Ivy Manning goes veg in her latest cookbook

Ivy Manning

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?

Weeknight Vegetarian cookbookThere 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 being!

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 same?

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 sauce, too. 

There are some people who think a meal is not complete without animal protein.  Which recipes in the book would satisfy them?

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 you that.

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One Comment

  • rlmiller  on  January 31, 2015

    This book looks wonderful, some interesting diversions from my current go to -crustless veggie quiche.

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