Dining with Dara: Eat your vegetables; vegetarian dining options

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Eat healthier by adding more vegetables to your diet as part of your New Year’s resolution. (MPR photo/Julie Siple)

By Dara Moskowitz-Grumdahl, Minnesota Public Radio

What do the actor Brad Pitt, former President Bill Clinton, and Socrates have in common? All are vegetarians.

Bill Clinton, once famous for his fried chicken eating ways, is actually a vegan today. Eating more vegetables, and less meat, is a popular New Year’s resolution, and vegetarian dining options in the Twin Cities are available.

Cultural anthropologist Margaret Visser’s 1988 book “Much Depends on Dinner: The Extraordinary History and Mythology, Allure and Obsessions, Perils and Taboos of an Ordinary Meal” discussed how so many of our everyday food traditions descend from ancient Anglo-Saxon rituals. For instance, Visser said that a lot of the ways that Americans prefer food — a whole roast chicken, a big pork chop — actually comes from medieval, Anglo-Saxon traditions meant to prove that food wasn’t adulterated, in a what you see is what you get spirit.

In this New Year’s resolution season, it is difficult to adhere to meatless Mondays and plant-based meals when the Western tradition is that of pork chop on a plate. But what if you leave that tradition?

Ethiopian restaurants, like the Blue Nile in Minneapolis, or Fasika in St. Paul offer a whole different way of eating. Diners use injera, a whole-grain pancake made of the high-protein grain teff, to scoop up different stews made of various legumes and vegetables. Both restaurants offer vegetarian sampler plates that are full-on feasts, and a completely different way of eating your vegetables.

Cultures with a strong current of Buddhism are great places to find spectacular vegetarian food. Dancing Ganesha in downtown Minneapolis has an extensive vegetarian menu. Their charred baby eggplant with roast peanuts in a fresh coconut curry is magical, smoky and fresh in the most spectacular way. In Eagan, Sambol restaurant specializes in both Indian and Sri Lankan cuisine. Their black lentils are nearly as good as foie gras.

Thai restaurants are another resource for eating vegetables. In St. Paul, Supatra Thai makes a papaya salad that is perky, energetic and zingy with lime it tastes like it could dance off the plate. In Minneapolis, Naviya’s Thai makes exquisite curries — big thunderous green curries, deep and dusky massaman peanut curries. They use fresh, beautiful organic vegetables, broccoli as bright as emeralds — it’s beautiful to see.

It’s an interesting way to think differently about resolution season: Look to another culture, and see how they’ve been managing to move vegetables to the center of the plate — for thousands of years.

Ethiopian

Blue Nile

2027 E. Franklin Ave., Minneapolis

612-338-3000

Fasika

510 Snelling Ave N, St. Paul

(651) 646-4747

Indian & Sri Lankan

Dancing Ganesha

1100 Harmon Place, Minneapolis

(612) 338-1877

Sambol Indian Cuisine

1260 Town Centre Dr., Eagan

(651) 688-8686

Thai

Naviya’s Thai Brasserie

2812 W. 43rd St., Minneapolis

612-276-5062

Supatra’s Thai Cuisine

967 West 7th St., St. Paul

651-222-5859

Dara Moskowitz-Grumdahl is a longtime food critic and the senior editor of Minnesota Monthly.