5 Cookbooks That Make Vegetables The Sexiest Food on the Plate

published Jan 6, 2015
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(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

If you are a reluctant vegetable-eater, or cook for one, then I’m guessing that no amount of gushing over raw kale salads or expounding the merits of roasted broccoli is going to win you over to Team Veggie. You need vegetables that sound as appealing as they actually are. You need vegetables that speak to you. You need vegetables that are sexy.

Here are five cookbooks that can help. They are mostly vegetarian, though some do work a bit of meat onto the plate — but vegetables are always the superstar, and deservedly so. Whenever I personally need some extra motivation to eat my vegetables, these books are where I turn first.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Eat Your Vegetables by Joe Yonan

Whenever a friend asks for ideas on getting more vegetables into their diet, I all but shove this book in their hands. Joe Yonan has a way of bringing together flavors and textures on the plate that I find irresistible. Listen to these dishes: Roasted Cauliflower and Green Beans with Chipotle Sauce, Sweet Potato Galette with Mushrooms and Kale, and Curried Mushroom Bean Burgers. Oh, yeah — Joe speaks my language.

I also like that Yonan puts these recipes in context for us, both as part of regular, doable weeknight meals and also in the greater context of eating and living more healthfully. These recipes are practical and useful, time and again.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Ripe by Cheryl Sternman Rule

Ripe is your introduction to “eating the rainbow” — quite literally! The book starts with deep red beets and carries on through orange squash, yellow corn, green asparagus, and the rest of the multi-hued fruit and vegetable kingdom. These vegetables, and the beautiful dishes Cheryl creates with them, practically leap off the page, begging to be sniffed and nibbled and spooned. Resistance is futile.

I also love that Cheryl gives a solid, but non-intimidating, introduction to each vegetable, giving tips on buying it, storing it, and some simple prep ideas that don’t require recipes. If you have a CSA and worry about how to use (or identify!) everything in your box, Ripe should be your guide book.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Afro-Vegan by Bryant Terry

You will never, ever think of vegetables as “boring” or “plain” again after cooking from this book. Bryant Terry takes advantage of just about every spice in the cupboard, ensuring that these dishes are ones you’ll crave again and again. They are satisfying and rich and fully engaging.

For me, this cookbook introduced me to a whole new world of vegan and vegetable-based cooking —whenever I realize that I’m in a rut and need a new way to cook my greens, this is where I go. Highly recommended for anyone tired of the same-old, same-old on their plate.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Feast by Sarah Copeland

This is another cookbook that’s good for getting out of a rut. The recipes emphasize fresh, seasonal cooking, and with each recipe, Copeland adds some little twist that makes me stop and take notice: Pea Guacamole and Seared Halloumi Soft Tacos, More Greens Than Potato Salad, Kabocha Squash Soup with Spiced Fennel Butter. These all sound so very good to me right now.

I also have to give a shout-out to Copeland’s section on polenta bowls, which brought this easy weeknight meal back into my regular rotation. It’s so simple — make a pot of polenta, roast or sauté some vegetables while that’s happening, and then top it all with a poached egg and a sprinkle of cheese. There are so many ways to switch it up, and all of them are wonderful.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Tender by Nigel Slater

You could cook from this book every day for a year and still not reach the end. Nigel Slater gives us idea after idea after idea — so many recipes, tailored to the season and the time of day and your particular mood. Plus you get to spend some time with Nigel Slater in your kitchen, which is just dreamy.

More than almost anyone else I can think of, Nigel Slater loves vegetables, which is obvious as you read the recipes and his introductions. His enthusiasm is highly contagious, and it won’t be long before you’re intentionally seeking out the most knobbly potatoes at the market and whispering sweet nothings to bunches of orange carrots. If you’re veggie-shy and need someone to help you fall in love, Nigel’s just the fellow for the job.

What vegetable-loving cookbooks are on your shelf? Any great ones to recommend?