For many, eating vegan is a difficult proposition, but the folks at Acterra, a Palo Alto-based nonprofit dedicated to sustainability, are approaching climate-conscious consumption from a different angle. At a recent virtual event called Holiday reFresh, Bay Area chefs Brandon Jew of Mr. Jiu’s, Tonya Holland of Brown Sugar Kitchen and Reina Montenegro of Nick’s on Grand shared plant-forward recipes, hoping to inspire ideas for upcoming holiday meals.
“A plant-forward diet is one that emphasizes and celebrates plant based foods, but is not limited to them,” Nicole Angiel, Acterra’s director of sustainability, said at the event. “You already know that it’s healthier for you as an individual to eat more fruits, vegetables and legumes, and whole grains. But it’s also healthier for the planet.”
Angiel described how meat and dairy consumption have significant environmental impacts, particularly greenhouse emissions. A recent study published in Science Magazine addressed the pivotal role agriculture has in climate change.
In a press release, Acterra Executive Director Lauren Weston said, “Despite the urgency, it’s not realistic to expect entire communities to stop eating meat,” but added, “There are underlying issues that require broad policy change, which will take time. But already we have an opportunity to make incremental changes that have big impact.”
Montenegro, formerly of the vegan Filipino restaurant Nick’s (which had locations across the Bay Area) who established Chef Reina’s takeout business in October, offers her plant-forward pancit bihon recipe. She calls it “a great dish if you have leftovers” because it enables cooks to use those random bits and pieces and ends of veggies that sit in the fridge.
“This is the pancit I grew up eating,” she said. “I was able to veganize it so you don’t miss the meat that’s in it.”
Salty black bean garlic sauce is “the secret” to adding depth to the recipe, according to Montenegro. “If you want a deep flavored pancit, this is the way to go.”
• Neutral oil for the pan
• 1 tbsp. black bean garlic sauce (adjust to taste)
• 1 clove garlic minced
• 1/4 onion, sliced
• 1/2 package rice stick noodles (soaked in hot tap water for 10 minutes beforehand)
• 1/2 cup water (OK to use water from the noodles)
• 1/2 lemon, juiced (slice and save the rest for garnish)
• black pepper (adjust to taste)
• 1/2 cup shredded cabbage
• 1/4 cup shredded carrots
• 1/4 cup celery chopped (optional)
• 1 tsp. savory liquid seasoning (optional)
• mushroom powder (to taste)
• salt (to taste)
1. Heat oil in a pan over medium heat.
2. Add onion till translucent, add garlic, carrots and celery. Saute for two minutes, then add the cabbage and black bean garlic sauce.
3. Increase heat to high and add water and pre-soaked noodles.
4. Cook until the water dissolves and the noodles are cooked through.
5. Add lemon juice, black pepper, mushroom powder, salt and liquid seasoning to taste.
6. Serve with lemon slices.