I’m an avid urban cyclist and hard-core walker, typically doing a combination of both nearly every day. It’s not so much my commitment to exercise, but rather the cultivation of a lifestyle that will carry me into old age. Since I hit my late 20s, I’ve grown perhaps too obsessed with maintaining a high quality of life into my senior years. I’m creating lifelong habits, such as eating nourishing, whole foods and keeping my body healthy with reasonable, sustainable activities—biking instead of driving, walking home from the market toting heavy (canvas!) bags of groceries, and practicing yoga for strength, flexibility, and balance. I’m claiming responsibility for my body’s longevity and well-being.
That said, sometimes this lifestyle means you get caught in the rain. I did, last night, and after an hour-long slog through wet torrents and whipping wind, I arrived back at the apartment totally soaked and shivering. The evening absolutely called for a hearty, warming, 100-percent delicious vegan stew. After a hot shower, I was back-in-action and off to see what I could summon from my pantry and fridge.
I heated my indispensable cast-iron pan over a high flame, into which I tossed fresh, minced purple onion, garlic, and ginger root. It began to sizzle with an abundant pour of sesame oil, a generous splash of soy sauce, and a thimbleful of rice vinegar.
(For Valentine’s Day, my man surprised me with a Japanese gourmet cooking class for couples, where I learned about the sesame oil, soy sauce, and rice vinegar trinity. The combination of fat, salt, and acidity makes every meal pop.)
Once my spicy root sautée softened, I added sweet, young carrots; sturdy broccoli stalks and florets; and bright-red hothouse tomatoes. I covered the vegetables with water and capped the cast-iron pan with a lid, letting the stew simmer —stirring occasionally—until I decided it was done.
With a final flourish, I threw down some nutritional yeast. YES! This shit’s a magical aspect of life, y’all. It thickens the stew, endowing it with a cheesy richness that brings a meal from bomb to freaking-utterly-fantastic-forever.
I plated the eats, serving the succulent stew over whole-grain brown rice and beans, which I prepared in my pressure cooker; on top of which, I sprinkled some black and white sesame seeds, black pepper, pumpkin seeds, and golden raisins.
I paired it with an organic wine from the corner store downstairs. Not only was my hearty, delectable vegan stew a hit with my roommates and bf, but the leftovers provided future gustatory forays.
In review, my main included: 1) purple onion, 2) garlic, 3) ginger root, 4) sesame oil, 5) soy sauce, 6) rice vinegar, 7) carrots, 8 ) broccoli, 9) tomatoes. All of the ingredients I added to taste. Remember, it’s all about trusting your instinct and getting creative with whatever you have on hand.
QUESTIONS: What plant-based stews have you whipped up this winter? Do you cook these intuitively or adapt from recipes? Did my stew inspire you to create your own? What did you put in it and how did it turn out?