Sichuan-Style Tofu and Eggplant, Jam-Packed (Vegan) Burritos, and the Second Best Thing You Can Do With Vinegar

Gaah! What's For Dinner #4

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It’s inevitable: Some days you haven’t planned anything to cook, the afternoon sneaks up on you, and all you can do is throw your hands up and say, “Gaah! What’s for dinner?” For those times when you just need something fast, easy, and tasty, we’ve got you covered. Here are three recipes to help you navigate this week.

Braised Tofu With Eggplant and Shiitakes

Makes: 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes

I love this spicy, more-or-less traditional Sichuan dish for the contrasts: soft-cooked eggplant and tofu and crisp sautéed shiitakes.

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons good-quality vegetable oil

  • 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, sliced

  • Salt and pepper

  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic

  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

  • 1 1/2 pounds eggplant, trimmed, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks

  • 1 teaspoon red chile flakes, or to taste

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce

  • 1 pound tofu, patted dry and cut into 1/4-inch cubes

  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil

  • 2 scallions, chopped, for garnish

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

Instructions

1. Put 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large pot or skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shiitakes, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms release their liquid and become crisp, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon.

2. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. When it is hot, add garlic and ginger. Let them sizzle for about a minute, then add the eggplant and sprinkle with salt. Cook, stirring every minute or so, until it softens and browns in places, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the chile flakes along with 1/2 cup water. Stir, scraping the bottom of the pan if necessary to release any stuck bits of eggplant. Cook until the eggplant is really tender, 10 to 15 minutes more, adding a little more liquid if necessary (unlikely but not impossible).

3. Stir in the soy sauce and tofu and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tofu is heated through, about 5 minutes; add more water if it looks too dry. Add the sesame oil and reserved shiitakes, stir, and turn off the heat. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Garnish with the scallions and cilantro and serve.

— Recipe from How to Cook Everything: Completely Revised 20th Anniversary Edition

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Fully Loaded Bean Burritos

Makes: 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes

At its best, a jam-packed burrito can truly satisfy without weighing you down. The key is to focus on beans and vegetables—and be willing to eat whatever falls out of the tortilla with a fork (or, of course, your fingers).

Ingredients

  • Four 8-inch whole-wheat flour tortillas

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 red onion, chopped

  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic

  • 1 tablespoon chile powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

  • 2 cups cooked or canned black beans

  • 2 cups shredded red or green cabbage

  • 4 radishes, chopped

  • 1 cup (or more) pico de gallo (recipe below) or salsa of your choice

Instructions

1. Heat the oven to 300°F. Stack the tortillas and roll them up in a sheet of foil. Put them in the oven to warm while you cook the filling.

2. Put the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. when it’s hot, add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle with chile powder, salt, and pepper.

3. Drain the beans; if they’re canned, rinse them also. Add the beans to the skillet; mash them up a bit with a fork or potato masher and add a spoonful of water if the mixture seems dry. Taste and adjust the seasoning and remove from the heat.

4. To roll the burritos, lay a tortilla on a flat surface and put one-fourth of the filling on the third closest to you. Top with some cabbage, radishes, and pico de gallo. Fold the tortilla over from the bottom to cover the fillings, then fold in the two sides to enclose it fully; finish rolling, then put the burrito seam side down on a plate. Repeat to make three more burritos. Serve with more pico de gallo on the side if you like.

Pico De Gallo
Combine the following in a large bowl: 6 tomatoes (about 2 pounds), chopped; 1 small chopped red onion; 1 or 2 minced jalapeños; 2 teaspoons minced garlic; 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro; salt and pepper. Stir once or twice. Add 3 tablespoons lime juice, then taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more juice if you like. Pico de gallo is best if you can let it sit at room temperature for 5 to 15 minutes so the flavors meld. (You can make it up to 2 hours ahead of time and refrigerate it; bring it back to room temperature before serving.)

— Recipe from The VB6 Cookbook

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Chicken and Sausage in Vinegar

Makes: 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes

Best made with boneless thighs, this is not bad with breasts either, as long as you don’t overcook them. Serve with crusty bread.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/2 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage, cut into 1-inch chunks

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts,

  • cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks

  • Salt and black pepper to taste

  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic

  • 1 medium onion, chopped

  • 2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and roughly

  • chopped

  • 2 tablespoons butter, optional

  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar

  • 1/2 cup chicken stock or water

  • Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish

Instructions

1. Put the oil in a large skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium-high heat. Add the sausage pieces and brown well, turning as necessary, for a total of about 10 minutes. Add the chicken and sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Brown it quickly, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic, onion, and peppers.

2. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften a bit, about 2 minutes. Add the butter if you’re using it and stir until melted.

3. Add the vinegar and raise the heat to high; boil, uncovered, until the vinegar is almost evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the stock and let it boil until the sauce thickens, just a minute or so. Garnish and serve.

—Recipe from The Best Recipes In The World

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7-Minute Squid and Kale Stew (Bonus Members-Only Video)

I (Daniel) have a toddler who loves to stand on a stool at the stove and “cook.” Sometimes this means making pancakes while trying not to let him smush his hand or face into anything hot. Other times it means pouring goldfish crackers, cooked noodles and God knows what else into a cold pan and letting him go to town. Either way, it can be kind of hard to get any real cooking done when he’s around, so dishes that can come together VERY quickly before he gets home or after he goes to bed are clutch. This is one of those dishes: a squid and kale stew cooked start to finish in 7 minutes. Not elegant, but necessary (and very tasty as it turned out).

If you’re already a member of The Bittman Project, just click on the image above or the button below and it’ll take you right to the video. If not, you can subscribe now or anytime and it (along with all of our member-only stuff) will be ready and waiting for you when you do. Thank you! —Daniel

WATCH THE VIDEO