‘Simple Green Suppers: A Fresh Strategy for One-Dish Vegetarian Meals.’ By Susie Middleton. Roost Books. $24.95.

Last spring, I sat on a panel of judges tasked with picking the best new New England cookbooks of the year. Among a big stack of books we were trying to winnow down was “Simple Green Suppers: A Fresh Strategy for One-Dish Vegetarian Meals” by Martha’s Vineyard resident Susie Middleton. I recall thinking at the time that it was a solid book – well-written and clear. I don’t recall thinking it was a prize winner. (It did not win a Readable Feast award.)

But after cooking out of it for the last couple of months, I wonder if I need to revise my idea of winner.

I got the “solid” part right, anyway. Of the dozen dishes I’ve cooked from “Simple Green Suppers,” ranging from egg sandwiches to salad dressings to soups to tacos, only one has failed to make it into my repertoire. And really, nothing at all was wrong with Stir-Fried Broccoli and Black Beans with Orange, Ginger and Shallots; it just wasn’t my cup of tea. The other 11 made for fast, flavorful, healthful dinners – or components of dinners that I’d be pleased to eat any night of the week. Moreover, the recipes worked exactly as described. Which, trust me, is no small thing.

The Miso-Ginger Broth with Cauliflower and Baby Kale was delicious and crazy fast; the time lapse from deciding on the soup to lapping it up was roughly 15 minutes. If you prepped the grains ahead, the deeply satisfying Parsnips and Creminis with Wheat Berries and Lemon-Miso Butter took about the same, and again the flavor payoff was high. The English Muffin Egg Sandwich with Spinach, Avocado, Cheddar, Crispy Shiitakes, and Pickled Jalapenos required me to juggle several components, but none was difficult, and were I a better planner, I could have made them ahead. The breakfast (or dinner) sandwich earned a rare compliment from my sweetheart, who mostly views food as an unremarkable daily habit, not unlike brushing his teeth.

Prepping ahead is among the strategies of the book’s subtitle that Middleton, editor at large for Fine Cooking magazine, suggests you adopt (“Embrace Make-Aheads”); others have you rethink your pantry, and take up her “Veggies + 1” plan. Dinners, she writes about that last, should be made from one or more fresh vegetables combined with one major pantry player. She breaks the pantry players into eight groups, which constitute the book’s chapters: noodles, grains, beans, leaves, toast, tortillas, eggs, broth.

I found Chinese Egg Noodles and Broccoli with Spicy Peanut Sauce in the noodles chapter. I’ve made plenty of versions of this dish over the years, but this one was exceptionally good. Other recipes in “Simple Green Suppers” I liked for Middleton’s imaginative touch. Yes, I might have thought to put together an Avocado, Orange, Endive and Radicchio Salad, but I doubt I’d have had the inspired ideas to sprinkle it with roasted chickpeas or whisk hot pepper jelly into the dressing. Also, as someone who isn’t feeding a family of four (or five or six), I appreciated the number of recipes scaled for two or three servings.

So sure, there are sexier cookbooks than “Simple Green Suppers”: cookbooks written by tattooed celebrity chefs that promise the at-home equivalent of trendy restaurant meals; cookbooks written by photogenic lifestyle bloggers who live in enviable houses with adorable children and fabulous dishware; and lavish, coffee-table cookbooks that transport readers to Portugal or Peru. “Simple Green Suppers” is none of those things. It’s simply a hard-working paperback with awfully nice (but not stunning) photographs, practical (but not lyrical) prose and reliably tasty, no-fail recipes. It promises, as Middleton writes in the introduction, “a filling, satisfying supper tonight – and every night.” And, oh boy, does it deliver. Maybe that’s the true award-worthy quality.


This made for a really nice combination of textures and flavors. It tasted filling and virtuous at once. Don’t skip the lime wedges!

Serves 2 to 3

1/4 cup grapeseed or mild olive oil, or combination

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon packed dark brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus large pinch

1 cup diced yellow onion

2 cups diced green or savoy cabbage

2 cups short- or long-grain brown rice

1 cup cooked lentils, preferably French (or du Puy) or black beluga

1 cup small-diced, unpeeled tart-sweet apple

1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries

1/3 cup chopped toasted walnuts

1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves

2 to 3 lime wedges

1. In a small bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons of the oil and the vinegar, mustard, brown sugar, and a big pinch of salt and set aside.

2. In a large (12-inch) skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, cabbage, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the veggies are limp and browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.

3. If necessary, reheat the rice and lentils in separate bowls in a microwave for 45 seconds to 1 minute. (They don’t need to be piping hot.) Add to the bowl with the cabbage and onions.

Add the apple, cranberries, walnuts, half the parsley and all the mustard dressing. Stir well, taste, and season with more salt if necessary. Be aware that the rice and lentils tend to absorb the flavor at first, but then the salad will become more flavorful overall as it sits. Transfer to a serving bowl or bowls and garnish with the lime wedges and the remaining parsley leaves.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: