Thursday, May 28, 2015

Vegan Culinary Tour of Southeast Asia

I'm getting excited for the third installment of the Vegan Culinary Tour.... this one with an Asian flair.  This tour will take the confusion out of the chaos and show guests how to navigate through the maze of aisles filled with treasures from Southeast Asia. A Dong Market contains over 30,000 square feet of Chinatown transported to suburban West Hartford with all the produce, spices and ingredients needed to cook Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Thai, Laotian, Malaysian, and Japanese cuisine.  After the tour, we will adjourn to a separate location to feast on a sumptuous vegan lunch prepared with items purchased from the store. 

For the past few days I've been prepping the menu, arranging furniture, and getting the gallery ready for the popup vegan dinner that will follow the tour.  I found this lovely sunflower painting in tag sale leftovers that had been brought out to the curb of a home in Windsor.  I think the ladders need some viney things and flowers.  

I was so happy to hang some paintings by my late grandfather.  He used to get those paint by numbers kits in the 60s and 70s, paint them as a hobby, then build his own frames in his workshop.  After he passed away and my family was cleaning out the house, these almost ended up in the trash, but I quickly dashed in and rescued them.  Hanging in the window is a lovely stained glass from MOMA my friend Joan gave me as a wedding gift a lifetime ago.  Underneath are vintage paint cans that came with my current house and a 1918 brick from the New Haven apartment I lived in previously.  

My friend, Dianna, loaned me these two paintings flanking the Matisse poster years ago when I needed artwork to decorate my kitchen.  After I moved to my new house, she said I could keep them. I think they work perfectly on this wall.  

This afternoon I will be purchasing an array of Chinatown party goods to decorate the space.  I think this is my favorite part of hosting a party.   

Recipe: Raw Pizza Pate

What's a girl to do when her neighbor hands her a big bunch of lettuce and green onions fresh from his garden?  Make a salad, of course!  But more importantly, top it with something super tasty and fresh.

My inspiration was what's in abundance in my own garden:  oregano.  This perennial herb has been spreading like a weed, and it seems that the more I use the more it grows.  This does not upset me because I've been enjoying plenty of pesto made from it and tossed with pasta and veggies or even as a salad dressing.

I made a modified version of oregano oil which is how I lightly dressed these gorgeous tender leaves. Simply pulse together in your food processor a huge bunch of fresh herbs, in this case oregano, and add the juice of about half a lemon, a tablespoon of nutritional yeast, a clove or two of garlic, about 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt and enough olive oil to make smooth (about 1/2 a cup).  Then pour it all into a squeeze bottle.  It keeps in the refrigerator for about a week.  Just be sure to let it warm up to room temperature before use because the olive oil will solidify when it's chilled.
I topped the simple salad with an equally simple raw pate made with walnuts, pecans, carrot, sundried tomatoes, kalamata olives, garlic, shallot, fresh basil, and sea salt.  I figured it would be delicious since I love all of those ingredients, and after I had blended it together I thought to myself, "hmmm.... wait, this tastes familiar.... kinda like... pizza!!"  Yes indeed, once you take your first bite you will be transported to the taste memory of brick ovens and garlicky baked goods and a hint of cheese.  I scooped up mine with the lettuce leaves, making little bite-sized raw pizza pate packages wrapped in green.  It was such a refreshing reward after an afternoon working in the yard.

Raw Pizza Pate
(makes 2-4 servings)
1/4 cup walnuts (soaked in water 1 hour, drained and rinsed)
1/4 cup pecans (soaked in water 1 hour, drained and rinsed)
1 medium carrot, chopped
2 Tbl shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic
6 sundried tomatoes
8 kalamata olives
1 large handful of fresh basil
1 handful of fresh Italian parsley
sea salt to taste
1-2 Tbl water, or enough to blend

Combine all of the above ingredients in a food processor.  Pulse together a few times to roughly chop ingredients, then blend until mixture begins to clump together, adding enough water to achieve a pate consistency.

Friday, May 15, 2015

My Italian Garden

grapevines twine the garden fence

One of the benefits of living in a house previously owned by an older Italian couple is inheriting a garden filled with culinary staples from an Italian kitchen, like oregano, parsley, mint and chives.  I;m making new discoveries nearly every day as green things keep popping up in unexpected places.

One mystery which had us baffled for a couple of days was this tall, herbaceous plant that seemed to appear out of nowhere.  Its fuzzy leaves reminded me of black-eyed susan, but within a week it a growth spurt of two feet and almost an equally wide spread.

After much research and desperate plea for assistance on Facebook, we determined it was Comfrey, a medicinal herb praised for its ability to heal wounds.  I'll be keeping this around because it's high in nitrogen and also makes an excellent addition to the compost pile.

I've already made a few meals from some early perennials like oregano and leeks.  For Mother's Day I tossed together a huge Mediterranean Pasta Salad with oregano pesto, fiddleheads and leeks.

Later this week I roasted a spaghetti squash and sautéed some mustard greens and white beans in olive oil and garlic, then drizzled everything with more oregano pesto.  I think this sauce will be in heavy rotation over the next few weeks.  

I'll be planting organic seedlings of warm weather annuals like tomatoes, summer squash and eggplant this afternoon, and popping a few string bean seeds into the ground as well.  As the weeks pass, it will be fun to track the progress and reap the benefits in the Well on Wheels kitchen.

mustard greens




snow peas

Friday, May 8, 2015

Recipe: Strawberry Rhubarb Hemp Crisp

This Sunday is Mother's Day, and to celebrate I made this delicious and healthy dessert on WWLP-TV's Mass Appeal entertainment program. 

Strawberry Rhubarb Hemp Crisp is the perfect dessert for a summery day like today. It's refreshingly sweet and tart and packed with antioxidants, Omega-3 oil and spices that will make you feel good. 

It's also allergen-friendly since it's gluten-free.  Instead of using wheat flour, I substituted a high protein gluten-free flour made from chickpeas and also added some almond meal.  The topping is slightly crisp and toffee-like on top with just the right amount of gooey-ness underneath.

It's a delicious dessert with none of the guilt! You can get the recipe and see me demonstrate how to make it on the link below. More quick and easy recipes like this one can be found in my cookbook, Easy Peasy Vegan Eats.

From Ashley, Seth, and all of us on the set of Mass Appeal, Happy Mother's Day!!  

Strawberry Rhubarb Hemp Crisp
When strawberries and rhubarb are in season this is the dessert to make. The combination of sweet and tart will make you smile. Garnish with fresh strawberries and edible flowers to make a pretty presentation.

Filling Ingredients:
3 cups strawberries, sliced, reserving about 1/2 cup for garnish
1 cup rhubarb, diced into 1-inch pieces (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup vegan sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbl corn starch
pinch of sea salt

Topping Ingredients:
1/2 cup Erewhon Buckwheat Hemp Flakes
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup all purpose gluten-free flour
1 Tbl hemp seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup vegan sugar
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 Tbl sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In an 8″x8″ pan, toss together filling ingredients, then set aside. In a food processor, pulse buckwheat hemp flakes, almond flour, gluten-free flour, and hemp seeds several times until flakes are slightly crushed. Add cinnamon, sugar, coconut oil, and sea salt and pulse until they begin to clump together. Sprinkle topping loosely over the filling mixture, leaving spaces around the edges of the pan, then sprinkle with sliced almonds. Cover with foil and place on cookie sheet to catch any drips. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until fruit filling is bubbly, then remove cover and bake an additional 10-15 minutes to crisp the top. Remove and let cool before serving.