Ask anyone what keeps them from eating better, and most people say, time. No time to plan, no time to shop, above all, no time to cook. Of course, it is possible to eat great, vegetarian food even if you are crunched for time. It really is.
Especially with the fast and flavor forward recipes in Ivy Manning’s latest book, The Weeknight Vegetarian, Simple, Healthy Meals for Every Night of The Week (Weldon Owen $24.95)
Whether you are a long-time vegetarian, or a recent Meatless Monday convert, you will find some go-to recipes in this book. If you just have half an hour, you will be able to crank out many of these dishes in plenty of time. There are both vegan and ovo-lacto recipes, and if you are vegan, you will find plenty to love. It’s not hard to replace the cheese with your fave substitute, or to use tofu instead of eggs.
With the help of the handy pantry plan, you can use this book to eat well, year round. Arranged by season, all the recipes make the most of what is good in the moment. Manning provides a list of what is available in each season, and structures the recipes to use it to make fresh, exciting dishes.
Manning has an eye for building in lots of flavor, and collecting global flavors to keep it interesting. Indian, Korean, Vietnamese, French, even African dishes are translated into quick, easy dishes that pack plenty of the flavors of their homelands. From a creamy risotto to a mac and cheese, to a saag paneer or banh mie, whatever you are craving should easily be satisfied with this collection.
One really fast dish is this Tofu Kimchi Stew. Manning knows that a jar of kimchi is a jar of instant complexity and umami. The fermented cabbage and spice of Korea is one of the umami foods, which means that it has compounds that create a sensation of fullness and meatiness on your palate. This is a great trick for a vegan stew like this, and makes the light, plant-based ingredients into a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Gochujang, the Korean hot sauce that contains fermented soy, is also an umami booster, as well as adding heat.
I made the stew in a few minutes time, and it tasted like I had slaved over it for hours.
The process is simple. A quick saute of onions, then kimchi, garlic and ginger, and then you just add vegetable stock, zucchini and some seasonings, simmer for ten, and soup is on the table.
I floated the gochujang in the middle of my bowl, leaving it to each diner to add to taste. Here in Minnesota, the heat from the kimchi may just be enough for the delicate palates around me, so I often leave hot sauce up to individual palates. There is a nice balance of hot, sour, salty and sweet in this stew, and you will not be disappointed.
So, if you are looking for a collection of weeknight recipes, check out the Weeknight Vegetarian. There are no fake foods, and the emphasis on seasonal dishes helps to connect the cook to the farmers who bring us our food. This is a great gift book for someone who is just dipping a toe in the meatless waters, since it is filled with dishes that will be either familiar or so interesting that they will want to try them.
For a tease, try this stew. Bravo!
Kimchi Tofu Stew
Recipe reprinted with permission of Weeknight Vegetarian by Ivy Manning, Weldon Owen 2015
Canola oil, 1 tablespoonYellow onion, 1⁄2, thinly slicedNapa cabbage kimchi, 1 cup (4 oz/ 120 g) roughly chopped, plus 1⁄2 cup (4 fl oz/125 ml) juice from kimchi jarGarlic, 2 teaspoons finely choppedFresh ginger, 2 teaspoons finely chopped
Vegetable broth, 2 cups (16 fl oz/ 500 ml)
Small zucchini, 1, halved lengthwise and sliced into 1⁄4-inch (6-mm) pieces
Mirin, 1⁄4 cup (2 fl oz/60 ml)
Gochujang or sambal oelek chile paste (optional), 1—2 tablespoons
Sugar, 1 teaspoon
Soft tofu, 1⁄2 lb (250 g)
Soy sauce, 1—2 tablespoons
Dark sesame oil, 1 teaspoon
Green onions, 3 tablespoons thinly sliced
*Makes 4 servings
In a large saucepan, warm the canola oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until it begins to brown, 4 minutes. Add the chopped kimchi, garlic, and ginger, and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the broth, zucchini, mirin, chile paste (if using), sugar, 2 cups (16 fl oz/ 500 ml) water, and the reserved kimchi juice, and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook until the zucchini is tender, 10 minutes. Break up the tofu into 1-inch (2.5-cm) pieces and gently stir it into the soup. Cook until heated through, 5 minutes.
- Taste the broth—it should be spicy, sweet, and a little sour from the kimchi. Adjust the seasoning to taste with soy sauce and additional chile paste, if desired. Stir in the sesame oil, ladle the soup into the bowls, sprinkle with the green onions, and serve.