3 Vegetarian Recipes That Changed My Cooking

3 Vegetarian Recipes That Changed My Cooking

A few weeks ago, a friend sent me the cutest photo of her sweet, pudgy-cheeked baby eating a bit of kale-sauce pasta. The baby was in a high chair, grinning before the wreckage of her dinner — green sauce on her face and hands, bits of pasta up to her elbows. Now that baby knows how to enjoy her food, I thought with admiration.

A bunch of just-boiled greens, still hot and dripping wet, puréed with a little fried garlic, grated cheese and olive oil becomes such a crowd pleaser when you toss it with pasta. You can even tinker with the framework: Use a lot of cheese, or none at all (try a heaped tablespoon of white miso if you want to make it vegan). Add chile flakes to the sizzling garlic, or drop a hunk of preserved lemon rind into the blender. I’ve thrown in arugula, mustard greens, chard and whole bunches of just-starting-to-wilt herbs, too.

The idea isn’t new, but when I learned it from the Portland chef Joshua McFadden, who uses lacinato kale, I was still really excited by its ease and adaptability. Kale sauce is now on regular rotation in my kitchen, year-round, in infinite variations.

Here are a few:

Breakfast bowls full of hot polenta + kale sauce + softly poached eggs

Big pot of white beans + kale sauce + zest of a whole lemon + chile oil

Baked casserole of layered lasagna sheets + kale sauce + mozzarella

You never know when a recipe will stick with you, making your life better in tiny, vital ways. It also happened to me with Eric Kim’s sheet-pan bibimbap. I almost always have some gochujang and kimchi in the fridge, which means I can turn any combination of vegetables into a delicious dinner by roasting and dressing the lot. (Because I’m usually cooking this for two, I scoot the vegetables over after they’re browned, then add the rice and eggs to the same pan.)

Yewande Komolafe’s crispy tofu with cashews is another knockout, a cozy recipe that comes together so thoughtfully. Searing a slab of tofu and then breaking it up with your hands gives it rough, craggy edges to hold the quick pan sauce of thick, reduced coconut milk. And I love Yewande’s strategy of using the same pan to char snap peas, broccoli, or green beans, so you have even more flavors and textures on your plate without much extra work or washing up.

I wanted to start The Veggie with these recipes because I think of them as foundational and essential to my repertoire. But every week, I’ll send you notes on a mix of new and previously published recipes — always vegetarian, sometimes vegan. Write to me anytime at [email protected] and it’ll reach the whole team — that’s me, your writer; my editors Tanya Sichynsky and Nikita Richardson; and our product manager Darun Kwak. We’d really like to know what you think!

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If you want to make Eric’s sheet-pan bibimbap right now, he suggests roasting produce like tomatoes, zucchini and eggplant, and has this tip to make the dish even more summery:

“When it comes to summer vegetables, I love a mixture of roasted and raw — especially fresh corn. Just cut off the kernels and add them at the very end. They stay crunchy and vibrant alongside the rice and whatever vegetables you’ve roasted.” — Eric Kim

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