9 Cookbooks for When You Just Want Tasty Vegetables for Dinner

Weeknight dinner cookbooks of you and your local farmers' dreams.

Howdy cookbook fans!

And welcome to your Friday issue of Stained Page News! Notes on the programming changes I proposed at the bottom of this issue. But first, the fun part.

Reader Recs: Vegetables. Vegetables! VEGETABLES!!!

This is the bookshelf in my kitchen. I just ran into the kitchen and snapped it, which you can tell because 1. the critters on the left are tipped over and not cheerfully, adorably posed and 2. I left the horrifying Manneken Pis corkscrew in the photo. I am telling you this because I want you to know I didn’t style it: out of the *counts in head* two dozen-ish bookshelves in my house full of cookbooks, these are the books I actually cook from frequently enough to keep on-hand in the kitchen. (Apologies to that much-beat up 75th anniversary edition of Joy of Cooking; it is well-loved.)

Anyway, by far the most-requested recommendation this week was for fun, modern, not-stuffy, vegetarian/vegetable-forward/vegetable-focused cookbooks. There were so many requests—and so many great titles to recommend—that I’m dedicating this entire post to the genre. Some of the requests:

  • “A vegetarian cookbook that features hearty meals with vegetables in them that are *very* simple/weeknight/working parent sort of meals but also delicious?” [Twitter]

  • “I’m trying to eat healthier, getting a variety of vegetables in.  The catch—my teenage kids aren’t into vegetables. They can be swayed however when things are super delicious. Any gateway cookbooks that are heathy but mainly super tasty?” [Tipline]

  • A request for a book similar to “Sqirl in LA (mold controversies aside) is my dream style of eating. Elevated, all day fare that is generally healthy…Alison Roman’s books mostly for the veg recipes. Recently purchase and loved [Australian cookbook author/chef] Bill Granger’s latest book.” [Tipline]

As you can see from my kitchen bookshelf, the vegetables-and-what-to-do-with-them genre is a particular favorite of mine. Luckily, it’s become more popular in recent years, and the topics, flavors, and inspiration behind these books have become more deliciously varied as a result. And so, a few standouts you may enjoy:

  • Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden: The seasons McFadden refers to here in no way reflect the seasons I personally experience in Texas, but that’s fine, I just cook them out of order. McFadden’s Italy-meets-Pacific Northwest recipes teach you how to get just restauranty enough with your vegetables, without being an entire, absolute pain-in-the-butt. 225 recipes give you plenty of options, and techniques and flavors repeat themselves just enough that after you’ve cooked out of it a few times, you can riff on this style. A+++ big recommend, looking forward to his upcoming book on grains. Some meat recipes.

  • Vegetable Kingdom by Bryant Terry: Big bright flavors are the name of the game here, with Terry finding inspiration pretty much everywhere: his grandparents’ cooking, a beloved Trinidadian restaurant close to his first Brooklyn apartment, the first season of Atlanta. I particularly appreciate this book for helping you build a pantry to boost your vegetable-based cooking, with marinades, vinaigrettes, and spreads galore. Vegan.

  • East by Meera Sodha: This is one of those flip-to-any-page-and-make-dinner books. “Fuss-free” vegetarian and vegan meals inspired by the breadth of Asian cuisines, with more vegetables than you could possibly hold in one refrigerator. And this is just a me thing, but the design of this one feels particularly fresh, like what cookbooks should look like moving forward. Vegetarian with some vegan recipes.

  • Superiority Burger by Brooks Headley. I have very little interest in making veggie burgers at home, although the version Headley serves at his Manhattan restaurant is great. This book you want for the sides, like burnt broccoli salad with candied cashews, sweet-and-sour-beets with cream cheese and pretzels, potato coconut soup topped with hot chile oil. Note to the reader above with vegetable-averse teens: this one is for them, it makes vegetables feel dare-I-say cool. Bonus points for the gelato base recipe. Everything is vegetarian and a lot is accidentally vegan.

  • The Broad Fork by Hugh Acheson: AKA the “what the hell do I do with kohlrabi?” book. This ones for all you CSA folks, who end up with a box of vegetables, make the broccoli night one, and spend the rest of the week googling. Organized by season and then by vegetable, Acheson provides a few recipes for each ranging from simple to cheffy, and often includes a pantry recipe or a preserve. The kimchi creamed collards are a big favorite at my house. Some meat recipes.

  • Ruffage by Abra Berens: In alphabetical order, from asparagus to turnips, Berens gives you seasonal, sophisticated, and versatile riffs on the bounty her Michigan farm produces. Flexbility is what Ruffage is all about: each vegetable gets a few methods, like grilled, pan roasted, or raw, and then each method gets a few flavor variations. For example, a corn kernel salad can be made with cherry tomatoes, soybeans, and basil; roasted eggplant, mint, and feta; zucchini, dill, and sour cream; or roasted mushrooms, marjoram, and fromage blanc. Some meat recipes.

  • Fresh from Poland by Michał Korkosz: More like this, please! Proving that Eastern European food isn’t just heavy, rich, and meaty Korkosz forgoes the meat entirely and the resulting Polish food is a revelation. For breakfast, there’s rye crumble over honeyed fruit. For lunch, a tomato apple soup with dumplings. For dinner, sauerkraut fritters dusted with herbs and a millet salad with asparagus, radish, and spinach. Vegetarian.

  • Root to Leaf by Steven Satterfield: Of the books on this list, this one is the one to read cover-to-cover. The name is a riff on the nose-to-tail movement that advocates using every part of an animal; here Satterfield argues for using every edible part of the produce we grow. There are recipes—a succotash to die for made with corncob broth, a gorgeous squash blossom frittata, and a killer fresh strawberry daiquiri, to start—but the real wisdom here is in the extensive, almost poetic chapter intros and headnotes. Some meat recipes.

  • Mediterranean Grains & Greens by Paula Wolfert: And finally, the book that got me through the dark early days of the pandemic. Grains and greens: what more do you need? Written by one of my absolute favorite cookbook authors, Paula Wolfert gives you everything you need for dinner, often in a single dish. Some meat recipes.

A couple notes on these: the books with meat recipes are still very vegetarian and even vegan friendly. And since many of you asked for easy recipes, I also want to highlight that many of these are easy to make but may have longer ingredients lists. Some advance planning and you’re good to go; I urge you to give them a chance.

Programming changes: Response to the proposed changes was overwhelmingly positive! Here’s what that means (and this is the last I’ll mention it thanks for your patience):

  • Paid subscribers will not see a change at all: they’ll receive Friday and Tuesday issues as normal, and maintain commenting privileges and have access to the cookbook club.

  • Free subscribers will now get the Friday issues exclusively. Today, that’s cookbook recs; other times it’ll be Q&As, pieces by contributors, Q&As, and eventually book reviews. Huzzah! (Sorry, I’ve been watching The Great.)

  • If you’re a free subscriber who’d like to continue getting the Tuesday issues, become a paid subscriber today:

Thanks for reading, y’all, and have a great weekend.