Posted on April 2, 2014
First, a housekeeping note: The other day I jumped on Photoshop Elements, which I don’t know how to use, and made up a new Pie and Beer banner/logo thing and sent it to my dear friend Tara Klurman Genen, an actual graphic designer in New York who’s done work for Saveur and the New Yorker and the like—in short, way out of this blog’s league. Her response was generous in so many ways: “Hmm . . . I kind of want to send you some other options.” What you see up top is hers, and you’ll notice it doesn’t look at all like something an insane person would make. So thank you, Tara, for saving us all from my weirdness. (Incidentally, the vegetable in the picture is green garlic I pulled up early one spring from our apparently very muddy yard when we lived in rural Georgia. It was soon to be pickled.)
In other news, as most of you know, I’ve written another cookbook, and I’ll be darned if it’s not coming out in just a couple weeks—April 15 is the official publication date. It’s a book of vegetarian vegetable dishes, more than a hundred of them vegan and all of them gluten free. (I actually didn’t intend it to be a gluten-free cookbook, but about two thirds of the way through my work on it I realized that only one recipe to that point contained gluten—I think it was a boring pasta of some sort—so I thought, What the hell? I cut that recipe and continued on my carefree gluten-free way.) A few days ago I received the first advance copy in the mail, and I just love how it looks and feels. It’s always fun to see parts of the book publishers don’t think the author cares about—the spine, the inside covers. I’m very happy with those parts, and I’ll let you discover them for yourself. Here’s the book:
I know there are about as many vegetarian cookbooks on the shelves as there are vegetarian readers, but this one is different. It’s more helpful, I think, to imagine it as a vegetable book that’s also vegetarian; it celebrates not only the vegetable side dish but the new, enlightened vegetable plate: meals loaded with simple farmstand goodness, easy on the starch. These are seasonal dishes, of course, fresh, uncomplicated, and flavorful. You’ll find simplified takes on classics like ratatouille and frittatas as well as lesser-known dishes like South Indian pepper water and green tea leaf salad that deserve wider appreciation. None of these recipes requires hard-to-find or terribly expensive ingredients, but because nearly every community in this country now has access to an ethnic grocery or two I include lots of advice for shopping in them and using them to your best advantage. Those pages are pretty dense and text-heavy, but it’s all good stuff. I kind of like to think people will be photocopying them or even tearing them out to bring along to the store.
There are also, of course, lots of gorgeous photographs, by Rinne Allen, that make simple recipes like this one, where you just pile everything on a baking sheet, look more elegant than they are.
One thing I tried to do in the photographs is to present interesting ideas for how to put these basic dishes together into special vegetarian meals. I don’t care for the idea of forking one’s way through big bowls of starch-plus-token-plant-protein that make up the bulk of many vegetarian cookbooks; instead I prefer to offer several distinct dishes that complement and contrast with one another, mingling on the plate in unexpected ways. While it means preparing more different recipes for each meal, I’ve written these with an eye toward making full vegetable-plate-type meals doable on a regular basis. You might make simple grains dishes or baking-sheet roasts most nights, but occasionally put together a meal like the one below, with falafel mix you’ve snagged from the freezer, a fresh corn salsa, good tomatoes, some marinated shallots that’ve been waiting in the fridge for a week, a quick whisked tahini sauce, and maybe cucumbers stirred into yogurt.
I also wanted this book to be friendly to those who do eat meat (as you know I do!), and most of the recipes would work quite well alongside a piece of good-quality meat or fish. Basically, the idea is to simply eat more vegetables, preparing them in more interesting ways. I certainly benefited from pushing my own boundaries a bit and I hope you all like the results.
As the pub date draws near, I’ll be posting some favorite vegetable recipes—maybe some from the book, maybe new ones—and will give away a book or two, so check back here when you can. You might also want to check out the book’s Facebook page and keep in touch there, too. Mostly I’d just love to hear what you’re cooking!