Confession: When dining out I’m the kind of omnivore who will always pass over the vegetarian special. Every time, even before I learn what it is. And you definitely won’t find a reservation for a vegan restaurant on my calendar. It’s not because I don’t like vegetables—I do, I love them!—but because I (often mistakenly) assume one of two things:
That veggies alone won’t satisfy me, especially at dinnertime. And that I will only be reminded of what I am missing, an assumption based on my short-lived attempt at vegetarianism more than a decade ago, when I tried to get my beef and bacon fix from meat substitutes like tempeh and jackfruit.
That’s why Vedge: 100 Plates Large and Small That Redefine Vegetable Cooking (The Experiment) from Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby is such a pleasant surprise. The authors, who run the crazy-popular Vedge restaurant in Philadelphia, manage to make super-satisfying dishes—olive and onion mini tarts, squash empanadas with green romesco, and sweet potato turnovers with sweet kraut, just to name a few—without using any animal products. But what’s even more appealing is the fact that the recipes in Vedge don’t rely on strange proteins, hard-to-find ingredients, or crazy techniques.
In Vedge, vegetables are the star of each dish, not camouflaged or hidden (and they’re rarely transformed into something more meat-like). Instead, veggies are simply and beautifully prepared with minimal ingredients to help them achieve maximum flavor.
The recipe I’m most excited about is a main course of roasted baby turnips with maitake “champignons au vin“—which calls for just 11 ingredients, and that includes the salt and pepper!
“Champignons au vin” translates to “mushrooms with wine,” and for this hearty preparation, roasted maitake mushrooms, along with turnips, carrots, onions, and garlic get a quick cook in dry red wine and vegetable stock. (And if you can’t find maitake mushrooms, don’t worry; the authors say the more common oyster mushroom is a fine substitute.)
“For the elegant results, this dish is relatively easy to prepare,” Landau and Jacoby write. “And its herbed red wine and mushroom jus will whisk you right off to that Parisian corner café.”
While the recipe calls for baby turnips to be halved, or regular turnips quartered, the authors do give suggestions for a fancier presentation. “In the dish that we photographed, we took a standard turnip, cut it into a medallion, and roasted it just like the quartered or halved turnips,” they write.
Because turnips (and especially smaller turnips) have a slightly sweet flavor, and roasting can bring out the sugars in vegetables, this recipe hits both sweet and savory notes. It’s surprisingly simple for such an elevated dish, but that’s what Vedge does best. Even this meat eater can think of few things more satisfying.
ROASTED BABY TURNIPS WITH MAITAKE “CHAMPIGNONS AU VIN”
2 pounds maitake, bottoms of stems removed, caps wiped clean
1 pound baby turnips, halved, or standard turnips, quartered
1 carrot, peeled and sliced into ¼-inch rounds
1 cup diced onions
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups dry red wine
2 cups vegetable stock
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
2. Break or cut the mushrooms into 3- to 4-inch chunks. Toss the mushroom chunks, turnips, carrots, onions, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Pour the mixture into a 13 x 9-inch casserole dish and bake for 10 minutes.
3. Pour the wine over the roasted vegetables, stir, then cover the dish with foil or a lid and bake for an additional 10 minutes.
4. Remove the foil and pour the vegetable stock over the vegetables. Return the dish to the oven, uncovered, for 10 more minutes. Add the thyme and stir gently, then serve.
Recipe from Vedge: 100 Plates Large and Small That Redefine Vegetable Cooking, copyright © Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby, 2013. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold.