Among those who eschew meat, Bryant Terry is nothing short of a hero. The vegan, food justice activist, James Beard Award-winning cookbook author and chef has a new book out called Vegetable Kingdom. It is almost certain to be an instant hit.
Bryant dedicates this new book to his daughters Mila and Zenzi. As he writes, “I wrote this book to make a diversity of foods of the plant kingdom irresistible to them, to inspire their curiosity, and to show them the pleasure of a lifelong adventure with good, nourishing food.” Taking his cues from the African Diaspora while paying homage to his wife’s Asian heritage, “this book features a number of ingredients and flavors from East and Southeast Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean, and the American South.” To say it’s eclectic is an understatement!
He had his daughters in mind with every recipe. According to Bryant, both have lately been “obsessed with his Green Rice.” Indeed, Bryant advocates exposure as the first step in developing the family food repertoire. He says, “at home I will often take the most obscure vegetables and prepare them in familiar ways so that Mila and Zenzi raise their food IQ and expand their palates.” Using this method, recipes such as Millet, Red Lentil, and Potato Cakes, Pan-Seared Summer Squash Sandwiches, and Jerk Tofu Wrapped in Collard Leaves become favorite family fare. And the next step in developing a full appreciation of the mealtime ritual? Music! On constant rotation these days is iimimi—the new album by South African musician Bongeziwe Mabandla—though Bryant’s playlist in Vegetable Kingdom gives dozens of choices in world music that have inspired him in the kitchen and at the table.
Buy the book here, and tiptoe through Bryant’s extraordinary garden below, in three warming, autumnal dishes sure to delight even the most vegetable-fearing family members.
Warm Butter Bean Salad with Roasted Bell Peppers
wilted arugula • pili pili oil • lemon juice
Smoky roasted peppers provide a bright contrast to the delicate, buttery flavor of big lima beans in this dish. The pili pili oil adds the subtlest kick—you’ll notice it, but it doesn’t overpower. Peppery arugula adds freshness, and a squeeze of lemon brightens everything. I created this recipe for a collaboration with Williams-Sonoma in 2019. My family had a Father’s Day cookout with some friends (hi, Maisha, David, and Naya) that was shot by my buddy photographer Erin Scott, and Williams-Sonoma featured the images in their catalog, on their blog, and across their social media platforms. That was a meaningful partnership, since Father’s Day is my favorite holiday of the year. While I’m appreciative of gifts, Father’s Day is about expressing gratitude to my family for the love they show me every single day. When I was working on this book, I spent more than a year testing recipes and writing almost every weekend (and a lot of holidays). My wife and daughters supported me wholeheartedly throughout that process. On Father’s Day weekend, I celebrate them for the privilege of being a husband and Baba.
• 1 pound dried large white lima beans, soaked in water and 3 tablespoons kosher salt overnight
• 1 bay leaf
• 1 large yellow onion: half diced, half left intact
• 5 garlic cloves: 3 cut in half, 2 minced
• 1 dried red chile
• 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
• 2 large red bell peppers
• 2 large yellow bell peppers
• 2 large orange bell peppers
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 tablespoons Pili Pili Oil (page 232), plus more for drizzling
• Freshly ground white pepper
• 8 ounces baby arugula (about 12 loosely packed cups), washed and spun dry
• 1 lemon, halved, for garnish
• Flaky sea salt, for finishing
Drain the beans, put them into a large saucepan, and add water to cover by 2 inches. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Skim off any foam and decrease the heat to medium-low. Add the bay leaf, onion half, halved garlic cloves, and dried chile. Partially cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until just tender, adding water as needed to keep the beans covered, 1 to 1 1/2 hours (the cooking time will greatly depend on the freshness of the beans). Once the beans are just tender, add 1 teaspoon of the salt and simmer for 10 more minutes. Drain the beans. Remove the bay leaf, onion, garlic, and chile and discard them. Set the beans aside.
While the beans are cooking, roast the bell peppers. Seed and thinly slice the bell peppers. Set aside.
In a large saucepan, warm the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the diced onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and just starting to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the minced garlic and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, until it smells fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the lima beans, bell peppers, and pili pili oil to the pan. Raise the heat to high and cook for 1 minute, gently stirring to combine and warm the ingredients through. Turn off the heat and season aggressively with white pepper. Taste and season with salt. Divide the lima bean mixture evenly among four plates.
Add the arugula and 2 tablespoons water to the same pan. Set the pan over low heat, cover, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the arugula wilts.
Place a handful of arugula over each serving, then drizzle with more pili pili oil and a squeeze of lemon. Finish with a sprinkle of flaky salt and serve. Serves 4.
Caramelized Leek and Seared Mushroom Toast
mustard—pine nut spread • pine nuts • thyme • tarragon
My wife and I are saving up for a bigger house, so I had to ease up on buying expensive avocado toast. (Because buying avocado toast is the only thing slowing us down from sizing up in one of the most expensive cities in the world during a historical moment where the wealthiest 1 percent of American households own 40 percent of the country’s wealth while a record number of people toil in poverty and debt Stanley from The Office eye roll.) Anyway, I get down with fancy toast sometimes when I’m eating out, and I wanted to offer a make-at-home alternative. Off the top, you must start with really good rustic bread—if you have some, you’re halfway there. If you don’t want to make it yourself, find the hardworking bakers in your area and show them some love. Next, you need a creamy spread. Pile on some farm-fresh toppings and good salt, and you are golden. The mustard—pine nut spread can be used on any number of sandwiches, but it plays off earthy mushrooms perfectly. Serve with a raw salad for a light meal.
Mustard—Pine Nut Spread
• 3/4 cup pine nuts 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 1/2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
• 1 teaspoon dark agave nectar
• Fine sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
• 1 pound wild mushrooms, such as maitake, chestnut, or chanterelle
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing the bread
• Kosher salt
• 1 cup finely chopped leek (about 1 medium)
• 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
• 4 thick slices sourdough or other rustic bread
• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
• Flaky sea salt
• Freshly ground white pepper
Make the spread: In a small skillet, toast the pine nuts over medium-high heat, shaking the pan for even cooking, until they are starting to turn golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer the nuts to a mortar and pound into a fine paste with the pestle. Add the olive oil, mustard, agave, a pinch of salt, and a few turns of white pepper and stir well to combine. Set aside.
Make the toast: Brush the mushrooms clean, remove any tough stems and, depending on what type of mushrooms you are using, chop larger mushrooms to ensure all the pieces are fairly uniform in size.
In a cast-iron skillet, warm 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat. When the oil shimmers, add the mushrooms and a generous pinch of salt, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Cook, stirring often and scraping the pan, until the liquid released by the mushrooms has fully evaporated and the mushrooms are starting to brown, 7 to 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, transfer the mushrooms to a medium bowl, and set aside.
In the same skillet, warm the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-low heat until shimmering. Add the leek and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the thyme and a pinch of salt and cook until the leek is browning and smells fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
Position an oven rack about 6 inches from the broiler heat element and preheat the broiler to high.
Arrange the bread on a baking sheet and broil until golden brown. Flip the bread and broil for about 30 seconds on the second side; take it out of the oven quickly so it doesn’t burn.
To serve, arrange one slice of toast on each of four small plates and brush with olive oil. Generously slather on the mustard—pine nut spread, top it with the leek mixture, then evenly distribute the mushrooms over that. Garnish each with a tiny bit of tarragon (just enough for a few pops of flavor), then season with flaky salt and a few turns of white pepper and enjoy. Serves 4.
Oven-Roasted Baby Beets
lemon • yogurt • cumin seeds • olive oil
This simple and fun beet salad was inspired by a dish in Melissa Clark’s Dinner in an Instant. She has always been one of my favorite cookbook authors, and her recipes are always on point.
• 1 pound mixed baby beets (about 12), scrubbed and stem end trimmed
• 1 lemon
• 3/4 cup nondairy yogurt
• 1 teaspoon agave nectar
• 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted
• Extra-virgin olive oil Flaky sea salt
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Place the beets in a roasting pan and add 1/4 cup water. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and roast until the beets are tender, about 40 minutes. Set aside to cool for about 5 minutes.
With a Microplane, grate the zest of the lemon and set it aside. Cut the lemon in half. In a small bowl, stir together the yogurt and agave nectar, then squeeze in enough lemon juice to thin the yogurt so it easily pours from a spoon.
On a clean work surface, using a clean towel, rub the beets to remove their skins. Thinly slice half the beets and cut the remaining beets in half.
Arrange the beets on a serving platter. Drizzle the yogurt over the beets. Garnish with the lemon zest, cumin seeds, a glut of olive oil, and flaky salt and serve. Serves 4.