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The fall season brings a butternut squash polenta recipe from The Plot restaurant in Oceanside. Photo by Sam Wells Photography
Columns Jano's Garden

Jano’s Garden: Vegans grow in Oceanside

Jessica Waite has been a vegetarian since she was 7. Then, at 15, after reading “The China Study,” by T. Colin Campbell, she became a vegan.

“The studies in this book which indicate the correlation between consuming an animal-based diet and developing heart disease, certain types of cancer and diabetes convinced me to change my diet.”

It also inspired her to create one of the best vegan restaurants in North County, The Plot in Oceanside.

Although my columns are usually about how to garden, this week I was looking for fall vegetable harvest recipes, and I decided to go to the source — true vegetarians and vegans!

Jessica and her husband, Davin Waite, have been featured as some of the best restaurateurs in the area and wow all their customers at their three Oceanside restaurants — The Plot, Wrench and Rodent Seabasstropub and The Whet Noodle.

The staff at The Plot has strong convictions in a difficult market, and Chef Chris Logan believes, “It takes just as much effort to do something poorly as it does to do it well, and we believe that creating good food is a part of the soul.”

Chris has worked in the food business for over 40 years, and after studying at the Culinary Institute of America went on to create French cuisine in many restaurants around the country.

Adapting vegetarian recipes

Chef Logan’s French influence still echoes in the vegan recipes at The Plot, but substitutions had to be made to create plant-based, non-dairy, meatless menus. He shared his recipe for Polenta and Butternut Squash, which fits into my garden harvest theme.

“The process of adapting a traditionally dairy-filled recipe was a challenge and started with coconut milk,” he said. “Both the coconut milk and coconut cream had too much fat, so I substituted my Nori seaweed-based stock.” 

Recipe for polenta with butternut squash

by Chef Christopher Logan, The Plot

— Roast one large whole butternut squash in oven set @350 degrees for 1 hour

— Allow to cool, remove seeds and peel and puree in blender. Add water to make it easier for mixture to become smooth.

— Measure 1 cup puree to 2 cups water, bring to simmer and add fine cornmeal, 1-2 cups total in ½ c. increments. Stir into liquid as mixture becomes thick, add more liquid as needed. (If you have a vegetable broth or make your own.)

— Allow flavors to blend and mixture to cook until tender to the mouth. If still grainy, it needs to cook more. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with vegetable sausage or topping of your choice.

The Plot garden grows

Jessica and Davin have committed themselves to producing as many of their own vegetables as possible for their restaurants in the raised beds on their property and have enlisted the help of Community Roots Executive Director Bianca Bonilla to supervise the effort.

Bonilla works with local students who plant, prune and harvest the beds filled with seasonal tomatoes, squash, lettuce, herbs and Davin’s favorite edible gourd, chayote.

The Waites are also active in the Berry Good Food Foundation, which distributes garden grants to schools and community projects.

Their recommendations for cooks and gardeners who would like to explore a vegetarian and vegan lifestyle include “Veganomicon,” by Isa Moskowitz, and the website www.livekindly.com. Jessica highly recommends the book and film, “Kiss the Ground,” from Josh Tickell, as a revolutionary look at diet and climate change.

It is exciting to see the growth of urban gardens and vegan restaurants right here in North County. The Plot is located at 1733 S. Coast Highway, Oceanside; information at 442-266-8200.

If you have questions or recommendations regarding exciting gardening projects contact me at [email protected].

Jano Nightingale is a horticulturist and former Director of the Cornell Master Gardener Program in Cooperstown, New York. She works on community gardens in North County and can be reached at [email protected]

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