[Photograph: Quentin Bacon]

One of the key parts of Mark Bittman's "vegan before six" diet is the food that comes after 6 pm. This meal can consist of whatever you want to eat. Meat, cheese, and eggs are all back on the table. Bittman believes that allowing for this flexibility is what keeps his diet feasible and accessible. As such, the dinner and dessert chapters in his new VB6 Cookbook introduce animal protein back into the equation.

Yet Bittman doesn't launch into a carnivorous feast come six o'clock. Instead, he incorporates meat into meals that are equally heavy in vegetables, fruit, and whole grains. Take this soba noodle dish for example. While it doesn't shy away from meat (hello, pork shoulder), it does incorporate a generous amount of asparagus in addition to whole grain soba noodles. Eaten together, the one bowl supper is rich enough to satisfy, but still feels nourishing.

Why I picked this recipe: What could be better for a weeknight springtime supper than soba, pork, and asparagus?

What worked: This noodle dish is bare-bones but ultimately deeply satisfying. Pork, ginger, garlic, and soy truly make a harmonious combination.

What didn't: The recipe never says when to use the second tablespoon of vegetable oil; I added it to the skillet with the asparagus. Bittman also doesn't suggest rinsing the soba noodles after their drained, but I find the cooked noodles much easier to work with once the excess starch has been rinsed off.

Suggested tweaks: You'll likely want to add another tablespoon of soy sauce before serving; the first addition almost completely evaporates in the hot skillet. Depending on where you buy your meat, it may be easier to buy boneless country-style pork ribs than just a pound of pork shoulder. If you're buying these ribs, ask for the fattier, more marbled cuts.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of VB6 Cookbook to give away this week.

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