My theory is that food is best when it’s healthy, hearty and vegan.
One of the best ways to make such fare is with one big pot and some basic principles.
Here is my One Pot Blueprint. I can almost guarantee you have what you need to make something spectacular, original and filling in your fridge and pantry right now—unless you are a college student, in which case you might have to swing by your parents place.
One Pot Blueprint
You will need:
1 cup + more if desired aromatics chopped, minced or grated. These include onions, garlic, celery, carrots and ginger (stick to a one inch piece of fresh ginger minced or grated, all others can be used in any amount).
1 t/l oil
Try sesame, peanut (for Asian flavors), olive oil, vegetable, coconut (for Indian or Asian flavors), truffle, chive. For a neutral flavor that will work with any dish, vegetable oil is best.
Herbs and spices.
Experiment with different ethnic flavors; Indian, Thai, Italian, Russian, American (suggestions follow). Use dried herbs and spices for intensity, or fresh herbs for a subtle freshness. Toss in hearty herbs like bay leaves, saffron, oregano, sage, thyme and rosemary at the beginning of cooking, and delicate herbs like cilantro, dill, basil, parsley, chives and mint at the end.
These are things you can throw in to amp everything up.
1 cup of white wine, 1 t/l any kind of vinegar, a few t/l soy sauce, juice of one lemon or lime.
Chopped nuts, seeds, chopped raw onions, fresh herbs, croutons.
Some great aromatic, herb, spice and oil, extras and garnish combos are:
1) (Indian inspired) onion+ garlic+ ginger + 2 tsp curry powder + lemon juice + coconut oil + cilantro & chopped peanuts.
2) (Italian inspired) onion+ garlic + 1 tsp each, dried thyme, oregano, sweet basil, dried sage + 1 bay leaf + olive oil + white wine +fresh basil.
3) (Russian inspired) onion+ garlic +2 tsp caraway seeds + bay leaf + olive oil + white wine +fresh dill & a few extra caraway seeds.
4) (Tex Mex inspired) onion+ garlic + carrots + celery +1 tbl chili powder, 1 tsp dried cumin, 1 tsp oregano, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp smoked paprika + 1 bay leaf + canola oil + balsamic vinaigrette + chopped onions.
5) (Moroccan inspired) onion + garlic + celery + carrot +2 tsp cumin, 2 tsp paprika, 1 tsp cinnamon + 1 bay leaf + canola oil + fresh cilantro.
6) (Tuscan inspired) onion+ garlic + 2 tbl chopped fresh rosemary +1 bay leaf + olive oil + white wine +fresh basil + croutons.
7) (Greek inspired) 2 tsp dried oregano or 4 t/l fresh oregano + lemon juice + 1 bay leaf + olive oil + fresh mint.
8) (New England inspired) onion+ garlic + celery + carrot + 2 pinches saffron, 2 tsp ancho chili powder, 2 tsp curry powder + 1 bay leaf + fresh basil.
9) (Thai inspired) onion + garlic + ginger + sesame oil + 1 red pepper flakes + soy sauce + lime juice + cilantro + sesame seeds.
2-4 cups prepared protein
Try beans (soy, chick, kidney, northern white, fava, black eyed peas, black beans—use canned, just rinse and drain, (except soy beans, buy these shelled and frozen—they cook in about 3 minutes), tofu (extra firm, pressed and drained), mock meats like soy “meat” crumbles, tofurkey and soy “chicken” strips, seitan, cooked lentils, cooked split peas.
*I like soy beans, tofu, lentils and mock chicken best for Asian and Indian style dishes.
4-10 cups liquid (you can mix two different liquids together if you like. More liquid gives a thinner consistency, less makes it thicker).
Try, canned tomatoes with liquid, water, vegetable broth, coconut milk.
4-10 cups any other veggies you like prepared in bite sized pieces
For stews and soups I think of vegetables as fast, medium and long cooking. I add them in at the beginning, middle or end accordingly. Generally, dense veggies are long cooking, fibrous veggies are medium, and leafy or pre-cooked veggies are quick.
Try using one fast, one medium and one long cooking.
Long cooking veggies (take 15 to 45 minutes to cook..there is a big disparity there, but when you cook everything in one pot, things can stew down without any ill effect). Includes: potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, carrots, parsnips, celery root, beets.
Medium cooking veggies (takes 5-7 minutes to cook). Includes: broccoli, cauliflower, fresh beans like haricot vert or wax, celery, asparagus, cabbage, peppers, kale, chard (and all the tougher greens), fresh corn, onions, leeks, mushrooms.
Quick cooking veggies (takes 2-3 minutes to cook). Includes: delicate greens like spinach and baby kale, frozen veggies, English peas, scallions.
I left out fresh tomatoes because you can toss them in anytime depending on the texture you are going for. This is true for most medium to quick cooking veggies, but particularly so for these. Cooking anything longer tenderizes it and melds the flavors better with everything else, and cooking it less makes it brighter so it stands out more.
2-4 cups prepared grains (optional)
Grains are great but not mandatory in your pot. Your veggies and protein will create a nutritionally complete meal. You may serve your pot with bread instead, or just skip grains altogether.
Heat oil. Sauté aromatics 3-5 minutes or until soft. Add any dried spices you are using and sauté one minute.
Add liquid + any hearty fresh herbs + bay leaf, ( & salt and pepper to taste if desired), bring to boil.
Add any long cooking veggies, bring back to boil and simmer 15-45 minutes, until fork tender.
Add any medium cooking veggies and extras, bring back to boil and simmer 5-7 minutes until fork tender.
Add protein, any quick cooking veggies and prepared grains, bring back to boil and cook 2-3 minutes.
Stir in fresh herbs right before serving.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise