Cooking through Lindsay Maitland Hunt’s new cookbook Healthyish is like tapping into the zeitgeist of contemporary aspirational eating. Though unrelated to the Bon Appétit franchise of the same name, the ethos (and aesthetic) behind both projects is similar: doable recipes—aka recipes that won’t take too much time, require too many specialty ingredients or dirty too many pans—that promise flavorful, colorful dishes with a particular focus on vegetables and grains to keep everything feeling virtuously balanced and fairly low calorie.
There are plenty of grain bowls, of course, but none feel obligatory or rote: Hunt’s take on bánh mì is served over brown rice with plenty of garlic and and fish sauce to give the pork deep, savory flavor; her California-inspired breakfast bowl pairs a 9-minute egg with tzatziki and arugula over warm grains for a pared-down version of something you’d find at LA’s Sqirl.
There’s more to Healthyish than bowls, though. Fresh, light, riffable takes on standby proteins suddenly make a boneless, skinless chicken breast appealing (especially when paired with radicchio, lentils and tahini) or a pork cutlet (spiced with cumin and smoky paprika and topped with quick pickled red onions and cilantro) look like just the thing for dinner tonight.
A special diets index in the back of the book organizes the recipes by gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, vegetarian, and vegan—and every conceivable combination of those -frees—which makes finding just the right recipe so easy you wonder why more health-conscious cookbooks don’t automatically do the same. It’s just another way Hunt makes good-for-you also easy-for-you.
Hunt’s careful, creative approach to eating well is revealed throughout the 120 recipes in her book. And each recipe, presented in full color photographs, delivers on the book’s conceptual promise: flexible recipes that turn out just like the pictures and, in her words, make you “feel good, not sad.” Just what we need in January—and beyond.
To celebrate the upcoming release of Healthyish, we asked Lindsay Maitland Hunt five questions about her new book, her favorite recipes and her inspiration.
Edible Manhattan: What’s one recipe you think is emblematic of the concept behind Healthyish?
Lindsay Maitland Hunt: I love the turkey and chickpea burgers with dill havarti because it hits that hearty and satisfying burger note, but there are smashed chickpeas mixed in with the ground turkey to stretch the meat further. Not to mention, you can freeze any extra patties to cook off later in the week or month. So much of what Healthyish is about is, of course, cutting down on the indulgent factor to keep things good-for-you, but it’s is also about time-saving strategies for real cooking.
EM: What was the first recipe you knew you wanted to include in the book?
LMH: The peanut butter Granola was what I call a “genesis recipe” for the entire project. I developed a similar granola for Real Simple, where I worked in the test kitchen for three years, and I made it for my family on a long vacation. They loved it, but after eating it many mornings in a row, they were struck by the “cookie-ness” of their breakfast. The intense peanut butter flavor was an exciting change-up on normal granola, but it’s not sustainable to start every day feeling like you’ve already had dessert. So, I started making batch after batch, slowly reducing the oil and maple syrup to get to a place where it still read as sweet but with as little sugar as possible.
EM: Which recipe was the hardest to get right?
LMH: Because it matters to me that this book works for real people in their day-to-day lives, the recipes need to be foolproof. That meant that when a recipe took too many times to get right in a way that would be easily replicable in home kitchens, I cut it from the book. That being said, I baked the cheddary corn and scallion muffins seven times to get the balance of cheesy flavor right without feeling like it was an over-the-top weekend item. I know, hard job.
EM: What books did you turn to for inspiration in writing Healthyish?
LMH: I love the way that Nigel Slater writes recipes in an approachable and down-to-earth voice; both Tender and Ripe inspired me with their loose style and casual photography. Yotam Ottolenghi’s books, from Plenty to Jerusalem to Nopi, have taught me about new ingredients and techniques. I’ve learned many clever ways to turn an ingredient on its head, for instance, chopping up an entire lemon and mixing it into a grain salad for both acid and texture. Though, when I’m working hard on coming up with original recipe ideas, it can often stress me out to watch or read things about food, so while in the thick of recipe writing and development, I tended to turn to books like Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly or Heidi Julavits’ The Folded Clock: A Diary.
EM: What’s one cookbook you couldn’t live without?
LMH: I treasure my mom’s heavily-stained and dog-eared copy of Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Chocolate Desserts, which she used while she was a caterer in San Francisco back in 1983. Maida is the queen of the sassy headnote, including a shout out to Robert Redford in a cake named after his sexiness.
Coconut curry noodles with shrimp and napa cabbage
Makes dinner for 4
I don’t like doing any “work” while I eat dinner—for instance, sticking my hands in noodles to take off shrimp peels. So, I peel the shrimp tails off before cooking. Use your thumb to peel back one side of the tail, then pull gently on the end to unwrap the shell. Of course you can leave them on, that’s up to you!
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced, some green parts reserved for serving
¼ cup (85 g) Thai red curry paste
1 tablespoon peeled and grated fresh ginger
2 cups (480 ml) chicken stock or vegetable stock
2 (13.66-oz/403-ml) cans light coconut milk, shaken
2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
1 small head napa cabbage (about 1 lb/455 g), finely shredded (about 6 cups)
8 ounces (225 g) rice noodles
1 pound (455 g) medium shrimp [we suggest following these shopping guidelines], peeled and deveined, tail-off
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus wedges for serving
Sliced fresh red chiles, for serving
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
While the water comes to a boil, heat the oil in a separate large pot over medium heat. Add the scallions, curry paste, and ginger. Cook, stirring often, until the scallions are tender, 4 to 6 minutes.
Add the stock, coconut milk, and fish sauce and bring to a boil. Stir in the cabbage and return to a boil.
Salt the pot of boiling water and add the rice noodles. Cook according to package directions (it should take around 4 minutes) and drain.
Add the shrimp to the coconut-cabbage mixture, reduce to a simmer, and cook until the shrimp is opaque throughout, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the lime juice.
Drain and divide the noodles among four serving bowls and top with the stew. Serve with lime wedges, sliced red chiles, and the reserved scallion greens.
From Healthyish by Lindsay Maitland Hunt, published by ABRAMS c 2017.