I am just back from Austin, where I attended my first-ever IACP conference. This is not, as a friend thought, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, but the International Association of Culinary Professionals. I am a card-carrying member. I am a professional. But I also know I could be doing more to forward my career, pretty up this blog, bump up my SEO (search engine optimization -- all the hot bloggers know this term -- I, of course, did not). I'd braced myself for lots of You're-doing-everything-wrong-and-here's-what-you-need-to-do-if-you-want-to-be-super-successful-like-us talk. And yes, there was that.
What surprised, pleased and resonated most for me, though, was how I kept hearing about the power of narrative, from agro-activist Jim Hightower to Perennial Plate's Daniel Klein, from Gluten-Free Girl Shauna Ahern to fab food culture photog Penny de los Santos. It gives a girl hope. Because I believe plant-based food nourishes the body but narrative -- story -- nourishes the soul in a way a text message can’t touch.
Believe me, I have nothing against money and market share. But I’m in service to something bigger, and the way I can do it has less to do with SEO and more to do with telling stories, with getting the word out about the power of a plant-based diet.
Apparently, I need to keep on message. There were a couple of conference cocktail parties where there was absolutely nothing for My Kind to eat. This is wrong. But happily, right near our hotel is Koriente, where I was quickly restored by the easy, warm staff and amazing Asian eats.
IACP takeaway -- look for exciting new changes to Edgy Veggie. I promise, they’ll happen (and not just this mania for live links, either). But first I must catch up on work and sleep. Yeah, I came back from the conference strung out and exhausted (quel surprise). But also nourished. Nourished by story, nourished by meeting all the wonderful people at IACP including its small but ardent veg femme contingent Kim O’Donnel, Real Food Daily’s Ann Gentry, Robin Asbell and the Veggie Queen herself Jill Nussinow. I'm nourished by meeting for real some people I’d only e-mailed or spoken to on the phone, from Moosewood goddess Mollie Katzen to Mirra Fine.
Also nourishing -- very nourishing was seeing my Austin BFF after too many years apart and spending an entire afternoon talking and drinking and laughing together (and being treated to a fabulous vegan meal at Casa de Luz). Because a girl’s gotta eat. And this one’s gotta eat veggies.
So tell me -- what nourishes you?
Nourishing Noodles -- Japchae
Since Austin, I’ve been craving Koriente’s japchae, a glorious Korean mix of shirataki and vegetables. Shirataki are those weird glutinous Asian noodles made from sweet potato starch that magically have no calories and are loaded with gluten-free goodness. Up till now, they’ve left me underwhelmed. Koriente’s japchae made me a true believer, hallelujah.
I endeavored to recreate it in the privacy of my own home and am thrilled to discover it’s doable and easy and delicious. The key to the recipe -- and perhaps the key to everything -- gutsiness. In my first iteration, I used almost no oil, low-sodium soy sauce and button mushrooms. It was meh. Ramped it up with more sesame oil, real nama shoyu (good, aged fermenty soy sauce) and shiitakes. Delish. Lovely and refreshing chilled or at room temperature. And what could be more nourishing?
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons sesame oil, divided use
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
8 ounces shirataki noodles, rinsed and drained
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 carrots, chopped into matchsticks
1 red pepper, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
3 cups Napa cabbage, shredded
1 bunch scallions, chopped fine
8 ounces shiitakes, sliced
4 ounces tofu, cut ito bite-sized cubes
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Parboil shirataki according to package directions. Drain and rinse.
In a medium bowl, whisk together soy, mirin, 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil and minced ginger. Add the shirataki and toss to coat. Set aside.
Heat a large dry skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic, carrots, pepper and celery. Cook, stirring for about 3 minutes or until vegetables start to soften. Add one tablespoon of soy-mirin mixture to flavor and moisten and continue cooking.
Add the scallions, shiitakes and cabbage. Cook another 3 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Add the tofu and gently mix in the noodles and all remaining sauce.
Drizzle remaining sesame oil on top and mix again.
Divide into bowls and sprinkle sesame seeds on top.
Serves 3 to 4.