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New Year Veggie Wonders

A New Year’s resolution is almost tradition. Most of us make resolutions, some achievable, others that fail within a few weeks. But the point of resolutions shouldn’t be to add another thing to our to-do list, a burden we must carry to “better ourselves.” Renewal should be something we look forward to – like eating mango cheesecake!

Since many of us center our resolutions around food, I thought of Vasudha Viswanath, cookbook author of “The Vegetarian Reset”.  When I was introduced to Vasudha, I instantly connected with her passion for food, her  home-cooked meals that were both delicious and healthy, and her belief that “we all find that we can no longer outrun a bad diet, no matter how many spin classes we take”.

Her recipes cut out processed foods, boldly focusing on flavor. Putting vegetables on center stage, Vasudha’s cookbook has recipes from around the world using spices and healthy fats, and techniques that sharpen and amplify their flavors.

Here she shares some of her recipes so that you can start the New Year on a healthy note.

Saag Lasagna

A green twist to the traditional meat sauce. Image credit: Alexandra Shystman

Replacing the traditional meat sauce with a glorious spinach gravy that is typically used for saag paneer, and ricotta for simplicity instead of the béchamel. You can easily double this rich, unique dish that will rightly take center stage at every dinner party. 

INGREDIENTS

  • 2–3 medium zucchini (1 lb/450g)
  • 1½ tsp salt, divided, plus more for sprinkling zucchini
  • 1 Tbsp ghee, or butter
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1½ cups/240g diced onion
  • 1 Indian green chile, jalapeño pepper, or Thai chile, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp grated ginger
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 cup/240 ml water
  • 1 lb/450g fresh spinach, if frozen, thawed
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 15 oz/425g whole-milk ricotta
  • ½ tsp cracked black pepper
  • 2 oz/56g grated low-moisture mozzarella

PREPARATION

1. Slice zucchini lengthwise into 1/16 in/1.5-mm-thick slices using a mandoline slicer or knife. (Be careful while using a mandoline; always use cut-resistant gloves.) Place zucchini in a colander over a bowl, sprinkle it lightly with salt, and set aside for 15–20 minutes to draw out the moisture as you make the saag.

2. Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Heat the ghee in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add cumin seeds and wait until they are aromatic, then add onions. Increase the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and caramelized.

3. Lower the heat to medium, add the green chile, ginger, and garlic, and sauté for 30 seconds. Pour in the water and bring to a boil. Mix in the spinach gradually and cook until it just wilts. Add the garam masala and 1 teaspoon salt and mix well. Turn off the stove and use an immersion blender to blend the spinach mixture until smooth.

4. Mix the ricotta, remaining ½ teaspoon of salt, and the pepper well in a bowl and set aside. Pat the zucchini slices dry with paper towels.

5. To assemble, in an 8x8x1 1/2 in/20x20x4-cm baking pan or casserole dish, layer one-third of the spinach saag, one-third of the zucchini slices, and half the ricotta. Repeat. Top the last layer of ricotta with the remaining spinach saag and zucchini slices, and sprinkle mozzarella evenly on top.

6. Bake for 40–45 minutes, or until the cheese melts and turns golden brown in spots. Serve hot.

Cooking Notes: Freeze leftovers in an airtight container for up to 2 months. Defrost in the microwave.

Chutney Ramen

Spice up that ramen with chutney. Image credit: Alexandra Shystman

This recipe moves fast, so have all ingredients ready beforehand.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 Tbsp avocado oil
  • 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp minced garlic, divided
  • 1 Tbsp grated ginger
  • 4–5 scallions, sliced and divided into white and green parts
  • 1 cup/100g sliced white mushrooms
  • 1 Tbsp spicy chutney of choice, such as tomato or cilantro/fresh coriander, or sambal oelek or chile garlic sauce
  • 1 Tbsp light sweet (yellow) miso (or red miso for a heavier taste)
  • 1 Tbsp rice vinegar or white vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp tamari or 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 cups/960ml low-sodium vegetable broth or water
  • 1 cup/100g mung bean sprouts
  • ½ block (6 oz/168g) firm tofu , cut into ¾ inch/2-cm cubes
  • 2 cups/60g spinach
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 4 baby bok choy (1 lb/450g), halved lengthwise
  • 1 lb/450g veggie noodles of choice (I used hearts of palm noodles)
  • ⅓ cup/50g sliced red bell pepper/capsicum, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 small jalapeño pepper, sliced

PREPARATION

1. Heat the avocado oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 Tbsp of garlic, the ginger, and the white parts of the scallions and cook, stirring once or twice, for 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, chutney, and miso paste, mix well, and cook for 2–3 minutes. Add the rice vinegar and tamari and cook for another minute.

2. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Add bean sprouts and cook until blanched; it takes about 2 minutes. Add the tofu and cook for another minute. Add spinach, mix well, and turn off the stove to let the spinach cook in the residual heat.

3. Heat the sesame oil in a medium sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the remaining 1 tsp garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Place the baby bok choy cut-side down in the pan and cook, covered, until both sides are lightly browned, for about 4–6 minutes , turning halfway. You can add 1–2 Tbsp of  water to deglaze the pan if needed.

4. Divide the veggie noodles between two bowls. Pour the broth over the noodles and top with the bok choy. Garnish each serving with the green parts of the scallions, the bell pepper, and jalapeño and serve.

Berry Cashew Burfi

Berry traditional! Image credit: Alexandra Shystman

A riff on kaju katli, this fabulously purple version is naturally sweetened with strawberries, blueberries, and a little maple syrup. Lightly sweet with a touch of tartness from the berries.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tsp cornstarch/cornflour
  • 1 tsp water
  • 2 cups/300g hulled ripe strawberries, pureed until smooth
  • 2 cups/300g ripe blueberries, pureed until smooth (use frozen berries if berries are not in season)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 10 oz/280g raw cashews, blanched almonds, or pistachios
  • 1½ tsp ghee, or avocado oil, divided
  • Edible silver foil (sheet size varies; enough to cover a 9×9 inch/23×23-cm area; optional)

PREPARATION

1. Stir the cornstarch and water together in a bowl to make a slurry. Mix the slurry, strawberry and blueberry purees, lemon juice, and maple syrup together in a large nonstick pan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring often and scraping down the pan until very thick, jam-like, and reduced to a quarter of the original volume as the water evaporates, 15–20 minutes.

2. Place the cashews in a food processor and process until powdered.

3. When the berry mixture is done cooking, turn off the heat and add the powdered cashews, pressing down with a spatula if necessary, until well incorporated. The mixture will leave the sides of the pan and become a sticky dough ball, about the consistency of clay. If it’s still wet and loose, let it cook a little more in the pan on medium heat until it thickens. Let cool for 10 minutes.

4. Line a flat surface with wax paper. Grease your palms with 1/2 teaspoon of ghee and transfer the dough ball to the wax paper. Place another sheet of wax paper on top. Using a rolling pin, roll out a square(ish) slab, approximately 9×9 in/23x23cm and 1/3 in/8mm thick.

5. If using the silver foil, remove the upper wax paper and brush the top of the burfi slab with the remaining 1 teaspoon of ghee. Carefully place the edible silver foil on top (allow it to fall rather than placing it with your hands so that it doesn’t tear too much), covering as much of the slab as possible.

6. Freeze for 30–40 minutes or until set. Slice the burfi into rhombus shapes (2 in/5 cm sides) with a sharp knife and serve.

Cooking Notes: Store in an airtight container, with layers separated by wax paper in the fridge, for up to 2 weeks, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

All recipes reprinted with permission from THE VEGETARIAN RESET by Vasudha Viswanath, The Collective Book Studio, January 2023.

Mona Shah

Mona Shah is a multi-platform storyteller with expertise in digital communications, social media strategy, and content curation for Twitter and LinkedIn for C-suite executives. A journalist and editor,...