After a particularly meaty and boozy couple of days, I was craving “clean food” last Friday, so I took myself to Candle Café, my favorite of the vegan places that have emerged on the Upper West Side over the past year or two. I love the Green Goddess juice and the mix-and-match Market Plate (where you choose among a variety of vegetable, grain, soy, legume, and sauce options), so that’s what I ordered, sitting at the bar plowing toward the finish of the wonderful Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.
Thirty-six dollars later, I felt virtuous of body but so much lighter of wallet. I was annoyed that I’d just plunked down that kind of money for some brown rice, a few ounces of tofu, and a bunch of greens. (I’m not exaggerating: The plate—sautéed chard, roasted Brussels sprouts, and grilled tofu over rice—was $19, the juice was $9, and with tax and tip… You do the math. I’m not saying it wasn’t delicious, restorative, and exactly what I wanted; I’m just saying that it was expensive.)
I am a solution-oriented person, so rather than let my pique get the better of me I turned it into action, marching into the organic market next door and plunking down another $36 exactly—a funny coincidence—for a heavy bag of groceries that has provided my own homemade version of the Market Plate for Mark and me every day since. Today, we had brown rice topped with raw shredded kale tossed with a little toasted sesame oil, soy sauce, and apple cider vinegar; edamame; shredded carrots; alfalfa sprouts; and seared tofu. Yesterday and the day before, there was deep green steamed broccoli and shredded radicchio in place of the kale and edamame. I’d picked up some Thai peanut sauce, which I didn’t love, so I doctored it with extra peanut butter, a big squeeze of sriracha (the hot, red Thai chili sauce), and a little water to thin it out. I drizzled that over the top and sprinkled on some chopped cilantro and scallions. Rex was appalled and Mark was skeptical, but I made a convert out of Mark, which appalled our religiously carnivorous teenager even further. (It’s so much fun to gross him out.)
Me? I thought I might never be tempted by meat again. But today is Teddy’s 10th birthday, and so his favorite meal is on the menu: Spaghetti and Meatballs.
As for the Market Plate, you don’t need a recipe. Just cook brown rice according to package directions (make several meals’ worth); arrange a colorful variety of raw and cooked vegetables on top, along with some raw or cooked tofu; top with bottled Thai peanut sauce—doctored if desired; and sprinkle with fresh mint or cilantro and some chopped scallions.)