Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Frugal feast in honor of Shabbat (or, an ode to Sasha)

My dear friend Sasha Lyutse, sustainable food warrior and vegan chef extraordinaire, recently brought her quickly becoming famous Frugal Feast to Washington. She and some friends in New York were inspired to come up with the concept after reading a column by the New York Times' Mark Bittman on Slow Food USA's $5 Challenge. As Sasha explains it, the goal is "to show that buying normal ingredients from a regular grocery store and cooking them at home is cheaper than going out to eat or eating fast food and to help support healthy, sustainable, and affordable food—what [Bittman] calls, quite simply, 'real food.'”

So, a dinner party in the coziness of home, surrounded by friends and delicious home-cooked food and wine? I mean, what more does one really want out of dinner. Frugal Feast covers the basics -- the food, the satisfaction of not just being thrifty in one's grocery shopping choices, but really and truly saving money versus a standard night of cooking or going out, and the camaraderie of friends who appreciate the value of good, healthy food and togetherness.

What made Friday's Frugal Feast even more special, however, was that it was Shabbat. No matter how religious one is, even if one isn't Jewish, there is something so unique about taking a break from the day, from the rapidity and non-stop nature of so many of our lives, to rest, to enjoy each other, to sit down with each other.

Lighting the candles, saying the prayers, sharing the home-made rustic bread Sasha created, added a sense of tranquility and comfort that is difficult to put into words. I think everyone present was sort of reflecting -- internally -- at how lovely all this was and how it should become a more typical part of our lives.

Before getting into the deliciousness that was the actual dinner, I should note that Ms. Lyutse is the person who has convinced me that vegan cuisine is not just for the birds and can in fact be quite hearty and delectable. In the past few months, she has made me such things as red lentils with sauteed onions and celery, tempeh on a bed of buckwheat garnished with caramelized onions (always onions) and multigrain porridge. I mean, seriously, when has the word porridge crossed your mind except in the context of Goldilocks? Trust me, it's real. When she asked me to buy turnips, I had to Google them in the store to figure out what I was looking for. She introduced me to quinoa, kale and swiss chard (reduced with garlic). In her modesty, she'll tell you that such dishes "make themselves" and that they're so simple, "no recipe exists."

"Food is the organizing principle of my life," she once said to me while stirring homemade oatmeal  (ingredients included walnuts, raisins and the sweet nectar of agave).

A visual taste of Friday's meal below. I challenge you to try the $5 per person meal and see what happens. It gives you a maximum you can spend to guide you as you think carefully about your recipes, ingredients and yields, but it's doable, I promise.

Garlic and shallots at bottom left, the bread at top left and the sweet potatoes baking
Beautiful ingredients
Kale chips to start, topped with a concoction of macadamia nuts, cherry tomatoes, shallots and fresh rosemary

Rustic bread baked in a Dutch oven
Roasted garlic and shallots to spread on the bread
Beginnings of the stew
Stew with coconut milk added
Coconut milk, chickpea and spinach stew with sundried tomatoes, ginger and lemon, served over roasted sweet potatoes and garnished with fresh cilantro

1 comment:

  1. This all looks seriously delicious! How can I get a hold of these recipes?