On our last day in Berkeley, our dear friends the Warrens took us out to eat for vegan cuisine at Café Gratitude. In the foyer to the restaurant, there were numerous books championing attitude as the key to a positive life experience. I would tend to agree, but to a point. I do not think happiness is entirely a DIY project, also, I tend to believe that the human experience of joy is an important foreshadowing, not the end goal in itself (the There is a God, You are not Him perspective). But, I digress from the point, which is that I could have worked on my attitude a bit harder in Café Gratitude. I was borderline ungrateful.
Classic granolaism: the titles of entrees were not at all related to the dishes they represented, they were rather Superpositive statements of Being: “I am Magical;” “I am Light;” “I am Accepting.” I was not, in fact, accepting. What is it about over-positivity that gives me such joy to thwart? Not with full-on Debbie Downerism, just a wry sauce of sarcasm.
I did the worst thing I could do in a Vegan restaurant, which is to order a plate of nachos in full ignorance of what Vegan means—no cheese. I’ve clearly been in the rural Midwest too long. Confused, I think I thought vegan was vaguely synonymous with vegetarian—no meat and maybe a few other no-nos. But, ahem, vegan means Plant Only. Thus, to my disappointment and despair, my nachos were brought to me cheeseless. And no cheese on KP’s pizza, but instead, a strange cream of vegan-naise. Each dish was a mangled nest of squashed vegetables, many of which I consider to be weeds, spices, and, on mine, nuts pressed together pretending to be chips.
What I should have done: chant the title of my entrée “I am Honoring” and channel that thought toward the people I was blessed to share the meal with: my in-laws, my husband, Tom and Holly, and our precious godson (who had no problem Accepting, Honoring, and being a little ray of Light with squash pie smeared all over his face).
In repentance and in an effort to put myself into a choke-hold of Gratitude, because apparently I need that, so help me, I went out on limb to discover a vegan recipe that I can enjoy (for next time). Lo and Behold, this is it. Holly, forgive me my facial expressions on Veteran’s Day—and make this dish! So tasty!
Wheat Berry Salad with Tuscan Kale and Butternut Squash
Aka “I am Repentant”
Adapted from Food and Wine
1 pound peeled butternut squash, cut into 1/2-inch dice (3 cups)
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
2 cups whole einka or other wheat berries (I used einkorn wheat—ancient grain from Mesopotamia dating back to 7500-9000 BC! One of the earliest forms of cultivated wheat, and low gliadan profile for those of you whose bowels fie gluten and related proteins)
10 ounces Tuscan kale, stemmed, leaves sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick (4 cups)
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/2 cup minced shallots
1 tablespoon finely chopped sage
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup dry white wine
Preheat the oven to 400°. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the squash with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the squash for 20 to 25 minutes, until tender. Transfer to a large bowl.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, cover the wheat berries with 5 cups of water and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until tender, 25 minutes.
Add the kale to the wheat berries, cover and remove from the heat; let stand until the kale is wilted, 5 minutes. Drain well and add the wheat and kale to the squash. Add the vinegar and 2 tablespoons of the oil to the salad, season with salt and pepper and toss.
In a medium skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the shallots and a pinch of salt and cook over moderately high heat until just starting to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the sage and cook for 1 minute, until fragrant. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the wine and simmer, stirring, until evaporated.
Health city. I think this dish counts as bread on the food pyramid. Wheat berries shall be my new rice. But watch out—they expand significantly even after they are swallowed. Even if you are a vegan, wheat berries should be consumed in moderation. Don’t bite off more than your colon has diameter.
I am officially asking for these for Christmas, Mom.