Although Washington, DC has seen its fair growth in plant-eater friendly fair, a massive (gaping) gap still exists somewhere in the land between supreme health food and crispy battered tofu and ranch sandwiches. With raw juice bars and salad shops now readily dotting the city, sitting down for a warmer, more balanced meal to leave you satisfied without that ‘roll me home feeling’ is a bit harder to come by. Hälsa, Emily Gaines’s fast-casual Brookland eatery, may be the one to step in and fill the divide- providing eaters a globally inspired, locally sourced dining experience in the form of their little-brown-box market plates. With menu options ranging from pan-seared mahi mahi to chicken sausage patties and pulled pork, diners can also opt for Hälsa’s protein and fiber rich herby lentil-mushroom meatballs. Balanced with a seasonal side, baby green salad, and a grain or salad base, I’ve found myself most drawn to their carrot, cabbage, and bok choy kimchi, tricolor quinoa pilaf, and arugula salad with pickled onions. Although this plate lies right outside my casual lunchtime budget ($12-$16), Hälsa’s minimalist approach to cooking and ambiance partnered with the temptation of vegan desserts may make the splurge worth it.
Hälsa’s Lentil Mushroom ‘Meatballs’ [makes about 24 balls]
2 cup black lentils
1 bay leaf
4 cups filtered water
1 ½ pounds mushrooms of choice
½ cup rolled oats
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup garlic, minced
½ cup red wine
2 cups low sodium vegetable stock
¼ cup low sodium soy sauce or tamari
1 tablespoon quatre epices spice blend,
2 tablespoons white peppercorns
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon (about 12) whole cloves
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon fresh chopped herbs (thyme, rosemary work well)
salt & pepper to taste
In a large pot, combine lentils bay leaf and water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Drain and discard bay leaves; lentils will be undercooked.
Transfer lentils to a food processor with mushrooms and oats and chop coarsely. Set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat until just hot. Add garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds (or until just fragrant), then add in lentil mixture. Allow mixture to brown evenly, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes. Add red wine and reduce. Stir in stock, soy sauce/tamari, quatre epices and fresh herbs. Cook until all liquid is absorbed.
When mixture is cool enough to work with, roll into 1 ½ ounce balls (approximately 1 inch diameter) and bake at 350F for about 30 minutes or until browned on the outside and moist in the center.
Nutritional Information [per ball]
100 Calories, 12.6g Carbohydrates, 3g Fat, 5.6g protein, 5.5g Fiber, 1.3g Sugar
Hälsa is located at: 655 Michigan Ave., NE, Washington, DC 20064, http://www.eathalsa.com/