Vegan challenge: Owned it!
(Sorry for the shady picture…bad lighting in my kitchen. Bad camera too for that matter.)
I have some friends here in Newberg. Lovely friends. Friends that love to come over for dinner. 3 that came over on Sunday night: two of which are vegan and one that has never eaten a meal void of meat or animal products in his entire life (“I’m from Alaska! So sue me!”). In fact, he considers the meat-free lifestyle paganism and have dubbed all who adhere to it as “vagans” (lovingly, of course). When these friends all come for dinner together, it’s game on for me in the kitchen. What can I make that is animal free yet hearty, satisfying, and makes the carnivores forget that they just went vegan…ahem, vagan?
Well, I have to say that I think I nailed this one. I pulled together some of my favorite winter ingredients and had this simple yet delicious meal on the table in less than an hour. The vegans were happy campers, and the carnivore was (not at all) speechless with how tasty the meal was! His comment might be one of the greatest compliments any foodista could receive. As he ate, he spoke like a sassy, well-please food critic. And I quote…
*VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED: The following content may not be suitable for readers until 12 years old. Food porn up ahead…
“It’s like the kale and the quinoa are headed to a cheap motel room to get it on, and the butternut squash is the “sweet, innocent” cleaning lady who comes to “clean the room” but ends up in the middle of it all! Menage a trois, anyone? And the chickpeas get called in to break it all up, then end up joining it! The ‘icing on the cake,’ if you will, is the avocado, who ends up video-taping it all. STEAMY!!” -Robert Hall, ladies and gentlemen.
We all agreed that the tang of the raw kale was beautifully offset by the sweetness of the butternut squash. The nuttiness of the of the quinoa, tahini, and chickpeas rounded it all out nicely. And the avocado on top? Well, that was just to continue the green from the bed of kale, but was like putting a pad of butter on a baked potato…simply perfect. Bon appetit!
Roasted Butternut Squash and Chickpea Salad (adapted from Smitten Kitchen) on a bed of Raw Kale and Quinoa.
For the salad:
1 large butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2″ pieces
2 medium garlic cloves
1/2 tsp ground allspice
drizzle of olive oil (enough to coat the squash)
1 15oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 medium red onion, minced
1 handful fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
1/2 ripe avocado, cut into long slices
For the dressing:
1-2 medium cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 c lemon juice
4 heaping tbsp well-stirred tahini
2 tsp water
2 tbsp olive oil (more to taste)
For the quinoa:
1 cup quinoa (rinsed)
2 cups veggie broth
For the kale:
1 bunch curly kale, washed, stems removed, and torn into bit size pieces
pinch of salt
drizzle of tahini dressing
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
Preheat oven to 425°F
In a large bowl, combine squash, oil, garlic, allspice, and pinch of s/p until squash is coated. Transfer to rimmed baking sheet and roast for 25 minutes, stirring once, or until soft and golden brown. Remove from oven and cool.
Meanwhile, make the dressing: in a bowl, whisk together lemon juice and garlic. Add in tahini and whisk away. Add in the water and olive oil and season to taste. You may need to add a bit more oil or water to thin it out.
While the squash is cooling, make the quinoa. In a medium sauce pan, bring quinoa and broth to a boil. Cover and simmer on medium-low for 15 minutes or until water is absorbed and quinoa can be fluffed with a fork.
Place kale in a large bowl. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and start massaging the leaves to sweat them. They should look shiny and soft. Toss with apple cider vinegar and a good drizzle of tahini dressing. Set aside.
Once squash has cooled a bit, combine with chickpeas, cilantro (save a tbsp or so for garnish), red onions, and dressing. Start with just a spoonful of dressing and add more until squash is coating to your liking. (If you have leftovers, adding the rest of the dressing the next day is the best).
In wide shallow bowls (if you have them. Plates work fine too) make a bed with the kale, and place one serving of quinoa on top. With a large spoon, pile a heap of squash salad on top of quinoa. Garnish with slices of avocado, a small dollop of tahini, and a sprinkle of cilantro. Serve to your guest and let the compliments start coming.
*Suggested wine pairing: Oregon Chardonnay or Pinot Blanc.