Malcolm Jolley interviews Jeanine Donofrio on her new cookbook Love & Lemons Every Day…
Jeanine Donofrio is the creator of the food blog juggernaut Love & Lemons, and has just published her second cookbook, Love & Lemons Every Day. The Chicago-based recipe developer earned her substantive following by combining a sensibility for fresh, vegetable-based recipes with a crisp visual aesthetic that came from her background as a graphic designer. Long time GFR readers will recall that I interviewed Donofrio a few years ago for this post on the occasion the publication of her first book, The Love & Lemons Cookbook. When her publishers sent a press release announcing her second, I was quick to request another interview to see what she’d been working on in the intervening years. Here’s the conversation we had on the phone a little while ago…
This interview has been edited for length, clarity and style.
Good Food Revolution: I remember meeting you for an interview about three years ago and being really impressed with your first book, Love & Lemons, especially the graphic design sensibility you brought to it. What the story with this second book, Love & Lemons Every Day? Is it an extension of the first book, or a different project altogether? What drove you to write it?
Jeanine Donofrio: Well, the first book was organized by vegetables, from A to Z. But this one is organized by traditional meal types: for breakfasts to dinners to desserts. I was inspired to make recipes in an every day format but that still had a lot, a lot of vegetables. I wanted to make a book where for every meal of the day you could have delicious vegetables.
Good Food Revolution: And to be clear, Love & Lemons recipes are all vegetarian. Some are vegan, and some are gluten-free, and then some will have cheese or some kind of animal protein.
Jeanine Donofrio: Yeah: they’re all vegetarian and most of them are vegan or have a vegan option, and a good amount are gluten-free. But my goal, really, is not to preach about being vegetarian but more about how to enjoy vegetables because they’re delicious for everybody whether you eat meat or don’t. My goal is not to convert people to a certain dietary type because I think everybody needs to do what’s right for them. But I do believe, no matter what’s your dietary type, you can enjoy a vegetable.
Good Food Revolution: Fair enough.
Jeanine Donofrio: You don’t have to be a vegetarian or a vegan to enjoy a great salad.
Good Food Revolution: For sure, and I think that there is a big hunger for vegetable, or vegetable-centred recipes for that reason. And also, even if you’re a really dedicated carnivore, like me, there’s only so many ways to roast a chicken. Do you know what I mean? That part of the meal is usually pretty straight forward, so the interesting parts, for flavour and texture, are often in the veggies.
Jeanine Donofrio: Yeah, exactly. I cooked every meal in this book for my entire extended family, and they all eat meat. But I think sometimes people aren’t sure about what they can do with a vegetable. There’s all sorts of things, like roasting or I have green rice recipe and half of it is pulsed-up broccoli. So, there’s recipes where vegetables are kind of hidden or spiced in different ways, or prepared in different ways. I really have fun creating and playing with different flavours and textures.
Good Food Revolution: You create a lot of content all of the time, between your books and blog. Where do you get your inspiration and ideas?
Jeanine Donofrio: For the book, I started working on the recipes about three years ago, and I started with the chapters and then tried to come up with a variety of recipes for each one, so there isn’t two veggie burger recipes. So it was about looking at all these different kinds of meals and thinking about what vegetables I would put around them. What’s the star vegetable going to be? So, I wanted to make enchiladas, and they’re green enchiladas, so it’s zucchini that’s wrapped up in them. Or, I love the way a fish taco is assembled with a creamy sauce and a breaded filling, so I crusted an artichoke to put into them. Or sometimes it’s just asking what meal type have I not used or what vegetable have I not used.
Good Food Revolution: How do your dual roles as a cookbook author and a regular blogger work? Do you steal from for the pother, or is it two separate things?
Jeanine Donofrio: All the recipes in the book are not on the blog. They’re all entirely new. So, I just segment off different parts of my time. There’s no overlap.
Good Food Revolution: Still, on the blog you must get a pretty quick sense about whether your readers are responding to a recipe. It must help inform your choices when you’re writing a book?
Jeanine Donofrio: Yes, but the thing with a book is you might not know until three years later whether people are going to like it or not. I try to think about what people are going to like when I am choosing recipes for the book, but I also imagine that if you follow me on the blog and buy my books you like to eat what I like to eat, right? I do test the recipes over and over to try and get the seasonings just right, and that kind of thing. I guess I feel that’s there’s a sort of style to Love & Lemons that’s about being bright with lemons, drizzled with olive oil, full of fresh herbs and that kind of thing. So I just try and use my instincts to try and make what I like. It’s like that on the blog too. And there will be recipes on the that I really like and there’s no response, and others that are maybe so simple that I’ll think they’re too easy but they’ll go crazy. It’s always a guessing game, so I just think, what do I crave?
Good Food Revolution: OK, you’re style is consistent but have any of your tastes changed over the years you’ve been doing this?
Jeanine Donofrio: That’s a good question. I don’t know. Maybe it’s more like I can go in and out of phases. I don’t think that’s different from most people, where you’re on a kick for a while. I might eat avocado toast every day for a while until one day I decide to switch to a banana muffin or whatever. So, no my tastes haven’t changed, but I do go on kicks. Right now I can’t stop using dill. I just love it.