Soon approaching my three year Washington, DC anniversary, finding this city as an adult fresh out of college, with new eyes and a twelve month stint conquering New York in my pocket, it’s been a journey witnessing not only how much this city has grown, but how we’ve melded. Some inkling of my spirit trickling into its bones, me, finally, finding it a’ok. One of the most vocal plant based eaters in Washington, when Andrew and I first moved back ‘vegan’ hadn’t really hit this city, a pseudo-southern, albeit active, town accommodating with side salads, hold the dressing, and an array of table breads. During our first few weeks back we seldom left the confines of our own kitchen, avoiding the hassle, longing for that heavy compost undertone of my New York juice bar, promises of raw, vegan, and locavore just out of reach. With time we discovered little vegetable friendly meccas; sweetgreen, coffee shops with almond and hemp milk, those restaurants excited to chat, welcome, and grow and my hesitations softened. These little hubs where we felt unconditionally welcomed, progressive, nourished. Fast forwarding nearly thirty-six months, Andrew and I have woven our way through DC’s toughest menus, advocating for change and options, while still holding close to our foundations, to sweetgreen for our weekly salad- our neighborhood hub now quickly expanding, for a nourishing meal, but also resonating commitments we too stand behind.
Now driven by the culinary direction of Chef Michael Stebner, sweetgreen, with locations across the east coast and California, keeps it little creative outpost just around my corner, a text kitchen right in DC’s Dupont Circle. The heart of sweetgreen’s recipe development and testing, with a strong emphasis on flavor, seasonality and environmental impact, consistency, and nutrition, the Dupont Test Kitchen (DTK) brings scratch cooking to a national scale. Celebrating whole vegetables, whole fruits, and whole grains, while preparing each menu item from scratch, their DTK initiatives are evident in every location, based on consumer feedback, tweaking each recipe without sacrificing flavor. sweetgreen has made strides in replacing sriracha (its second highest ingredient being refined sugar) with red pepper flakes in their Spicy Cashew Dressing, a personal favorite, replacing canola oil with grapeseed and olive oil, and eventually plans to remove more sugar dense menu items, see ya frozen yogurt, from its menu. With more inventive food waste reducing options, like the use of kale stems, and gluten free alternatives, like their now testing falafel, their ever evolving menu has something healthful and accessible for every eater.
Always the creature of habit, I’ve stuck with the same make-my-own sweetgreen salad, with little recipe tweaks finding their way into my bowl as the seasons and years have past. A Mediterranean inspired bowl with traditional ingredients like fresh mint, cherry tomatoes, and cucumber atop an overflowing bed of baby arugula, my salad is adorned with the sweetgreen test kitchen gluten free falafel and new Spicy Cashew Dressing. So delicious, you can often catch Andrew dressing his salad by the spoonful. Because a lot of these ingredient options are only available at sweetgreen, I’ve included some at-home substitution ideas, for those of you who may not have one right around your corner.
My Go-To sweetgreen Salad [serves 1]
4 cups baby arugula
¼ cup fresh mint, roughly chopped
¼ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
¼ cup cucumber, diced small
¼ cup chickpeas (substitute: thoroughly rinsed and drained canned chickpeas)
¼ cup spicy quinoa (substitute: cooked quinoa)
5 balls baked falafel (substitute: baked pistachio and mint falafel)
2 tablespoons spicy cashew dressing (substitute: summer sauce)
juice of ½ lemon
In a large bowl, toss all ingredients, making sure dressing and lemon juice are evenly dispersed amongst all salad components. Transfer to your favorite bowl, serve and enjoy!
Thank you sweetgreen for sponsoring this post, and thank you for reading!