Joe Yonan’s Eat Your Vegetables: Bold, Not Bossy

“Bold” is the operative word for the new book, Eat Your Vegetables, from Washington Post food and travel editor Joe Yonan. It’s there in the strong cover design, and the title and subtitle, of course; in the way Yonan intersperses his recipes with personal essays; in the global reach of his flavors; in the confident voice that seems to say, Stick around, there’s a lot to learn here–whether you’re cooking for one, two, or a few; going it alone as a vegetarian among carnivores; or just starting out as a cook of any sort. To mark the book’s publication today, we spoke with Yonan recently by email about his inspiration and objectives for the book, what to do with half a jalapeño, and why cooking for one can be excellent training. Yonan also introduces four recipes he is sharing with Epicurious: Creamy Green Gazpacho, Juicy Bella, Pomegranate-Glazed Eggplant, and Faux Tart with Instant Lemon Ginger Custard. What was the genesis for Eat Your Vegetables, and what do you see as the book’s mission? I started thinking about Eat Your Vegetables when I was promoting Serve Yourself: Nightly Adventures in Cooking for One two years ago. At signings and demos, one of the most common questions I got was: “How much of this is vegetarian?” I started realizing that many vegetarians want single-serving recipes even if they aren’t single–because they’re the only vegetarian in the house. And in answering that “How much?” question, I counted 60 vegetarian recipes (out of 100) in Serve Yourself, which in turn made me realize how much my own cooking was moving in that direction. I see the new book’s mission as twofold: I want to get readers excited about the world of vegetables, and I want to continue to help cooks realize that they owe it to themselves to learn to make satisfying, interesting food even when they are the sole beneficiary of their cooking–and that it can be liberating. What I mean is, you can learn to follow your own cravings wherever they take you, without worrying about someone else’s palate–not to mention their dietary restrictions or allergies. You can learn to become a more instinctive cook because as you’re cooking, you don’t need to check with anyone else to see if they wouldn’t mind if you made the dish a little spicier, a little richer, a little more sour, or whatever you find you have a hankering for. Vegetables have a whole new chic these days, whether on restaurant menus or on the table at home. And there’s been a surge of vegetarian cookbooks this year, from authors including Deborah Madison and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. In addition to continuing your conversation with single readers, what unique qualities does your new book serve up? I can only hope to one day know half as much about cooking (and growing) as either Deborah or Hugh; I’m a fan of both. And I’ve been so happy to see vegetables get their due, after so many years of…

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