Fifteen years ago I met Dennis. He didn’t mention the vegetarian thing on our first date (lunch at a neighborhood trattoria). Instead he ordered a pasta dish with tomato sauce that did nothing to telegraph the truth. It wasn’t long before I offered to make him dinner and that’s when he dropped the news on me. My friends, all of whom were familiar with my passion for cooking [meat], were concerned. “How can you date a vegetarian,” they asked? It didn’t seem like a deal breaker to me. In fact, I married him. Those first married months were challenging. I was totally bridal, planning elaborate meals, setting the table with all the new pretty things, and fussing about every night. Planning meals took a long time. It wasn’t that I didn’t eat vegetables; I loved all vegetables (except green peppers, and that bias persists). But vegetables had never been the focus of my meal planning.
Now, all these years later, when dinner is served the freshest vegetables of the season are the star. I may have pushed Dennis’ eating a little further, introducing him to okra and brussel sprouts, showing him that fresh pesto is a world away from the green stuff from the grocery store, and introducing roasting as a method of cooking. As my repetoire expanded, so did his palate. This has made for a happy marriage of omnivore and (as he now calls himself) a meat reducer. My fried chicken turned his head.
But I will admit to some recipe fatigue. The same old same old. Thank goodness for Joe Yonan’s wonderful new cookbook, Eat Your Vegetables. The perfect antidote to my ennui. Joe’s recipes are riffs on the tried and true – like his Cold Spicy Ramen Noodles with Tofu and Kimchee and Sweet Potato Galette with Mushrooms and Kale. There are others that blow my mind. Chicken-Fried Cauliflower with Miso-Onion Gravy? Joe’s Texas roots are showing! How about Potato and Bean Tostadas with Avocado Green Onion Salsa? This book has inspired a whole world of new ideas for making my vegetarian husband smile, and waking up my kitchen-creativity.
An abundance of poblano peppers in the garden led me to this fantastic, unexpected Poblano Tapenade. It’s salty, smoky, spicy, and goes with everything. It was all I could do not to eat the entire jar in one sitting, but with Joe’s encouragement, I held on to just enough to slather on a cheese sandwich the next day. Heaven. The last little tidbit was perfect next to a softly scrambled egg. I’m patiently waiting for more poblanos to ripen because this is a condiment I want in my refrigerator all the time.
Full disclosure – Joe is the Food and Travel editor for the Washington Post, so I work with him from time to time. He was kind enough to send me a copy of his cookbook, and to offer an additional copy to give away to one of my readers. Leave a comment below – tell me what dish you cook up for the vegetarians in your life before a random drawing on Friday, August 23.
reprinted with permission
Makes about 11/2 cups
8 ounces poblano chiles (2 to
3 medium chiles)
1 tablespoon capers, preferably salt-packed
1/2 cup pitted green olives
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 anchovy fillet (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ancho chile powder
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice (from 1/2 lime)
Sea salt (optional)
Turn the oven broiler on high. Place the poblanos on a shallow rimmed baking pan and put it on one of the racks set so that the poblanos are as close to the broiler as possible without touching. Broil the poblanos until the skin has blistered and slightly charred all over, turning them as they brown. Transfer them to a bowl, cover it with a plate, and let them steam.
Soak the capers in a small cup of cold water for a few minutes, then rinse and squeeze them dry.
When the poblanos are cool enough to handle, slip off the charred skin and discard it. Remove and discard the stems and seeds and drop the poblanos into the bowl of a food processor. Add the capers, olives, garlic, anchovy, ancho chile powder, olive oil, and lime juice. Pulse until you have a chunky paste; it might seem too loose, but it will firm up in the refrigerator. Taste and add salt if needed. (If you used the anchovy, you probably won’t need any salt.)
Use what you want immediately, then transfer the rest to a small glass jar, screw on the lid, and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.