Sometime between the fifth glass of eggnog on Christmas and the third serving of pork-laden black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day, my soul exited my body. When I awoke on Jan. 2, it had left me the following note:
Sorry to do you like this, but we need some time apart. You haven’t been taking care of yourself, and I deserve better accommodations than the honey-glazed husk you’ve become. Call me when you’re eating less than 4,000 mg of sodium a day, and you’ve birthed the food baby you’ve been gestating since November.”
Can’t argue with that. Off we go, on a search for the most nourishing and delicious veggie dishes we can find.
Mountain Brook, Ala.
This neighborhood restaurant in the suburbs of Birmingham may be located in a strip mall, but that does nothing to diminish its commitment to serving sparkling fresh, locally sourced fare. Clues to the quality include house-made pickles, charcuterie and a brief menu that’s doubled in size by the daily special offerings.
Ollie Irene’s beet salad is one of those specials. Some salads are penance, but not this one. Chunky beets, roasted to sweet tenderness; Stone Hollow goat cheese, silky and lemon-scented; local greens, toothsome and bitter. Tied together with good olive oil and vincotto, this plate’s simple resonance is like the ding of a home run off an aluminum bat.
Yes, it’s a dip. Hush. It’s chickpeas (packed with protein and fiber) and tahini (rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids), and you can throw some optional curried cauliflower on top if you need a hit of Vitamin C. Until some twisted genius invents a palatable plate of kale nachos, this is as healthful as appetizers get.
That James Beard award-winning Chef Alon Shaya slings unlimited baskets of fresh pita bread at you as you attempt to walk the straight and narrow is immaterial. A life without those kinds of challenges is not a life worth living.
Gang Dang curry
Ratcheting up the richness slightly leads us to one of the world’s greatest sources of guilt-free indulgence — curry. Aside from being a fine conveyance for assorted vegetables, the coconut milk base of curry contains loads of healthy fats, and the capsaicin in all those peppers is a known anti-inflammatory.
Chef Dean at Hattiesburg institution Jutama’s ladles up balanced, herbaceous Thai curries with perfectly steamed jasmine rice. Go vegetable-only, or throw in some tofu if you’ve got no beef with monocrops. Either way, put on a sweatband and order your curry Thai-hot. The cleansing fire of bird’s eye chilies will clear the way for several more months of pizza and cookie dough.