The year 2020 forced us all to think about our well-being. And now that 2021 has arrived, many of us are hoping for a brighter, healthier year ahead.

If you’re setting resolutions and aspiring to eat better this winter, turning to plants is a good place to start. We asked chefs from Vedge, Martha, Southgate, and Charlie was a sinner to share their favorite veggie-filled recipes that are both healthy and hearty.

From a rich, spicy chili to a savory Korean rice bowl to a “cheesy” stuffed pasta, each is designed to keep you warm all season long.

Tofu Ricotta Stuffed Shells, from Charlie was a sinner’s Nicky Lauria

Nicky Lauria has fond memories of eating stuffed shells, a holiday specialty of both his grandmothers, Frieda and Mary. He transformed the cheesy dish into a plant-based meal for Charlie was a sinner’s New Year’s Eve menu. And it’s one he plans to call upon in his own kitchen all winter long.

“It’s a nostalgic comfort food, but it’s not overly heavy or filling,” says Lauria. “And it makes great leftovers, if you can resist eating it all.”

The traditional ricotta filling is replaced with crumbled tofu, simply seasoned with lemon, salt, and pepper. Feel free to add your own twists, whether with herbs or savory additions like white miso and nutritional yeast.

(Serves 2)

Ingredients:

1 package (14-16 ounces) firm tofu, drained

¼ cup soy, oat, or almond milk

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, plus zest of half a lemon

1 teaspoon salt

⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 jumbo pasta shells

3 cups raw spinach, thinly sliced

¼ bunch fresh basil, or 1 tablespoon dried basil (fresh preferred)

¼ bunch fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried (fresh preferred)

1 ½ cups fire-roasted tomato sauce or pasta sauce of your choice

Kosher salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Make the tofu ricotta by placing the first six ingredients into a food processor. Process until smooth.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (1 tablespoon of kosher salt per four quarts of water). Cook pasta shells until al dente. Drain, then return to the pot and let cool.

In a large bowl, mix the tofu ricotta, spinach, basil, and oregano. (If using fresh basil, reserve a few leaves to garnish). Stuff mixture into shells.

In an 8-inch-by-8-inch baking dish or ovenproof skillet, pour two-thirds of the sauce. Arrange the stuffed shells on top. Spoon the remaining sauce over the shells.

Bake 18-20 minutes, until sauce is bubbling. Garnish with basil, if available, and serve.

— Courtesy Nicky Lauria, executive chef at Charlie was a sinner

In Korean, bibimbap means "mixed rice", a common dish designed to use leftover banchan [vegetable side dishes].
Courtesy SouthGate
In Korean, bibimbap means "mixed rice", a common dish designed to use leftover banchan [vegetable side dishes].

Vegetarian Bibimbap from Southgate’s Peter Hwang

In Korean, bibimbap means “mixed rice.”

“A lot of Korean food was born from using what’s available while not letting food go to waste, and bibimbap is the ultimate expression of that,” says Southgate owner Peter Hwang. “It’s a common dish in Korea where families use leftover vegetables from their banchan [side dishes], add them to rice, prepare meat or tofu, and top with egg.”

While the recipe may appear lengthy, each step is simple and quick. And you can incorporate whatever vegetables you have available, says Hwang.

(Serves 4)

Ingredients:

4-6 cups cooked rice (short grain preferred)

1 zucchini, cut into matchsticks

1 carrot, cut into matchsticks

8 ounces soybean sprouts

10 ounces spinach

10 ounces shiitake mushrooms, sliced

Salt, to taste

Canola oil, for sautéing

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon minced garlic

8 ounces firm or extra firm tofu, patted dry, and cut into ½- or 1-inch slices

Soy sauce or tamari, to drizzle

4 fried eggs, optional

¼ cup gochujang sauce (recipe below)

1 sheet of ggim (salted, roasted seaweed) or nori, torn or cut into thin strips

Toasted sesame seeds, to sprinkle

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the spinach, submerging it in the water. Blanch for 60 seconds, until wilted, and drain.

Lightly coat the bottom of a skillet with canola oil. Place over medium-high heat. Once oil is hot, add bean sprouts and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Stir in the minced garlic and sesame oil, and season with salt. Transfer to a bowl, and set aside. Lightly coat the bottom of a skillet with canola oil. Place over medium-high heat. Once oil is hot, add the mushrooms, and sauté until mushrooms are lightly browned, 2-4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, and set aside. Repeat with tofu, sautéing until edges are crispy and lightly browned, flipping and adding a drizzle of soy sauce halfway through.

You can serve the carrots and zucchini raw or sauté them in a skillet lightly coated with canola oil for 1-2 minutes over medium-high heat.

Divide rice between four bowls. Scatter vegetables on top of each bowl, and top with tofu, and if using, the fried eggs. Drizzle each bowl with a spoonful of gochujang sauce. Mix, adding more gochujang sauce, if desired. Add seaweed strips, and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

Gochujang sauce:

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons gochujang

2 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 tablespoons lemon lime soda or water

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1 teaspoon minced garlic

Directions:

Whisk together in a bowl.

— Courtesy Peter Hwang, owner of Southgate

This Texan-inspired chili is filled with spicy dried chili peppers, creamy cranberry beans, and a couple bottles of Miller High Life beer.
Courtesy Lee Richards
This Texan-inspired chili is filled with spicy dried chili peppers, creamy cranberry beans, and a couple bottles of Miller High Life beer.

Rancho Gordo Beans from Martha’s Lee Richards

This Texan-inspired chili uses earthy and spicy dried chili peppers to season nutty cranberry beans, simmered on the stove for hours.

“Dried beans are incredibly economical, and they absorb more of the chili flavor as they cook,” says Martha chef Lee Richards. “And with dried beans, there are so many heirloom varieties to try.”

If you can’t find cranberry beans, pinto beans make for a similar, but slightly less creamy substitute. Richards encourages experimenting with all different kinds of dried beans, too. You can also add veggies, like carrots and cauliflower, or sausage, whether a meaty variety or Beyond Meat’s vegan version. Incorporate any additions at the beginning, before the stock is added.

“It’s a base recipe that’s rich and healthy, and that you can easily make your own,” says Richards. “Serve it with rice or corn bread, or even make it into tacos.”

(Serves 4-6)

Ingredients:

1 pound dried cranberry beans (substitute dried pinto beans, if necessary)

2 cups diced onions

1 cup diced green pepper

3 tablespoons chopped garlic

3 dried árbol chili peppers*

4 dried guajillo chili peppers*

3 tablespoons chili powder

1 teaspoon cayenne

2 (12-ounce) bottles Miller High Life beer, or pilsner of your choice

9 cups no-sodium vegetable stock

3-4 tablespoons kosher salt, divided

Optional toppings: cilantro, scallions, raw onion

Rice or corn bread, to serve

*Can swap chilies depending on what’s available, says Richards. The árbol chilies add a moderately spicy kick, while the guajillo is mild, with a rich, earthy flavor.

Directions

In advance: Soak beans by placing them in a large pot with four quarts of water and two tablespoons of kosher salt. Let sit for at least two hours. Drain and rinse.

In a large pot, add onions, pepper, garlic, chilies, and spices. Cook on high heat, stirring frequently, for 60 seconds, or until spices are toasty and aromatic. Add beer, vegetable stock, beans, and remaining 1-2 tablespoons kosher salt to taste. Bring to a low simmer.

Cook for two hours, or until beans are tender and reach the consistency of a thick chili. Adjust salt, to taste. Serve with rice or corn bread, and top with chopped cilantro, scallions, and or/diced raw onion.

— Courtesy Lee Richards, head chef at Martha

Cauliflower and Mustard Soup from Vedge’s Richard Landau

“You can make creamy, milky soup with just about anything, but this is a winter soup with winter brassicas,” says Richard Landau, chef-owner of Vedge. “You’re eating with the season.”

Cauliflower and potatoes create this soup’s rich, velvety texture without needing a ton of added fat. And two kinds of mustard give depth of flavor. First is Dijon, which adds extra creaminess, and then there’s whole grain, creating little pops of mustard seed in each spoonful.

For a finishing crunch, don’t miss the simple crouton recipe. It, too, incorporates mustard, replacing some of the oil traditionally used to crisp croutons.

(Serves 4-6)

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons sunflower oil, or any neutral oil

¼ cup onion, chopped

1 tablespoon garlic, chopped

8 cups chopped cauliflower (about 2 medium heads)

1 large potato, peeled and chopped

2 tablespoons everything spice or Montreal Steak Seasoning, or your favorite steak seasoning

2 teaspoons nutritional yeast

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

8 cups vegetable stock

2 tablespoons vegan sour cream or mayo

2 tablespoons vegan butter

2 tablespoons fresh dill leaves, plus a few sprigs, to garnish

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon sugar

¼ cup whole grain mustard

Mustard Croutons, optional (recipe below)

Directions:

Heat the sunflower oil over medium-high heat until it’s almost smoking. Add the onion, garlic, cauliflower, and potato. Cook until the edges of the potatoes begin to brown and the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add the spices and continue to brown for 3 more minutes. Add the stock. Bring to a medium boil, and cook for 8-10 minutes, until the potatoes and cauliflower start to soften. Stir in sour cream or mayo, butter, dill, Dijon mustard, and sugar. Remove from heat.

In a blender, transfer the soup in small batches, and puree until smooth. Return to the pan, and stir in the whole grain mustard. Top with Mustard Croutons, if using.

Mustard Croutons

Ingredients:

2 cups stale bread, cubed

1 tablespoon sunflower oil, or any neutral oil

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss bread with oil. Stir in mustard, salt, and pepper. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scatter bread in a single layer. Bake for 10 minutes, or until crispy and golden brown.

— Courtesy Richard Landau, chef-owner of Vedge

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