The title of this book could have been "Eat 'More' Vegetables". This is not a cookbook filled with recipes focusing on vegetables: This is a cookbook filled with recipes that avoid meat--ranging from less-than-strict vegetarian (as recipes do include eggs, butter, cheese, anchovies and suggestions that bacon or ham hocks can be substituted) to strictly vegan. I say this right up front because, if you are looking at this book since you loved Yonan's "Serve Yourself", the meatless aspect of this book may come as a surprise to you. In that book, published fairly recently in 2011, he was definitely a meat-eater.
So, I would say that this is not so much a book of spectacular vegetable dishes, as a self-help book of recipes and essays to help you start down the road towards eating less meat.
Of course, this cookbook is still about Yonan's belief that singles should--definitely--bother to cook for themselves. The book just suggests, subtly, and by way of the recipes' ingredients, that you can cook without meat and still have a wonderful, fulfilling meal that makes you feel good about yourself. Yonan created this vegetarian cookbook because he observed that there were quite a lot of single people out there who were avoiding meat. And when he thought hard about that, he realized he was moving in that direction also. Come to think of it, just how quick your own personal movement away from meat and towards veggies is, may ultimately depend on where you live, with whom you live, how big your garden is, your culture, or whether you cook for yourself or a family. But, bottom line, aren't we all moving at some rate of speed towards less meat? More veggies, more beans, more grains? So, this is a collection of recipes that celebrate meat-less-ness.
This is not a collection of veggie side dishes. Yes, there are salads, dips, soups, and some sides. But most of the recipes make a full, well-rounded meal for one. And, like those in his first book, these recipes are made for one person--not recipes for four servings that he suggests you freeze for later in small portions. Yes, there are a few recipes that will result in leftovers: Leftover cooked ingredients, or leftover halves of lemons, avocados, half-cans of chipotle peppers or beans. But Yonan either has future plans for those ingredients in another recipe or he provides tips for how to keep the "halves" fresh. These recipes also work quite nicely for two people; just double them.
The chapters are somewhat arranged by cooking process, although the salad, sandwich, and sweets chapters are a mixed bag of cooking techniques. But he does separate oven and stovetop cooking into two chapters. If you are wondering about the "Sweets" chapter I mentioned, it doesn't include veggies, just fruit desserts and a nice chocolate chip cookie with some whole grains. There is also a final chapter that includes some general and pantry recipes. He does a great and simple kimchi, marinated and baked tofu, and pickled golden raisins.
Included in the book are some great essays: "Forget the Clock, Remember Your Food" in which you are reminded that exact timing is not as important as using your senses; one that discusses our changing attitudes towards meat and mock meat, and "The Politics of Cooking", which encompasses much more that I want to sum up here--definitely worth reading, though. Yonan is a great writer.
Here are the recipes that I tried and I liked:
--A kale and mango salad with a lime and ginger vinaigrette; in it the kale is "massaged"--so nice!
--A miso-mushroom omelet, with another kale salad;
--Grilled cabbage with udon noodles and soy-glazed tempeh; I wasn't so hot on the tempeh, (I haven't made it that far down the vegetarian road...), but the cabbage was interesting;
--A basil, lime and tofu dressing; a sesame and miso vinaigrette, and another vinaigrette featuring umeboshi plums;
--A great vegetable stock that is more a concept than a recipe, (but will change--forever--the ingredients of your stock pot);
--Cheesy Greens and Rice Gratin, that uses Za'atar, garlic, tomatoes and brown rice;
--several recipes that turn a roasted/baked sweet potato into a meal;
--Chicken-fried cauliflower with a miso-onion gravy: Yeah, it works: Even if you roast your cauliflower and spoon the gravy on top;
--And last, but not least, the chocolate-chunk cookies with whole wheat flour, rolled oats and two sizes of coconut.
The recipes are written for an American audience, but there is a handy, readable measurement conversion chart at the back of the book.
I'm giving it a five star rating for those people who are single, who are busy, just starting out, in an apartment and those who don't own a shelf-full of vegetarian cookbooks. If you have a mountain of vegetable, grain and vegetarian cookbooks, you may want to think twice. But, I'll tell you what: Yonan has put together a great assortment of recipes; they are well-thought out and will allow your creativity to blossom. They will also energize you in such a way that you will bother to cook for yourself.
The "Look Inside" feature for this book is thorough and informative, but if you are still undecided about this cookbook, at least give it a try: Ask for it at your local library. There are worthy recipes here for everyone.
**I received a temporary download of this book from the publishers (through NetGalley) in exchange for a review.**