Home Cooking

wooden spoon and fork

I no longer eat meat in restaurants unless the meat is well-sourced (if the source isn’t noted on the menu, you can bet the meat is factory-farmed). As a result, I’ve given up some of my favorite restaurant experiences. At our local Dominican place, El Gran Castillo de Jagua, broiled chicken was the centerpiece, surrounded by sides of rice, beans, cassava, and sweet plantains. We loved that chicken so much, we took to calling the restaurant “Chicken,” as in, “Wanna go to Chicken tonight?” In any Italian restaurant, I’d usually order pasta with Bolognese sauce. At our neighborhood Indian place, my favorite dish was Chicken Tikka. And of course I loved my greasy-spoon diner breakfasts—the holy trinity of bacon, eggs, and toast. But as Jonathan Safran Foer said in Eating Animals, there is a limit to my love.

Obviously, I’m spending more time than ever in our kitchen. It feels great to take control in this small way (especially since Michael does the dishes!). With a wooden spoon as my scepter, I rule our kingdom and guarantee yummy cruelty-free meals for all those within its gates.

In an effort to expand my menu of vegetable dishes and make them the crowning glory of the meal rather than second-fiddle sides, I bought Mollie Katzen’s new cookbook, Vegetable Dishes I Can’t Live Without, and soon found that I, too, couldn’t live without them. Recently I made leek chips. Seriously. And emboldened by Katzen’s creativity, I brought home fresh tamarinds from Puerto Rico and made tamarind chutney. (I had never even seen a tamarind before, but that’s what the Web is for.)

Thankfully, many of Mollie Katzen’s recipes are available on her website. I first discovered her Moosewood Cookbook right after graduating from college and moving to San Francisco. I still have my original copy, well-warped and stained. I remember following her recipe for lentil soup and realizing that I just might be able to live like an adult after all. I no longer need that recipe, but Katzen’s books still offer a cornucopia of veggie-based inspiration. Next on my list: carrot cashew curry, toasted barley flakes with figs, and walnut stuffed artichokes. My gracious!

Sometimes going to the produce section of the Park Slope Food Coop is like wandering into the Garden of Eden and finding all this magical organic bounty just there for the taking (provided you can brave the lines). Depending on the season, we can get rainbow chard, shiny brown chestnuts, and the sweetest little blueberries. I recently heard the term “food desert” used to describe areas with little or no access to fresh, healthy foods. But our kitchen, thanks largely to the co-op and some stove-top bravado, has slowly become a food oasis.