Book Review: Bowl by Lukas Volger

Bowl by Lukas Volger: Vegeterian recipes for Ramen, Pho, Bibimbap, Dumplings, and other one-meal dishes

I liked this cookbook—a lot.  It’s by Lukas Volger, a New York-based chef who set out to develop one-bowl meals that are all the rage today—but in vegetarian form. The possibilities for improvisational meals full of seasonal produce and herbs are nearly endless.

Volger’s ramen explorations led him from a simple bowl of miso ramen to a summer ramen with corn broth, tomatoes, and basil. From there, he went on to the Vietnamese noodle soup pho, with combinations like caramelized spring onions, peas, and baby bok choy. His edamame dumplings with mint are served in soup or over salad, while spicy carrot dumplings appear over toasted quinoa and kale for a rounded dinner. Grain bowls range from ratatouille polenta to black rice burrito with avocado. And unlike their meatier counterparts, these dishes can be made in little time and without great expense.

Volger also includes many tips, techniques, and base recipes perfected over years of cooking, including broths, handmade noodles, sauces, and garnishes.

The recipes are accessible, weeknight-friendly, and rooted in straightforward technique using whole food ingredients. Once you get a handle on the balance of ingredients, you’re are free to experiment with your own preferences or with whatever produce you have on hand. I highly recommend this cookbook to vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. Try out the recipe below for the Zucchini “Noodle” Bowl.

BOWL © 2016 by Lukas Volger is available from Amazon.ca and Amazon.com.

 


 

Zucchini “Noodle” Bowl: Poached baby vegetables, soft egg, fragrant broth

Zucchini_Noodle_Bowl (c) Michael Harlan Turkell

Zucchini Noodle Bowl – Photograph by Michael Harlan Turkel

This is a simple and light bowl for a cool spring lunch or dinner, to be made when the farmers’ market finally begins to generate some excitement, with thin asparagus, fiddlehead ferns, little carrots, and crisp baby turnips. This meal features a court bouillon–style broth, poached baby vegetables, soft-cooked eggs, and zucchini “noodles,” a popular variation on flour-based noodles. The recipe benefits from planning ahead—the broth and eggs, for example, can be prepared in advance. And since the broth is relatively light and the vegetables are so simply prepared, the rich flavour and added body of a soft egg is a necessary component here. You can substitute the zucchini with udon, soba, somen, or another long, smooth noodle

 

SERVES 4 

2 tablespoons good olive oil, plus more for drizzling 

1/2 large or 1 small onion, diced 

1 medium carrot, diced 

2 celery stalks, diced 

1 bay leaf 

3 whole black peppercorns 

Pinch of red pepper flakes 

Pinch of fennel seeds 

1 cup dry white wine 

4 cups water 

2 teaspoons fine sea salt 

6 sprigs plus 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley 

5 bushy sprigs plus 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme 

4 sprigs plus 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon 

3 medium firm zucchini or yellow squash (about 2 pounds) 

1 1/2 to 2 pounds mixed baby spring vegetables, such as young carrots, snap peas, thin asparagus, baby turnips, or fiddlehead ferns, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces 

4 large boiled eggs, molten yolk, or poached eggs

Heat the oil in a pot or medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, diced carrot, celery, bay leaf, peppercorns, red pepper, and fennel seeds. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring periodically, just until the vegetables begin to soften. Pour in the wine and water. Bring to a simmer, add 1 teaspoon of the salt, then cook for 8 minutes. Add the sprigs of parsley, thyme, and tarragon and cook for 2 minutes more. Strain through a sieve or fine-mesh colander, discard the solids, and set the broth aside. The herb broth can be made up to 1 day in advance and stored, covered, in the refrigerator, or frozen for 1 to 2 months. 
  •  Trim the ends off the zucchini, then, using a mandoline, julienne into long noodles about the size of linguini—between 1/4 and 1/8 inch in thickness. The noodles can also be cut by hand: Slice the zucchini into long, thin slabs, then stack the slabs on top of each other and carefully cut into noodles. (Using a vegetable peeler in this case makes noodles that are too thin to hold up in the broth.) Toss with the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and let stand in a colander for 20 to 30 minutes. Gently squeeze to extract liquid.
  • Bring a saucepan of salted water to a gentle boil. Add the spring vegetables in separate batches, and cook until just tender and easily pierced with a paring knife, then transfer each batch with a spider skimmer or slotted spoon to a plate. Carrots will take 3 to 5 minutes, thin asparagus 3 to 4 minutes, baby turnips 3 to 5 minutes, snap peas 1 to 2 minutes, and fiddleheads 6 to 8 minutes.
  • Bring the herb broth to a bare simmer. Taste, adding additional salt as necessary. Stir together the minced parsley, thyme, and tarragon in a small bowl.
  • Using a strainer basket or sieve, dip the zucchini noodles into the vegetable cooking water or the broth to warm them, then divide among four bowls. Top with the baby vegetables. Split a soft-cooked egg over the vegetables in each bowl, cover each serving with about 1 cup broth, and garnish generously with the minced herbs. Drizzle with olive oil and serve immediately.
Text excerpted from BOWL © 2016 by Lukas Volger. Reproduced by permission of Rux Martin Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

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