Ivy Manning is a Portland, Oregon-based food and
travel writer and author of several cookbooks. Her work regularly appears
in Cooking Light, Fine Cooking, Sunset, Eating Well, and Everyday
with Rachel Ray. We caught up with Ivy as her latest cookbook, Weeknight Vegetarian, hit the shelves. EYB
Members in the U.S. and Canada can enter our contest for a chance to win one of
three copies of the cookbook.
This is your fifth cookbook but your first that is fully
vegetarian (The Adaptable Feast covered meals for
vegetarians, vegans and omnivores). Have you found your own
diet has changed over the last few years?
Yes, I'm eating less meat. My husband is a fishetarian, so it's
not tenable to cook a lot of meaty things at home since it's just
the two of us. I find it a challenge enough to get all my servings
of fruits and veggies into my meals, so leaving out meat makes more
room, and honestly, I don't miss it. Once in awhile I need a
burger, so I go out for it.
The book is organized by season. Do you think it's
harder to eat a plant-based diet in the winter? What are your
favorite vegetarian meals for cold, wintery days (for those EYB
members in the northern hemisphere)?
Oh heck no, actually the colder months are my favorite time to
cook! In Weeknight Vegetarian, I use a lot of beans and
legumes for protein, and when it's chilly, they're so
warming-dinners like Black Bean-Butternut Chili with Masa Dumplings
and Cannellini Bean and Kale Soup over Garlic Toasts are the
best! And some of my very favorite veg happen in winter and
fall, so we get to eat things like the roasted Brussels Sprouts
with Cheddar Polenta and Spiced Walnuts, Savory Mushroom Strudel,
and Potato and Beet Rosti, Massaman Curry with Kabocha Squash and
Broccoli. What's not to like?
There definitely seems to be a trend towards
more plant-focused meals. For your book did you do much
research on how a vegetarian diet improves both our own health and
that of the planet?
No, I didn't really take that angle. To me, it's not about what
we shouldn't eat and much more about how many delicious things you
can eat without leaning on the meat-and-three model for dinner.
Cooking my vegetarian way never seems like anything but really
delicious stuff that happens not to have meat in it. I focus on
cuisine from all over the globe, so it never, ever gets boring.
Did you have any surprises in creating fast every-night
meals without meat, poultry or fish?
A lot of vegetarian books have these long, multi-step recipes,
almost like they are making up for the lack of meat. It doesn't
have to be so time-intensive. If you follow what is in season, keep
it simple, and use quicker cooking legumes like lentils,
convenience items like fresh pizza dough and fresh pasta, and
canned beans from time to time, it is possible to eat vegetarian
every night without spending all your spare time in the kitchen. I
was surprised how fast the collection of recipes ended up
Are there any less well-known vegetables that you would
like to see become more popular?
Yes! I think bitter veg like radicchio, broccoli rabe and
watercress ought to be more popular than they are. When prepared
correctly and balanced with rich or high-flavor ingredients like in
my Quinoa Spaghetti with Broccoli Rabe, Feta, and Mint recipe, or
the tangy watercress salad with Welsh Rarebit, or the Rotini with
Radicchio, Fontina, and Hazelnuts, they add a whole new layer of
flavor that most Americans eschew, whereas in Italy, they're well
loved. They add so much interest to a dish.
Ottolenghi has written two successful vegetarian
cookbooks (Plenty and Plenty
More) though he is not a vegetarian himself.
For some recipes in the books he suggests meat or fish that could
accompany the vegetable dishes - have you done the
No. I opted to leave out mention of meat entirely. I really
didn't want to approach these recipes as side dishes; in fact, I
worked to avoid dishes that seem too much like side dishes-they all
have balance and completeness to them. They're satisfying meals,
not just accompaniments to something else. The only exception is I
do tell folks where they might use fish sauce in Thai recipes if
they're not strict vegetarians, but I offer a way around the fish
There are some people who think a meal is not complete
without animal protein. Which recipes in the book would
Well, I think all of them! But you know, if you've got a
real Fred Flintstone coming to the table and they see the plate as
half empty without roast beast on it, go for hearty fork-and-knife
dishes like the Mushroom and Chestnut Strudel, Skillet Mushroom
Pie-a biscuit topped chicken-less pot pie type thing, Tomatillo
Chilaquiles with Egg, or the Two-Layer Tacos with Pinto Beans and
Guacamole--a crunchy taco tucked inside a soft flour tortilla
smeared with avocado. Things with lots of texture help ease
naysayers into meatless meals.
I gather you are currently working on another
cookbook. Are you able to say what it is about?
The ink isn't dry quite yet. It's vegetable-centric, I can tell