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Vegan Weekend

Whenever Luke says he’s coming up to the house, I immediately think two things: “Yay! Another experimenter in the kitchen!” and “Yay! Another late sleeper!”

Luke and I bonded as soon as his father introduced us. First came the sarcasm, for which I proudly believe I introduced him to, (or at least was the first female to do so). On the heels of that came what I’ll defensively call our shared belief that lethargy is highly underrated. While Astrid and Bertrand are of the first on/last off the mountain types when we ski together, I’m always grateful to Luke for wanting to linger in the lodge for another cup of hot cocoa, or call it a day before the lifts actually close. It makes us a very balanced foursome.Screen shot 2016-03-21 at 10.18.27 PM

Luke has always been super quick with a clever joke. He’s also painfully perceptive–and I say painfully since the perception was often aimed at me, especially when he was a wise-ass teen. I lost count of the number of times he’d let me know when I over-used a word or phrase, or repeated the same joke in his presence. It smarted a tiny bit, but I did appreciate the editor in him.

As he’s matured, the comments have softened from snark to insight and thoughtfulness, and his chill vibe is so pleasant to be around. So when he asked if he could bring some friends up to the house, we were psyched. IMG_0627

With a late Friday night arrival, followed by catching up in the kitchen, Team Lethargic won out on Saturday morning, and we all slept until the sun was bursting through our windows. We brought Eric and Arjun to our favorite hike, then the boys headed into town for fried chicken at the Prairie Whale, while Bertrand and I stayed home and planned the dinner menu.

Not to stereotype, but one might scratch one’s head at our decision to go vegan when the dinner table was mostly guys. It was a purely selfish, if  not predestined, move on my part. I’d wanted to make Yotam Ottolenghi’s Warm Glass Noodles and Edamame Bean Salad ever since friends served it at a dinner back in January. Various dinner dates have kept us from doing our own cooking, so this quiet night was our first opportunity. But something about the dish felt too Summery to make when it was 34 degrees outside, even with the word ‘warm’ being in its title.

The problem with Yotam is that once you’ve entered Yotam’s world, you have no desire to leave it. So we just flipped a few chapters ahead and found our new menu: Quinoa Porridge with Garlic Tomatoes and Herb Oil and Steamed Eggplant with Sesame and Green Onion.

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I added cilantro to the herb oil recipe. The feta comes later.

As I’d hoped, the meal was a group effort: I made the quinoa, Bertrand steamed the eggplant and Luke made the sesame and green onion sauce.

It wasn’t our best. My quinoa overpowered the tomatoes, and there wasn’t enough herb oil to hold its own within all that grain. Bertrand’s eggplants, though medium-sized as was called for, were too big, so steaming them to the desired softness took forever. He finally gave up and cheated, cutting his into strips, then sauteeing them. Luke’s sesame seasoning, on the other hand, was magical. It gave the aubergines the most delicious flavoring.

Like well-mannered guests, our guests complimented the meal and cleaned their plates, which made me glad we had an abundance of remaining quinoa for leftovers. The next day at lunchtime, as I took it out of the fridge, I heard the boys come into the kitchen. I smiled to myself as I set a frying pan on the stove.

“Need anything from town?” Luke asked.

I turned around to see the three of them in their jackets. “We’re going back to Prairie Whale,” he shrugged. “Trying the burger this time!”

“Have fun!” I enthused, hiding my disappointment. No, not disappointment that they weren’t asking for more quinoa and eggplant. Disappointed that we weren’t joining them. Maybe it was time to see if Mark, the owner of Prairie Whale, would share that fried chicken recipe…

 

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Steamed Eggplant with Sesame and Green Onion (serves four)

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium eggplants, topped and peeled (scant 1 1/2 lb/650 g)
  • 5 green onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced on the diagonal (3/4 cup/70 g)
  • 1 tbsp/10 g mixed black and white sesame seeds, toasted
Dressing:
  • 2 1/2 tsp mirin
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 1/2 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp maple syrup
  • 2 tsp peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • salt
  1. Fill a large pot (for which you have a lid) with water to a quarter of the way up the sides and bring to a boil. Place the eggplants in a steamer or a colander hovering over the water, making sure the water doesn’t touch the base of the steamer.Alternately, you could use a bamboo steamer placed in a wide pot. Cover tightly, using foil to seal the edges if you need to, and steam for 30 minutes, turning the eggplants once. When the eggplants are cooked, remove the steamer from the pot and leave the eggplants to cool and drain inside the steamer. Shred the flesh by hand into long, thin strips 1/4 inch/5 mm wide, then continue to drain for another 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, make the dressing. Mix together the mirin, sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar, maple syrup, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir in the ginger and garlic and set aside.
  3. Once the eggplant strips are completely cool, gently toss them with the dressing before adding the green onions and sesame seeds. Leave to marinate for at least 10 minutes and then serve.

 

Quinoa Porridge with Garlic Roasted Tomatoes and Herb Oil (serves four)

Ingredients:

  • 1½ cups/250g quinoa
  • about 42/3 cups/1.1 liters vegetable stock
  • 4 tsp/20g unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup/10g flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
  • 3½ oz/100g feta, crumbled into ¾-inch/2-cm chunks
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 8 oz/250g baby plum tomatoes
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup/10g mint leaves
  • salt and black pepper

Herb oil ingredients:

  • 1 green chile, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup/15g flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • ½ cup/15g mint leaves
  • 7 tbsp/100 ml olive oil
  • salt

1. To make the herb oil, place the chile, parsley, mint, oil, and ½ teaspoon salt in the bowl of a small food processor and process to form a smooth sauce with a thick pouring consistency.

2. Place the quinoa in a medium saucepan, add the stock, and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to medium and cook gently, uncovered, for about25 minutes, stirring from time to time, until a porridge-like consistency is formed. You might need to add a bit more stock if the quinoa is sticking to the pan. At the very end, fold in the butter until it melts, followed by the parsley and then the feta, making sure the feta stays in chunks.

3. While the quinoa is cooking, place a large sauté pan over high heat and add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the tomatoes and cook for about5 minutes, shaking the pan once or twice so that all sides get some good charred color. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, so that it turns golden brown without burning. Transfer to a bowl and sprinkle with¼ teaspoon salt and some black pepper. Chop the mint and fold it into the tomatoes just before serving, as it will start to blacken once chopped.

4. Spoon the warm quinoa porridge into shallow bowls, top with the tomatoes, finish with a drizzle of the herb oil, and serve at once.

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Jane was executive beauty director at W Magazine for 16 years. When she is not writing beauty articles, she's likely either hiking with her husband and dog, Remy, or in her kitchen, frauding (new verb) her way around a fancy recipe, a home decoration or a highbrow dinner party conversation of which she knows nothing about. In other words, she nods a lot and googles a lot later.

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