Allison Riley is Southern born. Farmer's daughter. Food adventurer... And writes as Y'all Taste This!
Tonight, I thought I had dinner plans. I rushed home from work, ran three miles, jumped in the shower, and just as I was about to dry my hair, I received an all too familiar text...flight delayed. leaving now. eat dinner without me. text you when I land. love you.
Hmmm. What to do? Go out alone or eat at home? Might as well just stay home.
I opened the refrigerator only to find three carrots and a bag of Brussels sprouts among my ever growing collection of mustards, preserves, and pickles. For many, this refrigerator inventory means a follow-up call for pizza or Chinese delivery. Not me though. Within thirty minutes, I sat down to a dinner of curried carrots, roasted Brussels sprouts and garlic in ginger sauce, and couscous with toasted almonds. A comforting dinner complete with sweet, savory, and spicy flavors, a little crunch, and beautiful colors. A dinner of vegetables.
As the daughter of a beef cattle farmer, I grew up with the understanding that a meal had two basic components: meat and whatever mom made to go with it. Other than the occasional peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch, I don’t recall any meatless meals on mom’s rotation. The concept of a dinner revolving around vegetables was foreign, even taboo. I’m not sure when it occurred to me that a meal doesn’t need to follow a “meat and three” formula to be satisfying, but I do recall a conversation at Eating House with Giorgio Rapicavoli a few months after he’d opened the pop-up. We were talking about his evolving menu, and I mentioned that I found myself always looking forward to his new vegetable dishes, because he approaches vegetables with complete ideas, not as side dishes.
That’s still somewhat novel in Miami. Ask someone on the street where you can find the best burgers, Cuban sandwiches, pizzas, or seafood, and most people immediately have thoughtful responses with multiple options. Ask someone on the street where to get the best vegetables, and you will likely find yourself face to face with a blank stare.
Ask me that question, and I'll respond with ease.... Danny Serfer's vegetable board at Blue Collar, Giorgio Rapicavoli's mushroom tartare at Eating House, Josh Marcus' roasted carrot tzimmes salad at Josh's Deli (evening menu), Richard Hales' Brussels sprouts at Sakaya Kitchen and his Chinese mustard greens at Blackbrick, Micah Edelstein's veggie samosas at neMesis, Brendan Conner's fried okra (and his fried green tomatoes, too), Jamie DeRosa's roasted beet salad at Tongue & Cheek, Michael Schwartz's roasted beet salad at Michaels Genuine, and saag paneer at Bombay Darbar. Yes, I picked two roasted beet salads, because both are fantastic.
With so many options, it's hard to believe that a meatless meal remains so unprecedented that trendy movements like Meatless Mondays have found resonance. Do we really need a campaign to teach us that eating vegetables is a good move? In Miami, we have fresh, local vegetables available throughout the entire year.
I can't think of a better reason to embrace a dinner of vegetables.