Dinner: A Love Story blogger, Jenny Rosenstrach, speaks my language. I love so much about her approach to cooking, sharing, dining- all of it.
Jenny’s latest cookbook, The Weekday Vegetarians, is the perfect go to for anyone looking to shift their diet to be more plant based… plus dairy (of course, there are vegan substitutes for it all).
As someone who has intuitively preferred a more plant-forward diet, I appreciate the perspective she comes from in this book- how to help ease the transition for those you cook for. It’s also wonderfully flexible, and has commentary for when adding seafood or animal protein in small quantities could also be beneficial, for those insisting on meat with dinner.
Jenny’s story for this book is a relatable one. One of her teen daughters began having concerns about the planet impact from animal farming and began expressing interest in a vegetarian diet. As a supportive parent, and the primary meal preparer, this meant big changes for her too. Rather than go ALL vegetarian, Jenny’s approach, in the spirit of decreasing environmental impact while not giving up all the foods she loves, is to be vegetarian on the weekdays, and leave meat and seafood for the weekend.
I think one of the keys in a successful transition to being more plant based is to find wonderful producers. We’re all familiar with how rewarding a trip to the local farmers market can be, but Jenny takes it a step further. Anyone familiar with Jenny’s blog knows she is evangelical about Rancho Gordo beans, a California based farm that sells their dried beans online. Rancho Gordo has all the varieties you would expect, plus so many you have not heard of that really add such a fun discovery element to, well, beans. My personal journey to more dairy free options began when I realized I was relying too heavily on cheese and greek yogurt as protein replacements. Nuts and beans are go-to substitutes for me now, but it’s easy to get stuck in a rut. That is, until I picked up The Weekday Vegetarians cookbook!
I enjoy reading cookbooks, and have a big collection, but there is one unique thing I LOVE about The Weekday Vegetarians. Towards the end of this book there is a really user friendly grid called the Mix and Match Meal Chart. I have been waiting for something like this to appear in my life! Jenny’s meal categories are Bowls, Pizzas, Salads, Toasts/Sandwiches, Pies/Dumplings, Skillets, Pastas and Tacos, Soups and Small Plates. Then she takes main vegetables and proteins and fills in a recipe or concept for each category. Genius!
Okay, now let’s dive into the recipes I’ve enjoyed from The Weekday Vegetarians so far. We had family in town for the 4th of July, one of whom is vegan for health reasons- a perfect opportunity to try out some of Jenny’s recipes on a large group. I associate corn on the cob with this holiday, and Jenny had a recipe that took corn from a side dish to the main star with a fantastic recipe for Tagliatelle with Corn, Tomatoes, “Onion-Bacon” and Basil. This dish was so satisfying and was a hit! Slow cooking the red onion with garlic, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes gave it tremendous flavor that added strong savory element to the dish that also contained sweet corn, fresh basil and tomatoes. Side note- it was just as good reheated the next day.
Next, we hosted a wonderful family for dinner, and kids outnumbered adults. I decided to make Jenny’s Pizza Salad with White Beans. I was able to find local Bibb lettuce at the farmers market and some of the first good tomatoes of the season to come in. Unfortunately, I did not have any Rancho Gordo beans to make this dish extra special, but canned cannellini beans were just fine. This salad did not have a dressing, which surprised me at first, however the vinaigrette from the marinated beans and the tomato juices combined to make a flavorful and delicious salad. We served Pizza Salad as the main dish with hearty sides of grilled skirt steak, extra marinated beans and some crusty homemade bread I also found at the market. One of my boys is rather picky, so I added a cut veggie tray to the buffet as well since I knew the red onion in the salad would have been a show stopper for him. It was fun to see the variety of plates that can come from this approach of eating, and no one complained that I’d served salad for family dinner. It was a fresh and unique take on a classic that will be on repeat in my home. And I am looking forward to trying more soon!
In addition to fantastic recipes and the mix and match meal chart, there are sections of The Weekday Vegetarians to help make the transition to being more plant based easier. Seven Rules to Remember When Going Vegetarian and The Vegetarian’s Very Special Bag of Hooks & Tricks- recipes that cast a glow of excitement over anything next to them on the plate, are both fantastic resources.
Finally, cocktails… yes please! While this particular book does not feature many cocktail recipes, Jenny’s blog commonly does- another reason I recommend Dinner: A Love Story. Here is a deliciously refreshing summer cocktail recipe from her collection. Cheers!