The benefits of eating more vegetables are largely undisputed. Increasing the vegetable portion of your diet is likely to improve your overall health prospects, unless your additions are all french fries and peanut butter. There’s also the money factor: Vegetables are cheaper nutrition than animal products.
Unfortunately, vegetables have a reputation, however unfair, as boring food. That reputation seems to be strongest, not coincidentally, among people who most need to enlarge their vegetable intake.
It’s even worse when you feel like you have no one worth cooking for. Joe Yonan, food editor of the Washington Post, has taken aim at eaters with both issues in “Eat Your Vegetables” (Ten Speed Press, $24.99), his third cookbook.
To inspire them to cook more vegetables, he offers 80 recipes that draw from cuisines around the world and next door. There’s a Thai-style squash curry, but also a chicken-fried cauliflower “steak” with gravy.
Yonan’s not a vegetarian lifestyle evangelist. His suggestions are presented in a practical, not dogmatic, context. “I want to help single cooks find as much inspiration in the garden, produce aisle, and farmers’ market as I do,” he writes in the preface. “But I’m not here to tell anyone else how or what to eat.”
Most of the recipes aren’t intimidating in the least, as befits a cookbook intended to stir people to act. You barely need a knife to make Tomato-Braised Green Beans and New Potatoes.
Some are so simple they’re barely recipes at all, like the Summer Berry “Tart” in a Jar, which uses crushed cookie as the “crust” for a single-serving yogurt parfait. If a pan of fruit cobbler would be a waste of time and food, perhaps a ripe peach roasted and topped with honey and granola would satisfy, as a One-Peach Crisp with Cardamom and Honey.
Though there are a few marginally exotic ingredients involved – like kimchi, smoked paprika and Szechuan peppercorns – he’s not snooty about ingredients. The Asian noodle bowl with kimchi, tofu and a poached egg is built on a package of instant ramen noodles, though Yonan does throw away the seasoning packet.
The recipes are designed to serve one person and are readily doubled for a couple. He includes suggestions for using the partial cans and boxes of ingredients left over from other recipes. On the other end, there’s a chapter devoted to recipe components designed to be made in batches and served as components of numerous meals. Granola, kimchi, marinated baked tofu and hearty greens are all represented.
Ever contemplated a bowl of microwaved green beans, and wondered just how bad an early diet-related death could be? You might consider this book a decent investment.
On the Web: Check out Yonan’s recipe for Creamy Green Gazpacho at blogs.buffalonews.com/hungryformore