Sunday, January 13, 2013

Divine Treasures holiday party

When you work in the food service industry, you don't always get to take time off for holidays.  This was the case with my friends at Divine Treasures, a vegan chocolate shop in Manchester, CT.  They were swamped this holiday season preparing special gift boxes filled with the most delectable vegan chocolate treats to the delight of smiling customers.  But they wanted to celebrate, too!  So they asked me if I could cook up a post-holiday vegan feast for them once the holiday crunch period settled down.  And that's just what I did this Friday night.

The evening began with an entirely raw appetizer of Romaine Lettuce Tacos filled with Walnut "Meat," topped by a scoop of Jicama "Rice," and drizzled with a Chipotle Cashew Sour Cream.

Everyone was amazed by the symphony of flavors evoked in this simple, yet festive looking presentation.  It was an elegant way to serve a salad.

The entree for the evening I prepared Baked Sesame Tofu and Polenta Stacks with a rich Shallot Gravy, accompanied by Brussels Sprouts Amandine, and garnished with a luscious Parsley Oil.  The flavors blended beautifully and the buttery texture of the Brussels Sprouts went nicely with the creamy polenta.  Guests were surprised at this gourmet presentation, and were pleased by how satisfying the entire meal was.

It was a pleasure to celebrate the beginning of the new year with this hard-working crew.  I look forward to more dinners like this in the future.  And stay tuned... there may even be events like this open to the public coming soon!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

This week's menu

It's tradition in the new year to cook something with black-eyed peas as a symbol of good luck, and greens as a symbol of wealth and prosperity.  A recipe that many people make is Hoppin' John, a flavorful southern dish made with black-eyed peas, onion, carrot, green pepper, and seasonings such as thyme and bay leaf.  It can be eaten cold as a salad or warm right off the stove top.

This southern specialty has its roots in African cuisine, and this particular dish is descended from a Sweet Potato and Black-Eyed Pea Stew from Senegal.  It's incredibly easy to make, and despite the minimal ingredients, it's also surprisingly flavorful.  You can cook it in a pot on the stove, or simply start it in the morning in your slow cooker and have it ready for the end of the day.  It's the perfect way to welcome a happy and prosperous new year!

Pan-fried Tempeh with Cremini Mushroom Gravy, Wild Rice Pilaf, and Brussels Sprouts

Senegal Sweet Potato and Black-Eyed Pea Stew with Sauteed Kale

Baked Tofu with Dijon Glaze, Mashed Potatoes, and Stringbeans Amandine