Be a Person Who Eats Salad at Home: The Vegend’s Mustard Dressing


My family sat down to dinner together almost every night when I was growing up. The food was always homemade and always bountiful–usually a meat dish, a potato, and some sort of steamed vegetable concoction from frozen food giant Birdseye. We lacked for nothing, except for one thing: salad.

We just didn’t have it.

Despite my mother’s attempts to serve up healthful and “cancer-fighting” foods like steamed Brussels sprouts, she never once put salad on the table. It’s not that she didn’t eat it–at restaurants, she’d have the blue cheese-slathered wedge salad that was de rigueur–she just didn’t serve it at home.

So I grew up thinking that salads were for restaurants, where they could source oodles of toppings–potatoes, fruit, beans, cheese, nuts–at scale, and where things like arugula, kale, baby spinach, and frisee were in the hands of specially-trained chefs.

I carried the no-salad-at-home tradition into adulthood until I met the Vegend, whose at-home salad skills far surpass any human’s. His base is almost always arugula, which can last quite a while in the fridge. (Plus, just before it’s gone bad, he whips it into unbeatable pesto.) His typical toppings include farro, roasted peppers, tomatoes, corn, chickpeas, and avocado. Hard boiled eggs, butternut squash, potatoes, and string beans also join in on the fun.

He tops off the salad with a mustardy dressing that’s so good you’ll want to dip it, spread it, and pour it onto everything you’ve got. We’ve described it here.
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Valentine’s Day Results: When Life Gives You Carrots, Make Carrots Four Ways

It happened! Our second annual Valentine’s Day challenge. If you’ve read our previous post you’ll know that last year, the Vegend and I started a Valentine’s Day tradition that is more creative and less expensive than any restaurant meal we could have.

The simple premise–I determine which ingredient he should use and he determines mine–has forced us to push the boundaries of our usual (delicious) meals, be thoughtful in our execution, and try new things. I’m here to tell you that last night’s results were astounding. So astounding, in fact, that I ate a good portion more while I was cleaning up. Now, that’s the sign of a good meal.

I had challenged the Vegend to use carrots in our main course and boy, did he deliver. He presented carrots four ways and each way was a nod to something we’ve eaten or cooked before. First up, he pickled carrots in rice wine vinegar, ginger, shallot, honey, and salt, a delicious trick we had first seen at Brooklyn Grange’s Veggiepalooza 2017 but had not yet tried. A quick toss in sesame oil, carrot greens, and scallions provided a tasty and colorful start to the main meal.

The main dish was mind-blowing. Three more ways of carrots, each distinct from each other and, if I’m being honest, a party in my mouth. The sweet roasted carrots with homemade chimichurri (cilantro, parsley, shallot, jalapeno, red wine vinegar, salt, and olive oil) made me want to slather chimichurri on everything. Everything! I didn’t even know I liked chimichurri!

The carrots with yogurt sauce (Greek yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil, lemon zest, carrot greens, scallions, roasted cashews, and salt) were inspired by Canoe Hill in Millbrook, NY, whose own carrot-yogurt-cumin combination wowed us just a few weeks ago.
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The Best Guacamole (Yes, It Has Apple in It)

Guacamole

When I was 10 years old, I had one of those experiences that should have forever soured me on all football-related things–I was hit squarely in my left eye with a football that was kicked in the other direction. I’m certain that the football’s final destination was preordained and wherever I stood that day, it would have found me.

Because of that, I never developed a particular love for that particular sportball and still don’t really understand the appeal. But I can appreciate an occasion to gather with people and snack. This guacamole is, of course, perfect for your “Big Game” celebration but you really shouldn’t relegate your avocado consumption to just the one time a year when everybody’s doing it.

While the humble avocado has been blasted as the downfall of the millennial generation, it’s also brought good fat, potassium, and vitamin K to the under-40 set. The avocado’s allure is so strong that Amazon’s first order of business after buying Whole Foods was to announce to the world that they would be dropping avocado prices by 29%. What’s more, avocados sustained me for the better part of the last five years, when my sister and I would eat toast and avocado every. single. night.

Your perfect, ready-to-go avocado should yield slightly when you press on it and should require no more than a butter knife to cut through the skin. This is very important. Under-ripe, too-hard avocados fight back if you try to eat them too soon. Just ask three (three!) of my friends, who, within weeks of each other, sliced their fingers and ended up with hospital-level injuries. I was nowhere near them but I still felt guilty. I was sure that some of my avocado love influenced their decisions that night.
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Vegan Chicken Soup–A Deliciously Imprecise Approach

Vegan Chicken Soup

One of the biggest gripes about this whole plant-based thing is that food, in many families and in mine, means love. Therefore, when we give something up, it can also feel like we’re also giving up a little bit of the traditions and love that have passed through generations. The thinking’s not wrong–I’ve wrestled with the same feelings–but I do think that we can take the spirit of a dish, bring it up to date, and start the tradition anew.

Even my shtetl-born grandmother, whose American dream was realized with done-well briskets and too much food, was willing to adjust recipes to my ever-changing eating habits. After I gave up red meat, she willingly (I think) used turkey instead of beef for her sweet-and-sour meatballs. I can only wonder what she would have done with tempeh. (Actually, I’m fairly certain she would have said, “Oh, for God’s sake…”)

That an old-world bubbe would adjust to a newer world order said a lot about how much she loved me. It also showed me that traditions can morph and grow depending on the people around you. All is not lost because I no longer eat my grandmother’s meatballs; in fact, I can’t wait to figure out a vegetarian way to recreate them.

The Vegend initially set out to tackle a plant-based version of chicken soup one day last winter. His goal was to soothe my sick self while conjuring up the love and nostalgia we can feel from a pot of homemade soup (part of the healing process, to be sure). He considered the components of traditional chicken soup–chicken, veggies, dill–and how they each contribute to the overall dish. Without chicken, he wondered, what would flavor the soup?

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Make Your Awesome #DeskLunch Just 14 Times A Year

Meal Prep

The Vegend and I each possess a trait that may drive others quite mad: we could eat the same thing every day for about a week before we really can’t look at it anymore. He tends to use this approach when food shopping–we have our staples like farro, peppers, arugula, nuts, and lemons–and I use it when conceiving of and cooking my desk lunches. I typically eat the same meal every day for a week and then do it all over again, with a different dish, the next week. Since I started my current full-time job in February 2016, I have missed maybe (maybe!) two days of bringing my lunch. I figure that this slightly nutty approach has saved me more than $4000 over the last 23 months. That’s serious stuff!

Here’s the good news: you can do this, too. The secret, like in many things, is in the prep.

Because the Vegend and I both cook and/or bake, one of us is always jockeying for the kitchen. And since I love being served his fresh, amazing, and healthful meals, I usually let him have it (I mean, have you checked INSTAGRAM for the things he’s made?). But that means that my time in the kitchen is often limited, especially during the weekend prime cooking time, when I’ve ceded the territory in exchange for an awesome brunch. As a result, I’ve condensed my desk lunch prep time to a single day or afternoon (including the food shop) and make meals for three weeks at a time. That means that I only think about the whole deal for a couple of days each month and I get to approach most Sundays with nary a care about what I’ll be eating for lunch that week. Plus, I only really have to clean up once.
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Vegan Lentil Soup with Sweet Potato and Spinach

Lentil Soup

Here’s the deal. This soup is good. Like really good. It’s got all the right things in all the right places: it’s sweet courtesy of a medium sweet potato (large if you’re feeling extravagant), salty and earthy from kosher salt and cumin, and colorful from the handful (or two) of spinach you add in at the end. It’s also full of fiber. Like beware-if-you-eat-too-much-of-it levels of fiber. Don’t let that scare you off though. It’s worth it.

Lentil soup is an easy one for the Vegend and me. He doesn’t mind swapping out vegetable stock for chicken stock (really, who could tell?) and it provides a stick-to-your-ribs feeling that, say, a bolognese might (I guess). It also freezes well in case we need a last minute dinner.

It’s an excellent recipe to play around with; in my opinion, most soup recipes are. Fiddle with the spices, the veggies, the herbs to create flavors all your own. We typically use low sodium or no salt vegetable stock so we can control the saltiness.

Do your best to chop things up as described but don’t worry all that much. This is a soup best left chunky. Continue reading “Vegan Lentil Soup with Sweet Potato and Spinach”

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