Courtesy of Café Gratitude

Get into clean eating with these unique takes inspired by Cafe Gratitude’s menu.

Magdalena O'Neal  – July 27, 2021

Chances are you’ve sliced up at least one watermelon this summer, whether you’re cooking it on the grill, sipping it in a cocktail, or tossing it with some feta in a salad. But we’ve got a new way to transform the fantastic fruit.

We caught up with Seizan Dreux Ellis, executive chef of Southern California Cafe Gratitude locations, who shared a recipe for a bountiful watermelon poke bowl. Poke bowls are typically served with chunks of fresh fish, rice, nori, edamame, and more toppings. In this version, Dreux replaces the meat with roasted watermelon, surrounded by watermelon radish, edamame, pickled ginger, and seaweed on top of a bed of forbidden rice.

Dreux says watermelon is the perfect centerpiece for the dish because it mirrors a familiar taste. “It’s not quite tuna but very delicious.” Once lightly cooked, watermelon’s water content “is reduced in the oven which causes it to visually look like raw tuna, have the same mouth-feel as raw tuna, and absorb the poke bowl’s marinade well,” Dreux said.

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Watermelon isn’t the only way to keep your plant-based dishes exciting. Most proteins have a fruit or vegetable substitute. “Look to whole foods!” Dreux says. “For example, bean chilis or curries.” You can “smash beans with grains and veggies to make delicious whole-food vegetable patties,” Dreux added. “I also gather unique, fresh veggie ideas from regional cuisines like Japan, Italy, China, or India.”

Cafe Gratitude launched a cookbook last year, Love is Served, so dedicated patrons can try their hand at elevated plant-based dishes at home. Some are even popular items on the cafe’s fully plant-based menu. In the book and in each cafe, dishes are named after positive affirmations, such as “I Am Awakening” key lime pie, or a favorite of Dreux, “I Am Warm-Hearted,” a French-style grilled polenta with mushroom ragout.

If you can’t get your hands on the book or have a few days to wait while it ships to your door, we’ve gathered a few plant-based dishes to serve with watermelon poke. Keep scrolling for our favorite plant-based dinner menu.


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