells the story of his upbringing, and how local produce and the surrounding Cajun and Creole cuisines influenced his cooking. Pakron’s 125 recipes transform the region’s culinary traditions into their plant-based selves, and focus on extracting the deepest flavor from each ingredient. Pakron starts the book with a compendium of useful kitchen equipment and pantry staples, including a guide to mushrooms, chiles, and vegan umami injectors. And sprinkled throughout are clever tips, tricks, and swaps, which he refers to as “Lagniappe,” a term borrowed from Louisiana Creole French, meaning “a bonus or extra gift.”

In Mississippi Vegan, you’ll find southern classics like succotash, collard and turnip greens, and pecan pralines—but you’ll also find four types of gumbo, including a gluten-free version made with sorghum roux; blueberry BBQ tempeh; and several types of vegan bacon, made with ingredients like shiitake mushrooms and potatoes (you’ll bet these go on a killer vegan BLT).

The book comes out on October 23, and you can pre-order it here.

Bottom of the Pot, by Naz Deravian

In her debut cookbook, Bottom of the Pot: Persian Recipes and Stories, author Naz Deravian introduces us to the Iranian home cooking she grew up on—with a dash of spice from her own journey and experiences, having emigrated to Canada and then relocating to California. The nearly 100 extensively researched, beautifully photographed recipes harness both the vibrance and comfort that each dish brings with it.

While it isn’t a vegetarian book, per se, Bottom of the Pot is centered around fresh, whole foods. This often means vegetables and greenery, from the traditional sabzi khordan (fresh herb platter) that typically begins Persian meals to the nazkhatoun (smoky eggplant pomegranate dip) that’s served, family style, with an assortment of other veg-and pulse-filled-dips and breads. More vegetable-centered dishes include main courses like baghali polo (fava bean rice), a combination of fluffy rice, creamy, nutty favas, and aromatic saffron and dill, and foundational Persian stews like Aash-e Nazri, or “wish soup,” a community-based dish to which friends and neighbors contribute a variety of herbs, vegetables, and legumes—along with a wish of good fortune.

“So what does Persian food taste like?” Deravian questions, then expertly explains: “Fragrant, flavorful, fresh, elegant, cozy, unfussy, like a love poem, quietly assertive, never shy. Always bright.” In Bottom of the Pot, the freshness and brightness are never far from the forefront.

It’s available now, and you can buy it here.

Ottolenghi Simple, by Yotam Ottolenghi

It may not surprise you that Ottolenghi’s forthcoming cookbook is filled with flavorful, vegetable-forward meals. What may surprise you is that it’s also an ode to the weeknight dinner (or the morning-of brunch, or the fuss-free dinner party): 130 recipes with short ingredient lists, speedy prep and cook times, and maximal punch.

Divided into chapters surrounding individual courses—among them Brunch; Raw Veg; Cooked Veg; and Rice, Grains, and Pulses—Ottolenghi devotes a good bit of Simple’s real estate to fresh produce. In these recipes, vegetables are treated with the utmost care, caramelized, roasted, charred, or thinly shaved to draw out sweetness, smokiness, or crunchiness. In familiar Ottolenghi fashion, the dishes are seasoned with ingredients like za’atar, black garlic, tahini, and pomegranate molasses, to further enhance the natural flavors of the veg. In Simple, you’ll find sophisticated-but-achievable recipes like Braised Eggs with Leeks and Za’atar; Cauliflower, Pomegranate, and Pistachio Salad; Baked Rice with Confit Tomatoes and Garlic; Slow-Cooked Chicken with a Crisp Corn Crust; and Fig and Thyme Clafoutis.

Simple hits shelves on October 16, but you can pre-order a copy here.

Root & Leaf, by Rich Harris

In Root & Leaf: Big, Bold, Vegetarian Food, UK-based recipe developer and food stylist Rich Harris puts vegetables in the spotlight, showcasing their diversity and versatility in creative ways. Harris opens with a disclaimer that he is not a vegetarian, but still found it necessary to write a book on the interesting, important flavors and textures vegetables uniquely possess. He begins Root & Leaf with a primer on how and where to purchase the freshest seasonal vegetables, and leads into an exploration of vegetables in various forms and styles of preparations: in breakfast-y baked goods and after-dinner (or anytime) desserts; in appetizers, mains, and salads; pickled and fermented; and in oils, stocks, and sauces.

Spiced, Fluffy Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls greet you in some of the book’s first pages; they’re later joined by exciting surprises like King Oyster Mushroom Larb; Gnocchi with Caponata and Burrata Cream; Green Beans with Kimchi Butter; Seared Little Gem Lettuce with Black Sesame Dressing; and Spiced Carrot Kulfi. Yes, sign me up for all.

Root & Leaf is out now. Get it here.

The Runner’s World Vegetarian Cookbook, by Heather Mayer Irvine

While it’s written by a team of nutrition experts and pro athletes at Runner’s World magazine, there’s something for every busy, active vegetable lover in The Runner’s World Vegetarian Cookbook. Most of the dishes in this cookbook’s 150 recipes are weeknight (or harried-morning) gems, requiring just 30 minutes and whole-food ingredients you probably already have on hand. The book is geared towards “fuel[ing] your every step,” and embraces plant-based proteins, iron, and fat sources to maximize the nourishment each dish provides. Many of the recipes can also cater to vegan and gluten-free dietary preferences, and several of them are free of common allergens (like milk, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts, and soy).

Aside from being energizing, the recipes are exactly the kind of fresh, hearty, veggie-packed meals I’ll be making for the chillier weather ahead—Pumpkin Ricotta Waffles, Pesto Egg Cups, Grilled Eggplant Parmesan, Smoky Squash Flatbread with Balsamic Glaze, Spinach Barley Salad with Gorgonzola and Toasted Nuts, and Chocolate Avocado Mousse, to name a few.

The Runner’s World Vegetarian Cookbook comes out on October 9. Snag your pre-order copy here.

Almonds, Anchovies and Pancetta: A Vegetarian Cookbook, Kind of, by Cal Peternell

Last but not least, Cal Peternell, New York Times bestselling author and Chez Panisse’s longtime former head chef, gives a great big nod to vegetables in Almonds, Anchovies, and Pancetta. Peternell dubs this book one that’s “kind of vegetarian,” for “those of us who love vegetables so much that we sometimes honor them with small gifts, bringing offerings of toasted nuts, salted fishes, and of sweet cured pork bellies.” This is how people have been eating for much of history, Peternell says.

In the book’s introduction, Peternell explains precisely why he highlights these three ingredients as vegetables’ ultimate sidekicks—they contain salt, which seasons, boosts flavors in, and preserves foods. And while the three staples are not exactly interchangeable, he suggests that many of the recipes could be made without the anchovies and pancetta, for people who prefer to stick to plant-based eating. Before each of the book’s three sections, which highlight one of the titular ingredients, Peternell tells heartening stories of the ingredient’s meaning in his own culinary journey, and provides clear instructions on how to prep it before cooking (hint: you’ll likely need a mortar and pestle!).

And then the recipes are at once comforting and elevated: Carrot and Almond Soup with Saffron and Coriander; Baked Stuffed Vegetables with Almonds, Currants, Saffron, and Bread Crumbs; Thick Toast with Kale, Cardoons, Garlic, and Anchovies; Bagna Cauda Salad with Optional Truffle Upgrade; Roasted Pancetta-Wrapped Asparagus with Mustard and Egg. Peternell's is kind of a veggie-friendly book, but in any case, we'll gladly cook from it.

The book is out now, and you can buy it here.

New or old, what are your favorite cookbooks that celebrate vegetables? Share in the comments below!

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