I’m really enjoying Lukas Volger’s new cookbook, Start Simple: Eleven Everyday Ingredients for Countless Weeknight Meals. It came out two months ago, a positively bizarre time in which we entered and left our homes with abandon, casually hugged friends we were happy to see, and if our nose became itchy, we’d scratch it and not stand paralyzed in panic afterward. What salad days! Volger’s new book wasn’t created with pandemic cooking in mind — what was, really — but it feels just right for right now because each chapter focuses on a staple our local store is miraculously not out of (tofu, tortillas, beans, greens, squash, and more), and the recipes have refreshingly short ingredient lists and unfussy assemblies. Volger’s vegetarian cooking is very doable, the kind of do-ability that comes from the fact that this is clearly the food he cooks for himself at home, so all of the kinks are smoothed out. Everything sounds so good — smoky chickpea salad with olives and lemon and black beans with scallion-lime vinaigrette from the bean section are on my shortlist — you might find yourself wondering why this unwavering simplicity isn’t the goal of every cookbook.
Volger also led to a vegetable burger I am delighted to share here — no surprise as he once wrote a whole book on them. Yes, I got your email and I, too, found it strange that my website didn’t have a veggie burger recipe. There are a gazillion recipes on the web but they so often feel heavy to me, or with unwieldy ingredient lists. It had been too long since I made one that left us feeling great. This carrot and white bean burger is perfect — including an actual vegetable (one that stores well), two cans of beans, and a few other pantry staples, and it comes together easily. We didn’t have hamburger buns but I’d actually baked sandwich bread (weird flex but here we are) and it totally works, especially with smashed avocado, hot sauce, and lettuce. Next time I will not forget to pickle red onions, because I definitely wanted them here. Add a few shakes of hot sauce (the dark stuff you see here is Valentina) and you end up up with a colorful, flavorful, meal that feels like spring… on this side of the kitchen window, too.
As for me, if you’ve checked in on me because you’ve heard that things are getting worse in NYC, thank you. If you’ve checked in because it’s been a little quiet here, I am flattered to be missed. We are (ptu ptu) healthy and lucky so far — I hope you are too. We haven’t quite figured out how to homeschool (you can go ahead and put air quotes around that — sorry, kids) two children while having two full-time jobs and no childcare in a 2BR, so things might be a little slow here, but if this is the biggest challenge we face, I think we’re going to be okay. Friday (3/27) at 3pm EST I’m going to attempt my first Instagram Live demo of a recipe or two with the “team” I have around (husband doing the filming, kids, perhaps, doing prep); if you watch live, you can ask questions and I’ll do my best to answer. I’ll drop a link here once it’s saved to IGTV. Stay home, stay well, and treat yourself to something delicious, please. On the left: Pantry Recipes, which lean heavily on staples. On the right, Savory Projects, for those with more time on your hands.
Six months ago: Cinnamon Sugar Scones
One year ago: Extra-Billowy Dutch Baby Pancake
Two years ago: Melting Potatoes
Three years ago: Easiest French Fries and Peanut Butter Swirled Brownies
Four years ago: Nolita-Style Avocado Toast and Chocolate Peanut Butter Tart
Five years ago: Black-Bottom Oatmeal Pie and Potatoes with Soft Eggs and Bacon Vinaigrette
Six years ago: Double-Chocolate Banana Bread and Sizzling Chicken Fajitas
Seven years ago: Coconut Bread and Chocolate-Hazelnut Macaroon Torte
Eight years ago: Carrot Cake Pancakes
Nine years ago: Oat and Maple Syrup Scones
Ten years ago: Baked Rigatoni with Tiny Meatballs, St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake, Breakfast Pizza
Eleven years ago: Pita Bread, Layer Cake Tips + The Biggest Birthday Cake, Yet and Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Cornbread
Twelve years ago: Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake, Chard and White Bean Stew, Pasta with Cauliflower, Walnuts, and Feta
Twelve years ago: Skillet Irish Soda Bread and Lighter-Than-Air Chocolate Cake