Gan bian si ji—Sichuan-style dry-fried green beans with chilies and pickles—are one of the best and most mistranslated vegetable dishes in the world. Today that dish and I are on a road trip back to authenticity, and we're going to be driving that minibus over some uncharted territory.
This easy bean appetizer takes only five minutes to prepare, but it does rely on some high quality ingredients for optimal flavor. Tender, creamy giant lima beans are worth the splurge when you're coating them with your best extra-virgin olive oil, sherry vinegar, and a pinch of smoked paprika. Celery, shallots, and garlic round out the flavor profile and add crunchy texture.
Every year, families celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year with an impressive feast called Reunion Dinner, and among the many plates on the table is abalone in a rich sauce with dried oysters, shiitakes, and an algae called black moss. Inspired by that dish, this recipe is a vegetarian take with easier-to-find ingredients, like tofu and both fresh and dried mushrooms. Even without the seafood it still delivers on the richness and flavor of the original.
Studded with Chinese sausage, Chinese bacon, and shiitake mushrooms, this steamed (and then, optionally, pan-fried) daikon radish-based snack is a classic at both the Chinese New Year, and also on dim sum tables year-round.
Caponata, the Sicilian dish of eggplant and other vegetables sautéed in a sweet and sour sauce can be shockingly flavorful the first time you try it. And I'm not using the word shockingly lightly here. Packed with extra-virgin olive oil, raisins, pine nuts, herbs, vinegar, sugar, and a slew of other ingredients, it's the kind of dish you have to recalibrate your whole mouth for in order to really appreciate it. But once that recalibration is done, man oh man is it great stuff.
Tamales are delicious, but forming them is a small pain in the culo. This baked tamale pie, know as a cazuela de tamal in Mexico, is the solution: all the joys of tamales with not nearly as much work.
Ful mudammas, stewed fava beans, is a staple dish all over the Levant. Some versions are mild mannered and comforting. This one, loaded with olive oil, lemon, garlic, cumin, and a kick of chili powder, is anything but. Serve it as a bean stew or mash up the beans and use it as a high octane dip.
Hummus is fine, but the real power legume of the Middle East is the fava bean. Ful mudammas is the Egyptian breakfast dish of favas stewed with tahini and seasoned with garlic, cumin, and lemon. This creamy, comforting version is much like what you'll find around the streets of Cairo.
Mixing mayonnaise into chicken salad is the most common way to add moisture, but it's not the only way. Vinaigrette works well too, like this tangy Korean-inspired rendition with kimchi, pine nuts, and lots of fresh ginger.
Breaded, melty cheese is something that crosses cultures—from deep-fried mozzarella sticks at state fairs to queso frito in Latin America. Inspired by those foods, we've taken squares of cheese are breaded and "fried" them in the waffle iron for just a minute, until their outsides gturnet golden brown and crunchy and their insides become perfectly melted and gooey.
Sweet potatoes, carrots, and acorn squash form a natural partnership--their flavors are complementary, but with enough variation to promise something a little more interesting than your typical root vegetable latke. Freshly grated ginger delivers a bright heat that cuts right through the vegetable base, which is rounded out with smoky paprika, a pinch of cumin, and some floral coriander.
Zucchini make a great latke base, but they also have a very delicate flavor that can easily be overwhelmed. Chopped basil and lemon zest help that light, grassy quality shine, while pine nuts and Parmesan cheese give it a pesto-inspired twist. These latkes are especially tender and refreshingly light.
These beet, potato, and onion latkes are studded with walnuts and garlic. A spoonful of horseradish sour cream cuts through the sweetness for a well-balanced finish.
In Cortney Burns and Nicholaus Balla's new cookbook, Bar Tartine: Techniques and Recipes, they share the recipe for their Smoked Potatoes with Ramp Mayonnaise. This dish has been obsessed over and blogged about, and has a permanent place on their ever-changing menu. There's a lot going on with these spuds: The potatoes themselves are roasted and smoked, then smashed and deep-fried. They're tossed with herbs and a mushroom-infused black garlic vinaigrette—earthy, sweet, and tangy. The crowning glory is the bright and rich mayonnaise. Individually, each component is brilliant; together, they make you think you've died and gone to umami heaven.
The Louisiana meal of red beans and rice is typically made with pork: smoked, salted, roasted, or pickled. Those all work well in this recipe (a pound of sliced and browned andouille sausage would be our choice), but the beans also shine with smoked turkey.
Smoked turkey replaces the more traditional choice of bacon in this rendition of braised collard greens. Nice and garlicky, the greens are spiced up with red chili flakes, with a bite of acidity from cider vinegar and lemon juice. And, since the turkey's pretty lean, we finish it off with some butter to give the pleasantly bitter, tender greens the rich, mouth-coating quality that pork belly typically provides.
Waffling your leftover mashed potatoes gives them a second life that may be even better than their first. The waffle iron crisps the ridges of the potatoes and leaves divots for gravy or other sauces to pool.
These sweet potatoes have just enough (read: plenty of) butter, heavy cream, and milk. Brown sugar and cinnamon play up the natural sweetness, but I also slip in a subtle ingredient that adds complexity: carrots.
A fancy Thanksgiving salad that won't add to your holiday stress. Made with roasted brassicas, potatoes, radishes, and sunchokes plus frisee and radicchio, this dish can be prepped ahead with no loss in quality. Plus, it hardly wilts once dressed!
Creamed kale is an easy side dish that deserves its place on your holiday table. This version is made in the slow cooker and includes a bit of chicken stock, milk, and heavy cream, which is thickened on the stove before being poured on top of ribbons of kale. Romano cheese adds nuttiness and binds the sauce, along with a pinch of nutmeg and a little crushed red pepper. Right before serving, a touch of lemon zest brightens the dish.