Three Recipe Lessons From 2021

Eat more seaweed, strategize with your sheet pan and cook vegetables forever.

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By Tejal Rao

I have a few food traditions at the end of the year: I sharpen my favorite knives. I clean and organize the kitchen, and I try to catalog the teeny-tiny lessons I learned. Here are three that come to mind right away:

Seaweed goes with everything! Eric Kim’s asparagus pasta cleverly draws umami from dried kelp, which flavors the rigatoni through the cooking water, and from roasted seaweed, which brings even more depth and texture as a topping. I’d never used seaweed in a creamy pasta dish before, but I’ll definitely do it again.

If you don’t already have gim in your pantry, this recipe might convince you to buy it in bulk. The roasted seaweed is great as a faintly smoky topping on, say, mushroom and cheese quesadillas, hot bowls of rice with pickles and wilted greens, and wobbly microwave-steamed eggs.

Strategy is key with sheet-pan dinners. Cooking absolutely everything on a sheet pan doesn’t make sense (sorry!), but cooking instant ramen noodles on a sheet pan is genius. Hetty McKinnon dresses the boiled noodles in a little sesame oil and soy sauce, then adds marinated tofu and bok choy. All that surface area in the oven means chow mein-like noodles — tender in some places, crispy in others.

It’s such a cool technique, and you can adapt it with all kinds of different marinades and ingredients. Try a soy-ginger marinade with tons of sweet corn and thinly sliced red onion, or a peanut marinade with broccoli florets and pickled chiles.

Some vegetables are more delicious when you cook them forever. If you haven’t done it before, I know the thought of simmering broccoli for an hour (a whole hour!) might seem a little bizarre, but the broccoli ends up wonderfully sweet and juicy, incredibly tender, and luxurious.

If you don’t trust me, trust Alice Waters, who published that recipe in “Chez Panisse Vegetables” back in 1996. Or trust Nigella Lawson, who stews peas for 4 to 6 hours to make the slow-cooked peas in “Cook, Eat, Repeat.” Trust Samin Nosrat, who braises her Romano beans for about 2 hours.

Still skeptical? I’ll leave you with something Clare de Boer, a chef at King in New York City, once told me. She said that if you just give some ingredients a little more time, if you don’t rush the cooking, they can “become a deeper version of themselves.” 🥺

Creamy Asparagus Pasta

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Crispy Sheet-Pan Noodles with Glazed Tofu

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Long-Cooked Broccoli

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One More Thing

I wanted to note that Kei & Molly, the textile company I mentioned last week in my gift guide, is based in Albuquerque, N.M., not in Santa Fe. Thanks so much for reading, and see you next week!

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