Last week, Becca Hyman visited me. She happens to be a friend of my daughter’s and is also the doyenne of “Becca’s Best Bites,” a series of cooking videos on Instagram that features primarily vegetarian and vegan cooking.
I was happy to hand over the kitchen to her during her visit and enjoyed several delicious dishes courtesy of her deft culinary hand.
When asked how she got into cooking and posting, Hyman answered with exuberant good humor.
“My hobby is eating! But really, I give a huge thanks to my mom and dad for their amazing cooking skills. Because of them, I have loved cooking my whole life. For me, cooking provides a way to de-stress and have fun.”
Hyman came to enjoy vegetarian and vegan dishes recently: “I started cooking more vegetarian and vegan recipes during COVID, a time when we all found some new hobbies. I loved the challenge of thinking of some of my favorite dishes and making them without meat.”
When she moved out on her own following her graduation from Brandeis University, Hyman further embraced vegetarian eating.
“I decided to continue to try to eat less meat because it not only made me feel good, but it also was surprisingly cheap,” she said. “As I continued on this journey, my friends, somewhat relentlessly, would encourage me to post about my process. Finally, I decided to create @beccas.bestbites, and I am so happy I did.
“I love sharing my recipes and passion for cooking with the world. Seeing people comment and react that I inspired them to cook something new or just start cooking in the first place is so exciting for me.
We enjoyed these Vietnamese-style summer rolls for lunch, courtesy of Hyman, who is clearly invited back any time. The rolls are supremely adaptable — use whatever fresh veggies you have on hand, as well as any leftover cold meat or fish. The recipe below suggests fried tofu, but we had them with leftover roasted chicken, and they were great.
Vietnamese-Style Summer Rolls
Makes 6 rolls, which serve 2-3 as a main dish or 4-6 as a side
6 rice paper wrappers
2 cups assorted fresh vegetables, cut into thin strips. We used cucumbers, bell peppers, carrots and red cabbage.
6 large sprigs fresh cilantro, chopped
6 large fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 cup protein of choice, if desired, such as fried or grilled tofu, cooked chicken, beef or fish.
Peanut Dipping Sauce
This makes about ⅔ cup; the leftover is great on beef or chicken satay or tossed in cold noodles.
½ cup peanut butter
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce (such as Sriracha)
2 cloves garlic minced
1 teaspoon grated ginger
Splash of sesame oil
¼ cup water (or more depending upon how thick you want the sauce)
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Whisk together all of the peanut dipping sauce ingredients, and set them aside.
Chop the veggies and protein (if using) into thin pieces about 2 inches long.
Fill a large, shallow bowl with warm water — it must be large enough to submerge a wrapper without having it fold over. Make the summer rolls one at a time: Place one wrapper in the water for about 15 seconds until it softens to the texture of a wet noodle. Remove it from the water, gently shake off the excess, dab it on a kitchen towel and place it on a plate or cutting board.
Fill the wrapper as desired with veggies and protein. Fold it together, like a burrito, tucking the ends in. Set it aside on a serving plate, and repeat until all the wrappers and fillings are used.
Note: It will be harder to fold if you overstuff it, but if the rolls come apart, it’s not the end of the world. It will just be more of a knife-and-fork dish than finger food.
Vegan Potato Salad with Mustard and Herbs
Hyman also made this potato salad for a traditional hamburger and hot dog barbecue one night. Although our menu was by no means vegan, this potato salad is.
One comment: I consider myself an open-minded cook and eater, but full disclosure, the sun-dried tomatoes did not really work for me in this dish. The mustardy/herby/oniony vibe was heading in one direction, but the tomatoes were a bit of a left turn. I was, however, in the minority, and the other assembled guests thought the sun-drieds
were a great addition.
2 pounds potatoes cut into bite-sized pieces (we did not peel them)
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
¾ cup chopped celery
¼ cup chopped parsley
¼ cup chopped scallions
3 tablespoons finely chopped
oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped dill
Cook the potatoes in salted boiling water, covered, until tender, about 15 minutes. Cool the potatoes completely — refrigerate to accelerate this process, if desired.
Whisk the oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper in a bowl, and pour it over the potatoes. Toss to coat.
Add the remaining ingredients, and toss them to combine. Let it sit for a few hours if possible to allow the flavors to blend.
Serve at room temperature or chilled.