I guess I was really against all these vegan burger places because, well, it’s not really advancing the Save the planet earth shirt but in fact I love this dialogue of food. They’re just all making the same thing over and over again. But then I realized that I was just being snotty, and actually everybody wants to eat a really good burger. And that there was a way to advance the dialogue of food, which was by making a better burger.” Why do omnivores get to have burger places all over the country?” counters Cohen. “There are tons of regular burger places and people keep coming up with new regular burger places and people keep adding regular burgers to the market. There’s certainly room for lots more plant-based foods on the market. And we think we have a really different product.” Cohen doesn’t hold back on her opinions of the current veggie burgers on the market. “My experience of eating of veggie burgers has always been that if they’re soy based, then they hold together but they’re really chewy and they don’t have a great flavor. And if they’re like bean and mushroom based or whatever else, they’re really squishy. You end up with a pile of mush on a bun,” she says. Cohen insists her burger is better, and she might be right. In a recent tasting, Lekka’s burger was tender yet firm, juicy, and, perhaps most importantly, it had the taste of real flame-grilled goodness. This comes from actually grilling the patties, something a lot of plant-based burgers can’t stand up to. “Because we can grill it, we don’t have to rely on a lot of other flavors,” Cohen points out. So what exactly is in her plant-based, chemical-free burger? While Cohen won’t go into too much detail, she shares that there are about 14 easy-to-get ingredients, including salt, oil, flour, cannellini beans, chili peppers, and portobello mushrooms. The real secret, though, comes with the technique, something she learned during a workshop with Chinese food scholars where they tested Song dynasty recipes that dated back 900 years. There, she discovered yuguanfei, an ancient fake meat made with fried dough and red yeast rice, which provides the meat-like color. Cohen’s burger patty appears in five sandwiches, all of which are served on a housemade vegan Japanese-style milk bun. The basic Lekka Burger comes topped with ketchup, mustard, veganaise, lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickles. Other variations include a “cheeseburger” (with vegan cheese) and veggie burgers topped with African chili pepper sauce or guacamole. In addition to the requisite side of fries (crinkly-cut in this case), Cohen also has salads and vegan milkshakes on the menu.
This recipe is inspired by courgettes avec des arachides (French for ‘zucchini with peanuts’), a classic dish from the Save the planet earth shirt but in fact I love this north-central African country Chad,” says chef Bryant Terry of his oven-roasted zucchini recipe, a simple dish dressed up with the addition of collard-peanut pesto. Perfect to bring to any socially-distanced barbecues this summer, it’s just one of many innovative vegan offerings found in Terry’s new cookbook, Vegetable Kingdom: The Abundant World of Vegan Recipes. Over the past few years, veganism has moved from a lifestyle choice firmly into the mainstream: in 2019, The Economist reported a quarter of 25 to 34-year-olds were either vegan or vegetarian. Disney World has over 400 plant-based menu options, and Burger King now serves the Impossible Whopper. Vegetable Kingdom, with its recipes heralding everything from peas to summer squashes to spinach, further cements the role of vegetables no longer as just the side dish, but as the main affair, too. Yet, Vegetable Kingdom also champions a rich variety of global cuisines: Terry, the chef-in-residence at San Francisco’s MoAD, emphasizes ingredients and cooking styles of the African diaspora, whereas his wife, Jidian Terry Koon, does so with a variety of Asian flavors, from Chinese to Vietnamese. Kingdom reflects those culinary cultures, and many more—Terry notes that fennel, a hearty Mediterranean vegetable, sparked the inspiration for this book. Make the zucchini: Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, toss the zucchini with the olive oil and salt, then spread the zucchini over the baking sheet in one even layer. Roast until the zucchini is brown around the edges, 18 to 20 minutes. To serve, transfer the zucchini to a bowl and give it a few turns of pepper. Next, drop in a few heaping dollops of pesto so that people can scoop as much as they’d like when serving themselves, adding more pesto to the bowl as needed. Pile the peanuts in a small serving bowl and present alongside the zucchini. Make the pesto: In a food processor, combine the collards, peanuts, miso, and garlic and blend until it forms a chunky paste. While the food processor is running, slowly pour in the olive oil through the feed tube, adding more if needed to reach your desired consistency. Season with salt, pepper, and additional lemon juice to taste. Set aside.