Broccoli melts, the binge report, and what to start with now that you're a weekday vegetarian!
Happy New Year! And a hearty welcome to brand new readers — I’m so glad you’ve joined the Dinner: A Love Story community for what I’m choosing to believe will be a beautiful 2022. Before we get to your weekly Three Things, I just want to warn you that I am not going to throw a bunch of resolutions at you, at least not in the traditional way. I’m merely going to remind you that the only way I’ve personally ever succeeded in making sustainable life changes is by setting realistic expectations for myself. The year I became a regular runner (after years of failing) was the year I decided to work out every other day instead of forcing myself to do it every day, which, for me at least, usually led to complete mental burnout and long stretches of not running. Likewise, the year I was able to start cooking more plant-based meals for my family and actually stick with the program was the year I decided to limit meat to the weekends instead of entirely eliminating our favorite chicken and pork and burger recipes. All of this is chronicled in The Weekday Vegetarians, which is as much a book about getting your head around the idea of plant-based cooking as it is about the 100+ vegetarian recipes themselves. And this takes me to the first of your weekly trifecta…
1. So You’re a Weekday Vegetarian. Now what?
I’ve gotten so many emails from readers saying that as of 2022, they are fully committed Weekday Vegetarians (can one be a fully committed part-time something?) and of course every single one of the notes warms my heart. But where to begin, you all are wondering? That depends on a lot of factors, but I’m going to go ahead and assume most of you want to start in the general airspace of recipes that are fast and easy that don’t require a hundred ingredients. Here is a potential line-up for you that might actually double as a Best of 2021 List: Bean Burritos (there’s an option to include chorizo if you’ve got a meat-eating hold-out at the table), Spaghetti with Brussels Sprouts (cacio e pepe-style); Beans ‘n’ Cheeses (like mac ‘n’ cheese but with beans instead of Mac); Migas Tacos; the above Cabbage-Kale-Tofu Salad with Citrusy Ginger Dressing (page 65, The Weekday Vegetarians); or the below Broccoli Melts. Please keep me posted on your progress, on instagram or otherwise. You have no idea how much I love and depend on seeing you thrive. Love, Mom.
2. Broccoli Melts for Dinner
Whenever I find myself within a mile radius of a Daily Provisions, the Danny Meyer-owned Manhattan cafes, I do whatever it takes to get there, even if it’s just to pick up a cup of coffee. I love the neighborhoody vibe and the simple, comforting menu — breakfast sandwiches, rotisserie chicken, soups, everything fresh, somehow executed exactly the way I personally crave it. Last summer, when I was visiting my friend Lia nearby (OK about 25 blocks from the DP Upper West Side location), I stopped in for lunch and ended up ordering a broccoli melt — crispy roasted, garlicky broccoli under a blanket of melted manchego, and sandwiched between two slices of fresh focaccia. That was June, and I’m not kidding I’ve been dreaming about the thing ever since. My opportunity to replicate it at home finally arrived over vacation when I found myself in decidedly lucky circumstances: I had about half an Ali Stafford viral focaccia in my kitchen…
The focaccia takes 24 hours, but it’s my kind of kitchen project, requiring about 2 minutes of stress-free hands-on time; it goes without saying that you can proceed with this sandwich using a store-bought version as well. I improvised a bit, but wound up with a hearty, dare I say meaty sandwich showcasing one of my favorite winter vegetables. If the goal of going plant-based is not only to eat less meat, but to eat more vegetables, well, this is Exhibit A in how you might get that done. The recipe is over at Dinner: A Love Story and would be just as good for an easy dinner as a quick weekend lunch.
Relatedly: An ode to the broccoli lovers in my house which includes this More-Veg-Than-Chicken dinner salad.
3. The Binge Report
Have you ever heard the song “I’ve Got a Feeling” or “Two of Us” or “Don’t Let Me Down” by the Beatles? And by heard, I mean actively, really listened to them, not in the background while you’re grocery shopping or watching a TV commercial or listening to Beatles songs the way you have since the day you were born, i.e. as if fed to you through an IV, automatically, unthinkingly. We did not do a whole lot these past two weeks, but we did watch Get Back, the three-part Peter Jackson documentary on the band, and I was blown away by the footage of them recording some of the most iconic songs (like the three mentioned above) in real time. (As Phoebe said while we watched them work out the opening lyrics of “Get Back,” “It’s so crazy that I know this song and Paul McCartney doesn’t.”) I will say this: their process was not exactly a straight line. Anyway, it made me go down a real Beatles rabbit hole — Imagine listening to “Imagine” like it’s the first time you’ve ever heard “Imagine!” That’s the effect it had on me.
In other screen time news: We are just about finished with Peaky Blinders (no one ever accused us of being ahead of the curve); Phoebe watched all of PEN15 (so funny) in 48 hours; and Abby set a somewhat ambitious goal for herself: To watch every single Marvel movie (kicked off by seeing Spider-Man in the theater) and nearly succeeded. We also checked There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men off the girls’ bucket lists — you know, just some cheerful family movie viewing. And in analog news, we all raced through Joan is Okay that new novel by Weike Wang coming out next week, which I just fell in love with. You’ll read it in a day.
Thanks again for being here, everybody. I’m so grateful for your support.
Subscribers, see you in a few days with some thoughts on What Makes a Meaningful Day. (Don’t worry, I haven’t gone all Atomic Habits on you!) For the rest of you, see you next week!
Reminder: Every recipe you read in this newsletter lives permanently in my searchable archive (and many are posted on Dinner: A Love Story.) Or, if you can’t find what you’re looking for, feel free to get in touch: email@example.com. You can also find me on instagram.