We’re friends, right? I mean, not pick-me-up-at-the-airport friends or does-this-look-infected friends, but you know me well enough after reading this website to know that I’m not a vegan. Unlike you and I (aka friends), sometimes I feel like I barely know vegetables. Like, we nod at each other in the hallway or hold the elevator door if we see each other coming, but do they let me in? Do they let me know the REAL THEM?
So I’ll understand if you take this with a grain of vegan salt, but I really enjoyed the hell out of Emma Ryan’s Eat to Live dinner I attended in December.
Ryan, a plant whisperer, is going to open her own restaurant (also called Plant) in The Collective later this year, but she also runs a series of workshops teaching people to eat vegan and does one-on-one food coaching.
Eat To Live is her semi-monthly class where folks watch and learn as she makes vegan foods before getting to enjoy it themselves.
The holiday party was less instructive, without the usual demos, but the food was top-notch. I mean, a beet salad is pretty much de rigueur for any sort of vegan gathering -- you can be arrested for not serving beet salads in 23 states and the District of Columbia -- but I was particularly taken with the wild rice and mushroom pilaf.
Yes, vegan food is notoriously big on vegetables, but all too often when I think of vegan food, I worry it’s going to be lighter than a feather, robbing me of that sated, satisfied feeling you get with heavier dishes. The wild rice and mushroom pilaf was hearty and savory and filling. The mushrooms added the meaty texture and the wild rice was sturdy and chewy in a really satisfying way.
This is true for all tasty vegan foods, but it really comes down to the seasoning. Salt and pepper are standard, of course, but using garlic, shallots, thyme, chives and nutritional yeast are great ways to boost the flavor without betraying the ethos of making healthier, but still delicious, food.
The next class (you can buy tickets here) is a Valentine’s workshop on Feb. 3 at Plenty Mercantile in OKC.
“As usual, everything is completely vegan and gluten free,” Ryan said. “This workshop teaches a variety of healthy desserts, two of which are considered raw vegan and one is a baked dessert. All courses are hands-on so people can come learn, eat and even take some home.”
Here, shared with Emma's blessing, are the recipes from the December holiday workshop:
Black Lentil and Arugula Salad
4 cups arugula
2 cups cooked black lentils
2 cups roasted beets, diced
1/2 red onion, sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup tahini dressing (3/4 cup tahini, 1 cup water, 3 Tbsp maple syrup, juice from 1 1/2 lemons all blended at high speed)
Balsamic vinegar for drizzling
- Toss arugula, red onion and basil in medium sized bowl
- Spoon 3 Tbsp tahini dressing in bottom of salad dish
- Add 1/4 cup of black lentils
- Top lentils with handful of arugula mixture
- Place 1/2 cup roasted beets on top of salad
- Drizzle with vinegar
Wild Rice and Mushroom Pilaf
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 leeks, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 shallots, diced
3 Tbsp dried thyme
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 cup wild rice
2.5 cups vegetable broth
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
salt and pepper to taste
- In a large pot on the stove, heat olive oil until warm
- Add chopped leeks, shallots and garlic and cook for 3-5 minutes until translucent
- Add thyme, nutritional yeast and wild rice, stir until well and cook for a few minutes until it starts to crisp
- Add vegetable broth and stir continuously for a few mintues
- Add mushrooms and stir to combine
- Simmer on medium 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently
- When broth is fully absorbed and rice is cooked, add salt and pepper to taste
- Top with chives and serve immediately