Photos by Emily Caruso
This is one of the first recipes I came up with after my months of pregnancy-related food aversions. It’s good to cook again! It’s good to eat again! Vegetables, all is forgiven—let’s be friends! After so many years of working on new recipes at pretty much all times, it was weird taking an extended break from that. When I was really sick, I felt like maybe I would never get my mojo back, but now that I’m better, I’m full of ideas and all I want to do is cook.
When I first got into cooking years ago, I followed recipes to a T and never deviated from them. Then, I started making changes as I began to get a sense of what worked and what didn’t. Once I became comfortable with that, I took the leap into developing my own recipes. One of the tools that helped me to do that is The Flavor Bible. I recommend it to everyone who loves to cook and wants to experiment more in the kitchen. People like to think there are no rules when it comes to cooking, but there are rules. There are flavors that go together and flavors that don’t—when you don’t respect that, you end up with recipes for red velvet jalapeño cupcakes filled with truffle-scented chocolate ganache topped with frizzled leeks and candied kumquat rind. Using 20 different mismatched flavors in a recipe doesn’t make you gourmet, it makes you a bad cook.
When I first started developing recipes, that was the kind of recipe I felt like I had to make. It was The Flavor Bible that helped me rein myself in—it made me realize that by working within a set of guidelines, I could be even more creative and develop stronger recipes. It’s much harder to develop a solid 8-ingredient dish than something with 40 ingredients and 3 hours prep time. No book gets more use in my kitchen than this one, so when I found out Karen Page came out with The Vegetarian Flavor Bible, I was thrilled.
If you’re vegetarian and you love to experiment in the kitchen and you could only purchase one cookbook for yourself this year, it should be this one. It’s more of a reference than a cookbook and you will find yourself referring to it constantly. The book starts with a timeline of vegetarian history and a write-up about vegetarian cooking (which includes a very useful “If you are craving this, try this instead” chart), but the “meat” of the book is the flavor matchmaking list section. The former librarian in me gets very excited about these lists! Don’t know what to do with the daikon radish you picked up at the Japanese market? The Vegetarian Flavor Bible suggests baking, braising and roasting, among other methods, and pairing it with mirin, lime, maple syrup and other root vegetables like carrots and potatoes.
If you look up tofu, you see that it pairs well with garlic, ginger, rice vinegar, sesame oil and soy sauce, Korean cuisine, red bell peppers and zucchini, which brings us to this Korean Barbecue Tofu Bowl. It might not be frizzled leeks on a cupcake, but the flavors work together in a way that’s bound to make your belly happy. I adapted the sauce from a recipe on the Cooking Channel website and a tip I saw in Cooking Light that suggested substituting miso and sriracha in recipes that called for gochujang, which I didn’t have on hand. I paired the barbecue tofu with a simple stir fry, quinoa and fresh cabbage—feel free to substitute your favorite vegetables in the stir fry and any grain you like for the quinoa.
A satisfying vegetarian meal bowl made with tofu, stir-fried vegetables, quinoa and a homemade Korean barbecue sauce. Sauce recipe adapted from Cooking Channel's Korean BBQ Sauce.
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1/2 cup rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 2 teaspoons yellow miso
- 1 teaspoon sriracha
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 (1-inch) piece ginger, grated
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil (or any neutral flavored, high-heat cooking oil), divided
- 1 crown broccoli, broken into florets
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 medium zucchini, sliced into half moons
- 1 cup fresh pineapple chunks
- 1 red pepper, cored and sliced
- 1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
- 1 (15-ounce) package extra-firm tofu, pressed for 30 minutes and cut into 1-inch cubes
- Cooked quinoa, shredded red cabbage, sliced green onions and sesame seeds for serving
- Whisk together all of the ingredients except the sesame oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. When the mixture comes to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, or until slightly thickened—it should be thinner than regular barbecue sauce, but thicker than teriyaki sauce. Stir in the oil and set aside.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of sesame oil in a large non-stick skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the broccoli and stir fry for 1 minute. Carefully add the water to the skillet and cover; let the broccoli steam for about 2 minutes, until bright green and tender.
- Add the zucchini, pineapple, red pepper and soy sauce to the skillet. Cook, stirring constantly, 3-5 minutes more, or until all the vegetables are tender-crisp. Divide the vegetables into 4 bowls and wipe the skillet clean with a paper towel.
- Return the skillet to medium-high heat. Add the remaining sesame oil and swirl to coat, then add the tofu. Cook the tofu until lightly browned and crisp on all sides, turning occasionally, 8-10 minutes. Pour 1/2 cup of the Korean BBQ sauce over the tofu and toss to coat; cook 2 minutes more, until sauce has thickened and the tofu is coated. Divide the tofu into the bowls, then add the quinoa and red cabbage. Drizzle with the remaining sauce and garnish with sliced green onions and sesame seeds.
Disclosure: I received a copy of The Vegetarian Flavor Bible to review. The Amazon links in this post are affiliate links.