Even if you haven't visited Cafe Gratitude (yet), you can probably figure out the NorCal transplant's culinary M.O. with a quick glance at the menu. The names for the organic vegan menu items — such as Present and I Am Inspired — are an attempt to connect the food you're ordering to your mood. In keeping with this approach, executive chef Dreux Ellis created a new seasonal bowl, named I Am Resolved, to welcome the new year that's right around the corner.

It's a Southern-style brown rice bowl with simmered black-eyed peas, spiced garnet yams, citrus collard greens and a maple drizzle. Ellis wanted to introduce a Southern dish to the menu. “I was inspired by the idea of New Year's and traditional foods that people eat in different countries to bring good luck for a new year,” says Ellis. “I lived for many years in Italy and they usually have lentils for the new year. It's grapes in Latin America. In the South, it's black-eyed peas.”

“I'm a traditionalist. I like to go back to the regional context of a dish. With the traditional recipes of black-eyed peas, ham hock or some kind of ham was a main component,” says Ellis. “To replace that, I used sun-dried tomatoes for meatiness and capers for the saltiness of the ham. Then I used smoked salt, because I don't like using liquid smoke. When I browned these, it really gave a nice smoky and salty flavor.”

The chef shared his recipe for the bowl, which will be be available starting the end of this month, from Dec. 31 through Wednesday, Jan. 31 at both restaurant locations in Larchmont and Venice. The dish is complimentary with the purchase of the 'I Am Cleansed' meal program, which comes in 1-day, 3-day, or 5-day packages.

I Am Resolved

(Southern Black-Eyed Peas with Brown Rice, Pureed Garnet Yams and Citrus Collards)

From: Dreux Ellis

Serves: 6-8

Brown rice:

2 cups brown rice (your choice short, medium or long-grain)


Kosher salt, to taste

1. Rinse rice in a strainer under cold running water for 30 seconds. Bring 24 cups of water to a boil in a large pot with a tight-fitting lid over high heat. Add the rice, stir it once, and boil, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Pour the rice into a strainer over the sink.

2. Let the rice drain for 10 seconds, then return it to the pot, off the heat. Cover the pot and set it aside to allow the rice to steam for 10 minutes. Uncover the rice, fluff with a fork, and season with salt. Yields 4 cups cooked rice.

Southern black-eyed peas

½ cup olive oil

1 cup sundried tomatoes* (rehydrated for 30 minutes in warm water, then drained)

1 jar (3.5 ounce) capers, drained and finely chopped

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup diced medium green bell pepper

2 Tablespoons chopped garlic

1 medium jalapeno, chopped

1 pound dry black-eyed peas

2 quarts water

2 Tablespoons applewood smoked salt

1 Tablespoon molasses

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 whole chipotle pepper

½ teaspoon Cajun spice mix

2 bay leaves

1. In a medium stockpot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the drained sundried tomatoes and capers. Sauté until tomatoes are nicely browned.

2. Add onions, green bell peppers, garlic and jalapeno. Continue sautéeing until the onions are translucent.

3. Add the black-eyed peas and sauté for a few minutes before adding the water, applewood smoked salt, molasses, black pepper, chipotle pepper, Cajun spice mix and bay leaves.

4. Cook for approximately 50 minutes, until the peas are soft but not broken. Add a small amount of water when necessary. Yields 4 quarts.

*Note: Ellis' recipe calls for dried sun-dried tomatoes, but jarred sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil would work as well.

Puréed garnet yams

8 cups cubed yams

1 ½ teaspoon salt, divided

¼ cup olive oil

1 medium red onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon Cajun spice mix

1. Place cubed yams in a pot and cover in water. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt and bring water to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until the yams are soft. Check periodically to see if extra water is needed and add if necessary. Once the yams are fully cooked, drain any extra water, saving it to use in the puree if needed.

2. In a separate pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the red onion, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and Cajun spice mix. Sauté until caramelized.

3. Place yams and sautéed onions into a food processor. Purée until well-blended, using some of the reserved water if necessary. Yields 5 cups

Citrus collards

½ cup raisins

1 cup orange juice, or white wine

1 large bunch collards

¼ cup olive oil

1 Tablespoon chopped garlic


1. Soak raisins with orange juice (or white wine) for 1-2 hours until raisins are well-plumped. Drain raisins of liquid except for a 1/4 cup to be used later. Squeeze out any excess moisture in the raisins.

2. Cut the central stems from the collard leaves. Lay the leaves flat, one on top of the other and slice into ¼-inch horizontal strips. Wash the chopped leaves and drain well.

3. Bring a medium pot filled with salted water to a boil. Blanch the collards for 2-3 minutes; meanwhile, prepare a large bowl with ice and water. Drain collards and throw them immediately into the bowl of iced water to stop the cooking process. When the collards have cooled off, drain them well and set aside.

4. In a large, heavy skillet, heat ¼ cup of olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté on medium high heat until lightly golden. Add the drained collards and lightly salt. When the collards are warmed through add ¼ cup orange juice and sauté on high heat for 1-2 minutes.

5. Add the raisins in to warm them slightly, then remove from heat. Yields 2 quarts

To assemble:

Maple syrup

Cajun spice Mix

1. Mix equal parts of cooked brown rice and black-eyed peas to create the “Hoppin' John.” Transfer to a serving dish and add the pureed yams on top. Add the cooked citrus collards on top of the yams and finish the dish with a light drizzle of maple syrup and a sprinkle of Cajun spice mix.

See also: Tal Ronnen and Art Smith's Recipe for Vegan Creamy Grits With Roasted Mushrooms

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LA Weekly