I love getting emails from readers with requests and questions, and lately there have been quite a few about … protein! If you’re newly vegetarian, and you’re not sure where to get your protein, the short, tasty answer is: You’ll find it in all kinds of lentils and beans (which we cooked last week!), including food products made from beans, such as tofu, as well as nuts and some seeds. If you’re not vegan, you can also look to eggs, cheeses and yogurts.
Hetty McKinnon’s new recipe cleverly turns exactly three packs of ramen noodles and one block of firm tofu (the form of tofu you’ll find with the most protein) into a giant pan of delicious chow mein. Genius! Kay Chun’s baked tofu katsu with lemon-tahini sauce is a smart way to cook it, too: Dredge thick slabs with seasoned bread crumbs, then roast them in a hot oven until the outside is golden and crisp and ready to meet a schnitzel craving. And David Tanis has a wonderful tofu recipe where you bake the pieces under a quick dressing of sesame oil and ginger, then pile it on a spinach salad filled with edamame and pumpkin seeds (more on those farther down!).
I like to have both dried chickpeas and canned chickpeas on hand at all times, and Joe Yonan’s version of lablabi, the satisfying chickpea soup from Tunisia, can be made with either. The same goes for Yotam Ottolenghi’s chickpea fatteh, drizzled with herb sauce and tahini, which would be amazing with an egg on top or a dollop of thick, strained yogurt, but honestly, doesn’t need a thing. If you want something really streamlined, pop open a can and braise the chickpeas in the oven with garlic, olive oil and a big bunch of broccoli rabe like Ali Slagle, then pile it on bread or a bowl of cooked grains or polenta, or toss it with some hot noodles.
Every cook should know how to make a really easy lentil soup, like Melissa Clark’s, or an everyday dal. Dal is so nourishing and inexpensive, and it can stand on its own as a meal with some rice. You can also make a big batch and freeze portions for future you — dal reheats beautifully. If you’re looking for something a little more complex, Hetty McKinnon’s lentil salad with beets and cheese is full of texture and flavor. And if you want to get really cozy, I want to direct you to Samantha Seneviratne’s super comforting shepherd’s pie, full of tiny braised Puy lentils and mushrooms tucked under mashed potatoes.
One More Thing!
Don’t forget nuts and seeds, particularly pumpkin seeds, which are a rich source of protein and really easy to find this time of year. Roast pumpkin seeds with olive oil and salt and keep them ready to go — they’ll make a great bonus topping for whatever you’re already eating, adding a little crunch to mushroom tacos, squash soup or roasted vegetables. They can even go on top of banana bread or other sweet baked goods.
Wash the seeds until clean of pumpkin strings, then drain well and bake at 350 degrees until dry, about 5 minutes. Toss dried seeds with a little olive oil and salt, and roast in a single layer until light golden brown, about 25 minutes. Cool completely then store in an airtight container for up to a week.
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