Nothing is more satisfying than the comforting smells and sounds of home cooking — a hot skillet crackling with fragrances of garlic and onion or a big ol’ dutch oven stewing aromatically with mouthwatering produce of the season. Scroll down for two delicious plant-based recipes inspired by a recent trip to the Davis Farmer’s Market and produce purchased from Toledo Farms and Schletewitz Family Farms, two long-time market vendors.

My name is Brandon. On social media, I go by the name “Chef Chay.” The word chay in Vietnamese, and a handful of different Asian languages, means vegan/vegetarian/plant-based. I’ve been vegan for a little over seven years. I’ve also been a plant-based chef for a portion of that time, mainly specializing in a variety of Asian cuisine at my small pop-up restaurant called “Chay Corner,” located in the Lazi Cow ice cream and tea shop in Davis.

At home and among friends or family, I enjoy branching out and experiencing plant-based cooking from all cultures. Plant-based eating couldn’t be easier these days. Give it a shot, even if only for a short period of time. You won’t regret it.

Scroll down for new take out ordering details and connecting on social media.

What is plant-based eating?

As the word suggests, eating plant-based means that the majority of food you eat mainly consists of animal-free products. This includes nutritional essentials such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds and grains. Here’s a closer look:

  • Legumes: beans (pinto, garbanzo, black, kidney, soy, and lima), lentils, split-peas, and edamame. Relatively high in protein and carbohydrates, low in fat.
  • Fruits: citrus (grapefruit, clementines, tangerines, lemons, and oranges), melons (watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, and Crenshaw), berries (blackberry, strawberry, blueberry, and raspberry), apples, peaches, pears, and plums.
  • Nuts and seeds: cashew, peanut, almond, pecan, walnut, pistachio, sunflower seed, flax, sesame, and chia. These tend to be higher in fat content, but great for protein and high in vitamins and dietary fiber.
  • Grains: quinoa, brown rice, jasmine rice, couscous, buckwheat, barley, oats, and farro. Nutritional value varies across different grains, but all are a great source of carbohydrates for an energy packed day.

According to the evidence-based nutritional data provided by Healthline, eating a plant-based diet has shown to help prevent many medical conditions, among of which are heart disease, cognitive decline, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

The best source in Davis is …

There is no better place than the City of Davis to experience the love of plant-based eating. In such a small town, we have access to hundreds of different spices and herbs from all across the world — fruits and vegetables picked and plucked at the height of their season. Luckily for us Davisites (the residents of Davis, not the exceedingly rare mineral), we have a fresh source of produce every Wednesday and Saturday, rain or shine, which is, of course, the Davis Farmers Market.

Federico of Toledo Farms, who has been a vendor at the Davis Farmers for nine years, passionately explained to me this past Wednesday, “The fruits and vegetables that we have are picked the day before we bring them here, sometimes the same day.” Among his table were countless bundles of fresh chard, kale, mint, thyme and all the wintery greens one could hope for, and, boy, were they good! The kale sold by Toledo has just the perfect amount of crunch and tenderness for an excellent salad. “Starting April and in the summer, we have more types of zucchini and tomatoes than you can even find at the grocery store.”

Further down the walkway, a cowboy hat wearing gentleman by the name of Romero proudly beckoned us over to his table with a colorful selection of citrusy goods from Schletewitz Family Farms. I complimented what I thought to be large grapefruit before I was met with a quick response: “This is not grapefruit. This is Oroblanco. It is sweeter than grapefruit. Over there we have tangerine, Cara cara, and blood orange,” he pointed. Overwhelmed with the juicy selection, I contemplated for a few minutes before grabbing a little of everything. “I’ll make it seven dollars for you my friend,” he said with a smile on his face before throwing in a few more blood oranges.

I was astounded when I found out that Schletewitz Family Farms has been serving the Davis Farmers market since the 1980s, but after chomping into the perfectly balanced, mouthwatering sweet and sourness of the Oroblanco, I believed it without question.

Storm clouds and great sorrow

As wondrous the Farmers Market was that day, a shadow loomed over Central Park in Downtown Davis. Aside from the rain and cloudy skies brought by the waters of March, a powerful ripple of the COVID-19 pandemic seemed to be notching a very noticeable mark on the Farmers Market. Business was much slower than usual, “Yes, because of the COVID it has been slower, but we still come out to sell. Thank you for coming out,” Federico said. We thanked him for being there as well.

I am saddened by the effect COVID-19 has had on our community. In times of crisis like this one, the most responsible thing to do is to keep healthy and avoid as much social contact as possible, but when shopping for necessities, these farmers will fearlessly bring the best to the table for you every time.

Clearly, the Davis Farmer’s Market has remained open during this crisis. Please support your local growers and our local market. A statement on the website from Executive Director Randii MacNear dated March 19 provides the following important information:

We continue to follow standards from the state and county health departments, which are updated almost daily. We remain open Wednesdays from 3-6pm and Saturdays from 8am-1pm. Certified Farmers Markets are an essential part of the community’s food security. Even under Yolo County’s “secure in place” measures, our market is exempt. I am proud to say we are ahead of this advisory with pre-bagging. And I am encouraging diversified farms to put together CSA-like pre-packed boxes for grab-and-go options at our market. The California Department of Public Health’s guidance said, ‘The CDC, FDA and CDPH are not aware of any reports at this time that suggest COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging.” Visit for the full details including more about the postponement of Picnic in the Park until May 13.

Let’s cook a little something

After my adventure at the farmers market in Davis, I decided to put together a meal that highlights the produce I purchased.

First is a vegan interpretation of a Tuscan vegetable soup that typically contains cream, bacon and spicy sausage. The heartiness of the potatoes, sausage, and mushrooms with the richness of the soup is meant to balance the delicate crispness of the kale and zucchini. All of it is brought together with the mouthwatering aroma and spiciness of the garlic, fennel, and red pepper.

As for the citrusy kale salad, the natural bitterness of the kale is offset by soaking in the lemon juice, while the salt plays on the sweetness of the blood orange. The almonds, olive oil, raw onion, and balsamic vinegar is meant to add a buttery savoriness at the back of the tongue, which ties in all the flavorful ingredients of the salad as a whole.

I hope to spark some joy with my food!

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Tuscan Vegetable Soup (Zuppa Toscana)

Serves 3


2 “Beyond” sausage links, Italian flavored (Tofurky and Field Roast are good alternatives; this recipe may also be used without processed plant-proteins for those who are gluten free)

3 cups of vegetable stock

1 ½ cups of plain soymilk (cashew milk or coconut cream also works as alternatives)

1 bundle of kale, chopped

1 large Russet potato coarsely peeled and cut into ½ inch rounds

1 Roma tomato, quartered

1 zucchini cut into rounds

1 bulb of garlic, minced

½ cup of brown mushroom, quartered

½ medium yellow onion, diced

2 tablespoons of vegan butter (or substitute for additional olive oil)

1 tablespoon of refined olive oil

1 tablespoon of red crushed pepper

2 teaspoons of a dried Italian herb blend (I blend my own crushed fennel, oregano, and basil and thyme)

1-2 teaspoons of salt to taste

1 teaspoon of crushed black pepper to taste

Instructions: In a large pot, melt the vegan butter and add in diced yellow onion and minced garlic until translucent over medium heat. Add olive oil, stir in red crushed pepper and quartered roma tomato; the oil should adopt an orangish hue. Break apart the sausage links and be sure to stir frequently to avoid burning. Once the protein has become aromatic and slightly browned, add in the Italian herb blend and bring down flame to low (add in slightly more fennel if omitting vegan sausage). Add in the potatoes and zucchini, stir until nicely coated with the contents of the pot. Stir for 1-2 minutes before pouring in the vegetable stock. Once the soup reaches a slight simmer, add in the zucchini, followed by the soymilk. Stir occasionally until the potatoes have softened, about 10-12 minutes. Add in chopped kale and simmer for an additional minute before turning off flame. After 5 minutes of cooling, serve.

Citrus Kale Salad with Blood Orange

Serves 3


3 cups of chopped kale

1.5 – 2 sweet blood oranges

½ cup crushed almonds (optional)

¼ yellow or red onion, thinly sliced

1.5 tablespoons of lemon juice (¾ lemon)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon crushed black pepper

Instructions: In a mixing bowl, coat chopped kale with lemon juice. Let sit for 3-5 minutes for acids to break down kale before adding the thin onion slices. Add the olive oil and make sure everything is evenly coated. Pour in the balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, followed by the crushed almonds. Add peeled and largely chopped slices of blood orange. Serve and enjoy.

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Chef Brandon’s Chay Corner restaurant pop-up is located in the Lazi Cow ice cream and tea shop at 407 G St. #4 in Davis (@lazicowatdavis) at the far end of the Western Feed parking lot. Chay Corner will be filling take-out orders starting Saturday April 4 forward from 12pm to 9pm. Call (530) 746-2088 to place your order or email Our menu will be posted on Yelp, Instagram, Facebook and on the new Chay Corner website (unveiling this week)!

Connect with Chef Chay on Facebook

Check out Chay Corner on Facebook @chaycornerofficial and Instagram (@chaycorner)

By Brandon Dinh, Chef Chay of Chay Kitchen