Yep, my dad was right

In the summer of 2001 I was divorcing my first husband, high tailing it out of a town I didn’t want to live in, and had my sights set on joining one of two friends as soon as the ink dried on my divorce papers: either a sorority sister who had just moved to downtown Chicago, or one of my closest high school friends who was leaving Chicago for NYC. After a lifetime of bouncing around Iowa, Illinois, then back to Iowa while growing up, I didn’t feel at home anywhere and wanted to get as far away from the Midwest as humanly possible (on the shoestring budget of a newly divorced twenty-something). My father got a little misty eyed and said something to the effect of “If you move to New York, you’ll never want to move anywhere else, ever again. But it would be great if you decide to give Chicago a chance, even if it’s just for a few years.” He said it with reverence and nostalgia for the New York he immigrated to several decades earlier as a teenager.

By the time my divorce was finalized I decided to humor my parents and scheduled one day of back-to-back interviews in Chicago, just in case my friend John’s laissez-faire advice of “Move here. Crash at my place. You’ll totally find something!” didn’t pan out. My interviews were on the 11th of September. I ended up moving to Chicago.

Chicago was the first – the only – place I’ve ever truly felt at home. I moved there on the weekend of the Chicago Marathon (I ran my first of several the very next year), lived next door to the most beautiful library I’ve ever laid eyes on, dated half the city, knew the Lake Michigan running path like the back of my hand, cocooned myself in a very large vegan bubble, and despite my very best efforts managed to meet someone worth marrying and even let him knock me up. I swore up and down that I would never ever ever leave Chicago. (I still don’t know how I ended up in North Carolina, but we’re having a blast.)

That fella I married almost a decade ago, well, we took a little trip to Brooklyn Heights last week. We’ve both been to NYC on our own, but I wasn’t married and definitely wasn’t a parent my last visit out, so I was seeing things through a different prism.  We tromped around a couple of the boroughs, but really we just settled into the Heights and soaked it all up while I thought to myself, yep, my dad was right.

red door blue bikeFDNY 205Peaks b&wpromenadejapanese magnolia envycasting shadows on brickbedroom window

 

sunrise sun rise

Obligatory sunrise photos from the promenade.

 

TeresasThe reason my mother-in-law was worried I wouldn’t find anything to eat? She dined at Teresa’s almost every night, and yes, it was difficult finding something vegan. Smack dab in the middle of their menu was a rocket-radicchio-pear salad that was so big I needed help to finish it. Unexpected victory never tasted better.

 

CHAMPSA quick hop and transfer on the MTA led us to this joint, which was in the vicinity of Nitehawk Cinema (we’re cinema folks; it made us very very happy).

 

Veg GingerNestled atop some eatery called Andy’s is a Chinese vegan mecca.

The green awning above Andy’s was home to Vegetarian Ginger, a vegan restaurant we stumbled into our first afternoon in BH, mostly because it was two blocks from the apartment. We hadn’t eaten anything of substance in about twelve hours, and after a horrible Griswaldesque start to our vacation of which our four hour flight delay was the least of our annoyances, we were so hungry that we ordered two appetizers and three entrees. Several days later, I’m still dreaming about the miso mushroom soup and pineapple avocado rice I had there.  Last night while walking the grounds I still had them in mind as I picked some green garlic and baby kale. I worked out how to combine the components of both dishes into one, and my new favorite Buddha bowl was on the table an hour later.

buddha bowlsI promise the food tastes umpteen million times better than it looks!

Pineapple avocado Buddha bowl with mushrooms and green garlic

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This dish is very adaptable to whatever vegetables are in season. I went with white rice because I was out of brown, but I know I’ll make this again with quinoa, millet or barley. I especially like the combination of having both cooked and raw components; I shredded my raw vegetables and folded them into the rice with the miso, which had just enough warmth to wilt them without overheating the miso. A simple dusting of hemp hearts finished this dish off, but I think sliced almonds, cashews, or a spicy peanut sauce would also be lovely. It’s a nourishing bowl, intended to soothe your current cravings.

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1 1/2 cups short grain rice
1 teaspoon coconut oil
1 cup pineapple chunks, fresh or frozen
1 cup sliced mushrooms of choice
1 stalk green garlic, thinly sliced, divided
Dash each of ground ginger, ground coriander, and white pepper
1 carrot, grated
3-4 leaves baby kale, minced (size of grated carrot)
2 tablespoons shiro (white) miso
1/2 avocado, diced
2 tablespoons hemp hearts

Rinse the rice briefly one or two times in a fine sieve, then combine in a heavy-bottomed pot with 2 cups water. Bring the pot to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cover tightly. After twenty minutes, check once to make sure the water has all been absorbed; if not, let it simmer a few more minutes, taking care that the rice at the bottom of the pan doesn’t scorch. Turn off the heat but keep the rice covered for another ten minutes to let it rest.

In a small skillet or sauté pan, heat up the coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add the pineapple pieces and brown them on both sides. Turn the flame down to medium and add half of the sliced garlic, all of the sliced mushrooms, and the ground spices. Stir frequently until the mushrooms are wilted and have released most of their water; remove from heat and leave uncovered.

When the rice is done resting, remove the lid, fluff it with a fork, and let it cool for a couple of minutes. Add one cup of cooked rice to a bowl. Fold in 1 tablespoon miso, half of the carrot and kale, and half of the remaining uncooked garlic. Once this is mixed, make room in the bowl for half of the pineapple-mushroom mixture, and half of the avocado. Repeat for the second bowl, mixing the remainder of the carrot, kale, garlic and miso into the rice, and adding the remaining pineapple mixture and avocado to the second bowl. Sprinkle each with one tablespoon of hemp hearts, and serve while still warm.

Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 15 minutes active, 40 total | Yield: 2 bowls

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Chock-a-block

There are only so many things a mother can sneak into her daughter’s smoothie before suspicion is aroused. Blackstrap molasses? check. Steel cut oats? check-check. Greens? Not on your life. Not so much as a piece of granny smith apple peel, let alone anything leafy, have made it past Nina’s discerning eye. Fortunately, her voracious appetite for all things pasta lends itself the perfect Plan B: pesto.


I didn’t sell her on pesto right away; Nina has yet to develop a fondness for garlic, something I can hardly conceive of making a pesto without. She does, however, enjoy the subtle garlicky kiss of fresh chives, which make a decent substitution. Couple that with her unbridled delight in seeing all manner of things get stuck in my braces every night at dinnertime, and a pesto lover was born. I quickly upped the ante and managed to come up with a nutritionally dense pesto she loves.

Unlike most foods, this tastes best right away, rather than after the obligatory flavor melding that most recipes benefit from. Despite it’s being raw, the distinct cabbage-y, brassica-ness of the kale emerges after a couple of days. This also happens if you heat it up, for instance when used in a grilled BLT – however: when tempered with vegan mayo, a thick slice of just-picked tomato and your favorite version of bacon, nothing could taste better. (Have I confused you yet?)

Kale pesto: chock full of hippie goodness

2 bunches kale leaves
1 small handful fresh chives
1 large handful basil
Juice of one lemon
2 T white miso
6 T olive oil
1/2 C hemp hearts
Salt to taste

Rinse and pat dry all of your greens. De-rib your kale leaves and cut into thumb-sized pieces. Place half of the kale plus all remaining ingredients into your food processor and pulse until a paste begins to form. Add the remaining kale and additional oil or lemon juice, if needed. Pulse to desired pesto consistency. Keeps for up to one week in the refrigerator, especially if you add a thin layer of oil over the top. Freezes well.

Yield: 2-3 cups

Prep time: 15-30 minutes (depending on your kale de-ribbing abilities), Cook time: n/a