With Paul Simon’s soulful ballad “Homeward Bound” flashing in my mind and my fingers crisscrossing the plates in my e-cup on Sunday night, I cooked up a steak in the mess hall at the Jefferson Boys and Girls Club in Southeast Washington.
Right out of the microwave, the most tender part of the steak was center-cut medium sirloin. Fine-grained. Deep, juicy. I was in heaven, until I looked at the plate, which was loaded with huge, grilled sirloin tips. We expect a lot more with the grilled sirloin tips I’m looking for when I shell out for a steak like that. (While we were there, we shared orecchiette (browned pasta) and spaghetti with vegetarian options, as well as a good-sized plate of vegetables.)
To give those seconds of steak a new twist—I often like to add ground-up celery with bok choy for extra zing—I slathered it all over with a vegan flour-based cheese sauce and topped with crumbled fresh-out-of-the-oven quinoa. Maybe I ate 10 slices of cheese sauce and some dry quinoa.
Of course, I’ve been eating very nutritionally balanced meals at home. At the club’s dining room, I doused my sliced steak in soy-lacquered herbed olive oil and drizzled it with smoked-salmon butter. I grilled tiny sweet potato spears and laid a whole scallion on top.
I served a few slices of hot-sauce cactus bread—one of the three excellent vegan breads I like to use as an appetizer—on the side. And I capped it all off with a fresh handful of black olives, fresh from the Esters market in Old Town Alexandria.
The produce had been harvested two days earlier, and it came perfectly color-and-flavor-coordinated with the mix of spices in the baking soda mix. No salt, just enough to give it body and flavor.
These are my favorite elements of vegan cooking: The mingling of vegan food with the basics of our palates—crisp, sweet, salty—and the focusing on colorful, fresh ingredients. The sirloin was light and super-flavorful.
Lucky for me, the Jefferson Boys and Girls Club offers a ton of really good vegan meals. Here are some of my favorites: