Food & Drink

Vegetarian meals in a bowl

Roasted vegetable bibimbap, adapted from a recipe in Lukas Volger's latest cookbook, "Bowl," in New York, Feb. 20. The recipe includes butternut squash, shitake mushrooms, broccoli rabe.
Roasted vegetable bibimbap, adapted from a recipe in Lukas Volger's latest cookbook, "Bowl," in New York, Feb. 20. The recipe includes butternut squash, shitake mushrooms, broccoli rabe. NYT

Lukas Volger is a vegetarian cookbook author I have long admired, ever since he reversed my veggie burger cynicism with his 2010 cookbook, “Veggie Burgers Every Which Way.” He is a master at creating attractive vegetarian and vegan meals that are put together with a light hand but that fill you up.

This is certainly the case with his latest book, “Bowl.” The book’s subtitle, “Vegetarian Recipes for Ramen, Pho, Bibimbap, Dumplings, and Other One-Dish Meals,” pretty well defines the breakdown of the chapters, with many pleasing, bright variations on each theme.

His dumpling-bowl chapter offers over a dozen recipes for vegetarian dumplings and open-faced shumai, followed by an array of vehicles for them: wonton or miso soup, stir-fried rice, grain bowls, green salads dressed with honey soy vinaigrette.

I would happily top the stir-fried bok choy and rice with spicy carrot dumplings, which are filled with a mix of steamed carrots, jalapeño, scallions, garlic, lime juice, cilantro and roasted peanuts.

With some exceptions, the palate here is decidedly Asian, true to the origins of many of these bowls. The book provides us with a pantry of Asian ingredients, both store-bought and homemade, that is realistic for the shelf space in a small kitchen but extensive enough to cover all of his recipe requirements.

He knows just when to pump up the flavor of a quiet mixture of noodles or grains and vegetables, be it with a spicy Korean fermented chili paste (gochujang), an Indonesian garlic chili paste (sambal oelek), a sweet and spicy Japanese chili-infused oil (rayu), a quickly fermented kimchee, or pounded ginger pulp.

In this recipe, he roasts squash, shiitakes and broccoli rabe in a sweet and spicy mix of soy, chili paste, sugar and oil for a vegetable bibimbap. It’s a dish, like many others in the book, that uses condiments to great effect – a hallmark of Volger’s cooking.

Roasted Vegetable Bibimbap

Total time: 1 hour.

1 small or 1/2 large butternut squash

Neutral oil, such as canola or grapeseed oil

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 teaspoons gochujang (Korean fermented chili paste) or sambal oelek, more for serving

8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps cut in half if large

1 generous bunch broccoli rabe, thick bottom stems trimmed and discarded

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil (optional)

5 cups cooked white or brown rice, or mixed grains

4 eggs

1 cup sprouts or shoots, such as broccoli sprouts, mung bean sprouts or sunflower shoots, for garnish

1/2 cup quick cucumber pickles, for garnish (optional; see recipe)

Lime wedges, for garnish

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Peel the squash and cut it crosswise, separating the long neck from the bulbous bottom part. Slice the neck into 1/2-inch-thick dominoes; scoop out seeds from the bottom and slice the squash 1/2-inch thick.

Whisk together 2 tablespoons neutral oil, the soy sauce, brown sugar and gochujang or sambal oelek.

Place squash and mushrooms on one baking sheet, but do not mix them together. Place broccoli rabe on another baking sheet. Divide sauce between the two pans and use your hands to toss the vegetables so they’re evenly coated.

Transfer both pans to the oven. Cook broccoli rabe for 5 to 8 minutes, until collapsed and the thicker parts of the stems are tender. Cook mushrooms for 15 to 20 minutes, until juicy and slightly shrunken, and remove from baking sheet. Return squash to oven and cook 5 to 15 minutes longer, until caramelized and tender. Cover the vegetables with foil until ready to serve.

If you’d like, make crispy-base bibimbap rice: Just before serving, heat 1 tablespoon neutral oil and the sesame oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Press rice into the skillet, making a thick cake. Let cook without disturbing for 4 to 5 minutes, until a golden brown crust forms on the bottom of the rice. (If you skip this step, use freshly cooked rice instead.)

While the crispy rice is cooking, fry the eggs: Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add enough neutral oil to liberally coat pan. Crack in 2 eggs and sprinkle with salt. Tilt the pan so some of the oil runs over the edges of the egg whites, lower heat to medium-low and cook 1 minute. Sprinkle with about 1/4 teaspoon water (or soy sauce), cover and cook another minute, until whites are set. Carefully remove to a plate. Repeat with remaining eggs.

To serve, use a spatula to scoop out rice and divide it among 4 bowls, ensuring that everyone gets some of the crispy part. Top with vegetables, including any marinade left on the baking sheets, and place 1 fried egg on top of vegetables in each bowl. Garnish with sprouts or shoots, pickles (if using) and lime. Serve immediately, passing gochujang or sambal oelek at the table.

Yield: 4 servings

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