Three lessons in vegetarian recipes from 2021

I have some culinary traditions at the end of the year: I sharpen my favorite knives. I clean and organize the kitchen, and try to catalog the tiny lessons I’ve learned. Here are three that immediately spring to mind:

Algae goes with everything! Eric Kim’s asparagus pasta cleverly draws umami from dried kelp, which flavors rigatoni through the cooking water, and grilled seaweed, which adds even more depth and texture as a garnish. I had never used seaweed in a creamy pasta dish before, but I will definitely do it again.

If you don’t have a gim in your pantry yet, this recipe might convince you to buy it in bulk. Roasted seaweed is excellent as a lightly smoked garnish on, for example, mushroom and cheese quesadillas, hot rice bowls with pickles and wilted greens, and steamed eggs in the microwave.

Strategy is the key to plate dinners. Cooking absolutely everything on a plate doesn’t make sense (sorry!), But cooking instant ramen noodles on a plate is a genius. Hetty McKinnon dresses the boiled noodles in a little sesame oil and soy sauce, then adds marinated tofu and bok choy. All that surface area in the oven means chow mein-type noodles – tender in some places, crispy in others.

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