Wednesday, April 4, 2012

woo hoo, 62

 I recently had the pleasure of taking a break from work and normal life to spend a long weekend at home with a lot of my family for my dad's birthday. My mom and I arranged a sneaky feat and I was a surprise for my dad, as was a big party for him. The weekend was perfect. Red buds, vegetables, and flowers in bloom. Other out of town family in town. A long bike ride with my folks, aunts and uncles on our local rail- to- trail path with a pit stop at a brewery. Seeing friends (and their cute babies, and new houses.) Dinner at favorite cafes. And oh yeah- we threw a surprise party! I planned the menu and did the cooking for 60 people. It started with a long trip to my favorite ethnic grocery store, a few more stores, lies to my dad that I was cooking for a friend's engagement party (sorry dad- and sorry I didn't throw you a party, Courtney and Kevin) and eventually the food was prepped and ready to go. The final menu is below in photos!

Uncle Mike, best prep cook ever, assembling tarts.  puff pastry squares filled with caramelized onions, greek cheese and ricotta, and roasted vegetables 
The beautiful cake that my talented friend Lauren Casper made.  If you are in St.Louis check out her food art at  Colleen's Cookies . Not only are they beautiful, they taste great too. And all those flowers and hearts around the edge, yup they are cookies too! 

Dad came home and was surprised! And he loved the cake and baklava 

The spread: puff pastry tarts, chickpea salad, kale salad, pesto pasta salad with pesto from my folks garden, guac, shrimp, vegetable platter with homemade hummus, and yogurt dip, cheese plate (including a Vermont cheese- had to represent, and surprised I can find the grafton cheddar in STL.)  

Tarts in the oven! 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

feeling spring

Wow, it's so nice that it's starting to feel like spring here. Already there has been more playing outside, more productivity, and more smiles (from everyone.)

Tonight's dinner: Feeling Spring Bowl
Start with coconut oil in a cast iron pan.
 add onions, kale. saute.
 add thin strips of burdock root, daikon radish, and carrots
 add tamari, cumin, cayenne, pepper, black sesame seeds
throw in leftover cooked grain (I chose quinoa) 

put in a bowl, throw on a TON of sauerkraut (A food that I despised growing up, being forced to eat it with polish sausage and pierogi but I have finally learned to love it- and can't get enough. tonight's was a red cabbage and garlic kraut made by my awesome neighbor!) and top with homemade Dal (mine was just red lentils, water, and a few Indian spices.)
thanks for being sunny, nature- I really needed it!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Moore Food

First thing Saturday morning, my boss (the chef, Paul) tells me that we are cooking for a guest lecturer and 7 students on Monday night; he wants to do some special vegan appetizers for the table of 8. As we talk he mentions that the guest is Frances Moore Lappé, and I start gushing. When I was 14 I found my parents' copy of Diet For A Small Planet and started to think about vegetarianism and resources in ways I never had before.  It was a pretty important book to me growing up, and as an adult I appreciate her work with her daughter in  Hopes Edge. My excitement could not be contained, and together we planned 4 appetizers and a dessert to accompany the usual dinner menu. Over the next few days I found myself starting to say "Frances Moore Lappé day!" and suddenly felt like I was directly out of Empire Records counting down till 'Rex Manning Day.' Albeit, it was much more wholesome then Rex Manning Day.

The menu for the evening:
Fried Millet triangles with curried squash (vegan, gluten free)
Hoisin BBQ 'Duck' in lettuce cups (vegan)
Fresh vegetable spring rolls with a thai chili dipping sauce (vegan, gluten free)
local Vermont cheese plate featuring a goat cheese, sheep cheese, and Maplebrook farms fresh mozzarella with basil and reduced balsamic vinegar.

I got to make one of my favorite desserts:
Chocolate coconut tart in a walnut, sesame and date crust with Coconut whipped cream (Vegan, gluten free)

                                                                        Mock Duck
                                                                         Spring roll
                                                                       Chocolate tart

Our Front of the House guru, Mark, set a beautiful table with linen, flowers, water goblets, etc. When I brought the food Lappé asked me about the dessert and we talked about it, walnuts, seeds etc. for a bit. I was bright red the whole time.

I went to the lecture and met her (again) afterwards. I think the most inspiring thing about hearing her speak is that she's genuine and passionate about all the good things she sees happening in the world. The lecture was not earth shattering, or anything I hadn't heard before, but it was a nice reminder that other folks are on the same page. The evening focused on the question 'why are we together creating a world that as individuals we'd never choose.' Much of the points focused on the idea that what needs to happen in order to change the world we live in is a mind shift; switching from a mindset of scarcity to one of abundance (she calls this eco mind.) I would say the best part of the lecture was just watching how excited she got about citing examples and showing slides of all the work in the world that inspires her. I got most excited about seeing friends in the community that I never see enough. All in all it was a great experience, mostly because I was able to geek out about food, and beautifully plate a whole vegetarian meal.

On other food notes, tonight I watched Today's Special a really cute (if cheesy) film about a young Indian man in NYC who is a sous Chef at a fancy pants restaurant, and ends up taking over his Dad's Indian restaurant. It's a bit sexist (the "normal" disparaging remarks about women and wives) but the colors and shots of food and cloth and spices are beautiful. As an added bonus, the main character's mom is played by Madhur Jaffrey- the fabulous cookbook author. She wrote one of my all time favorite cookbooks that I have never owned but checked out from the Library dozens of times,  World-of-the-East vegetarian cooking.