Even celebrated chefs can find themselves in a pinch when it comes to prepping dinner. That’s sometimes the case for Danny Bowien.
The James Beard award-winning chef runs the Mission Chinese restaurant, is father to a young son, and has spent the last couple of years writing a cookbook.
So when it came time to develop recipes for that book — Mission Vegan: Wildly Delicious Food for Everyone — simplicity was key.
He didn’t want to write another book that leans on restaurant-style dishes that can be difficult to prepare and require a lot of steps.
“It was really fun to make something that I could put out, and my dad in Oklahoma could go to a market, procure all of the ingredients, and go home and make a dish,” Bowien tells NPR.
Most recipes in the book can be made in less than an hour and require only a handful of ingredients. And with many people returning to school and the office, there can be a lot less time to cook.
Bowein says one of of his favorites from Mission Vegan is the pasta pomodoro:
“There’s a [simple] pasta recipe — it’s just semolina flour and water. All you do is knead it, you let it rest, you roll it out, and then you cut it with a knife.”
If that’s too complicated, Bowien says you can use dried pasta.
He also loves the sauce, which is easy to prepare. All it requires is heating up a 28-ounce can of plum tomatoes with some extra virgin olive oil, garlic and fresh basil.
But when he’s really in a pinch, Bowien throws together budae jjigae, also known as army stew.
It’s a dish built around instant noodles. And like many other recipes in the book, budae jjigae is flexible.
“I always have instant noodles in my pantry [and] a can of beans. There’s always some tofu in the fridge; you can add dried or fresh mushrooms. I always have some roasted seaweed snacks. And yeah, there’s always some sort of like herb in my fridge that’s kind of like needs to be used. Put all [those] ingredients into a casserole dish cold, and then bring it to a boil.”
Though Bowien isn’t a vegan, he says putting this book together was a fun learning experience.
“It was an amazing challenge to create something that can be cooked at home and that didn’t rely heavily on animal protein or dairy or lean on that at all.”
While he enjoys quick dishes that can be thrown together in less than an hour, that’s not all Mission Vegan offers.
He specifically cites the pineapple kimchi recipe. Like other kimchi, it’s one that you can decide how long to let it ferment.
And regardless, Bowien wants people to have fun and experiment with the food they make.
“It’s okay to try things out and get it right and get it wrong and learn from why you got it wrong.”
Excerpted by permission of Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
MAKES ABOUT 2 QUARTS
Note: The weights here are important.
1 ½ pounds peeled, cored, and cubed (1-inch) ripe pineapple
28 grams (3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon) Diamond Crystal kosher salt
17 ounces coarsely grated white
11 ounces coarsely grated Korean radish or daikon
5 tablespoons gochugaru (Korean chili flakes)
1. Put the pineapple in a large mixing bowl, sprinkle on the salt, and toss well. Let stand until the pineapple starts to give up some liquid, about 10 minutes. Add the onion, radish, and gochugaru and stir well.
2. Transfer to a clean 2-quart glass jar. Use a spoon to push down on the mixture, so the liquid rises to submerge or nearly submerge the pineapple. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it against the surface of the mixture, then add a small weight. Cover tightly with a lid and let it ferment at room temperature until it sours slightly, 2 to 4 days, burping the container after 3 days.
3. After it’s fermented to your liking, store it in the fridge for up to 6 weeks.