Genius

This Genius Marinade Brings Vegetables to Life

The stars of this week’s Genius Recipe? A multitasking sauce and whatever’s in the crisper.

April  1, 2020

Every week in Genius Recipes—often with your help!—Food52 Creative Director and lifelong Genius-hunter Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that will change the way you cook.


Bryant Terry wants to help us all eat—and love—more vegetables, no matter what diet we might be following (or not following at all). In my world, it’s been working.

In his newest cookbook Vegetable Kingdom, this recipe alone has helped me make the most of my crisper odds and ends, thanks to a smart, flexible technique and a multitasking sauce that does good work, twice. Bryant designed the recipe for asparagus, but it will help with whatever’s burning a hole in your crisper right now.

We love you, asparagus, but you could be replaced. Photo by Ty Mecham. Prop Stylist: Sophie Strangio. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog.

His first trick is in making a brighter, more effective marinade for the asparagus to drink up. Though you might think of marinades as just flavorful liquids and herbs and spices sloshed together, there are good reasons to consider making them creamy, too.

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Top Comment:
“Warm some up in a pan, add a couple tablespoons of pasta water, toss with fettuccine and maybe a little extra black pepper, and plate with the roasted veg and lemon zest on top... Or chop the vegetable and toss it and the dressing (and maybe some sauteed shallot?) with pearl couscous and a handful of arugula?”
— Andrew W.
Comment

We’ve already started to wake up to the benefits of marinating all sorts of things in mayo-based sauces, due to the way they cling to and coat surfaces, trap flavors, and blister against heat (see: Alabama-style barbecue, this mighty salad, and this New York Times column from our ever-genius friend J. Kenji López-Alt). But Bryant has found a fresh, handy, and fully plant-based alternative: tofu (ideally silken).

Secret star: silken tofu.

You’ll drizzle over the marinade at the end of this recipe, but I’ve also been using it as a ranch-esque dip to make my way through other cut-up veg with no plan—cucumbers, radishes, even husky fennel tops I also didn’t want to throw away. This means I’m eating a lot more of all of them.

Dunkables. Photo by moi @miglorious/Instagram

Here’s Bryant’s fundamental technique we can use with whatever we have on hand:

  1. Blanch the veg to soften it enough to absorb the marinade. This classic move of first boiling in salty water to deactivate the enzymes that cause browning, then shocking in cold to pause the cooking also helps the color and flavor stay bright.

    If you don’t have asparagus, Bryant suggests thick fennel wedges or other big hunks that can hold their own on a grill (or under a broiler); I first jumped to broccoli, because I love drenching mine in lemon and pepper. But with flavors this universal, most vegetables will like them. If you have a few radishes or carrots that need using up, throw them in, too! Their cooking times will vary, but just blanch each vegetable on its own until it’s slightly tender, then haul it out.

  2. Marinate (for about an hour). Make your marinade punchy with acid and spice, both to flavor the veg and because you get to eat it all later. And make it creamy: If you can’t find silken tofu, Bryant suggests using a smaller amount of medium or firm with extra water in a high-powered blender, or simmering down some rice or oat milk to make it thicker and creamier.

  3. Grill (or broil) your marinated veg. This quickly finishes cooking the vegetable through, browns the lingering marinade, and frizzles the tips.

  4. Splash on more marinade-slash-sauce and other brighteners. More lemon zest. More pepper (white, if you’ve got it, to add another layer of spicy funk). And, if you’re like me in the very homemade video above, more thinly sliced coins of asparagus from the tough ends you don’t want to waste (they’re delicious!).
This marinade will have a complete second life as a drizzle and/or dip.

If you have any questions about substitutions, I'm here for you in the comments section below this article. I hope this template inspires you to play with the vegetables you have on hand (and then eat lots of them).

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Perhaps something perfect for beginners? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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I'm an ex-economist, ex-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."

52 Comments

ellen C. April 23, 2020
I just bought some asparagus! Can you use yogurt as a substitute for the tofu?
 
Ilyssa April 2, 2020
Hi Kristen, Thanks so much for doing this now! Will give this a try when I get my hands on some silken tofu. Looks yum. Thanks.
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. April 2, 2020
Of course, thanks so much, Ilyssa—hope you like it when the tofu rolls around.
 
Katie P. April 2, 2020
This looks great! I'll try the coining technique for ends next time I have asparagus too! Thanks for this recipe and the always useful tips along the way! Okay, I'm dying to know though: which song goes with this recipe?! I found the playlist on Spotify and can't wait to listen all the way through! :)
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. April 2, 2020
:) GREAT question .It's "Chonkyfire" by OutKast from Aquemini.
 
Katie P. April 2, 2020
Fun!!! Thanks!
 
Katie P. April 2, 2020
This looks great! I'll try the coining technique for ends next time I have asparagus too! Thanks for this recipe and the always useful tips along the way! Okay, I'm dying to know though: which song goes with this recipe?! I found the playlist on Spotify and can't wait to listen all the way through! :)
 
Andrew W. April 2, 2020
Based on what I've got here I think this will be lemon pepper brussels sprouts. I'm looking at either mascarpone or greek yogurt in the marinade (maybe a mix of the two?).
I'll probably shred the sprouts, then blanch them (I tie up everything in a loosely bundled cheesecloth bag to keep the bits from getting away) for two minutes, toss them in a strainer after marinating to shake off some of the excess, and I'm guessing it will take more like seven or eight minutes under the broiler. We'll see how it goes.

Another thought, this might make a pretty good pasta sauce (and not just because mine may have mascarpone in it). Warm some up in a pan, add a couple tablespoons of pasta water, toss with fettuccine and maybe a little extra black pepper, and plate with the roasted veg and lemon zest on top...
Or chop the vegetable and toss it and the dressing (and maybe some sauteed shallot?) with pearl couscous and a handful of arugula?
 
Yvonne D. April 2, 2020
I'm taking your suggestion for the Brussels sprouts tonight ... with roasted chicken and mini-potatoes, salad. Question on the sprouts -- the shredding -- never thought of that. Quite small? And obviously, right?, you'll marinate after blanching, then under the broiler?
 
Alexandra April 2, 2020
I love your ideas!
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. April 2, 2020
Love it! The one thing I'd caution if using with shredded veg or pasta is to consider dialing back the acid a little, to taste. It's very punchy as-is, which is perfect as a marinade or drizzle or dip, but might be overpowering if there was a higher ratio of sauce to stuff, or if you were eating it as a sauce for your main dish.
 
Andrew W. April 3, 2020
Obviously it depends on how big your sprouts are, but I slice off the bottom (like you would anyway) then stand them up and slice across into 1/8th inch-ish planks. If you have a food processor with a slicing disk open it as wide as it will go.

I haven't had a chance to try this particular recipe yet, but for other recipes I spread the sprouts on a towel lined cookie sheet to dry for about an hour after blanching, you could certainly speed that up by patting them with paper towels. Then, yeah, into the marinade. Because of the surface area more marinade will get trapped among the sprouts, which is why I suggested tossing them briefly in a strainer, then under the broiler. I'd keep a close eye on them while they're in there: seven or eight minutes was an estimate based on how long they normally cook, but I'd hate for you to end up with burned sprouts because I guessed wrong.

Let me know how it goes!
 
Sara April 2, 2020
Loved this recipe, loved this video!
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. April 2, 2020
Thank you, Sara!
 
diane B. April 2, 2020
We don’t have tofu at home. Any possible substitute?
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. April 2, 2020
Hi there, a plant-based option mentioned above is to simmer a non-dairy milk like oat or rice milk to reduce it and make it creamier. Also, any kind of mayo would work, or creamy types of dairy, if you're not trying to stay vegan. The consistencies will vary, so just fiddle with the sauce till it's thick enough to coat and tastes good!
 
Kate April 2, 2020
OOPS! Forgot to say I julienne the asparagus!
 
Kate April 2, 2020
I have taken the woody end of the asparagus, sautéed them in grape seed oil...voila! I add them to salads, omelettes, other veggies...especially great with carrots!

Great interview, great recipe, great to SEE you, Kristen! I echo the sentiments about SEEING your baby.
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. April 2, 2020
Great idea! I'll try that next time. The thin coins that I tried in the video really were delicious, too. And noted about the baby :)
 
Carol W. April 1, 2020
I wittle the end with a vegetable peeler. The loss of green is the sign and the woody versus green makes me know what the waste is. But open to learning what Can do with the woody parts other than yard waste.
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. April 2, 2020
Thank you Carol, this is great to know!
 
Lauren B. April 1, 2020
This look nice! Gotta look for the tofu. I only know where to get it in the Bronx and I'm not going there from upstate NY where I live now. But I just planted 3 asparagus plants so in 3 years I will hopefully be picking my own! I want to see THE BABY! ❤️
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. April 2, 2020
Hi Lauren, please don't go out to get the tofu, just remember to pick some up next time you do see it. For now, I bet you have something else that will work well—here are the subs I'm recommending: Another plant-based option mentioned above is to simmer a non-dairy milk like oat or rice milk to reduce it and make it creamier. Also, any kind of mayo would work, or creamy types of dairy, if you're not trying to stay vegan. The consistencies will vary, so just fiddle with the sauce till it's thick enough to coat and tastes good!
 
Lauren B. April 2, 2020
Thank you! I PROMISE that tofu is perhaps the last thing I would be going out looking for! I have almond milk but since we don’t have asparagus it doesn’t matter. But in several months we will have garlic and Egyptian Walking Onion scapes that I suspect will work well in this recipe. 😋
 
Alexandra April 1, 2020
I wonder if mayonnaise could be used as a substitute for tofu...just a thought. I will be trying this recipe soon.
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. April 2, 2020
Yes! The consistency will be different, so just fiddle with the sauce till it's thick enough to coat and tastes good! Also, this recipe from our longtime community member and columnist EmilyC is a delicious template for marinating in mayo: https://food52.com/recipes/18288-grilled-bread-salad-with-broccoli-rabe-summer-squash
 
Yvonne D. April 1, 2020
I can't eat tofu. What could I substitute, please. It looks delicious!
Thanks.
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. April 2, 2020
Hi there, a plant-based option mentioned above is to simmer a non-dairy milk like oat or rice milk to reduce it and make it creamier. Also, any kind of mayo would work, or creamy types of dairy, if you're not trying to stay vegan. The consistencies will vary, so just fiddle with the sauce till it's thick enough to coat and tastes good!
 
Rachel April 1, 2020
That’s how I do it.
 
chrissie H. April 1, 2020
Is there a substitute for tofu?
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. April 2, 2020
Hi there, a plant-based option mentioned above is to simmer a non-dairy milk like oat or rice milk to reduce it and make it creamier. Also, any kind of mayo would work, or creamy types of dairy, if you're not trying to stay vegan. The consistencies will vary, so just fiddle with the sauce till it's thick enough to coat and tastes good!
 
Kestrel April 1, 2020
Wonderful to watch, Kristen.....but this grandmother, missing her grandbabies, really wanted to see YOUR baby.
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. April 2, 2020
Thanks so much, Kestrel, and I hear you—I'll try to give you a peek next time so you can get your fix!
 
Wendi April 1, 2020
I am not a vegan so I don't feel constrained by that. I do have some lovely Stracciatella (I have a specialty cheese store) which I think would be delicious as a substitute for the tofu....will play around with the basic ingredients but I also see this as a great pasta sauce too!
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. April 1, 2020
Good thinking! It would be delicious, though I'd be a little sad you wouldn't get to enjoy the lovely cheese on its own. You could start with a half batch of the sauce, since I've found that it leaves some leftover, if you want to preserve more for snacking straight.
 
Wendi April 1, 2020
That is a plan! My h'orderves with a little glass of wine! I am really going rogue - no asparagus so using French green beans which I will saute instead of grilling. I also have a few leftover petit potatoes which I will toss in with the green beans & sauce at the end. I am roasting a pork tenderloin with a balsamic, honey, thyme glaze so I think in the end the flavours should work really well together!
 
Wendi April 1, 2020
Just an update - DELICIOUS!!!!
 
Lauren B. April 1, 2020
LOL somebody sent me a thing that says: if you are holding a glass of wine in each hand you will not touch your face by accident!
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. April 2, 2020
Go, Wendi! And trying that tip soon, Lauren B. :)
 
Ebethann April 1, 2020
My mother was a very frugal gardener/cook. The cutoff ends of asparagus were pressure cooked and the cut up and sautéed with tomatoes, or turned into a cold soup with either yoghurt or buttermilk and a bit of lemon juice.
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. April 1, 2020
Great tips, Ebethann.
 
Christine C. April 1, 2020
I don't have tofu, rice milk or oat milk. What about almond milk, safflower mayo or Hellmanns as a substitute?
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. April 1, 2020
Yes! Almond milk could be reduced down as Bryant recommended. Or you could go with either mayo. The consistencies will vary, so just fiddle with the sauce till it's thick enough to coat and tastes good!
 
2nd S. April 1, 2020
DOn't have tofu.. but I like the other ingredients.. can we do without..esp at this time when we can't just run out to the stores.
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. April 1, 2020
Hi there, a plant-based option mentioned above is to simmer a non-dairy milk like oat or rice milk to reduce it and make it creamier. Also, any kind of mayo would work, or creamy types of dairy, if you're not trying to stay vegan. The consistencies will vary, so just fiddle with the sauce till it's thick enough to coat and tastes good!