Your Wish = My Command

On Tuesday, , whereby I try to figure out what kinds of recipes everybody likes by seeing which ones get clicked on the most (stop me if this is getting too advanced). That’s the quantitative approach (which is boring). You know what I like a lot better? The qualitative method: aka you sending emails explaining exactly what you want me to write about. (And I’d like to say thank you to those who wrote in to tell me—one a data scientist!—that I do, indeed, write algorithms, and quite well. Algorithms that end in chicken parmesan or soba salad. I loved that.)

That very same Tuesday I got a note from a reader asking me about VB6 (the plan where you eat like a devoted vegan until 6pm, and which I ). First, she said that VB6 saved her life, which makes me impossibly happy to hear. Then she cut to the chase: “Why so much meat, fish, cheese, etc., in your newsletter recipes?”

I’ve tried to strike a decent balance with the dishes I write about here (I’m an omnivore, after all), but given that my diet tilts towards plant-based, I’m always happy to oblige any request (and there have been many) for more vegan or vegetarian recipes. And if I get complacent or heavy-handed in one direction or the other, let me know and I’ll do my best to switch it up.

I chose the recipes below not just because none of them include meat or dairy (as long as you use olive oil instead of butter in the rice), but because they’ve each got a little of that ambitious-weekend-cooking-project spirit in them. They all take around 60 to 90 minutes, which isn’t totally onerous, but veers into “this might be more time than I want to spend cooking on a weeknight” territory (if you want a real adventure, try messing with this homemade vegan Worcestershire sauce).There’s pho (made from a soothing soy broth spiked with star anise and cinnamon), stuck-pot rice (laced with saffron and topped with a crisp potato crust), and eggplant meatballs (which people who knock vegan food might scoff at, but are actually kind of great).

Enjoy your weekend (vegan, carnivorous, or anywhere in between), and I’ll see you Tuesday.

— Mark

Burcu Avsar & Zach DeSart

Fish and meat often figure prominently in the Vietnamese meal-in-a-bowl soup known as pho, but there are traditional and fine vegetarian options, chief among them this broth made from soy sauce and a blend of spices like star anise and cinnamon. All that’s required is a willingness to invest in making the broth and a few additional toppings and you’ll be handsomely rewarded.


Burcu Avsar & Zach DeSart

This is the first stuck-pot rice I learned to make (with thanks to the late great food writer Paula Peck). Potatoes make the crust here, complemented by the flavors of fennel and saffron. If fennel isn’t available or isn’t your thing, omit and use celery, or try one of the variations.

Don’t worry if the crust at the bottom of the pan comes out in several pieces; that part is often just broken into crisp chunks and served alongside the mound of rice. Be sure to line the pot lid with a cloth towel. This absorbs water so the condensation doesn’t drip back into the rice. Normally that doesn’t matter, but when you’re trying to dry out the bottom of the pan to form a crisp crust, excess water is counterproductive.


Quentin Bacon

The more I play around with vegetable-based meatballs, the more I like them; certainly they’re not the same as meat meatballs, but the different textures and flavors are terrific. To round out the meal, serve these over pasta, rice, salad, or steamed greens with a squeeze of lemon.


Talk To Me, Goose!

Questions, comments, brilliant suggestions? Just want to share the recipe for your grandma's potato salad, or your mom's meatloaf, or your uncle Drew's three-day 100-percent rye loaf (yes, please)? Don't hesitate to reach out anytime.