Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Fruits & Veggies: The Next Big Trend?

The James Beard Foundation is responsible for making and breaking the careers of chefs, and at this year's award celebration, the spotlight was on fruits and veggies.  According to molecular gastronomist José Andrés, "I believe the future is vegetables and fruit. They are so much more sexier [sic] than a piece of chicken."  If you have any doubts about this statement, simply compare a fresh ripe pineapple to a raw chicken breast. 

Everyone's getting into the trend, including First Lady Michelle Obama who last year broke ground on a White House organic garden and who makes fresh produce a staple in the kitchen. While the First Lady hasn't transformed the Obamas into vegans (yet!), she has a positive attitude about eating right:

"What I've learned from being a mom, in trying to feed my girls, is that it is so important for them to get regular fruits and vegetables in their diet. They have nutrients. They make you strong. They are brain food."

Every journey begins with the first step.  Read the full article here.

Graduation Party

This weekend I catered a vegan graduation party in lovely Stony Creek, a shoreline community in Branford, CT.  The graduating senior is a vegan, and sweet and lovely as can be.  It was a pleasure to serve food for her and her family.

Strawberry Rhubarb Tart on the cooling rack

All boxed up and ready to go

The dessert table

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Ganache, Fresh Raspberries, and Edible Flowers

A trio of tarts

Strawberry Rhubarb Tart

On deck

Piggly wiggly

Best seat in the house


A chef's kitchen

Dessert table after dark

Pure chocolate decadence

Friday, May 21, 2010

Cafe Allegre

I recently had the pleasure of dining at Cafe Allegre in Madison, CT.  It's a comfortable yet elegant restaurant located close to the Madison Green on Main Street.  The menu is Italian - American, featuring well executed standards such as chicken parmesan, eggplant rollatini, and an array of seafood options.  So why would a vegan eat here, you might wonder?  Well, the dinner was to celebrate a family birthday, and it was mom's choice.  Fortunately, even though there was a vegetarian option of pasta primavera, I chose to request something off menu and was pleasantly surprised.

I highly recommend this option when dining out as a vegan.  Scan the other offerings and come up with something that would appeal to you.  In my case, I asked the chef if he could create something from the following items:  portobello mushroom, cannelini beans, broccoli rabe, and marinara sauce.  It felt kinda like I was orchestrating an episode of "Chopped," but in this case there weren't really any exotic ingredients.  I always enjoy seeing (and tasting!) what the end result is.  Here's how it looked after I drizzled marinara over the top:

The chef at Cafe Allegre handled the challenge well.  Not only was the plate gorgeous, but it accommodated my vegan and gluten-free needs and was incredibly flavorful.  The broccoli rabe was cooked to perfection with just the right amount of bitterness.  It helped that it was soaking in a generous amount of olive oil and sliced garlic.  This is a perfect restaurant for vegans and non-vegans alike, as well as those with gluten-sensitivities.  It's so nice to find a place to eat with family and friends and feel like a regular person! 

Friday, May 14, 2010

Zaalouk - Moroccan Eggplant Caviar

Did you see Well on Wheels on CT Style yesterday?  If you somehow managed to miss the spot, or your DVR wasn't set properly, you can now view the video clip of the segment on the WTNH website.  Or right here:

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

CT Style

Just got back from a taping of "CT Style" which will be aired on WTNH tomorrow at 12:30 (set your DVRs!).  Even though I've been in the studio before, I was a little nervous this time.  Maybe it was the rain, maybe it was Desiree, maybe it was the fact that all us women kept obsessing about our hair.  Or maybe it's because I had to look into the camera and read what I saw on the teleprompter.  (Those TV people make it look so easy!)

Normally you'd think a person would have no problem reading and speaking at the same time.  But this task becomes a challenge when you simultaneously have a hot pan on the stove cooking onions and garlic that you don't want to go beyond caremelization to burned on camera.  I think I managed ok.

Once that important issue was out of the way, we got down to the business of cooking.  I made a Morroccan Eggplant Caviar called Zaalouk, which is similar to Baba Ghanouj and Eggplant Caponata but with different seasonings.  In this case, I used cumin, paprika and some red pepper flakes for a spicy kick.

It can be served on toasted pita chips or crostini, and if you can't eat gluten, it's great on endive leaves or even rolled as a filling in a collard leaf.  It also makes a delicious filling for a wrap or sandwich or even as a side with rice and beans.

Tomorrow I'll be serving it up at the Yale Medical Group's ArtPlace gallery opening from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.  Come early to view some beautiful artwork and munch on some delicious vegan treats!

Quick and Easy Vegan Dinner

When I prepared the Menu for last night's "Healthy Cooking in a Hurry" cooking class many weeks ago, we were in the midst of a warm spell.  And I had thought by the middle of May things would be warmed up for the remainder of the season.  Alas, the fickle New England weather foiled my plans for warm weather picnic food this evening.  Despite the rain and chill in the air, everyone agreed this was their favorite meal nonetheless. 

We started with a French Lentil and Brown Basmati Rice Pilaf seasoned with fresh oregano, thyme and parsley.  To add a little contrast to the savory flavor, I added chopped kalamata olives, lemon zest and fresh squeezed lemon juice.  This brought all of the flavors together.  On the side was a sautee of Snap Peas with Pistachios and Mint tossed with a simple dressing of Dijon mustard, lemon juice and agave syrup. 

For dessert I did a gluten-free twist on traditional Strawberry Shortcake, and also added some tangy Rhubarb in the mix.  I think I got the last stalk of the season!  This was topped with non-dairy  Soyaytoo Soy Whip and some powdered sugar.  Ahhh... I'm ready for June.