Jeanne Kelley is a long-time contributor to Bon Appetit. When she’s not kicking around her urban homestead here in LA — think beehives, chicken coop and vegetable garden — she’s pumping out cookbooks like this one filled with healthful and satisfying meals for the rest of us to enjoy.
Her new Vegetarian Salad For Dinner is a follow-up to her best-selling, Salad For Dinner and filled with endless ideas for using plants as dinner entrees you’re going to love! Get in the kitchen with Jeanne…
In The Kitchen With Cookbook Author, Jeanne Kelley
Name: Jeanne Kelley
My food philosophy: I embarked on a culinary career in my teens and my food philosophy and cooking style have stayed the same for decades: eat a lot of fresh vegetables, and everything else in moderation. I have found that over time my appetite for vegetables has increased while my desire for things like sweets and animal protein has diminished.
My husband and I garden so our kitchen is usually plentiful with a bounty of seasonal, homegrown produce. What I don’t grow, I try to buy at the farmers’ markets so that the freshness and quality are top-notch. With a well-stocked pantry, meals based on what’s plentiful are a joy to prepare. In a nutshell: Good vegetables + well stocked pantry = delicious, easy to prepare meals that make you feel great.
Favorite dish in the new book: There are so many great salads in this book.
My “favorite” changes frequently depending on the season, what I have growing in the garden and my mood. Currently I’ve got full heads of curly endive lettuce, so I have been loving my Hummus Msabaha, with Curly Endive and Zhoug. A little later this spring when my fava beans are producing, I’ll be all over my Fava Beans, Asparagus, Toasted Couscous, Spring Herbs, Preserved Lemon and Labneh. Come summer, I’ll crave the Summer Panzanella, with Burrata and Pesto Drizzle, and a dish that I created that riffs off Indian snacks and bean curry—Red Quinoa and Red Kidney Bean Masala—because it uses lots of cherry tomatoes and cucumbers and is spicy yet cooling at the same time. This fall, I’ll want to indulge in Roasted Whole Butternut Squash, Salsa Macha, Kale and Cotija Salad, and in the winter when my pomegranates are ripe, I’ll be making Crispy Farro, Winter Greens, Persimmon, Pomegranate and Hazelnuts.
In my kitchen you’ll find plenty of: Citrus! When my husband and I built our home, we planted many citrus trees. We have four different lemon trees, a blood orange tree, three kinds of lime trees, two kumquats, and a tangerine tree. There’s always something that’s ripe and filling the bowls on my counter.
Staples always on hand: Dried pulses, grains and seeds, pasta, olive oil, nut oils and assorted vinegars, jarred olives and condiments, canned beans and tomatoes, dried herbs and spices.
Ingredient that makes everything taste better: Flaky sea salt.
Best food memory: I have really strong connection between my taste buds and memory. I’m able to recall flavors and taste combinations from the best foods that I have eaten at home or abroad. My job as a recipe developer is to create dishes based on those best food memories.
What excites you about the food scene now: I love that cooks are less hung up on the idea of “authenticity.” There was a time not too long ago when recipe developers might get ripped for making ingredient substitutions based on ease, availability or personal taste. Simple things like swapping feta cheese for ricotta salata, or adding a couple of handfuls of arugula to cacio e pepe pasta, or mixing miso and sriracha to mimic Korean gochujang were judged harshly by so-called “foodies” and a few food writers. Cooks have been adapting recipes to local ingredients forever, and we’re all just trying to get good food on the table, whether it’s “true” to a certain cuisine or not.
Favorite food destinations: I live in Los Angeles where we have access to the best quality ingredients and wonderful cultural diversity, so a nod to my hometown is in order. That said, Mexican cuisine is a personal favorite, and you can’t beat Italy as a destination where you one can enjoy fine wine, fruity olive oil, fresh vegetables, and lovely pastas at a reasonable price.
Most under-rated ingredient: Vinegar is really undervalued in cooking. I’m always surprised that our supermarkets, even fancy ones, stock such a meager selection. I get frustrated that there are a dozen different brands of balsamic and one option each of red wine, rice, apple cider and white vinegar. That’s it. A splash of balsamic vinegar is great on many dishes, but a drizzle of good quality white wine, banyuls, sherry or black vinegar can also transform a salad in ways that are subtle and complementary to your food.
Food you love to eat with zero prep/additions: Fruit! It’s the perfect grab-and-go snack.
Most impressive dish: I don’t think that I have one! My ability to create and cook full menus where all the flavors and ingredients are well-balanced and complementary are what I have found impresses.
Fave condiments: My favorite condiments are chile based. Currently I’m obsessed with Salsa Macha, a smokey-sweet peanut and sesame enhanced red chile sauce. There’s a great recipe for it in my book. I like to drizzle it on eggs, roasted squash and baked sweet potatoes.
I’m also a big fan of jarred Calabrian chiles. The spicy peppers are fermented, so they add a perfect bit of funk to food, which I think is a really important addition to vegetarian meals.
Harissa, a North African chile spread, is also always in my refrigerator.
Fave veggie + what you make with it: Salad greens! Currently I have arugula, red and green mizuna, red and green mustard, several types of salad bowl lettuces, spinach, dandelion greens, frisée, curly endive and escarole and Swiss chard growing. I mostly make salads, but I often add the mustard greens to a stirfry or soup.
Craziest thing I buy at the market: I think that would have to be the 6-packs of canned organic garbanzo beans (chickpeas) that I frequently pick up. I read an article about a chickpea shortage, and because I find the adaptable, protein-rich and incredibly satisfying bean indispensable, I want to have plenty on hand. It does make me look as though I’m in some sort of cult.
Favorite splurge: I feel like Champagne or something that’s universally considered expensive would count as a favorite splurge, but more often than not it’s simple pleasures that have become splurge-worthy: artisanal loaves of bread, carefully sourced coffee and spices, extra virgin olive oil, cultured butter and aged cheeses. I’m willing to spend a little more on these delectables because they bring me everyday joy.
Your idea of an ideal dinner setting: I love dining outdoors. In my backyard, at a park, camping, or at an open-air restaurant, the meal always feels more relaxed and the food has a way of somehow tasting better.
Signature cocktail: I’m a wine enthusiast, but if I’m in the mood for a cocktail, my go-to is good silver tequila on the rocks with a hefty squeeze of freshly picked lime. It’s funny because I really enjoy creating cocktails (I co-wrote a book Punch Bowls And Pitcher Drinks), but after two or three fantastic tasting sips, I’ve reached my cocktail limit.