Oakland chef Bryant Terry was busy on tour promoting his fifth cookbook, “Vegetable Kingdom: The Abundant World of Vegan Recipes,” in March when everything abruptly stopped.
The coronavirus has made this spring a strange time for authors to tout their work, but for Terry the timing has been a blessing in one way. People are cooking at home more than ever before, and many are trying to stretch beyond pasta, pizza and processed snacks to incorporate more vegetables. Terry’s new book continues his work highlighting the flavors of the African diaspora through vegan recipes in a world that typically centers on European cooking and meat.
“It’s been great knowing ‘Vegetable Kingdom’ is a resource for people right now, giving people new ideas for preparing familiar vegetables,” Terry said.
Despite common themes from book to book, his latest feels fresh, focusing on whole foods while avoiding sounding didactic. It’s also Terry’s most aesthetically pleasing volume yet, with gorgeous, stark photography by Ed Anderson and clean, simple layouts. Each recipe is paired with a song, and the cookbook’s lengthy playlist on Spotify is well worth a listen.
The book’s 175 recipes show impressive range for every vegetable. Cabbage, for example, can be transformed into pikliz, a spicy Haitian pickled condiment; a creamy, Memphis-style coleslaw; or a spin on atakilt, the Ethiopian potato-cabbage-carrot dish, finished with a Caribbean ginger-habanero vinegar.
Many recipes also incorporate Asian ingredients and techniques — Terry’s wife, Jidan, is Chinese American, and the book reflects how they meld flavors to cook for their kids. There’s kohlrabi kimchi; yardlong beans with Sichuan peppercorns; and a riff on Oakland Burmese restaurant Teni East Kitchen’s signature pea shoot salad. There’s a pesto recipe with collard greens and peanuts, which gets a boost of umami from miso, that I can easily see turning into a staple that would be delicious on just about anything.
Some recipes make for easy weeknight fare. Others require some planning ahead, with multiple components and several pans required. I thoroughly enjoyed a panko-crusted cauliflower recipe but would be tempted to skip some of the steps to save on dishes — it was the side of Kenyan-inspired coconut curry that would keep me coming back.
But getting all the right ingredients during the coronavirus can be a challenge. If you’re only braving the grocery store once every few weeks, fresh vegetables might not seem like a priority. On the other hand, Terry suggests you could consider planting a vegetable garden — though he knows not everyone has the luxury of a backyard.
“Even if you’re growing tomatoes in a pot on the front porch or fresh herbs in the windowsill in your kitchen, anything you can do is not only good for one’s personal health and their families but also contributes to healing the earth,” he said.
Otherwise, there are a lot of options for buying boxes of produce directly from farmers, either with a weekly Community Supported Agriculture subscription or with one-off purchases at drop-off sites like farmers’ markets or select restaurants. Terry has been picking up weekly boxes from Cannard Family Farm at Chez Panisse and enjoying the creative challenge of cooking whatever is available.
That said, the random assortment of vegetables that comes in these boxes might make following a recipe seem impossible. But you can always make substitutions. Terry’s general advice is to stick to the same family. If a recipe calls for Swiss chard, feel free to swap in kale or another dark leafy green. If you don’t have spring onions, use a yellow onion.
“At this point, I want the bar for making my recipes to be as low as possible,” he said. “I encourage people to have fun, don’t feel wed to the recipe as written, use what’s on hand and be creative.”
Recipe: Panko-crusted Cauliflower & Coconut Curry
Nothing about this recipe, from Bryant Terry’s “Vegetable Kingdom: The Abundant World of Vegan Recipes” (Ten Speed Press), is particularly challenging — but it requires quite a few dishes. The reward is hefty cauliflower steaks with a crispy topping and a wonderfully rich, Kenyan-inspired coconut curry.
Garlic oil and garlic chips
¾ cup olive oil
16 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1 cup finely diced yellow onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1½ teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon chile powder
½ teaspoon turmeric
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with their juices
1 (14-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
1 (2-inch) cinnamon stick
2 large cauliflower heads (about 2 pounds each), leaves removed and stems trimmed so they sit flat
1½ teaspoons coarse sea salt
1 cup panko bread crumbs
¾ cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, plus more for garnish
To make the garlic oil: In a medium skillet, warm the olive oil over low heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until crispy and golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Strain the oil through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, reserving the garlic chips. You will have some leftover garlic oil — store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.
To make the curry: In a saute pan, warm the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and cook until they pop, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the onion and saute until soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, garam masala, chile powder, turmeric, bay leaves and salt and saute for 2 minutes more. Remove from heat, discard the bay leaves and set aside.
Place the tomatoes and their juices in a large bowl. With clean hands, squeeze the tomatoes to break them into smaller pieces. Transfer them to the pan with the onion. Add the coconut milk, then fill the coconut milk can one-quarter full with water and stir it well to incorporate any leftover coconut milk. Add this to the pan along with the cinnamon stick and mix well. Simmer until the sauce has thickened, about 20 minutes, removing the cinnamon stick after 5 minutes.
To make the cauliflower: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large pot, bring 4 quarts water to a boil over high heat. Stand one head of cauliflower on the stem end and, using a sharp chef’s knife, cut two 1-inch-thick slices, cutting through the core so the slices hold together. Repeat with the other head (reserve the unused portions for another use).
Add 1 teaspoon of the salt to the boiling water and, one at a time, use tongs to gently lower the cauliflower slices into the water. Cover and cook for 2½ minutes. Using two slotted spoons, gently transfer the cauliflower slices to a colander to cool.
Gently transfer the cauliflower slices to the prepared baking sheet. Brush ¼ cup of the garlic oil over the slices, coating them on both sides. Roast until the cauliflower is browned, about 25 minutes.
While the cauliflower is roasting,
Remove the baking sheet from the oven and spoon an even coating of the panko mixture over each slice of cauliflower. Switch the oven to broil on low, return the baking sheet to the oven and broil until the panko mixture starts to bubble and brown.
To serve, ladle the curry into four shallow bowls, place a cauliflower slice in each bowl, and garnish with the garlic chips and some parsley. Serve with black rice.
Recipe: Oven-roasted Zucchini With Collard-Peanut Pesto
Bryant Terry was inspired by courgettes avec des arachides (French for “zucchini with peanuts”), a classic from the north-central African country Chad, for this quick side dish. The recipe comes from his latest book, “Vegetable Kingdom: The Abundant World of Vegan Recipes” (Ten Speed Press), and packs impressive depth thanks to the miso in the pesto.
2 cups loosely packed stemmed, chopped collard leaves
3 tablespoons white miso paste
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon lemon juice, plus more as needed
½ cup olive oil, plus more as needed
4 medium zucchini (about 1½ pounds total), cut into ½-inch dice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup chopped roasted peanuts
To make the pesto: In a food processor, combine the collards, peanuts, miso, garlic and lemon juice and blend until it forms a chunky paste. While the food processor is running, slowly pour in the olive oil through the feed tube, adding more if needed to reach your desired consistency. Season with salt, pepper and additional lemon juice to taste. Set aside.
To make the zucchini: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, toss the zucchini with the olive oil and salt, then spread the zucchini over the baking sheet in one even layer. Roast until the zucchini is brown around the edges, 18 to 20 minutes.
To serve, transfer the zucchini to a bowl and give it a few turns of pepper. Next, drop in a few heaping dollops of pesto so that people can scoop as much as they’d like when serving themselves, adding more pesto to the bowl as needed. Pile the peanuts in a small serving bowl and present alongside the zucchini.
For any leftover pesto, pour a thin layer of olive oil over it, cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week.
Recipe: Roasted Parsnips With Onion-Mustard Sauce
Mild, nutty parsnips provide the backdrop for this rich and mustardy caramelized onion sauce. Bryant Terry found inspiration in the Senegalese poulet yassa — a dish of chicken and caramelized onion with lemony mustard sauce — for this vegan version in “Vegetable Kingdom: The Abundant World of Vegan Recipes” (Ten Speed Press). If you can’t find parsnips because of limited grocery options during the coronavirus, try using potatoes instead.
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 pounds parsnips, peeled
½ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 large Vidalia or yellow onions, sliced into ½-inch rings
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
¼ cup crushed peanuts
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
Instructions: In a large pot, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the salt and the parsnips to the water and cook until they start to soften, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain the parsnips and set aside to cool slightly.
In a large bowl or baking dish, combine the lemon juice, 6 tablespoons water, ¼ cup of the peanut oil, the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and a few turns of pepper. Mix well with a fork to combine. Once the parsnips are cool enough to handle, cut them in half lengthwise and add them to the bowl with the marinade. Add the onions and toss well to ensure that all the vegetables are coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight, tossing the vegetables every 30 minutes or so for the first 2 hours.
In a large saute pan, warm the remaining 2 tablespoons peanut oil over medium-low heat. Remove the onions from the marinade and add them to the pan. Saute, stirring frequently, until deep golden brown and soft, 30 to 45 minutes. Add the mustard seeds, garlic and habanero and saute, stirring well, until the garlic smells fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes. Scrape the vegetables into a bowl.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Remove the parsnips from the marinade and place them cut-side up on the prepared baking sheet (reserve the marinade in the bowl). Roast the parsnips, gently stirring every 10 minutes, until fork-tender and starting to brown, about 30 minutes.
In a blender, combine ½ cup of the onion mixture, the reserved marinade and the mustard and blend until creamy. Pour the contents of the blender into a small pan and simmer over medium heat, stirring often, until the sauce starts to thicken, 3 to 5 minutes.
To serve, spread the onion-mustard sauce over a serving plate and place the parsnips over the sauce, cut-side up. Garnish with the remaining onions, the peanuts and thyme and serve family-style.
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