Culinary Concierge - The New York Times

In the ever-expanding Multiverse, there’s a version of me crushing a keyboard with his feet handing out the do’s and don’ts to the masse...

In the ever-expanding Multiverse, there’s a version of me crushing a keyboard with his feethanding out the do’s and don’ts to the masses as dear Abby of this world.

But here in our reality, I’m Tanya, editor of The New York Times Cooking and editor of Tejal on The Veggie. And for better or for worse, there is one hobby I will never give up: provide advice. Fortunately, my job sometimes gives me the opportunity to embrace this. Today, consider me your personal kitchen concierge in Tejal’s absence.

These questions come from a handful of emails from readers that Tejal has saved for inspiration for the future newsletter, and I’m more than happy to answer them.

Is there a versatile substitute for mushrooms in vegetarian dishes where they are an integral part? Or are there several substitutes, some of which are better than others, depending on the application? -Kim O.

In most cases, you’ll want to swap for an ingredient that’s similar in texture: think slices of tofu, tempeh, eggplant, and even artichoke hearts. But if the mushrooms also put in a lot of effort in the flavor department, you’ll want to make up for the loss by seasoning with umami-rich ingredients, like soy sauce, kombu or grilled seaweed, miso, or tomato paste.

these chicharron mushroom tacos could just as easily be made with bites of pan-fried or baked firm tofu, or slightly chewier tempeh. (You can also crumble them tempeh tacos instead.) In stir-fries, vegetables like eggplant or zucchini, which grab and absorb seasonings much like mushrooms, might serve you well. Try this swap in this ginger fried riceand taste as you go – maybe you want a little more soy sauce or a sprinkle of garlic or onion powder.

I love your recipes, but since I have bad reactions to tomato, eggplant, peppers, chillies, potato and all other nightshades, I can rarely use the recipes. Ideas? —Gretchen N.

Spring vegetables are your friends: this polenta with asparagus, peas and mint and that crisp spring salad are great places to start. The rest of the year, see our cauliflower– and cabbage-recipes to come. And the ginger fried rice I mentioned above becomes nightshade-free if you skip the jalapeño. In fact, you’ll find that many mushroom recipes on New York Times Cooking will work for you as written or are easily modified.

I buy pickles and olives at the farmer’s market. They have so many different varieties. Anyway, I’d like to reuse the brine, as it seems a waste to throw it away. No suggestions? Some of the flavors are horseradish, fire, rosemary or even sweet and spice. — Frank K.

It’s time to do pickle soup! Brine is also an amazing way to season potato salads and bandages like this vegan avocado ranch. And you should definitely shake some of them up with vodka or gin – a dirty martini, anyone? — if you enjoy a cocktail once in a while. Cheers!

Go to the recipe.

Vegetarians who eat them know that eggs are a kitchen star — they add weight, protein and flavor to otherwise simple dishes. You really can’t beat them!

If that sounds like you, turn your attention this week to our great ode to eggs, written by Eric Kim and complete with 24 recipesthe majority of which are meatless, including the Belle de Tejal egg curry.

And speaking of Tejal: on May 17, she’s hosting a virtual event with editor-in-chief Emily Weinstein about making delicious vegetarian meals at home. They’ll chat with chef and writer Samin Nosrat and offer advice for readers who struggle with vegetarian cooking. You can RSVP, as well as submit your own culinary dilemma for them to discuss, here.

Tejal will be back next week. Thanks for reading and inviting me! Until next time you can find me on instagram.

Email us at Newsletters will be archived here. Contact my colleagues at if you have questions about your account.

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Culinary Concierge - The New York Times
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