Spring (Apr–Jun) 2024 Quarter Cookbook of the Month: TENDERHEART

Welcome to the reporting thread for one of our Spring Quarter 2024 COTMs, TENDERHEART: A Book About Vegetables and Unbreakable Family Bonds by Hetty Lui McKinnon.


To report on a recipe, put the name of the recipe in ALL CAPS and include the page number, if it’s available to you. If you are the first to post about a recipe, please reply to this post. If someone has already posted about the recipe, reply to their post so all the posts about each recipe are linked for easy reference.

To respect the author’s copyright, please don’t post photos or verbatim copies of recipes. Links to recipes online are welcome, and you may post ingredients and summarize instructions in your own words.


I made a few changes in the cooking method. The cauliflower is supposed to be charred in a skillet, but I air-fried it. The tofu is dredged in seasoned chickpea flour and is supposed to be pan-fried in the same skillet as the cauliflower, but I deep fried it. I dredged the shallots in the remainder of the chickpea flower and fried them right behind the tofu. The peanut sauce is supposed to be cooked in a saucepan, I used less water and just whisked everything in a bowl, no cooking. I also tweaked the ingredients in the sauce a bit. Used ground chiles instead of flakes, and upped the amount. There is supposed to be a hard boiled egg served with this dish, but I just skipped it. The remaining two components are just some cucumber and sprouts - those are raw. Next time I might broil the cauliflower in the oven, and air fry the tofu in the Breville SmartOven. We liked this, but I feel I could play around with it a bit and get it more dialed in to my taste.




I’m not going to go back and post all the recipes I’ve already made from this book, but I am going to hit on the ones that I remember well enough to comment on. This one definitely left an impression. A good one! It’s kind a hybrid Korean stew. We’ve got kimchi, gochujang, and gochugaru providing the flavoring. I used my homemade kimchi (from an Edward Lee recipe) that was well-aged. Soft tofu, zucchini, onion, garlic, and scallions provide the bulk. This is really simple to make, if you have the ingredients, and absolutely delicious.



I mentioned this recipe in the nomination thread. In this ingenious riff on mapo tofu, eggplant cooked soft plays the role of silken tofu, while crumbled firm tofu plays the role of ground meat. I really liked this, but thought the seasoning was not quite on par with my normal versions of mapo tofu, so I’d tweak it a bit going forward.



I made this last June when I had zucchini out the wazoo, and I was on the zucchini-with-every-meal plan. It has a gluten-free and vegan option written into the recipe, so I didn’t have to worry about converting it. Yuzu juice in the cake and in the glaze made this cake just different enough to be special. The cake worked beautifully and I enjoyed it. It made a great first breakfast when I had to get up early for the first test firing of my kiln. Picture is horrible, but it was taken at 5 am.



I didn’t have high expectations for this dish, I just slapped it on the to-make list and bought the ingredients because I figured there would be a night when things got out of hand and I would need something quick and easy. Last night was that night. I closed up the studio early enough and was all set to cook a couple dishes from Dakshin, but I had an unplanned phone call, and a long and not very pleasant discussion, so after that, I just wanted something simple. So I was glad to have this recipe ready to go.

I changed the cooking order a bit. I never understand why an author will have you cook pasta before make the sauce for said pasta. Even for a pasta salad, it doesn’t make sense. So I started with the pesto. You oil and season some cauliflower and roast it in the oven for 10 minutes. Add some similarly oiled and seasoned kale at that point and roast for another 10 minutes. You put a portion of the cauliflower and kale in a blender or food processor along with some toasted walnuts, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and olive oil, and blend to make a pesto. I used the mini processor attachment for my stick blender. While the cats were getting fed, I boiled the pasta, drained it, and rinsed under cold water. To serve, you mix the pasta with the pesto, some more lemon zest and juice, and the remaining kale, cauliflower, and toasted walnuts. You are supposed to plop a ball of burrata on top, but I omitted it.

Turns out, this recipe is more than the sum of its parts. It was delicious. I did not miss the burrata at all, it isn’t needed here. I feel like the walnuts do enough that the dish doesn’t want any kind of cheese - it would just muddy the flavors. One change I did make was to put more of the kale than called for into the pesto. Not sure it made that much difference, but the recipe had you only put 30 grams of the cooked kale into the pesto, which is not much at all. And I just wanted a greener pesto. This was garlicky, and with a great contrast of textures from the walnuts and just tender cauliflower against the pasta. Not the prettiest dish, as you can see from the photo, but tasted much better than it looked.