At Heyday, we are ALL about making it easy and effortless to whip up delightful meals. We're chatting with some of our favorite chefs and recipe developers to learn more about they approach weeknight cooking. Today, Lukas Volger is joining us to chat all things easy breezy cooking.
Lukas, welcome to the Heyday kitchen! For those not already in the know, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hi! I’ve been working as a cookbook author and a recipe developer for almost 15 years, but I’ve done a few other things during that time as well — I ran a line of “ready-to-shape” veggie burgers called Made by Lukas throughout the Tri-State area, I founded and edited a queer food journal called Jarry, and I always do a fair amount of editing and writing. I love working in food and love to cook every day. Truly, I never get bored of it.
How would you describe your general approach to weeknight cooking?
I really like simple cooking. I know that simple means different things to different people, but for me it’s about centering fresh produce and whole foods and preparing them in straightforward, weeknight-friendly ways, and by making sure there’s variety in what I eat, and that I do everything I can to minimize food waste. So it’s often cooking with what I’ve got. My favorite kinds of recipes are those that sound delicious and then, upon closer review, don’t require a trip to the grocery store because I already have all the ingredients on hand—that’s the kind of recipe I’m always trying to write.
Give us an imaginary tour of your pantry. What do you always make sure to keep on hand?
Well I always have beans, both dried and canned. I always have an assortment of nuts and seeds, eggs, a hard cheese, a block of tofu or two, several types of vinegar, good soy sauce, a few different types of cooking and drizzling oil. Lately people have been sending me a lot of chili oil – my condiment shelf is generally a revolving door of new things to try. I tend to shop for produce seasonally and more frequently, either at the produce shop near where I live or at the farmers market, which is set up a few times a week here in NYC. We do a big weekly or bi-weekly shop for non-perishables, and then a few little shops a week for produce and more perishable things.
What’s a meal you whipped up super quick that ended up being a total banger?
One of my favorite things lately was this Pressed Broccoli Rabe & Cheese! I could eat that every night.
What’s on your kitchen playlist these days?
I love this question because I’m always likening songs to recipes and albums to cookbooks, the way each seeks expression within a pretty conventional form, and how they get organized in these cookbooks/albums that seek to connect them to common themes. Maybe this is a generous read of my profession…. Anyway, lately I’ve been revisiting Wilco, getting to know the jazz singer Carmen Lundy, and loving the new Carly Rae Jepsen album The Loneliest Time, which is so fun and clever. And Norah Jones’ new podcast “Playing Along” has been one of my favorite new things to listen to while I cook.
Do you ever find yourself at the end of a long day, staring blankly into the fridge, trying to figure out what you can cook for dinner without having to schlep to the store for ingredients? What’s your go-to meal on those kinds of nights?
In those instances I lean on toast, pasta, or rice, and find some kind of quick, satisfying thing to put on top of it. Or if I’m not feeling starchy, I do treat a few big handfuls of salad greens as the base. Often a fried egg does the trick, and I’ll raid my condiments shelf to give it a bit more zest — chili oil, kimchi, pesto, a drizzle of soy sauce, chimichurri… or just a little hard cheese and olive oil. A meal rarely feels complete to me if there aren't any greens, so I’ll usually wilt them and add them as well.
Obviously, we are big bean fiends over here. What are some of your favorite ways to build a meal that puts beans front and center on the plate?
There’s too many to count! I do love beans over toast – that’s another easy meal for those low-energy nights. But I generally try to keep a quart container of cooked beans in the fridge at all times, which I add to almost everything – my salads, pastas, frittatas. I’ve been enjoying Heyday beans in wraps and over toast, and I also love to any kind of bean over polenta, along with the salty broth if they’re home-cooked ones. I’m also always riffing on beans and greens. Beans are also great when added to big, fork-able noodles — add the al dente pasta to the brothy beans, and then let it all cook together a bit until things thicken.
Can you share a few of your favorite recipes for easy, effortless meals?
I love this Cheesy Cabbage and White Bean Soup. This newer recipe for One-Pot Orzo with Tomatoes and Eggplant has been a big hit, too. And I always love these Carrot and White Bean Veggie Burgers – and in fact, I bet that your Kimchi Sesame Navy Beans would be excellent in there.
Where can people go to discover more of your delicious recipes?
I recently started a weekly recipe newsletter called Family Friend that I’m having a lot of fun with – but also make sure to check out my books, and the recipes on my website! And Instagram is where I tend to share on-the-fly stuff.