Violinist Stirling Trent plucks the tastiest fruits and vegetables when creating vegan dishes in his Kansas City kitchen.
Prior to becoming Kansas City Symphony’s associate principal second violin, Trent lived on both coasts — first as a graduate of the Juilliard School, then by earning master’s and doctorate degrees in violin performance from the University of Southern California — but says he is at home in the heartland.
Trent committed to a vegan lifestyle nearly four years ago. The meals he creates are culinary crescendos, built layer-upon-layer using quality ingredients.
Q: What are your plans for the first official weekend of summer?
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A: The Sunday before Memorial Day, the Kansas City Symphony comes together at Union Station for a patriotic outdoor concert. To me, this is a special concert, because the location feels like the heart of Kansas City, and it’s the perfect spot to bring people together and celebrate being Americans.
This is a free concert and everyone is encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets and pack a picnic or get food from the parked food trucks near the venue. Memorial Day is a time to feel pride for our country and remember those who bravely died in service to our freedoms. There are no political opinions to be heard at this concert, only music. And music is nonpartisan — it has a way of bringing people together and unifying us all.
Q: Food also has the power to bring people together. In addition to making music, do you also share food with others?
A: I grew up near Fort Worth, Texas, as the youngest of three. Just like I can’t really remember a time when I wasn’t playing violin, I can’t remember a time when my mother, Jana Trent, wasn’t being creative. Whether she’s making something in the kitchen or creating something with yarn, my mother taught me that creativity in all its forms is a way to express oneself.
Food and music can be powerful catalysts that can help access memories or emotions. While the pursuit and practice of cooking and music can be solitary, both experiences are heightened when they can be shared with others. Last year, when traveling to the Symphony in the Flint Hills concert, I brought these mini Vegan Key Lime Pies to share with others. I suppose I might make some to share with musicians at the Memorial Day concert as well.
Q: What inspired you to practice a vegan diet, in which you do not consume any animals or their byproducts?
A: Reading Michael Pollan’s book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” really changed the way I think about the food we eat in America. It opened my eyes to see that the food choices people make have implications, not only on an individual level but also on a global level.
For me, personally, I have noticed how much better I feel after eating meals made from ingredients that are low on the food chain. I believe eating a plant-based diet is not just better for my individual health, it’s also good for the planet as well. I am not a “preachy” person, but this is what works for me.
Q: What do you say to people who think a plant-based diet is boring?
A: A person can explore so many different cuisines of the world through herbs and spices and you don’t even miss the meat. I love roasted vegetables seasoned with smoked paprika. Avocados, bananas, sweet potatoes and beans are regulars in my diet.
Cooking is like music in that you have to put in the preparation time for a successful outcome. I especially enjoy making these little Key lime pies, found on the “Minimalist Baker’s” blog. The cashews give these little pies a creamy consistency, and the lime is very refreshing.
For me, both cooking and playing violin are therapeutic. Even though I am an introverted person, both of these pursuits open me up, and there’s often something special that happens when I share these endeavors with others.
Mary G. Pepitone is a freelance writer who lives in Leawood. She also writes a nationally syndicated home column. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to nominate a cook.
Celebration at the Station
Enjoy Kansas City Symphony’s 15th annual Bank of America Celebration at the Station on Sunday, May 28, at 8 p.m. at Union Station. Pack a picnic and bring lawn chairs and blankets. Free. For more information, go to kcsymphony.org/Celebration or call 816-471-0400.
Vegan Key Lime Pies
For the crust:
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs or 1 sleeve graham crackers, crushed finely
1/4 cup vegan butter, melted
For the filling:
1 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 4 hours or overnight, then drained
3/4 cup coconut milk, well-shaken
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 tablespoon lime zest, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/3 cup agave nectar
To prepare crust:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a standard muffin tin with 12 paper liners and set aside.
In the bowl of a food processor, blend graham cracker crumbs and melted vegan butter until well combined.
Evenly divide mixture among lined muffin tins and press down with a glass or spoon to flatten. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and set aside to cool.
To prepare filling:
In the bowl of a blender, add drained cashews, coconut milk, coconut oil, 1 tablespoon lime zest, lime juice and agave nectar. Blend ingredients until mixture is creamy and smooth.
Divide filling equally among muffin tins, pouring evenly over individual crusts. If desired, top each with lime zest and loosely cover with plastic wrap.
Place in freezer for at least 2 hours, or until firm. Remove from the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes to thaw before serving. Will keep covered in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.
Chef’s notes: For vegan butter, use Earth Balance brand. Use 3 to 4 large limes or 6 to 7 Key limes to achieve 1/2 cup freshly squeezed juice.
Source: Minimalist Baker
Per pie: 239 calories (68 percent from fat), 19 grams total fat (11 grams saturated), 12 milligrams cholesterol, 18 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 59 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.