Good morning. J. Kenji López-Alt has a fascinating story on the cover of The Times’s food section this week, a look back at his two-and-a-half years of experimentation with cooking plant-based protein mixes designed to taste, look and feel like ground meat. Vegan meat, he calls this stuff, made mostly by two companies, Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat.
His takeaways: You can make a cheeseburger; you can make a kebab. But really the highest use of vegan ground meat is in those dishes where you start by breaking it up in a hot skillet, as in his deeply satisfying chili (above).
Give one or all of those a try this week, and then maybe branch out, using vegan ground meat in place of the beef in Bolognese or picadillo, or the pork in mapo tofu or pad kee mao. Vegan Tibetan momos? Enchiladas? Spicy noodles with bok choy? It’s a fascinating space opera we’re living in these days, no?
Not that you need always cook with a recipe. Indeed, on Wednesdays in this space, we often don’t, but use a narrative prompt instead, what we call a no-recipe recipe. Today’s is inspired by the Dungeness crab cake on the menu of Lincoln Carson’s excellent new Bon Temps in Los Angeles, where it’s served above a pool of mustard beurre blanc. This is not a crab cake of the sort you see on the lunch tables of private clubs or in Baltimore seafood shacks. Instead, Carson whips up a kind of scallop mousse and folds into it some crab, then makes a log out of it, allows it to set, then cuts coins off it for cooking and service — a reconstructed crab cake, a kind of scalloped miracle. It’s delicious, but you’re not going to make it at home. Instead, tonight, thrill to the scallop: fat ones lightly seared and placed on top of a shallot-infused butter sauce into which you’ve cut a little Dijon mustard along with white-wine vinegar, and maybe some cream at the end, with toast and a few slices of avocado. If you could manage a quarter-pound of picked crab as well, you could warm it in butter and top your scallops with it. And that would be a fine, fine dinner right there.
Many, many thousands more ideas for what to cook tonight and in coming days are waiting for you at NYT Cooking, at least once you’ve taken out a subscription to the site and apps. We offer loads in return: the ability to save and organize your recipes; to share them with family and friends; to rate them and leave notes on them for the benefit of your future self or a wider community of like-minded curious, committed cooks. (You can even save recipes that don’t come from The Times!)
And you should come see what we’re up to on YouTube, where we recently introduced this marvelous mini-documentary about the Bronx chef and restaurateur Millie Peartree, who makes about the best mac and cheese in the city. (Of course we have the recipe.) You’ll find us on Instagram and Twitter, too. And we’re on Facebook like everyone else. We even have a NYT Cooking Community Group. Please join!
Please write for help if anything goes wrong along the way. We’re at email@example.com, and we will get back to you. (If that doesn’t happen, feel free to escalate. I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Now, please read Kim Severson’s latest, about how restaurants and chefs are investing in the health of their employees. As many who’ve worked in the business can tell you — over cigarettes in the alley or a fifth drink at the bar, working sick or injured, anxious and shaky — that has not always been the case.
And did you catch Eric Asimov on how to buy wine? That’s important as well.
Finally, another Times recommendation and though it’s nothing to do with chicken or lamb, I still think you ought to read it if you haven’t already: Ben Smith, our new media columnist, on why The Times’s success may be bad news for journalism. Check that out, subscribe to a local newspaper (here’s mine), and I’ll see you on Friday.