Cookbook Review: A Modern Way to Cook by Anna Jones

My wife and I have transitioned to a vegetable heavy diet over the past few years and we are excited when vegetarian cookbooks are released that don’t look like vegetarian cookbooks.  When A Modern Way to Cook by Anna Jones arrived we were both pleasantly surprised by overall look and feel of the book.  A quick scan through did not give me that vegetarian first, flavor second vibe.  Instead the cookbook appeared to provide a wealth of delicious looking recipes from snacks to main courses.

This cookbook has a lot of positives, the first of which is the organization.  It does not follow the common flow of cookbooks which is snacks, salads, chicken, beer, pork, dessert.  The author takes a different route and organizes by the amount of time it takes to get on the table, no time, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, then 40 minutes.  These chapters are followed by super-fast breakfasts, quick desserts and investment cooking (sauces, stocks, etc).  Each recipe has a short narrative followed by the steps and the ingredients in the left margin.  The font is clean and easy to read and the paper feels of high quality.  Many of the recipes provide an image of the finished dishes on a full page.  

The index is well organized and easy to read which I place a high value on.  Following the index is a sub-index which lists page numbers for vegan, vegan with a tweak, gluten-free and gluten-free with tweak recipes.

The second positive aspect of this cookbook is what I’d like to call sidebars.  The sidebars in this book are not the normal paragraph notes by the author but instead are one to two page guides that provide simple flavor and texture combinations.  I found these to be extremely helpful and better suited for my way of cooking than many of the recipes.  These sidebars range from “quick 20-minute stir-fries” which provide the basic structures of easy stir-fries to inspirations for “overnight oats”.  As I have cooked more over the years I find myself gravitating more towards cooking by inspiration and ideas rather than recipes and many of these sidebars provided just what I needed.

I tested a couple of the recipes and found the time estimates a little quick for myself.  I consider myself an excellent cook but admittedly I’m slow when it comes to chopping and multi-tasking in the kitchen.  While cooking the plantain, avocado and black bean bowl recipe I found myself with three pans on the stove at the same time.  This recipe looked interesting but I found that it may have been better with sweet plantains and the ingredient list did not indicate the preferred plantain type.  I also found it to be incredibly dry as there is no sauce in this bowl.  It did provide a bowl full of nutrition and kept me full for most of the night.

The recipes in this book are varied, they use whole grains when possible and I feel that they cover a wide variety of ingredients besides vegetables.  Although this book did not push vegetarianism in any way I felt that it did fall short on one subject that many vegetarian cookbooks do.  It did not offer any meal that felt hearty.  I can get full eating grains but have to be in the right mood to eat a giant bowl of quinoa.  The forty minute feasts feel dainty and many of the recipes in this book would require me to cook additional recipes to make a complete meal, especially when cooking for a family of four.  For example, the 35 minute Parsnip and potato rosti requires four pans and makes what equates to a side dish for my family.  For dinner I’d have to cook additional items to satisfy my hunger.

Overall I found this book to be inspiring and disappointing at the same time.  It will likely become a book that I look through often for ideas that I then piece together myself to create a meal.  I found the book to be gorgeous with many great sounding recipes but ultimately I might be the wrong type of eater.  I have many friends that I know would enjoy this book and I think it would make for a terrific gift if aimed at the right person.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.


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