More With Less
Jodi Moreno’s first cookbook combines whole foods and big flavor
More With Less: Whole Food Cooking Made Irresistibly Simple
I tend to gravitate towards cookbooks with recipes that are very similar to things I already cook. That seems like a pretty reasonable way to go about life, right? While I want to be the kind of person who goes totally out on a culinary limb to cook things wildly foreign to me, the thought of the upfront investment in tons of ingredients that I don’t know how to use deters me. I want to expand my culinary horizons, sure—but I want to do it in reasonable orbits, introducing new ingredients and techniques individually so that I can learn them well, rather than attempting a new cuisine all at once.
Which is why More With Less: Whole Food Cooking Made Irresistibly Simple, the first cookbook from author Jodi Moreno, is so infinitely appealing and usable to me. I sense a kindred spirit in Moreno: somebody who follows a largely whole foods and vegetarian diet, but who doesn’t want to sacrifice flavor. Her cooking revolves around simple techniques, making things from scratch and homemade condiments that can be used on dozens of dishes. Importantly, these recipes are all easy to make and use fewer than 10 ingredients, too. “While there is certainly a time and a place for more advanced techniques, or recipes with long lists of ingredients, there can be elegance found in simplicity,” Moreno says in her introduction.
Beyond the introduction, More With Less includes a brief section on “The Pantry.” This is where Moreno lists the things she always keeps in the kitchen—seasonings and staple ingredients that ensure that a good meal is just a couple steps away at any given point. Whole grains, beans and lentils make up a central part of this pantry, but more interesting and novel are the lists of “flavor enhancers” she provides: alternative types of sweeteners (coconut palm sugar, maple syrup, honey and brown rice syrup); vinegars/citrus, the flavors guaranteed to brighten up any dish (apple cider vinegar, sherry vinegar, lemon and lime) and a whole section on umami enhancers (coconut aminos, tomato paste, dried seaweed and shiitake mushrooms). Some of these were known factors before, but using crumbled nori or dried shiitake mushrooms in dishes to boost the earthy, umami flavors was a new one to me. The recipe for nori gomasio (pg. 31), a simple Japanese condiment of sea salt, toasted sesame seeds and crumbled nori, has now found a place in my pantry as well, and on many of my dishes that could use just a little extra earthy, salty finish.
Moreno’s recipes have also encouraged me to try some new things with the ingredients I already have. Since first making her recipe for miso oats with scallions and sesame oil (pg. 60), cooking miso into my grains before adding them to a stir fry or salad has become a staple technique for me. Miso, the fermented soybean paste native to Japan, has occasionally found a place in my fridge for dressings and marinades in the past. But Moreno uses the stuff in many of her recipes, and it’s encouraged me to find other uses for it as well.
I’ve also been using cashew milk for many years in smoothies and baked goods, but had never considered trying to make it myself. Using less of a recipe and more of a simple formula for making all sorts of alternative milks (pg. 71), Moreno inspired me to make this staple at home, and my mid-morning cold brew has been all the better for it. Cashew milk made from scratch is rich and flavorful like store bought just can’t compare to, and the process is so easy it’s a wonder I hadn’t tried it before. She also provides a list of recommendations for flavorings such as strawberries in almond milk and chocolate and chia in walnut milk.
Many of these recipes have been a joy to try, especially as somebody who loves a good kitchen experiment—pickled strawberries (pg. 231)? Sure, let’s try it. A flourless chocolate cake made with blood orange juice (pg. 249)? Delicious. More With Less falls into the genre of what I think of as “how to cook” books rather than a simple list of recipes. Because they’re so simple and equation-like, Moreno’s recipes immediately inspire you to use the techniques and ingredients in other dishes. “If broccoli tastes good pan-fried in a chickpea flour batter,” I thought after making the piri piri broccoli bites (pg. 151), “What else tastes good pan-fried in a chickpea flour batter?” As it turns out, most things.
More With Less is available on Amazon for $25. You can find more of Jodi Moreno’s recipes on her award-winning blog, whatscookinggoodlooking.com.