The Modern Lunch cookbook review is part of our ongoing series of (mostly) Canadian cookbook reviews! This month we put Allison Day's latest cookbook, Modern Lunch, through its paces.

Modern Lunch by Allison Day

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The cookbook Modern Lunch: +100 Recipes for Assembling the New Midday Meal by Allison Day will make you want to take the time to sit down and have a proper lunch.  This is Allison's third cookbook and first with Appetite by Penguin Random House (you can also read my review of her first book, Whole Bowls)

Most of us have busy schedules and are always running to do something during lunchtime so we end up gulping our food on the way. So much emphasis is placed on eating a good breakfast and preparing a delicious, nutritious dinner that the preparation of the midday meal is ignored. This is the cookbook that will change that mindset.



Allison Day introduces us to the Modern Lunch:

“A modern lunch is special, simple, (mostly) make-ahead, healthy, share-worthy, community building, money saving, colorful and delicious.”

This statement is the premise of this cookbook.

How To Make Lunch Happen

The How to Make Lunch Happen chapter lists:

  • Lunchtime Success Tips
  • Master Meal Prep
  • Recipe Legend for Packable, Make-Ahead, Reheat, Freezer-Friendly, and Lunch Notes icons
  • Dietary Icons for Gluten-Free, Vegetarian and Vegan recipes


The recipes are well written and easy to follow. They all contain symbols from the Recipe Legend and dietary icons. The diverse recipes, with internationally inspired flavours and made with easy-to-find ingredients, will appeal to dietary preferences and requirements. The colour photos in Modern Lunch are stunning.

The cookbook is well organized as it sections recipes into five parts and 12 chapters, which makes it easy browse through. Listed below are sample recipes from each part and chapter:

Part I: Lunch to Go

  • Chapter 1: Meals in Jars — Chicken and Ribbon Salad, Springtime Pea Salad with Tuna and Creamy Salad Dressing
  • Chapter 2: Soups and Stews — Tomato Sourdough Soup with Cacio e Peppe Socca Triangles, Savory Vegetable Cobbler
  • Chapter 3: Contemporary Lunch Boxes — Eggplant, Brown Rice and Tahini Burgers with a Salad, Pantry Dal with Raita, Brown Rice, and Mango

Part II: Lunch at Home

  • Chapter 4: Plates and Bowls — California Lunch Bowl, Brussels Sprout, Grape and Goat Cheese Pizza
  • Chapter 5: Salads with Substance — Citrus, Shrimp, and Quinoa Salad with Feta, Zucchini Tangle with Romesco and Burrata

Part III: Sharing Lunch on the Weekend

  • Chapter 6:  Platters — A Gathered Platter, Easygoing Lunchtime Platter Ideas
  • Chapter 7: Brunch for Lunch — Honey Bacon and White Bean Toast, Rustic Spelt Quiche with Asparagus and New Potatoes
  • Chapter 8:  Picnic Baskets — Includes recipes for English Picnic, Camping, Waterfront and Road Trip

Part IV: Make Lunch Special

  • Chapter 9: Modern Lunch Club — This chapter is a guide to starting a Modern Lunch Club: How it Works, What You Get from Setting Up a Lunch Club and Lunch Club Success Tips. It also includes a list of Modern Club Menus.
  • Chapter 10: Lunchbox Treasures — Express Chocolate Pudding Cups, Whole Grapefruit and Almond Cake

Part V:  The Lunch Larder

  • Chapter 11: Modern Meal Prep Staples — This chapter includes recipes for Dressing and Condiments, Proteins (Cook Your Own or Ready to Go), Grains and Vegetables for the Modern Day Lunch.
  • Chapter 12: Gear Guide — The final chapter provides links to the products that were used while testing the recipes, such as Portable Containers and Food Wraps, Jars, Thermal Containers, Meal Prep Storage, Small Appliances, Water Bottles, Lunch Bags, Totes, Picnic Baskets, Coolers, Beverage Making, Plates and Platters, and Drinking Glasses.

In My Kitchen

Since my husband and I work from home I chose two recipes: Brussels Sprout, Grape and Goat Cheese Pizza and the Baked Squash with Brown Butter, Feta and Chili from Part II, Lunch at Home.

For the weekend I chose the Polenta Porridge with Broccoli Rabe, Tomatoes, and Eggs recipe from Part III, Sharing Lunch on the Weekend.

Brussels Sprout, Grape, and Goat Cheese Pizza (Page 109)

Pizza is one of my favourite foods. I can eat it anytime and anywhere, but I'm selective about the pizza toppings. Apart from fresh figs, I don’t eat pizza with fruit except for this one. The photo of the pizza looked so appealing that I decided to make it.

The recipe calls for a non-knead dough that you make in advance. It’s divided into quarters and each quarter is stretched into a cast iron pan, topped with the Brussels sprouts and grapes and baked until the dough is browned on the outside. Then you add the feta cheese. The combined flavours of the pizza toppings were so good that I'll make it again for our Friday night pizza suppers.

You can also use naan bread for the pizza crust and the recipes lists a variety of pizza toppings.

Polenta Porridge with Broccoli Rabe, Tomatoes, and Eggs (Page 156)

Although this recipe is listed in the Sharing Lunch on the Weekend section, it should also be included in the Work at Home section. It’s fast and easy to make (if you use instant polenta). The flavours of the ingredients are so delicious when combined and served with the polenta and fried egg. These ingredients are part of my menu plan, but I never thought of combining them for a meal. Now, I will.

Baked Squash with Brown Butter, Feta and Chili (Page 97)

Baked Squash by Allison Day (from the Modern Lunch cookbook)

The hardest thing about this recipe is peeling the squash. Once that’s complete, everything falls into place quickly. The vegetables are coated with the brown butter which gives them a great flavour, and the ginger and chili spice it up. After 40 minutes' baking time, you have a beautiful, colourful dish ready to be devoured. The recipe also includes tips on how to add extra protein.

Baked Squash
Cook time
Total time
This recipe is versatile and vibrant. It can be scaled up for a crowd or for leftovers, which, beyond lunch, taste great smashed onto toast or mixed into savory steel-cut oats for breakfast the next day. To complete the meal, I like to serve the baked squash with a rustic sourdough bread or a cooked whole grain like barley or quinoa for sopping up the juices, along with a simple side salad of tender baby lettuces lightly coated with lemon juice, olive oil, and flaky salt. If you’re searching for crunch to contrast with the tender squash, a sprinkle of chopped nuts or toasted coconut chips before serving is just the ticket.
Recipe type: Side Dish
Serves: 4
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter One 2–3 lb red kuri or
  • buttercup or kabocha squash, seeded, peeled, and sliced into 8 large pieces
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 red Thai chili, seeded and minced, plus more for garnish
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger 6 oz feta, thickly sliced into
  • 8 slabs
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • ¼ cup torn fresh cilantro
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  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat until it is golden brown and nutty in aroma, about 5 to 8 minutes. Immediately transfer it to a small bowl, including the brown bits, which have a lot of great flavor. In a
  2. - × 13-inch ceramic or glass baking dish, coat the squash, onion, garlic, chili, and ginger with the brown butter. Place the squash cup side-up and add a slab of feta to each piece.
  3. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the squash is tender and the feta is beginning to brown. Fire it under the broiler for a minute, watching carefully, for a deeper golden-brown color on the feta, if desired.
  4. If you are eating this immediately, drizzle the squash with honey, sprinkle it with cilantro, and garnish with additional chili. Serve warm.
  5. If you are taking this to go, pack a serving in a container and refrigerate it until you are ready to take it with you. Keep it in the work refrigerator or stored with a cooler pack in your lunch bag until you are ready to reheat, if desired, and eat it
Add a bed of 2 cups of cooked white beans or chickpeas and splash of water (or white wine) to the bottom of your baking dish before topping with squash and baking. Or nestle 4 raw turkey sausages in between the squash before baking; they will cook in the same amount of time as everything else.


Bookshelf Worthy?

Modern Lunch is a welcome addition to my cookbook collection as it’s the first cookbook that focuses on lunch recipes. It’s a well-organized cookbook with meal prep tips and delicious recipes bursting with flavour that inspire us to take time from our busy schedule to sit down and enjoy the midday meal.

When I worked in an office, I ate a sandwich at my desk or while I went shopping. When I was raising my daughters, I made sure they were well fed, but hardly took the time to eat lunch myself. Now that I work from home, I still don’t take a break at noontime to sit down and enjoy lunch. I plan to change that habit with this cookbook in hand. Sure, it takes some meal prep time, but it'll be worth it to enjoy eating lunch in the comfort of my home.

Modern Lunch: +100 Recipes for Assembling the New Midday Meal
Author: Allison Day
Hardcover: 256 Pages
Publisher: Penguin Random House Canada
ISBN: 978-0-14-753100-1

Excerpted from Modern Lunch: +100 Recipes for Assembling the New Midday Meal by Allison Day. Copyright © 2019 Allison Day. Published by Appetite by Random House ®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

A review copy of Modern Lunch was provided by Penguin Random House Canada.

This site is a participant in the Amazon Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for the site to earn fees by linking to Amazon and affiliated sites.

More Reading

The Modern Lunch cookbook review was written by Liliana Tommasini, author of the aptly named blog My Cookbook Addiction. Her passion for baking and cooking began at an early age. Liliana grew up in an Italian household where each meal was made from scratch with fresh ingredients and Sunday family lunches were always a celebration. She has a passion for collecting cookbooks and believes that every recipe tells a story that must be shared to nourish your soul and feed your belly. You can connect with Liliana on Twitter, Facebookand Instagram.

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