Jenné Claiborne, just like most of us right now, is craving for spring to arrive. The vegan chef and author is the founder of Sweet Potato Soul, a food and wellness blog with a trove of delicious, easy-to-make recipes, cooking videos, and healthy eating tips. Jenné also knows that side dishes can help make the meal, so we recently asked her for some guidance on a healthy, fresh, and tasty side for our next lunch or dinner party. The vegan chef shared her quick and easy recipe for a simple, delicious Chinese broccoli in black bean sauce with us. It's the perfect side for your next dinner party, with the subtle bitterness of the greens contrasting with the sauce's sweetness. Jenné was also kind enough to share her look for her spring-inspired table, which features a few of our styles, from the Bobbi Chandelier to a few Casafina Pacifica dinnerware and serving pieces. We also had a chance to revisit our chat with the SPS founder about plant-based cooking, how important keeping a well-stocked fridge and pantry is, and tips on cooking a vegan meal for the first time. Check out Jenné's recipe and read more of our conversation below.
2 tbsp neutral oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large bunch of Chinese broccoli or Yu Choy, halved or chopped
2 tbsp fermented black bean sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp sugar
2–4 tbsp water
Warm the oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add in the minced garlic, cook until lightly golden, and be careful not to burn. Add in the broccoli, and stir well. Cook for 5 minutes until the broccoli is bright green. While it cooks, mix the remaining ingredients in a small bowl and add the black bean sauce. Stir well, and cook for 5–10 minutes longer, or until the broccoli is tender yet still fresh and green.
Shop Jenné's Dining Room
How did you start Sweet Potato Soul? Were you always interested in cooking?
I started my blog, Sweet Potato Soul, as a hobby way back in 2010. I was becoming more and more passionate about food (especially plant-based food) and wanted an outlet where I could connect with other foodies. I have almost always loved cooking. I started cooking at eight and grew up with a single mom who didn't like cooking. A few years during my adolescence, I couldn't be bothered with anything in the kitchen—outside of eating—and I rediscovered my love of cooking in college. I've been hooked ever since.
Tell us your inspiration behind your table decor this season.
I've been choosing light, minimal, and rustic decor for my dining table because I'm craving spring! I live in a 100+-year-old Victorian bungalow and love mixing antique and primitive pieces with modern pieces. It fits so well with my house.
From discussions of its effect on climate change to meat-like products flooding the market, vegan cooking is a topic that's ruled the wellness and food space for years. Why is eating and going vegan so important?
I became vegan for the animals, first and foremost. I always come back to animal and human suffering that is caused by our industrialized meat, dairy, and fishing industries. The other positive effects are gravy for me.
As a chef, what's the number one tip to know when cooking for plant-based diets?
My favorite tip for eating a healthy plant-based diet is to be prepared. Keep your kitchen pantry, refrigerator, and freezer stocked with wholesome ingredients. The basics include dried and canned beans, assorted whole grains and pasta, frozen vegetables, fresh veggies and fruit, and spices. When your kitchen is well stocked, you can easily prepare delicious meals and stick to your healthy eating goals.
Any tips for those cooking a vegan meal for the first time and worried about it all coming together?
Don't get in over your head. Make as many dishes as you can without feeling overwhelmed, and order in or ask your guests to contribute something. The dishes you make will stand out from the rest.
What lessons have you learned in the kitchen that you have brought home with you?
Patience and the power of trial and error. Especially when I was a new cook, these things were essential to not giving up on challenging recipes and techniques. For instance, I went through it with sourdough baking, which has a yogic quality to the novice experience.
What do you recommend making homemade versus buying at the store?
Dressings and spice blends—they're both so easy, and you'll save money and have a fresher, tastier product.
Since moving from Georgia to NYC to here in L.A.—how does California serve as a source of inspiration for Sweet Potato Soul's recipes?
The fresh and local produce is like nothing I've ever experienced. And the fact that this bounty is available year-round is a dream. I can always go to the farmer's market and get inspired just by what's in season. My cooking has become lighter, fresher, and brighter since moving here.
What are the food and wellness essentials you can not live without?
I would definitely say matcha, tahini, sweet potatoes, spending time outside, reading, and long bubble baths.
What are a few must-haves in your home at the moment?
- Fresh flowers
- Bottle of rosé
- Weekend breakfasts with Baby J and our Nana (my grandmother)
What advice would you give someone breaking into the wellness and food industry?
Tell us what's next for you and Sweet Potato Soul.
I'm excited to start working on cookbook #2. I'm also looking forward to traveling more this year, both solo trips and beach vacations with family and friends.
Photography provided by Jenné Claiborne