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The Om Factor

Want to add a little kick to the staid old potluck? Try mixing in some downward dogs and forward folds.

January 06, 2008|Steffie Nelson | Steffie Nelson is a writer based in Echo Park. Contact her at

There may be 2,500 square feet of Ray Kappe-designed sleekness in Steve Glenn's Santa Monica home, but just before festivities started on a fall evening, the chief executive of eco-friendly developer LivingHomes was still worrying about where to put his guests . . . and their yoga mats.

This was the third time Glenn had hosted one of his spirited "yoga potlucks," but his cedar/steel/glass prefab pad had never held more than 25 yogis, and twice that number had RSVP'd. "I'm counting on a high L.A. flake factor," he said, rolling back the shag rugs and pushing an Eames lounger out of the way. The evening's instructor, Ted McDonald of Brentwood's MahaYoga, was setting up speakers on the roof just in case.

Glenn, 43, began hosting the fitness-and-foodie fetes last year, prompted by his passion for both yoga and entertaining. "Steve likes to get the crew together whenever possible," friend Chris Cavanaugh said, gesturing around the party-perfect space. "It's a big house." Cavanaugh, an advertising exec who showed up with strawberries, is a regular here, having attended previous potlucks.

As more guests filed in--first putting their contributions on the kitchen table (spinach salad, organic wine, a lemon tart, more strawberries), then unrolling their yoga mats--it became clear that there would indeed be enough space downstairs, with just a few people upstairs in a guest bedroom. "If you're in the tree or near the chimney, you can just modify," McDonald joked.

He led the group through a lively vinyasa flow, with tunes by Moby, Bob Marley, Eva Cassidy and the Beatles. McDonald added that because the class was at "some dude's house," it's less intimidating for yoga rookies.

Post-postures, the get-together more or less turned into a typical potluck--albeit one where most folks were dressed in sweatpants and tank tops. The conversation veered from triathlon training (Glenn is a member of the Toyota Engines of Change Triathlon Team) to Burning Man ("Did you see that double rainbow?") to "Good Luck Chuck" (Glenn wrote the treatment for the movie, which is based on his personal dating experiences).

Champagne popped, and plates overflowed with tofu, spicy Indian vegetables, tempeh quesadillas and bite-sized tomato, mozzarella and basil appetizers. A homemade strawberry-rhubarb pie disappeared in minutes. But the dish that met with the most oohs and aahs? A big bowl of kichari (split mung beans and basmati rice) whipped up by Cristina Urioste. "It's considered the most healing meal in ayurveda," the organic chef explained.

"I was just gonna come to the dinner part, but I made myself come to the class," said Alicia Sedwick, who produces Spark, a storytelling series at the Powerhouse Theatre in Santa Monica.

Another party-goer, however, did skip the workout. But before anyone could tsk-tsk, Tom Morley, also an instructor at MahaYoga, apologized and offered a reasonable excuse for missing McDonald's class--he was teaching one of his own.


Post-Yoga Chow

Organic chef Cristina Urioste, one of the guests at the potluck, dreams up the perfect dishes to re-energize after downward-dogging it.

1 Russian Beet Soup With Cashew Cream: "Beets are considered a blood tonic, and root vegetables in general are grounding, calming and warming to the body."

2 Spinach Chickpea Curry: "Spinach is high in carotenoids [cancer blockers] and chlorophyll, and it's a great source of vitamin C."

3 Mango Lassi: "The enzymes in mangoes help us digest, and yogurt maintains healthy flora in your intestinal tract."

Russian Beet Soup With Cashew Cream

Serves 8 to 10

8 cups vegetable broth (either made from scratch or store-bought)

5 beets, cubed

8 red potatoes, cubed

5 carrots, cubed

3 stalks celery, sliced

1 teaspoon toasted caraway seeds

Fresh dill, to taste

Apple cider vinegar (optional)

Sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

Bring the beets, potatoes, carrots and celery to a boil in the vegetable broth. When the soup is boiling, add the salt, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour, or until the vegetables are soft. In a small cast-iron skillet, toast the caraway seeds about 1 minute. Grind the seeds with a mortar and pestle, or crush in your hands. Add to the soup with the chopped dill. Turn off the heat and add a splash of apple cider vinegar (optional), and salt and pepper to taste. Top with a dollop of cashew cream.

Cashew Cream

1/2 cup raw cashews

1 cup water

Sea salt and squeeze of lemon, to taste

Pulverize the cashews in a blender. Add the water, salt and lemon. Keep blending, adding more water until it's the consistency of sour cream.

Spinach Chickpea Curry

Serves 6

2 cups dried chickpeas

7 cups water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon safflower oil

2 tablespoons minced ginger

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons ground Indian cumin

1 1/2 tablespoons Indian curry powder

Sea salt, to taste

2 5-ounce bags baby spinach

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