Joe Yonan writes about food with a specific audience in mind: singles. After years of authoring the popular “Cooking for One” column for The Washington Post, where he is a food and travel editor, Yonan put his recipes into a 2011 book, “Serve Yourself: Nightly Adventures in Cooking for One.” While touring for the book, he was frequently asked about vegetarian dishes. So he offers those in “Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook.” A former Globe food writer, he says it’s not just for singles. “The other most common question I would get was, ‘Can I double these?’ he says. “I started realizing that there’s also a pretty big market out there for couples who are interested in making dishes that don’t result in a huge amount and a mountain of leftovers. So, I like to speak to couples too, even though I don’t aim this to them in the title.”
Q. Why did you start writing for singles in the first place?
A. I’ve been single a good part of my life and I felt like there was just a little bit too much emphasis for my taste on all the obstacles [of cooking for one], almost an apologetic tone when it comes to trying to help get people past it. Like, “I know you really aren’t going to cook, but if you can find even just a little bit of time, I swear I’ll help you squeeze out something that’s passable.” I kind of wanted to celebrate what I think are some of the advantages of cooking for yourself when you’re single, mainly how liberating it can be. You can have a craving and you can follow it without having to take into account anybody else’s preferences or allergies or dietary restrictions. You can learn how to satisfy your own cravings in the kitchen in a way that I think can also lead to the possibility of becoming a more intuitive cook.
Q. Since you like to cook, do you ever get asked out?
A. When I toured for the first book, I actually got several date requests within the first couple of weeks, which was interesting. There was a guy at one of my signings who wrote a little note and left it for me that said, “In case you ever decide to start cooking for two, you know where to find me,” which is pretty funny. Nothing came out of it.
Q. Why did you target single vegetarians this time around?
A. I realized like 60 percent of the things I make are vegetarian, so perhaps something was changing in my own cooking. The second thing was that a lot of vegetarians who are interested in single serving recipes aren’t necessarily single, they’re just the only vegetarian in the house. And I want to celebrate the idea of cooking vegetable-focused dishes without focusing necessarily on the fact that they’re meatless. By that I mean, too many recipes and campaigns and cookbooks that are about vegetarian cooking focus more on what’s not in the food than what is in the food. It’s defined by the absence of meat and not by the presence of the vegetable. I really wanted to come up with another set of recipes that sort of exemplified my love for vegetables and my feeling about how you can do interesting, creative things with them that don’t necessarily have to be all that involved or complicated. And you can still do it in a way that’s appropriate if you’re a single or a couple, where one of you travels a lot, or if you’re just a couple who’s looking for interesting side dishes or smaller potions.
Q. The godmother of vegetarianism, “Moosewood Cookbook” author Mollie Katzen, gave the book a glowing endorsement.
A. I was thrilled about that. A little stamp of approval from the old school veg-heads.
Q. Which recipe in the book holds special appeal to you?
A. It depends somewhat on the season. We’re coming out of corn season but I’m pretty enamored with a recipe for fusilli pasta that I call “fusilli with corn sauce.” It sort of exemplifies what I mean when I say something that celebrates a vegetable. It just really amplifies the corn flavor. What you do is take two ears of corn and cut the kernels off of one and run the other ear across the coarse side of a grater to get a pulp. Actually, if you go back to traditional creamed corn recipes from the South, it’s not necessarily that they’re full of actual cream, it’s the corn itself that makes it creamy, and there’s all sorts of little devices in the South that pull the pulp. Some people just tear at it with a fork. I’ve found that using a grater is really the way to go. Then you just simply saute those whole kernels in olive oil, garlic, and onion. You really don’t want to cook that milky stuff, you want it to taste really fresh, so you turn off the heat and stir that in with a little pecorino and basil and pasta. I’ll make that every corn season.
Interview was condensed and edited. Glenn Yoder can be reached at email@example.com.