Blue Apron box review featuring Vegetable Bibimbap, Brown Butter & Chestnut Gnocchi, and Spiced Lentil Stew.

Blue Apron Box Review: Various Winter Veggies

It’s time for our last Blue Apron of the year! Hard to believe it, but kinda glad. 2016 has sure been a beast. Anyway, we’re going all vegetarian for this last box, which features:

It was kind of an accident that this is a meat-free box. We do vegetarian weeks fairly often when I’m meal planning, but it has been a while since we tried it with Blue Apron. Typically we have been more impressed with the vegetarian dishes they offer, not because of the quality of the meat, but because they tend to push the boundaries of vegetarian dishes more than I typically see. When we started with Blue Apron, we went exclusively vegetarian for about a month! So I was excited to see what they had in store for us this week. 

Vegetable Bibimbap

Blue Apron Review Vegetable Bibimbap
THIS MIGHT BE MY GREATEST PLATING ACCOMPLISHMENT YET

Strangely enough, I had never had or heard of bibimbap until I started at my current job. We get lunch catered from Whole Foods four days a week, and our health and wellness team likes to mix up the menus regularly. I quickly learned that mix mix bibimbap was one of my favorite days for lunch! The mixed vegetables, rice, fried egg, kimchi, and flavorful sauces are such a perfectly balanced meal to power you through the day.

Anyway, this dish was classic Blue Apron in its finest form. Get a starch going, pickle something, saute some veggies, reduce a sauce, quickly cook protein last, and plate! This is the Blue Apron I fell in love with. The persimmon and watermelon radish “pickle” was bright, crisp, and tart. It really delivered in balancing against the sticky, salty sauce made from the black bean paste and gochujang. Typically I am very cautious with anything Blue Apron says to use my discretion when added, due to spiciness. But I went whole hog with the gochujang as it was PHENOMENAL! It reminded me of the classic chili garlic paste you see at every pho restaurant, except meatier somehow. Once it had reduced with the red choi and sweet potato, it ensconced the dish in a warming, spicy glow.

I have nothing bad to say about this recipe. It was filling but not rich, and I felt great going into my workout an hour after eating this. Relatively smooth prep and cook time and instructions. A+ on this one, Blue Apron, and thank you!

Brown Butter & Chestnut Gnocchi

Blue Apron Review Brown Butter Chestnut Gnocchi
Ugh just look at that pea shoot / radish ratio…

I would be lying if I said that this recipe wasn’t the sole reason why I picked this box. I love gnocchi, the little pillows of starchy goodness. Add brown butter and chestnuts and what a seasonal treat! Now, because of the special nature of this chestnut gnocchi, I have to give this dish a special review. For the first time ever, I am splitting this review into two grades: one for the main dish and one for the salad.

Chestnut gnocchi: B. It was good! Hearty, easy, and comforting. It would have been improved if the brussels and onion had been cooked in bacon instead (I know, Blue Apron always has to have enough vegetarian options) but it was enjoyable as designed. The flavor was a tiny bit flat, and we had to add extra salt at the end, but it was definitely a serviceable entree.

THE SALAD, HOWEVER. The radish and pea shoot salad in mascarpone lemon sauce gets a big fat F. There was NOTHING redeeming about this side. The pea shoots are awkward to eat because they won’t stay on your fork and then poke your mouth. The instructions didn’t even tell me to halve them, but I’m thankful I called an audible on that to make them somewhat more manageable. The radish to pea shoot ratio was off (we did not need two whole radishes for this) and the peppery radish was misaligned with the creamy tangy sauce. The finished product resembled a hipster take on coleslaw. I forced mine down but Eric gave up and he was the dinner winner in that regard.

Spiced Lentil Stew

Blue Apron Review Spiced Lentil Stew with Sweet Sour Cauliflower
This smelled so good I could barely pause long enough to take this pic.

After last week’s chowder debacle, I should approach this stew with a degree of wariness. However, I think they are in better shape just by calling it a “stew” instead of a “chowder” — less margin for error. But, good news ahead. 

This recipe was easy to follow, the prep work was actually minimal, and everything just made sense. The spice level on the lentils was excellent; we used about a quarter of the spice blend. The cauliflower was a cinch — roast, flour, re-roast. The rice flour was a new ingredient in our house. I had never used it for crisping vegetables but absolutely would add this trick to our arsenal.

Toasting the naan was nice, but not absolutely necessary. I prefer my naan a little more pillow-y, but it definitely worked a trick at scooping up the lentils. All in all, this was a very flavorful and satisfying dish, especially on a chilly night and after a workout. We had no leftover lentils, but some cauliflower, and it was just as good the next day. This bad boy earned a solid A and seemed easy and accessible enough to try again on our own someday.

Thank you, Blue Apron! We had quite a run of it in 2016. Can’t wait to see what you bring to our table in 2017! (But first, a month of #Whole30!)

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