Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Kitchen Challenge

In my 6 years as a private vegan chef and cooking instructor, I think last night I faced my greatest challenge ever. All of the ingredients were present to create a recipe for disaster:  a kitchen with no lighting or countertops, a limited pantry, and a lonely little stove.  And yet, somehow, some magical alchemy occurred and a delicious meal resulted.  It helped that my student had a sense of humor about the situation and was happy to have some guidance.

For anyone who thinks you need granite this and stainless steel that and every fancy whirring gadget from the Williams-Sonoma catalogue before you can learn to cook vegan, last night's lesson would prove otherwise.  What is most important is a willingness to experiment with new flavor combinations, tastes and textures, and also the ability to be accepting of what you have and where you are in the journey.  If there's anything holding you back, it's all in your mind.

Still, it was indeed a challenge, so we kept the Menu basic and uncomplicated:  Romaine Lettuce Salad with Granny Smith Apple, Pecans and Dried Cranberries Tossed with Balsamic Vinaigrette; Oven-Roasted Brussels Sprouts; and Quinoa with Toasted Almonds.  Light, energizing, and grounding.  And perfect for a Tapas party!

So my advice for all budding vegans out there is:  keep it simple.  Focus on your favorite vegetables and flavors and build a menu around them.  Or just pick one.  In this case, it was Brussels Sprouts.  When they're roasted in the oven with a dressing of balsamic vinegar and olive oil, they develop a rich, caramelized sweetness.  We used the same dressing to toss with our salad, which also simplified the menu.  To balance out the sweet tanginess, I thought quinoa with toasted almonds would add some depth and richness.

Planning out the time for each recipe and choreographing each step to allow for multi-tasking is my second piece of advice.  The quinoa cooked in the same amount of time as the Brussels Sprouts, and as they cooked we prepared the salad, so everything came together at once.  In about a half an hour, dinner was on the table.

Any challenge can be overcome with a little creativity.  And if you have some challenges of your own that have been holding you back, I hope you'll see them in a new light - not as limitations, but as rungs in a ladder that will take you to higher places.


Anonymous said...

Very interesting! I never thought about roasting Brussel Sprouts. Thanks for this idea.

Mary Lawrence said...

Yes - simple, yet surprisingly delicious. This makes me think I should edit this entry and post the recipe!