"It's been fun. I try not to cook pasta, because my wife might make pasta during the week when the kids have activities like volleyball practice," says Citrin. "During the winter time, I do a lot of stews. We make a veggie burger ahead of time that we can heat up the next day."
He's had a vegetarian tasting menu (vegan upon request) at Mélisse for 14 years, inspired by the challenge of working with the seasonality of produce. "You can get meat products almost all year long. You can go to the farmers market and find some mushrooms that you can't find all year or asparagus that are beautiful and sweet."
He's been looking forward to tomatoes the most for the summer season. He'll use them in recipes like a tomato soup with braised beans and a poached egg. He is just as likely to eat them raw though. "All you need is some salt, pepper, basil, and olive oil. When you cut into it, there's that perfect texture and sweetness. I just find that to be so satisfying."
For home cooks, he recommends keeping certain staples at hand to save time. "There are good canned beans without a lot of chemicals or premade low-sodium vegetable stocks." When it comes to meatless dinners, he advises to look into how a favorite dish can be converted -- what can be substitute or taken out.
"You can get creative with it. Take tacos for instance. It's an easy dish to make. You can marinate portobello mushrooms in the same recipe you'd marinate a carne asada, grill them, chop them up really fine, and make them into a taco."
He'll make an allowance for tempeh sold at the farmers markets in Venice, Culver City, and Hollywood, but in general he avoids using processed meat substitutes in his cooking. "For protein, I'll use lentils or garbanzo beans."
The biggest hit with the family thus far has been a portobello, kale, and black bean enchilada with a tomatillo sauce. It's a dish that falls in line with Citrin's culinary principle of creating composed dishes. "It's taking into account the different flavors and textures and how all these ingredients play off each other."
Turn the page to find Citrin's recipe for tomato soup with braised cannellini beans and a poached egg: