You Don't Have To Be a Vegan, but You Should Know How to Think Like One

Three flexible recipes for the conscious eater

Thanks for visiting The Bittman Project, a place where food is everything (or pretty close).


Our planet has a lot on its plate. And as we're learning, everything we eat has an impact on our environment. This Earth Day, let's answer, "Gahhhh! What's for dinner?" with a bundle of plant-based recipes that default vegan but are flexible enough to vary with small amounts of animal protein. If you already avoid meat, cool; you're all set. For those of you who want to eat more legumes, whole grains, and vegetables, these dishes demonstrate some strategies.

The first recipe takes Mark's signature more-stuff-less-pasta concept out for a spin with succotash ingredients as the focal point. For a fast weeknight falafel-style dinner, skip the bean-soaking, grinding, and deep-frying, and just grab a skillet for a crisp chickpea hash. Finally, for the fastest broth ever, try brewing weak tea, perfect for simmering earthy buckwheat soba noodles and sprightly seasonal vegetables.


Succotash and Shells

Makes: 4-6 servings
Time: 30 minutes

One-pot pastas — where you cook the sauce and noodles together "risotto-style" by gradually stirring in liquid and other ingredients — are perfect for busy weeknights. Plus you can easily vary the same recipe to accommodate all sorts of whims and wants. I tried the batch shown here with gluten-free shells made from corn, brown rice, and quinoa topped with a savory peanut seasoning instead of parmesan. But you could finish the dish with grated cheese, crumbled bacon, or any plain chopped nuts. Some pastas are going to cook more quickly than others so check for tenderness frequently and be sure to add enough water as you stir to transform the starch released from the noodles into a creamy sauce.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 red onion, chopped

  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic

  • Salt and pepper

  • 8 ounces any whole grain or legume-based shells or cut pasta 

  • 2 cups frozen lima beans (about 10 ounces)

  • 1/2 cup roasted peanuts (salted or unsalted)

  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika

  • 2 cups corn kernels (frozen is fine; 1 10-ounce package) 

  • 1 red bell pepper

  • Several fresh sage leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried)

Instructions

1. Put the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the onion and garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 3 to 5 minutes.

2. Add the pasta and lima beans and 1 cup water. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat so the mixture bubbles enthusiastically and cook, stirring frequently and adding more water 1/4 cup at a time so the mixture stays saucy and the pasta just begins to get tender, 5 to 10 minutes. (Figure you'll need another 2 to 3 cups water.) 

3. While you're minding the pasta, chop the peanuts as finely as you can manage and toss them in a small bowl with the nutritional yeast and smoked paprika. Taste and add salt and pepper if you'd like. (Or pulverize the seasonings together in a small food processor or with a mortar and pestle.) Then core and chop the bell pepper and mince the sage leaves.

4. Stir the corn into the pasta along with the bell pepper and sage and cook, stirring occasionally and adding water 1 tablespoon at a time, until the vegetables are hot and the pasta is tender but still has some bite, another 3 to 5 minutes Taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve hot or warm, garnished with the seasoned peanuts.

Adapted from Dinner for Everyone

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Falafel Hash With Tahini Sauce

All the crunchy taste of iconic chickpea fritters with a fraction of the time and work: Serve this hash and the accompanying sesame drizzle on top of torn greens, in a pita sandwich, or as part of a rice or couscous bowl. Also consider dairy/non-dairy yogurt or crumbled feta cheese as toppings. And while you're waiting for tomatoes to come into season, chopped citrus makes a solid stand-in.

Makes: 4 servings
Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 1 onion, chopped

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon chopped garlic

  • Salt and pepper

  • 1/2 cup tahini (without much of the oil that floats on top)

  • Juice of 1 lemon

  • 1/2 cup boiling water

  • 3 cups cooked chickpeas (or two 15-ounce cans), drained

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander

  • Aleppo or cayenne pepper to taste

  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Instructions

1. Put the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the onion and 1 tablespoon of garlic and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion and garlic are soft and turning golden, 5 to 10 minutes. 

2. While the aromatics cook, make the sauce. Put the remaining teaspoon garlic in a small bowl with the tahini, lemon juice, and boiling water; sprinkle with salt and whisk until smooth. Taste, and adjust the seasoning. The mixture will thicken a little as it cools.

3. Transfer the aromatics to a small bowl with a slotted spoon, leaving behind as much oil as possible. Return the skillet to medium heat and add the chickpeas and baking soda. Stir, then crush about half the chickpeas with a fork or potato masher. Cook, stirring occasionally and scraping up any browned bits, until the hash is crisp, 5 to 10 minutes.

4. Return the onion mixture to the skillet. Add the cumin, coriander, and Aleppo pepper and stir until fragrant, less than a minute. Remove from the heat, add the parsley, and toss; taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve hot or at room temperature with a drizzle of the tahini sauce.

— Adapted from Dinner for Everyone and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, Tenth Anniversary Edition

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Soba With Green Tea Broth, Tempeh, and Spring Vegetables

Makes: 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes

Like seaweed-steeped dashi, the base for this soup comes together in minutes. Then you use the gingery, tea-flavored liquid to cook soba noodles, adding both body and a hint of buckwheat to the broth. Tempeh is a fermented soybean cake with a multi-faceted, tangy taste. The best way (we think) to enjoy it is crumbled and crisped a little, so it lends oomph without heft, which makes this recipe a good example of how you might substitute a small quantity of ground meat to eat slightly more omnivorously.

Ingredients

  • One 2-inch knob fresh ginger, peeled and split lengthwise

  • 2 tablespoons good-quality vegetable oil

  • 8 ounces tempeh (or substitute ground pork, beef, chicken, or turkey)

  • Salt and pepper

  • 4 green tea bags (decaf is fine; or use a tea ball with about 2 tablespoons loose leaves)

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons five-spice powder

  • 1 pound spring vegetables, sliced or chopped as you like (think asparagus, tender greens, snap or snow peas, or baby carrots)

  • 12 ounces buckwheat soba noodles

  • 2 tablespoons mirin or 2 teaspoons sugar (optional)

  • Optional garnishes for serving: sliced scallions, soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame seeds, crumbled toasted nori, microgreens, ground red or green chiles

Instructions

1. Put 8 cups of water in a large pot, add the ginger, and bring to a boil. While you're waiting, put the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When it's hot, crumble in the tempeh and sprinkle with salt. Cook, breaking apart any big chunks, until the tempeh browns and crisps, 5 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle with the five-spice, stir, then turn off the heat.

2. When the water boils add the tea, cover the pot and remove it from the heat. Let the tea steep until the liquid is lightly tinted, start checking after 3 minutes; you want an identifiable, but mild flavor. Remove the tea and ginger and return the broth to a boil. 

3. Add the noodles to the boiling broth with a big pinch of salt and stir to separate the strands. Give them a minute to soften then add the tempeh and vegetables to the pot and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are brightly colored but still crisp and the noodles are barely tender, 3 to 5 more minutes. 

4. Taste the broth and add salt if necessary along with the mirin or sugar if it tastes a tad bitter. Use tongs to divide the noodles among bowls (or strain the soup, reserving the broth) and ladle the broth, tempeh, and vegetables on top. Serve with whatever garnishes you like from the ingredient list.

Adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, Tenth Anniversary Edition

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