By Freya Bellin
Thanks to the combination of hearty lentils and mushrooms, this vegetarian dish tastes uniquely meaty. Plus—perhaps the best thing about stir-fries—it’s a quick one-pot meal. Even if you don’t have pre-cooked lentils on hand, they cook in just 30 minutes, so it’s easy enough to have those ready by the time you’ve finished washing and chopping the other ingredients. You won’t need the lentils until the end of the recipe anyway. If you opt not to use (or can’t find) the dried porcinis, consider adding an extra handful of fresh mushrooms to keep the proportions balanced.
The seasoning for this dish is simple, which allows the caramelized onions to really come through. Onions cooking in olive oil always smell great, but once they break down and release their natural sugars, they transform into something other-worldly. As is often the case with foods this delicious, you must be patient with them. I used a heavy pan and probably had the heat a touch too low when cooking this recipe, so my onions took closer to 25 minutes to fully caramelize. Rest assured that it is worth the wait. While the recipe below calls for the onions as a garnish of sorts, I eventually ended up mixing mine into the rest of the stir-fry. The dish makes excellent leftovers, either reheated as is or served over a green salad. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.
Makes: About 3 dozen cookies
Time: 40 minutes
Another not-too-sweet cookie (perfect for glazing), only this time a hint of saffron gives the cookies a gorgeous gold color, and their cakey texture will remind you of an elegant vanilla wafer. The olive oil is a fresh-tasting alternative to butter, even if you’re not looking to cut down on saturated fat. Recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.
I spoke at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston last night, and – because I finished late – went out to a nondescript restaurant that had a kitchen that, in theory at least, stayed open until 10. I could complain nonstop about this entire experience but that’s not the point; I’m going to complain about something else. I will say that the best part of the meal were some semi-fried Brussels sprouts, so I took the leftovers back to my hotel, where there’s a fridge.
By Freya Bellin
February is a time when one must get creative with seasonal produce, much of which is some form of root vegetable. I’d been seeing daikon radish a lot lately, so I figured it would be worth checking out. Turns out that it’s pretty versatile: when raw it has the texture of jicama and the flavor of a mild radish. When cooked, as in this recipe, it becomes tender and a little sweeter. It was a really nice addition to this stir-fry and an ingredient that will definitely remain in my winter veggie arsenal.
If you cook a lot of tofu, you’ll know that it really does need to be patted dry, as the recipe instructs. The more water you can squeeze out of it, the crispier it will become when fried. That crispy tofu is a great contrast to the bok choy stems, which get soft and creamy. There’s no need for anything more complicated than the super simple sauce used in this recipe—just a bit of soy sauce to bring everything together. I served it with brown rice for some heft, but it could stand on its own too as a light tofu dinner. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.
Makes: 4 appetizer or side-dish servings
Time: 10 minutes, plus time to marinate
An easy and surprising little nibble, crunchy and ultra-savory. Substitute any vegetable you can eat raw or try this marinade with parboiled and shocked vegetables like broccoli or snow peas. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.
I couldn’t be more thrilled with the opportunity to write an opinion column about food. Here’s my very first, a food manifesto of sorts, which hits on a number of topics that I will return to in weeks and months (and hopefully years) to come.
Want to read every single Minimalist column of all-time? Of course you do. September 17, 1997 to January 26, 2011. Have at it.
By Freya Bellin
This pilaf proves that a simple grain like rice can be transformed into something pretty complex, without too much work on your part. The Spanish flavors of this dish come through strongly—especially the smoky pimentón, which is a great contrast to the overall sweetness of the dish. I personally found myself digging through the bowl for even more apricots, so you may want to chop up and toss in a few more than the recipe suggests. You could experiment with other dried fruits here as well, like golden raisins.
While most of the cook-time in this recipe is hands-off, brown rice can require some attention. I added more water a few times throughout the simmering process, as the pot was starting to dry out, but the rice was still crunchy. The couscous variation would certainly be useful if you’re in a time-bind or if you want to multi-task. The wonderful thing about a recipe like this is that, thanks to the protein from almonds and chickpeas, it can be a meal in and of itself. I served it with beets to squeeze in some vegetables, but it’s completely filling and satisfying on its own. Plus, any recipe that calls for ½ cup of wine leaves you with most of a bottle left for drinking, which is never a bad thing. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.
One-Hour Vegetable Stock
Makes: about 1 quart
Time: 1 hour, somewhat unattended
For this stock, you cut the vegetables into small pieces, which extracts greater flavor; you pan-cook them first, which browns them at least a bit and makes the flavor more complex; and you add a couple more flavorful ingredients (the mushrooms make a difference, as you’ll quickly see, as does the soy sauce). If you have more time for simmering, use it.
Double the quantities here if you want to make enough stock to freeze. Recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.