lukas volger

This onion marmalade and goat cheese omelet was the first of what I’m sure will be many things I’ll cook with Lukas’s new cookbook, Vegetarian Entrees That Won’t Leave You Hungry.  I love the way Lukas thinks about food. Unlike so many cookbook writers, he understands that the last thing you need is a recipe that ensures you’ll have a jar of some spice blend that’s all but ½ a teaspoon full sitting in your cupboard for years until you move to a new apartment. His recipes are always based on what’s fresh and affordable, cooked in inventive ways that are still familiar enough that you’ll think “yeah, I could do that! I already have half that stuff!"  His descriptions of techniques are so clear.  He inspires me to not just lazily make the same twelve-fifteen dinners I know by heart over and over again, and to bring that little bit of finesse to cooking that’s the difference between a tempting dinner and a platter of tofu slop.

Also if this book didn’t have "Vegetarian” in big letters on its cover I bet you wouldn’t even notice it’s vegetarian.

Making an omelet for yourself at the end of a long day is really nice (as long as you know how to make an omelet, which prior to reading Lukas’s book I actually did not.  He has a great ‘covering the pan and taking it off the heat and letting it sit 3 minutes’ trick that helps prevent dread gooey raw egg middle and rubbery outside omelet disease.) I felt like Ruth Reichl in that part of Comfort Me With Apples (right?) where she follows a lover (!) to France and ends up in her friend’s apartment, jetlagged and unsure of herself, with nothing in the fridge but an old cheese, stale bread, some pears (?) and some eggs.  She makes herself a “good french omelet” and makes the bread into crackers and feels generally self-sufficient and ready to take on the world.

For nearly the past two months, we’ve had an over abundance of zucchini and peppers from our CSA. (And by overabundance, I perhaps mean so many zucchini and so many peppers and so little time home in the summer that we may have had to throw some out. Egads! I know!). Within the past two weeks, tomatoes have been flooding our house as well, both from the CSA and also from our backyard. So when I saw Lukas’s Summer Stuffed Peppers, it felt more than tailor-made; it felt kismet. And like you even wondered: it was delicious!

All that said… I do still have a few notes:

  • Although Lukas does not list prep or cook time, if you like to chat and drink and have a few cigarette breaks in the backyard are a novice cook like me, this recipe will take longer than expected. I got home from the grocery store (my list: corn, tomato paste, beer) at 6:45PM, and the peppers weren’t finished until nearly 10:15PM.
  • I don’t know about ya’ll’s oven, but mine don’t take that long to preheat. I, thusly, transferred Lukas’s step 1. to become step 3. But even that was, far, far too soon.
  • Note that when Lukas says to “break each ear [of corn] in half”, he means using your hands, not a knife. Perhaps that’s obvious to you cooks though?
  • I used funky, but awesome, CSA peppers, which are longer and skinnier and less uniform than store-bought. I’m not sure if that makes a difference, but I would suggest skipping the steaming in step 4. 30 minutes in the oven will more than do the trick, and I found the steaming dulled both the flavor and the texture.
  • Lukas doesn’t note an oven rack position in the recipe, so I did my standard “one above the middle”. However, after the foil-less last 10 minutes, most of the bread crumbs weren’t toasted. I ended up having to do another 8 on the top rack to get the full effect. 
  • Also note that I omitted the cheese. When the bread crumbs finally started crusting, my heart sank a little in regret. Upon the first bite though, that regret disappeared. Unless it would have made them toast up better, the recipe doesn’t need the cheese for taste.

Between two people, three stuffed pepper halves would be a complete meal. Looking at the recipe beforehand though, with my meat-eater prejudices, I decided I needed to thaw a giant chicken breast from the freezer, bread as strips and fry into satisfaction. It wasn’t needed; but it did serve as the perfect accouterment to dip into A’s freshly made tomato jam. Like: OMG. Like: I know chicken strip sauces and this was BETTER than anything McDonald’s EVER tried to trick you into eating. Even their old-cum-new Sweet Chili Sauce (which is saying a lot). Tomato jam and fried chicken strips are simply out of this world.

But so too, despite my persnickety notes above, was this was recipe. With less cigarettes and less drinking and less chatting more practice, I bet I could finish cooking this meal much more quickly. I consider this recipe a challenge. You should consider it a keeper.

So Real
New Look
So Real

tonight i made lukas volger’s radicchio risotto, from his book, Vegetarian Entrees that Won’t Leave You Hungry. the recipe was, as always [i'm obsessed], made with simple ingredients but complex on the tongue. what i really liked, though, was his player prep for making risotto- “Yes, you need to be stirring most of the time, but if you approach the task with the right frame of mind, that aspect can actually be a pleasure.” this excited me. (i also really like drone.) i put on the new New Look album, and stirred for 40+ minutes into the future.