While the jewellery designer Anna Sheffield was growing up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the 1980s, dinner was always a sensitive time, in part because she considered hunting and fishing to be murder. Even her home state’s signature delicacy, green chile stew, typically came filled with beef or pork. After she went vegetarian at 16, she endured a pre-internet era when interesting, meat-free recipes were harder to find. “Your standard dragon bowl is such a classic vegetarian macrobiotic meal,” Sheffield, 45, says of the dish, which combines vegetables, protein and sauce. “Once you’ve eaten it for 20 years, you’re a little bored with the basic brown-rice version.” Recently, she has transformed the co-op staple into a more beautiful, varied dish inspired by the juxtapositions of her jewellery.
For her eponymous line, Sheffield mixes metals and stones in unusual ways, embracing imperfection, sometimes intentionally setting gems upside down. “I like playing with rule-breaking techniques,” she says. “It’s still beautiful. It’s still precious. It still makes sense. But you’ve done it in a way that no one else would.” Her dragon bowl follows the same conceit, combining ingredients in a spectrum of flavours and hues. “It tastes colourful,” she says. “You have the sweetness of the orange-yellow squash. And then you have the herbaceousness of the jade rice and the fresh fennel; that’s green-tasting. And then you get a little bit of sour and funky with both the purple beet kraut and the cabbage slaw.”
Eating this way has become easier for Sheffield since late last year, when she moved to Los Angeles after spending almost two decades in New York. (Her Los Angeles store celebrates its second anniversary this month.) These days, when she needs groceries, she either wanders out to her backyard garden in Silver Lake or loads up her Mercedes hybrid with produce from the farmer’s market. Then she cooks, relishing the task’s ephemeral nature. “It’s not like my work,” she says, “where I have to document it, photograph it, price it, talk about it. It’s such a beautiful thing to create something that becomes a memory pretty much instantly.”
Anna’s Jeweled Dragon Bowl
Makes 2 bowls
For the squash
Slice squash into rings, de-seeding as you go. Rub each ring with a little coconut oil and place in a glass baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and dust with smoked paprika. Cover and bake 15 minutes at 350 degrees, then uncover and cook for an additional 10 minutes or so depending on thickness. You’ll want the squash soft but not mushy.
For the rice
Cover rice with a cup of salted water. Bring to a boil, then cover and steam on low heat for about 15 minutes. Before serving, pinch off the fronds of the fennel and stir into the rice along with a touch more salt.
For the cabbage slaw
Stir shredded cabbage with 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus the rice wine vinegar, sesame seeds and dulse. Let sit for 10 minutes or so until it softens.
For the fennel and onion
Halve the fennel bulb below the stalks. Remove core and any tough outer leaves, then slice into ¼-inch sections. Halve the onion and slice it into rings. Salt the fennel and onion and cook them in avocado oil over medium heat until they’re browned. Cover and continue until they’re cooked through.
For the jalapeño-pea yoghurt
Dry roast the jalapeño under the broiler, turning it so it cooks evenly. Once the skin is bubbly, remove and let cool — then peel, de-seed and halve. Heat the peas over medium heat on the stove until they’re lightly cooked and then set aside. Once everything is cooled, purée the peas and half the pepper (or the whole thing if you like heat) with yoghurt, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, the apple cider vinegar and the shallot in a blender. Add salt to taste.
Pile the components into bowls, giving each its own space. Finish with beet kraut and red pepper flakes.
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