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A Fashion Designer’s Reimagining of a Quinoa Bowl

By Nick Marino

Jesse Kamm recommends springing for some good cheese: “I have no love in my heart for a dry, crumbly feta.”
 
Moira Tarmy
Jesse Kamm recommends springing for some good cheese: “I have no love in my heart for a dry, crumbly feta.”

At this time of year, Jesse Kamm would typically be living off the grid. She’d be down in Panama with her husband, Luke Brower, and their 11-year-old son, Julien, on their annual three-month break, living in a cabin they built in 2009, just a few years after Kamm launched her eponymous Los Angeles-based women’s wear brand. Since then, the line, which transformed tomboyish sailor pants into a style known around the internet as Kamm Pants, has amassed a trove of devotees. Kamm usually works nine months a year designing these casually chic trousers, then spends the summer surfing with her family in tow.

This year, because of Covid-19 travel restrictions, Panama is seeming unlikely. So Kamm, 44, and Brower (who serves as her company’s chief operating officer) have decamped instead to Ojai in Southern California, where they bought a 1960s ranch house earlier this year. There they can hike and bike and still find ways to surf. Throughout the week, Kamm oversees her small brand’s assortment of high-waisted pants, canvas chore coats, dead-stock cotton tees and crushable bucket hats. The company makes pieces based on her own personal style, honed during her previous career as a fashion model, and sold at 30 international retailers — though her own website is her biggest account, a blessing during the coronavirus shutdown. On Sundays, she heads to the local farmer’s market to load up on fresh produce for a dish she calls the Veggie Delight. It’s essentially a deconstructed quinoa bowl, though she would never think of it in such culinary terms. “It’s easy to make, and it’s full of nutrition and it tastes good,” she says. “Those are my simple qualifications.”

Moira TarmyThe fashion designer in Ojai, California. “Being away from the city,” she says, “is a good headspace for me creatively.”
The fashion designer in Ojai, California. “Being away from the city,” she says, “is a good headspace for me creatively.”

The dish came to her right around the time she started her company, “after a long day of drawing and sewing,” and it has stayed in the family rotation ever since. “When I became a parent,” she says, the Veggie Delight “proved to be very effective, because not only could you get your meal out of it, you could have breakfast afterward.” Which is to say that with any leftover grains, she makes another one of her creations, Quinoa and Cream, by stirring in two-percent milk, a dash each of cinnamon and salt and a sweetener like honey, maple syrup or coconut sugar. A hearty savoury supper with a surprisingly sweet bonus, the Delight is a powerhouse. “If things are good and calm,” Kamm says, “I’m serving this two times a week.”

Moira TarmyIf you make a little extra quinoa, you’ll have enough left over for the bonus breakfast that Kamm calls Quinoa and Cream.
If you make a little extra quinoa, you’ll have enough left over for the bonus breakfast that Kamm calls Quinoa and Cream.
  • 1 cup quinoa

  • 1 bunch thinly sliced carrots

  • 1 bundle kale

  • 1 head washed and chopped romaine lettuce

  • 1 ripe, diced Hass avocado

  • ¾ cup halved cherry tomatoes

  • ¾ cup feta cheese (in brine if possible)

  • olive oil for drizzling

  • ¼ lemon, plus more for garnish

  • sea salt

1. Make quinoa according to package instructions and set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle salt over the carrots, then roast on a baking sheet for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, strip and chop the kale leaves, then toss them with oil and salt. Halfway through the carrots’ cook time, place the kale in the oven on a separate baking sheet and roast alongside the carrots. Remove both roasted vegetables and let cool.

3. Toss the lettuce, avocado and tomatoes in a large bowl to make a salad. Add feta and drizzle with olive oil. Squeeze lemon juice over the roasted vegetables and toss. Place a scoop of quinoa in a bowl or on a plate, then top with both of these components. Finish with salt and another squeeze of lemon juice (if desired).