December 2, 2012

Vegan Delight

 This week's CSA goods. 

Watermelon radishes

There is something that happens when you begin designing foods around vegetables, or really plant-based foods, as opposed to meats. Since I began teaching, I'm reminded how pervasive the meat and potatoes diet actually is. For example, when I have given assignments and asked students to design a healthier meal plan, the majority of their recommendations have meat as the star ingredient followed by some of the recommendations they learn in class. Modern nutrition advice advocates for healthy eating patterns, and these patterns are moving towards plant-based diets with meat and meat based proteins as sides - or condiments. I incorporate and teach population-level dietary intakes, and I teach about what is over and under-consumed. Having the majority of intake come from plant based foods, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, plant-based proteins, and nuts and seeds, gives the best protection against chronic diseases, and promotes health. Since chronic diseases usually manifest after years of poor dietary choices, the eating patterns established in early adulthood have huge payoffs in chronic disease prevention in older adulthood.

So do I practice what I preach? I often forget that nutrition is something that I do for a living, but is also something that I really love. I overlook the fact that it took me a while to make these changes, and that I often flex them for convenience. I try to stay mindful of that, but also raise the bar high enough that I get my students to at least think about all the ways nutrition and health are connected. I think I reach about 25% of them.

This fall, I joined a local CSA (community supported agriculture) from Snow's Bend Farm
located just outside Tuscaloosa. Local farms often allow customers to  purchase a "share"  in the farm, and for that share they get a box or basket of freshly grown locally raised produce. Snow's Bends' CSA has been bountiful and diverse. I've tried things I hadn't before: watermelon radish, kohlrabi, purple collards, red turnips, and escarole. Then I've tried things that make me so freaking thankful that local farms are doing well: kale, red beets, striped beets, garlic, sweet potatoes, bok choy, dill, cilantro, basil, lettuce mix, cabbage, snap beans, romaine lettuce, collards, turnips, mustard greens, parsnips, butternut squash, carrots, edamame, arugula, okra, swiss chard, spinach, and fresh baby ginger. I have cooked many meals utilizing amazing, delicious, fresh produce, and I design meals around what I get in the box. So far, there has been red lentil dhal with swiss chard, cannelloni with fresh spinach, salads, stir-fried turnips, bok choy, and cilantro, lots of frozen cabbage, collards, beans, dill, and edamame, braised butternut squash, multiple batches of Cajun baked sweet potato fries, and tequila based martinis featuring watermelon radishes and hot banana peppers.

I'm about two weeks out from the end of the semester. I have ~140 papers to grade, 120 assignments to  grade, and final exams to be written. This past Friday, I realized I had hit the 15th week of the semester. Cooking is my salvation - if I have time (paired with beers and/or fancy shmancy cocktails).

Vegan Delight
This dish is an Asian-style slaw using watermelon radishes and carrots. It is used as a topping on braised butternut squash and rice or barley pilaf. It tastes like seaweed salad but with a slightly different texture.
Yield: 4 servings, 1/3 cup each

1-2 medium watermelon radishes, grated
1 large carrot, grated
2 tbsp chives cut into 1/4" slivers
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1/4 tsp red chili flakes
1/4 cup water
1 tsp miso
1 tsp plum paste like Japanese Umeboshi
1 tsp sesame oil

1. Shred the watermelon radishes and carrots.
2. Place them in a bowl, and add the scallions on top.
3. Pour rice wine vinegar on top and stir together.
4. Heat up 1/4 cup water, and dissolve miso and plum paste in the water.
5. Pour sesame oil on top of miso mixture.
6. Pour everything over the radish and carrots mixture. Stir to combine, and adjust salt to taste.

I served this over some braised butternut squash and a barley pilaf. I've been eye-spying Mark Bittman's recipes lately, and several of his dishes have been making it onto our weekly meals. The braised butternut squash is so simple to prepare, yet tastes like it took much longer. It is quite simple, and can be incorporated into several dishes (stuffing for quesadillas, reheated and served over a salad, etc).

1 comment:

  1. Neeli - first, thanks. Yes, Jamtop is totally said with a sublte indian accent. glad you caught on. You don't know how happy that made me. secondly, love your travel pics. keep doing what you do. :)