With two children and one borrowed mini van, we sauntered along the beach in Santa Barbara, sampled wine (and grapes) in Paso Robles, met South African penguins in Monterey, hugged grandparents in Pacific Grove, dug a big hole with a gaggle of cousins in Sacramento, and hiked shady paths to gaze at the Golden Gate Bridge spanning the San Francisco Bay.
We ate well.
There was an excellent picnic of big fat marinated beans and fancy crackers and olives and quince paste and almonds on the patio of the winery, and the best chips and salsa of my life from Bridget Parker's booth at the Paso Robles farmers market. We had carrot milkshakes and surprisingly good tempeh burgers from a hippie joint in Santa Barbara when we discovered that Pizza Guru was way too far to walk from the beach with two small children. The boys had their first shirley temples. Paul and I spent a lovely afternoon in a modern day tiki bar in Pacific Grove tipsily wading through the very nice list of tropical drinks and vegan snacks - the spicy charred edamame were a revelation. The spring rolls were adequate.
I got to cook with my sister-in-law with the tomatoes and zucchini from their huge garden.
And then on one of the last afternoons of our trip, Desmond and I sat on a park bench together above the coastal trail in Golden Gate National Park and shared a snack picnic that we had picked up at Walgreens on the way.
While the boy happily crunched his life's first pringle and we passed back and forth a can of mixed nuts, Desmond looked at the trees and wildflowers and the path that curved around to who-knows-what-next-adventure, and said,
"I just can't leave our vacation."
So we agreed that we would remember this moment forever, and then we ran down that trail, and discovered a red tailed hawk perched in a tree just above us, and we talked to a man about the trolley cars that used to run all the way along the cliffs, and then when the trail forked we changed each other's minds and raced down a gazillion stairs to the beach below. Desmond climbed on the old wooden pilings and together we balanced on a make-shift teeter-totter.
My. Own. Flippin'. Kitchen.
It is now rice and beans and vegetables all the time - which is good, because, also, we are totally broke now that we're back from gallivanting around wineries and San Francisco.
One of the first things I made when we got home was a big ol' batch of The Sauce. You know, The Sauce? We've talked about it before, but I'm actually going to write down the recipe today. It's originally from The Spot in Hermosa Beach, so it's old school vegetarian fare, but it is so addictive-ly creamy delicious smothered on that virtuous bowl of rice and beans and vegetables. I hadn't noticed how many little tweaks we've made to the recipe over the years. I always just made the mental conversion - canola oil for almond (cheaper), nutritional yeast instead of brewer's (we're not that old school vegetarian), a little less oil, a different kind of tofu, scale everything down 75% to compensate, until finally I realized that I ought to just write it down the way we make it.
It is what I crave when I'm away from home - this perfectly simple hearty sustenance.
Hey! Does that sound like a ton of oil? I know. But it makes a huge batch, and I've actually reduced it a tiny bit from the original recipe, which incidentally, you can find here. Also, I always pour this over something almost or completely fat-free like rice and beans and steamed vegetables. My kids prefer to use it as a dip - wet your hands and turn the rice into little dip-able balls to eat with lightly steamed broccoli and carrots.
Makes: about 3 cups
Takes: about 5 minutes
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup Bragg's
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1/4 teaspoon kelp powder
- 1/4 teaspoon Spike
- 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 clove of garlic, smashed and peeled
- 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon tamari
- 1 12-ounce package firm silken tofu
Blend all ingredients until smooth and creamy.
We love this sauce drizzled (or more accurately - heavily poured) over the House Tofu with spinach and rice or over a simple bowl of rice and beans and vegetables (the other day I even just warmed some fresh-from-the-can black beans under hot water - don't tell Gourmet Magazine). It was delicious on top of tempeh and broccoli and rice the other day. My kids like to dip steamed vegetables and rice balls in it. And if you have leftovers, you can even turn the sauce into seitan cutlets.