“Simple Feel Good Food”: Recipes From Bestselling Cookbook Author Jeanine Donofrio
White Bean Swiss Chard Burgers are perfect for entertaining, since you can form the patties well in advance and cook them off when you're ready to eat. Photo: Eva Kolenko
Eating a plant-based diet offers many “feel-good” health benefits, including decreasing risk of heart disease and stroke, Type 2 diabetes and many cancers. But, the benefits don’t stop there when the vegetarian recipes are also packed with flavour and are hip, fun and fuss free. Enter home chef Jeanine Donofrio’s gorgeous new cookbook Love & Lemons: Simple Feel Good Food (April 25).
“My inspiration for this book came from my readers,” Donofrio told Zoomer. “They either love easy recipes that they can make with on-hand ingredients, or they love recipes that they can prepare in advance.”
Simple Feel Good Food is meant as a resource for two types of cooks. “Half the recipes are ‘at-the-ready recipes,’ which are simple to make with pantry ingredients, and the other half are ‘in-advance recipes,’ which are designed to be prepped ahead,” she says.
So, whether your style is all about spontaneity and cooking on the fly, or it’s grocery shopping for a carefully planned weekly menu, the book is chock-full of beautifully photographed meal ideas. One of Donofrio’s favourites is her palate-pleasing Eggplant Sheet Pan Shawarma, the recipe for which she shares below.
“I toss thinly sliced eggplant and sweet potatoes with a homemade shawarma spice blend, then roast them until they’re tender and browned,” she says. “They’re so tasty on their own that I could eat them straight off the baking sheet, but they’re even better in wraps with fresh herbs and dollops of creamy tahini yogurt.”
We also serve up other recipes from the book, including Tortellini Soup with Lemon Peel Broth and White Bean Swiss Chard Burgers, but first some insider tips from Donofrio for boosting flavour, as well as cooking on a budget.
Cooking on a Budget: With rising food costs and inflation, many readers are looking for ways to stretch their dollars at the grocery store. Do you have any tips for this and/or dishes you would recommend?
My biggest tip for eating on a budget is to add plant-based recipes to your regular rotation. We’ve all heard about the high price of eggs lately. Dairy and meat are also more expensive than plant foods like tofu, beans and lentils and whole grains. Simple Feel Good Food includes a chart called A Guide to Grain Bowls that features grains, vegetarian proteins, veggies and sauces that you can mix and match into bowls. I love making these types of meals because they’re nutritious, satisfying and affordable, and the punchy sauces pack them with delicious flavour! They’re also really flexible. If you have leftover veggies or other ingredients hanging out in your fridge, toss them into a grain bowl instead of letting them go to waste.
Insider Tips: Can you share your favourite flavour boosters — and any other secret weapons?
Two things immediately come to mind: fresh herbs and sauces.
I think fresh herbs are so underrated in home cooking. They have such bold, unique flavours that they can instantly make an average dish taste exciting and fresh. They also give any recipe extra visual appeal. Everything looks better with a sprinkle of green on top!
My second secret weapon is a good sauce. Make one on the weekend and keep it on hand in the fridge, and you’ll have an easy way to jazz up salads, bowls, sandwiches and more all week! I like to rotate between sauces with different textures and flavors to keep things interesting in the kitchen. In Simple Feel Good Food, I share eight of my favourites. They range from a creamy vegan ranch to a silky curry vinaigrette to a tangy chickpea romesco. With a few sauces like these in your back pocket, you can add so much variety to your cooking!
Easy Entertaining: What is your go-to dish for cooking and entertaining without the stress?
In the fall and winter, lasagna! I love to assemble it ahead of time and then bake it just before serving.
In the spring and summer, I often make a salad ahead of time to serve as a side. I also prep a main that I can quickly cook once guests arrive. Both of the veggie burger recipes from Simple Feel Good Food — the Sweet Potato Paneer Burgers and the White Bean Swiss Chard Burgers (White Bean recipe below) — are perfect for entertaining. You can form the patties well in advance and cook them off when you’re ready to eat!
Must-Haves: What items and ingredients do you keep stocked in your pantry or fridge?
I like to keep a pretty well-stocked pantry so that I have flexibility in my day-to-day cooking. I have basics like whole grains, pasta, dried beans and lentils, canned chickpeas, canned tomatoes, oils, vinegars, nuts, seeds and baking ingredients in the pantry, as well as spices, salt and pepper. In the fridge, I always have Greek yogurt (great for sauces!), mayo, Dijon mustard, tamari, miso paste and pecorino cheese. Oh, and of course, lemons!
Multigenerational: Favourite dishes to cook with younger kids?
Our toddler, Ollie, is obsessed with our blender. He loves to put his hand on the lid while I blend up a smoothie or sauce and then taste whatever we’ve made with a spoon once we’ve finished blending. I love this too, because a smoothie is a great way to get him to fill up on fruits and veggies!
We also like to make pizza together. He helps roll out the dough, I prep the toppings, and then we both sprinkle them on top!
This Q&A has been edited for clarity and length
Tortellini Soup with Lemon Peel Broth
You may have noticed that there are quite a few lemons in the recipes in this book. Whenever a recipe calls for fresh lemon juice but not lemon zest, I peel the lemon before I juice it. I freeze the peels until I have enough to make this brightly flavoured golden broth. Since the broth is so good on its own, I always pair it with simple ingredients, like the tortellini and fresh veggies here, to highlight its delicate flavour.
Lemon Peel Broth ingredients:
4 celery stalks, including leaves
2 garlic bulbs, sliced in half horizontally
Peels from 4 lemons
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
10 cups water
Lemon Peel Broth instructions:
- Place all the ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
- Strain and discard the vegetables, peppercorns, and lemon peels. Season to taste.
Tortellini Soup ingredients:
9 ounces store- bought tortellini
4 cups Lemon Peel Broth
2 cups fresh spinach
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 cups fresh basil leaves
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Tortellini Soup instructions:
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- Prepare the tortellini according to the package instructions, cooking until al dente.
- Drain and set aside.
- Warm the broth in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-low heat until heated through, about 2 minutes.
- Add the cooked tortellini, spinach, peas, lemon juice, and half the basil. Stir until the spinach is wilted, about 1 minute. Season to taste.
- Portion the soup into bowls and top with a drizzle of olive oil, the remaining basil, several grinds of pepper, and pinches of red pepper flakes, if desired.
Vegan: Use vegan tortellini (we like Kite Hill).
To store broth: Allow it to cool to room temperature after cooking. Transfer it to airtight containers and refrigerate for up to one week or freeze for up to three months.
Eggplant Sheet Pan Shawarma
If you love big, bold flavours, you have to try this recipe! It’s a veggie riff on Middle Eastern shawarma, with thinly sliced eggplant and sweet potatoes stepping in for the traditional meat. You’ll toss these veggies with a punchy homemade spice blend and roast them until they’re nicely browned and tender. While they’re in the oven, prep the fixings and stir together the tahini yogurt. Then, pile everything onto a platter (or one of the sheet pans) and let everyone assemble their own wraps.
Gluten-free: Use gluten- free pitas.
Vegan: Replace the tahini yogurt with homemade hummus.
4 pitas, warmed
2 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
Fresh mint, parsley or cilantro sprigs
½ cup Pickled Onions (optional)
Aleppo pepper, for sprinkling (optional)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
1½ teaspoons ground cardamom
1½ teaspoons ground turmeric
For the Vegetables:
1 medium eggplant, sliced into ¼- inch-thick half- moons
1 sweet potato, sliced into ¼- inch-thick half- moons
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
1 tablespoon Shawarma Spice
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 450 F and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Make the shawarma spice: In a small bowl, whisk together the cumin, smoked paprika, cinnamon, cardamom, and turmeric. Set aside 1 tablespoon and store the remaining spice for another use.
- Place the eggplant on one of the baking sheets and the sweet potatoes on the other. Generously drizzle the eggplant with olive oil, and lightly drizzle the sweet potatoes. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of the shawarma spice over the eggplant and the remaining 1 teaspoon over the sweet potatoes. Season all the vegetables with salt and pepper. Toss to coat, spread evenly on the baking sheets, and roast for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are golden brown and the eggplant is tender, rotating the pans halfway through.
- Assemble wraps in the pita with the tahini yogurt, roasted vegetables, cucumbers, mint, pickled onions, and sprinkles of Aleppo pepper, if desired. Serve with lemon wedges on the side.
White Bean Swiss Chard Burgers
I rarely make veggie burgers in an attempt to replicate meat. Instead, I like to highlight a vegetable! These beans- and- greens burgers use Swiss chard in two ways. You’ll incorporate the greens into the patties and quick- pickle the stems to create a tangy, crunchy, and colourful topping. The burgers turn out best if you chill them overnight in the fridge before you cook them. Feel free to make the pickled chard stems and the yogurt sauce in advance as well.
1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed and set aside
3 cups cooked butter beans, drained and rinsed
½ medium yellow onion, grated on the large holes of a box grater (⅓ cup)
3 garlic cloves, grated
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill or 1 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 large egg
1 cup panko bread crumbs
Avocado oil, for the pan
6 hamburger buns
Pickled Chard Stems:
Stems from 1 bunch Swiss chard, chopped (1¼ cups)
½ cup diced red onion
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon sea salt
Lemon Dill Yogurt:
½ cup whole milk Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill or ¼ teaspoon dried
¼ teaspoon sea salt
Desired fixings: sunflower sprouts, lettuce, avocado, sliced cucumbers, etc.
- Roughly chop the chard leaves, place in a steamer basket, and set over a pot filled with 1 inch of water. Bring the water to a simmer, cover, and steam for 1 minute, or until the leaves are wilted. When cool to the touch, squeeze the excess water out of the leaves and chop finely.
- In a large bowl, combine the chard with the beans, onion, garlic, mayonnaise, mustard, dill, lemon zest, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Use a potato masher to mash until the mixture holds together but still has some visible bean chunks. Add the egg and fold until combined. Then, fold in the panko. The mixture should be cohesive and a little wet.
- Form the mixture into 6 patties. Place the patties on a baking sheet, cover loosely with foil or plastic wrap, and chill overnight.
- Make the pickled chard stems: In a lidded jar, combine the chard stems, onion, lemon juice, and salt. Shake to combine and chill until ready to use.
- Make the lemon dill yogurt: In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, lemon juice, dill, and salt. Chill until ready to use.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Heat a cast- iron skillet over medium heat. Coat the bottom with oil and cook the burgers for 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until browned, working in batches and reducing the heat to low as needed. Transfer the burgers to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. If desired, warm the buns in the oven during the last few minutes of cook time.
- Assemble the burgers on the buns with the yogurt sauce, pickled chard stems, and desired fixings.
Excerpted from Love and Lemons: Simple Feel Good Food Copyright © 2023 by Jeanine Donofrio. Published by Avery, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.
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