Good Taste: A Vegan Dish from the Literary Kitchen


This is Ariel Gore, author of classic The Hip Mama Survival Guide; Bluebird: Women and the Psychology of Happiness, and editor of the Lambda Literary Award-winning anthology Portland Queer.

This is Deena Chafetz, a Santa Fe chef known for her blade-sharp wit and amazing Japanese and New Mexican food. She used to teach at a local cooking school, where rumor has it lifelong heterosexual-identifying women left her classes not only full of her amazing food but full of questions (as in LGBT questions). She’s the executive chef at The Grille at Quail Run.

These two met back in 2012; their first date was at a tattoo shop. Turns out love of body ink isn’t the only thing they have in common—they also bond over a shared love of food.

Ariel regularly teaches intensive weekend writing classes around the country, and pre-Deena, also cooked for her students just to give them one less thing to worry about doing during the intensives.

She made vegan, gluten-free dishes that were perfectly delicious for all, but the first time Deena accompanied Ariel to a workshop in Baltimore, Deena thought it would be much more time-efficient to do the cooking while Ariel taught so that when the class time ended, Deena and Ariel could have more Alone Time in the hotel room.

And that’s how the two of them began working together on Literary Kitchen. Several more have followed, all around the country and in Santa Fe. You can take her classes online as well, and she’ll also be teaching along with me and three other teachers at the Wild Mountain Memoir Retreat with keynote speaker Cheryl Strayed, March 15-17 in Leavenworth, WA.

Here’s Ariel’s recipe for gluten-free, vegan Quinoa Butternut Mac ‘n’ Cheese.

She says: “My roommate put tuna on hers last night and said it was just like grandma used to make! I guess that ain’t vegan anymore, but still 100% yummy.”

You’ll need…

A large butternut squash

1/2 cup almond milk

4 tablespoons nutritional yeast

the juice of half a lemon

4 tablespoons Smart Balance

4 cloves garlic or 1 teaspooon garlic powder or onion powder

1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

a little pepper

A box of quinoa macaroni or shells — 8 oz. for a decadent amount of cheese, a pound for less cheese love.

So you’ll preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Put the butternut squash on a cookie sheet in the middle & bake it for about an hour or an hour and a half. Let cool slightly, then cut in half.

Scoop out the seeds (these can be roasted just like pumpkin seeds if you like) and then scoop out about two cups of the butternut flesh into a food processor or a blender or your big bowl.

This is going to leave you with about half of a cooked butternut squash. I don’t know what you’ll do with that. Probably make more mac and cheese tomorrow.

Anyway! To the butternut, add the almond milk, nutritional yeast, smart balance, garlic or powder, lemon, and salt. Purée or mash that until it’s super smooth and creamy.

Now just cook your quinoa macaroni or shells according to the package instructions, and drain well. Let cool for just a few minutes, then spoon on your “cheese” and stir until coated.

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