Thursday, December 13, 2018

Rainbow Raw Pad Thai

Every time I return from a glutenous weekend away, I gravitate towards vegan food. Maybe my body is going through vegetable withdrawal. Or is it simply responding to the fat- and salt-laden meals with a craving for the total opposite? Either way, it's something I am acutely aware of, since I do generally eat carnivorous or pescatarian protein sources daily.

This vegan inkling emerged again over the weekend, despite having travelled nowhere. Instead, it arose as a reactionary to the gorge-with-abandon attitude I seem to have adopted this holiday season. Party after party, event after event, I've embraced one more cookie, said yes! to an extra glass of champagne. All of which is fine, but clearly, my body is asking for some recalibration.

Enter Rainbow Raw Pad Thai. A silky, almond butter-lime dressing decadently envelopes slivered carrots, cabbage, red pepper, and zucchini; most noteworthy is their crunchy texture and uncooked sweetness. Sesame seeds, hemp seeds, and edamame provide ample protein to ensure each bowl yields a satisfying main course. This recipe is vegan food at its finest—in other words, its so delicious, so flavorful yet nutritious, that acknowledging the lack of animal-based protein comes as an afterthought, if at all.

Let's dive further into the raw aspect of the dish—clearly, the steaming bowl of rice noodles that is associated with pad thai this recipe is not. I've been besottedly watching Salt Fat Acid Heat on Netflix (if you aren't familiar with the docuseries or James Beard Award-winning cookbook, chef Samin Nosrat asserts that the secret to great cooking lies not in measurements and precision, but rather a mastery of these four titular elements.) Shifting from a granular, ingredient-minded approach to a four-pronged fundamental one has reshaped the way I think about my dishes entirely. If we were to apply Nosrat's philosophy here, soy sauce provides the salt, almond butter and sesame oil the fat, lime juice the acid, but heat is missing—intentionally.  Surprisingly, the vegetables' sweet flavors are best showcased without warmth, their snappy texture tempered only by the sleek dressing. In other words, salt, fat, and acid are so boldly represented that the dressing needs the juxtaposition of taut, chomping ingredients to provide the requisite "tension", or contrasting flavors and textures, that make for a great dish. Though I promise eating it is a totally stress-free experience :)

Rainbow Raw Pad Thai (from Oh She Glows)
Makes 2 large portions


For the salad
1 medium zucchini, julienned or spiralized
2 large carrots, julienned
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
1 cup thinly sliced red cabbage
3/4 cup frozen edamame, thawed
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed and diced (optional, added by me)
1/2 cup cilantro leaves (optional, added by me)
1 Tbsp hemp seeds
1 tsp sesame seeds

For the dressing
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup raw almond butter (or peanut butter)
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp low-sodium tamari
2 Tbsp water
2.5 tsp pure maple syrup (or other sweetener)
1/2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
hot red chili flakes (optional, if you like heat)

1. Prep vegetables. Add the zucchini, carrots, pepper, jalapeno, cilantro, and cabbage into one or two large bowls. Toss with hands to combine.
2. Prepare the dressing by processing all dressing ingredients in a mini processor (or simply whisk by hand). The dressing may seem a bit thin at first, but it thickens as it sits.
3. Top bowls with edamame, scallion, hemp seeds, and sesame seeds. Pour on dressing and enjoy!

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Sweetgreen Curry Cauliflower Bowl

Sweetgreen, every millennial's favorite salad spot, isn't trending for naught. Its innovative and toothsome concoctions, with their perfectly balanced textures, flavors, and ingredients, unequivocally warrant its cult-like following. Case in point: I am a fervent Spicy Sabzi and Curry Chickpea girl, admittedly taking utter delight in the latter's newest seasonal variation, the Curry Cauliflower Bowl.

Delight, that in an odd turn of events, quickly turned competitive. Sweetgreen discloses the ingredients of every single one of its salads on the internet, down to the ubiquitous "umami seasoning" you'll find sprinkling most proteins. After reading the list, I was convinced I could make the bowl in my own kitchen. But would it be as good? The challenge was on, Sweetgreen vs Rachel: a Curry Cauliflower Bowl hack.

I'm thrilled to report that the hack was an overwhelming success. The salad was delicious, and I've been smugly toting my Tupperware of Curry Cauliflower to work each day, passing my local Sweetgreen and picturing the line that will be snaking out the door in just three hours time. Was it a lot of work? Yes, and at points I wished someone was eagerly mixing the salad for me as I painstakingly assembled my homemade bowl. But at the end of the day—when I didn't have to mine through greenery to get to the salad's jewels, and large chunks of chicken and cauliflower were overly abundant, because, well, I wanted them to be—the extra effort was worth it.

Full disclaimer, Sweetgreen lovers: the list of ingredients for each topping and dressing is exhaustive, but not quantified, so I had to do a lot of tasting and seasoning as I went; a lot of "handful if this, pinch of that". I was able to find the cauliflower recipe on the Sweetgreen blog, but only used about half the ingredients listed in the cucumber tahini yogurt dressing. It was still fantastic, and definitely the type of dressing that's worth keeping on hand in the fridge. A thin version works nicely as a dressing, but made a little thicker, it becomes more Tzatziki-like, and can serve as a marinade to poultry or pita and raw veggie dip.

Sweetgreen Curry Cauliflower Bowl
Makes 3-4 portions

1 ½ cup cooked quinoa (about ½ cup raw)
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 head cauliflower, chopped into 1-inch florets (about 3-4 cups)
½ head medium red cabbage, thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
¾ cup cilantro leaves
½ cup golden raisins
5 oz arugula
1 small cucumber, peeled and chopped (about 1 cup)
¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
4 Tbsp tahini
Juice of 1 lemon
1 clove of garlic
2 Tbsp curry powder
½ Tbsp garlic powder
½ Tbsp onion powder
½ Tbsp chili powder
½ Tbsp nutritional yeast
6 Tbsp olive oil, divided

1. Make the cauliflower. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine florets, curry powder, 2 Tbsp olive oil, and ½ tsp salt in a large bowl. Spread on a baking sheet, and roast for 25-30 minutes.

2. Make the chicken. In a small bowl, make the "umami seasoning", combining garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, nutritional yeast, and ½ tsp salt. Pound chicken breasts until they are of uniform thickness, then toss chicken with seasoning and 2 Tbsp olive oil. Bake, along with cauliflower, for 15 minutes. After removing from oven, cover chicken with tin foil and let sit for 10 minutes. Slice through, and if chicken is still pink, cook for 5 more minutes.

3. Make the dressing. Combine cucumber, yogurt, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, 2 Tbsp cilantro, 2 Tbsp olive oil, and generous shake of salt and pepper in a blender. Pulse, taste, repeat. If dressing is too thick, add in water, 1 Tbsp at a time.

4. Assemble the salads. Layer 2 large handfuls of arugula, ½ cup warm quinoa, ~¼ cup diced chicken, ¼ cup cauliflower, ¼ cup cabbage, 2 Tbsp raisins, and 2 Tbsp of cilantro leaves in each bowl. Drizzle with 3 Tbsp dressing. Toss, and season with salt, pepper, or more dressing if needed.