Small Plates Night

Good morning! Look what’s now keeping me company as I work on your weekly dispatch. My copies arrived last week and I was so excited I even made a reel about it. For those of you who pre-ordered, a) THANK YOU and b) your copy should be arriving in exactly two weeks.

One of the more liberating discoveries about cooking vegetarian dinners — at least for me — has been that I no longer feel beholden to the age-old dinner formula of meat-starch-vegetable. Even so, that was the formula for a long time, and it was hard to retrain my dinner brain from assuming that meat was the anchor of the plate. The book offers several strategies for addressing this, but one of my favorites is to think of dinner as not having an anchor at all — in other words, to think of it as Small Plates Night. A lot of little tastes, and not just vegetarian, but vegetable-forward.

The book gives a few examples for what small plates looks like throughout the seasons (like above), but the decidedly non-rocket-science formula is essentially: A bean or lentil dish + at least one in-season vegetable-forward salad + bread.

I’ve discussed beans, and the bread is coming up, but this time of year, you have no excuse if a tomato-based salad is not part of the dinner spread. Something like this tomato-corn-nectarine number that we made on vacation. (The “no-recipe recipe” is also in the book)….

…Or the simplest sliced tomato salad with crumbled feta (or goat or parm or mozz; keep half of it cheese-free like this if you want to limit dairy), olive oil, sea salt, and a teeny tiny drizzle of good balsamic vinegar. (Though, now that I look at it, I think some pickled shallots would be kinda killer on that.) If nothing else, I want this book to remind you that the name of the game is SIMPLE. No one is splitting the atom here. It’s dinner. Optimize the gorgeousness on display at the late summer market right now and make it happen.

P.S. Those tomatoes accompanied crispy bbq cauliflower tacos last week. (Abby: “Can we please have these every night?”) I didn’t have cabbage to make slaw, so I shaved some market carrots instead and tossed with pea shoots and a nice creamy dressing. (My all-purpose vinaigrette with a dollop of mayo and a few dashes of hot sauce.)

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