Vegetarian. Vegan. Do those words make you shudder? Does the thought of bacon being absent from your diet make you sad? Do you wonder how you would ever get enough to eat were you to convert? I think it is safe to say that many people have had these thoughts—including me. I am not a vegetarian. I am what you might call a flexitarian…although labeling is not something I prefer. Vegetables and grains are the focus of my diet with small portions of pasture-raised meats enjoyed throughout each month. I like bacon, but I love my veggies. I am a sucker for creative vegetable dishes, which is why I love to eat at Plant in Asheville.
We discovered Plant last summer. We were searching for restaurants that we had not previously visited. We wanted to enjoy the summer vegetable bounty in the area, and Plant seemed like the perfect place. It did not disappoint.
Nor did it disappoint during our second recent visit. The space is cozy and casual with an open kitchen. You can see Chef Jason Sellars at work creating dishes that are delectable and satisfying. The menu changes with the seasons to provide customers with the freshest ingredients. The flavor combinations are unexpected and genius.
Our meal began with the Iron Skillet Olives. Warm marinated olives served in an adorable miniature cast iron skillet. Herbs, orange zest, and salty brine had me wondering, “WHY am I not doing this at home?” It was the perfect start to the meal. Then we split an order of the Baby Bok Choy with Ginger, Mint and Berbere. It literally blew my mind. The flavors were perfect together and really intensified the sweetness of the bok choy. My entrée was the Oyster Mushroom Apricot Adobo, which included a poblano stuffed tamale, sautéed spinach, olives, chil- cilantro mojo, pickled onion, and sour cream. Because they do not serve any animal products, the sour cream was made from non-dairy ingredients—and was amazing! Mark enjoyed the Red Curry Tofu. This dish was a lovely combination of jasmine rice/ kaffir lime cakes, teriyaki bok choy/ Thai basil, galangal-peanut curry, and arugula. Sadly, we were so stuffed after this great meal; we had no room for dessert this time.
Vegetarian. Vegan. I hope you will consider restaurants that use these words in their description. Don’t be afraid. They are satisfying and delicious. I promise.
Iron Skillet Olives
Baby Boy Choy
Oyster Mushroom Apricot Adobo
Red Curry Tofu
I love Indian food. I love Thai food. Truly, I love any world cuisine that uses the spices we lovingly refer to as “curry.” Squash is in season, and it just begs to be paired with cumin, coriander, cinnamon, ginger, and the rest of the gang. This soup warms your belly and your soul, plus it is vegan so you might even call it…healthy.
This recipe can be made in a Vitamix blender or a food processor, but I generally use an immersion blender. The key is to blend, blend, blend. You want the most velvety texture you can get. The Vitamix is, hands-down, the BEST way to do it…but, I don’t have one…yet. I am waiting for my blender to die.
The key to a great soup is layering the flavors. Flat soups are no fun. Remember to finish with a little garnish, too. Garnishes can add texture, enhance flavor, and give your soup a WOW factor that will make your family think it’s fine dining. Most of all, have fun creating!
Until we cook again…
Curry Pumpkin Soup
- 3 cups roasted pumpkin
- 2 tbs coconut oil (or olive oil)
- 1 onion, halved and sliced
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 tbs minced ginger
- 1 tsp garam masala
- ¾ tsp ground coriander
- ½ tsp cumin powder
- ¼ tsp turmeric
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
- ½ cup coconut milk
- 3 cups vegetable stock
- 1-2 tbs lime juice
- For garnish: chopped cilantro, roasted pumpkin seeds
- Sauté onion in coconut oil until soft and translucent
- Add garlic and ginger, sauté for 2-3 minutes
- Add spices and sauté for about 1 minute
- Add ½ cup of the vegetable stock to deglaze the pan. Stir to get the spices incorporated into the stock. Add the remaining stock.
- Add the roasted pumpkin to the pot and stir to incorporate. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about 5 minutes.
- Turn off heat and use immersion blender to puree mixture completely.
- Add lime juice and stir.
- Serve with a garnish of chopped cilantro and/or toasted pumpkin seeds.
Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
- 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds or pepitas
- 1 tbs maple syrup
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- 1/8 tsp cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp ginger powder
- 1/8 tsp garam masala
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
- Place seeds in a bowl and add maple syrup. Stir to coat.
- In a small prep bowl mix the spices and the salt.
- Sprinkle spice/salt mixture over seeds and mix thoroughly.
- Spread on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (or a Silpat)
- Toast in the oven for about 5 minutes. Watch them carefully as the maple syrup will burn if they toast too long.
- Allow to cool in the pan.