Happy 2019, I hope your first few days of the year have been full of fun and delight! At my house, we ended 2018 with a delicious and relaxing dinner. I made Mushroom Bourguignon, mashed potatoes, and sautéed haricot vert. We started the evening with some pungent cheese and ended with thick slices of homemade chocolate cake. My husband served a bottle of wine, a 2001 vintage, which we brought back from a trip to Burgundy in 2005. It was a quiet yet festive evening, I was happily snuggled-up in bed by 10:30pm! How did you ring-in the new year?
As I mentioned last week, I’m not into New Year’s resolutions. But what I’ve been thinking about lately isn’t a resolution, but rather a statement that I’m ready to live by: I’m done with labels when it comes to my food choices. A few years ago, I studied culinary nutrition with a woman who claimed “labels are for tin cans”, yet this same woman also defined herself as gluten-free, sometimes sugar-free, and dairy-free. Um hello, aren’t those the labels that belong on tin cans? For many years, I labeled myself and defined myself by my food choices: I was vegetarian, then I was vegan, I added gluten-free to the list (try sticking to a gluten-free vegan diet while traveling in Europe, it sucks!). Later I ditched the vegan for plant-based, which felt much better, but then I started to re-incorporate animal protein into my diet and wondered how to define myself. And once I started eating bread, even minimal amounts of bread, could I be gluten-free anymore? All of these labels, this nonsense, was giving me a constant headache and overall sense of dread.
MY DIET IS NOT MY IDENTITY!!!
I’m over it. Completely done with the labels, they don’t define me, they can’t make a different person than who I am right now. I think that it’s human nature to want to belong - to have affiliation - with at least one group. After all, aren’t we descendants of tribesman, small clans with membership? I invite you to join my tribe now. What matters to me, when it comes to food, is how any particular food feels inside of my body. And inside of me means in my belly as well as in my mind. You see, there’s no reason to eat something that is “good” or “healthy” if it doesn’t make you feel good. Conversely, if you eat something that feels good in your belly but leaves you upset, distraught, or in emotional turmoil, I can’t imagine that there’s reason to eat that food, either. Know what I mean? We’ve all dealt with these scenarios at least once in our lives. Give it up, get real. Eat real food, get to know how it feels, and how you feel when you eat this way.
On to today’s recipe, which was inspired by something that I recently ate in NYC. The great thing about NYC is that there are restaurants for any kind of food imaginable, for people who label themselves by any kind of diet imaginable. For many years, as a vegan, NYC was a food paradise for me, there were so many amazing choices, foods of all different ethnicities, all sorts of guilty pleasures. And being gluten-free in NYC is simple, even blissful, with all of the gluten-free cafes, bakeries, and ice cream shops.
But what about now, without an identity tied to a diet? What kind of restaurants do I chose for my away-from-home meals? Truth be told, I love vegetables. There are days when I eat more than 20 different vegetables over the course of my meals, and others where I don’t eat nearly as many as I’d like. And that’s ok. A few weeks ago, during my vacation time in NYC, I had meals that were vegetable-based, and others where none were even present. And that’s ok.
Today’s recipe is my interpretation of a dish I ate at one of my favorite NYC restaurants, abcv. Have you ever been to a restaurant with a vegetable-based menu? abcv is the place for the vegetable obsessed, myself included. The space is airy, sophisticated and chic, full of all things beautiful from within ABC Home. My family and I had dinner at abcv a few weeks ago, it was their first time joining me at this haven for vegetable gluttony. As we perused the menu, I had the hardest time choosing what to order - I wanted everything! abcv celebrates vegetables, amplifying their tastes, textures and other sensory properties with unique touches, such as exotic spices or obscure garnishes.
We settled on five dishes to share, it was tough to narrow-down the menu to a handful. Our favorite dish of the evening was the one that sounded the most mundane and the least complicated…yet it was full of flavor and we almost ordered a second plate. it was that good. Spice roasted rainbow carrots, served over a pool of spicy seed butter, and topped with shredded mint leaves and slices of red chiles. It was intoxicatingly delicious, but so simple. I knew that I could easily create nearly the same dish at home, and that’s what I’ve done for you today. So if NYC isn’t in your travel plans anytime soon, no need to worry, I’ve got you covered with this recipe!
Wrapping things up here, I’m excited to be working on a bunch of new recipes in the new year, many of which will be posted on this website, while others are for projects that I’ve been asked to work on for clients. I’m excited for all of the possibilities, now that I’m living free of any diet-related labels. So hello, I’m Jessica. I love to cook, I love to eat, and I love to share what I create to cook and eat with you.
Wishing you a relaxing weekend, full of delicious food, health & wellness.
Spice-Roasted Carrots with Spiced Butter & Mint
Ingredients: (note - use organic whenever possible)
4 T almond butter
2 T tahini
1 t freshly squeezed lime juice
4 T hot water, or more, as needed
pinch of cayenne (optional, but recommended)
pinch of sea salt, or more, to taste
1/4 t ground coriander
1 pound carrots
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 t turmeric
1/2 t cumin
1/2 t coriander
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 C chopped fresh mint leaves
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Cut carrots into 2-inch pieces, then slice down the middle to make a half-moon shaped piece. Place in a mixing bowl. Pour extra-virgin olive oil into the bowl, along with the spices. Stir to coat. Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss the carrots again, then place on the lined baking sheet, making sure that the carrots are in a single layer. Bake for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the spiced butter. In a small bowl, whisk together the almond butter and tahini. Add the lime juice. The mixture will turn very stiff - it will seize - but keep stirring with a fork. Slowly drizzle the hot water into the mixture and continue to stir until the butter turns more fluid. Add a pinch of cayenne, a pinch of sea salt, and the ground coriander. Stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
Once the carrots are fragrant and have turned brown on the edges, remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes.
To serve, spoon the spiced butter onto the bottom of a serving dish and spread into a thin layer. Top with the carrots, piling them on top of each other, so that each piece touches the butter. Sprinkle the chopped mint leaves over the top of the carrots.
recipe yields 4 generous servings
double the recipe for more servings, dividing the carrots between 2 sheet pans
make the spiced butter in advance and store in a covered container at room temperature; prior to serving, stir some additional hot water and adjust the seasonings, if needed, to make the butter more spreadable
serve the dish at room temperature, if desired
leftovers keep well for 2-3 days in a covered container, chilled