If you know me at all well, you know that I am a die-hard carnivore. Nothing makes me happier than a big steak set before me. My favorite meal to cook is a roast chicken (Hello Julia, hello Ina, I love you both). I can take down a dozen oysters quicker than you can say, “Where’s the mignonette?”. And cheese, oh cheese, nothing can soothe a soul like cheese. But as articles like this one become more and more prevalent, and food becomes a larger and larger piece of our communal dialogue, it has become clear to me that perhaps there are some ways to improve my eating habits that wouldn’t hurt too much and may actually be, gasp, fun.
If you didn’t click on the above link or didn’t feel like reading five thousand words about nutrition, I’ll sum up (well, he’ll sum up) the journalist and researcher Michael Pollan’s theory about healthy eating: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” With that as my guide, and with a few, vocal mostly-vegans in my life, I decided to make my 2016 New Years Resolution Vegan Monday. As someone who loves to cook new and different things, it seemed like a fun project. I would certainly bring in some new recipes to my repertoire; since I couldn’t add flavor in the ways I’m used to- add butter, add cheese, add heavy cream- I’d be forced to come up with new methods of adding flavor. This could only help my cooking game. Since weekends are usually a time of indulgence, it seemed like Mondays could be a good time to reset the system a little. Often in my line of work we get requests for more vegan products, so it seemed it couldn’t be a bad career move to get to know that customer.
Short of a couple falls off the wagon (mostly in the form of “Doh! I forgot it’s Monday and put cream in my coffee.”), I have now been doing vegan Monday for three months and, believe it or not, I’ve survived. It is a nice reset for the system after the weekend. It makes me feel healthier, more present, and it has definitely forced me to leave my comfort zone when cooking. I think veganism freaks a lot of people out- it surely freaked me out and don’t even think about asking me to do it forever- but once you get the hang of it, some deliciousness surely emerges. Almond milk is a great substitute for the milk in your coffee. Coconut milk can bring a creamy, Asian twist to your cooking. Tahini adds umami and body to anything from salad dressings to vegetable stir fries to grain dishes. There are few things more delicious than an avocado-and-olive-oil shmeared piece of toast.
The biggest challenge has come in the form of feeding my hungry husband for dinner. A light salad with no protein will not cut it. The man hates soup (I know, don’t get me started). He needs DINNER. We’ve had some hits and certainly some misses. With that in mind, I thought I’d share some of our favorites and perhaps inspire you to try out a vegan day (or even single meal) yourself. What’s the worst that could happen? You can get right back to the cheese on Tuesday.
Do you know any fantastic vegan blogs I should be following? Let me know!
First up, quick, and totally appropriate for Spring, Vegan Farro Bowls with White Bean Hummus. These could totally use any other vegetable you’d like to add like spinach, asparagus, or green beans. This is what I had on hand. The key is bringing some depth with the hummus and brightness with the radishes and herbs.
1 cup Farro (I use Trader Joe’s 10 Minute Farro because it has been par-cooked- normal farro cooks in 40-50 min)
Couple tablespoons olive oil
1/2 yellow onion or two spring onions, thinly sliced
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 zucchini or other summer squash, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
Half head of cauliflower, florets chopped, or Trader Joe’s Riced Cauliflower (about a cup)
1 tsp lemon zest plus juice from 1/2 lemon
3-4 radishes, thinly sliced
1 cup fava beans (fresh shelled, or frozen)
Handful assorted leafy herbs (I used parsley, basil, and mint) finely chopped
1/2 cup Store-bought hummus or white bean hummus, recipe below
Combine sliced radishes in a small bowl with 1 tablespoon of kosher salt to quick pickle while you prepare everything else. They will turn more translucent and release some liquid.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add farro. Cook according to package instructions and remove from pot when al dente. Add fava beans to pot and cook until bright green and tender, about five minutes.
Meanwhile, add olive oil to a large skillet. Add onion and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about five minutes. Add garlic, zucchini, and cauliflower, and continue cooking until soft, another five minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add cooked farro and fava beans and combine. Season with more salt and pepper and stir in lemon zest and juice just before serving.
Spread 1/4 cup hummus on the bottom of two pasta bowls. Spoon 2 cups farro and vegetable mixture over hummus in each bowl. Sprinkle pickled radishes and chopped herbs over each bowl and serve.
Perfect Pairing: A chilled glass of crisp rosé (I’m drinking Ruza White Zinfandel). Hello spring!
White Bean Hummus
1 can white (cannelini) beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup tahini paste
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 garlic clove, smashed
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup assorted leafy herbs (again, I used basil, mint, and parsley), roughly chopped
Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. You will have plenty of extra to serve with pita chips while you cook everything else.