Summer BBQ . . .

. . . don’t forget those pesky vegetarian friends. Here is a quick and easy dish to serve with your summer BBQ; it’s vegan, high in protein and DELISH!

Try this easy recipe for salsa or a side dish:

3 c cooked black beans

1 c fresh or frozen organic corn

1 medium ripe tomato

1 medium mango

1 small chili, seeded & minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 avocado

½ bunch cilantro

Salt, lime juice

Rinse the cooked black beans to get rid of the dark cooking liquid until water runs clear. Cut the tomato into small cubes, cut the mango into small cubes, salt, and carefully fold into the drained beans. And here’s a fabulous trick: add the corn while still frozen – it will keep the dish cold for a long time on a hot day! Mince the chili and garlic and fold into the beans. Fold in chopped cilantro and cubed avocado. Season to taste with lime juice and salt. Serves 8-10 as a side dish.

Vegetarian Wedding Favorites – Even For Carnivores!

I love the challenge of a crowd-pleasing vegetarian wedding menu, especially when it involves relatives from the
Midwest who want to know “where’s the beef?” The challenge becomes stickier when the couple chooses an all-vegan
menu — with relatives from the Midwest – challenging, but not impossible. Sharing food in community is one of our
oldest rituals – and one of life’s great pleasures. You don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy a wonderful vegetarian (or
vegan) meal. The secret is to start with high-quality, fresh, organic ingredients, and the difference between ho-hum and
fabulous is often a choice of seasonings.

 

For many vegetarian and vegan couples, their wedding day is the perfect opportunity to invite friends and family to
experience an all vegetarian or vegan meal. It is a way for you to share your heart, and a new experience for many of
your guests. I say go for it – it’s your party, celebrate it your way, with the food that you want. And if you offer
something really fabulous, your guests will be wowed and might even be inspired to rethink their habitual food choices.
I’ve often heard people remark that they “had no idea that vegetarian food could be this good”.

 

Non-vegetarians can get obsessed with the notion of protein. The fact is that all foods contain protein, and creating a
protein-rich meal from all-vegetarian ingredients is not rocket science. One way to satisfy dyed-in- the-wool carnivores
with a vegetarian meal is to add some hearty fare with eggs and dairy. And the combination of grains and legumes – rice
and beans – will provide all your essential amino acids. It’s the staple of many cultures, and the possibilities are endless.
I love grains and legumes: they’re satisfying, tasty, and nutritious, and they lend themselves to an endless variety of
seasonings.

 

Some couples try faking out their guests with faux meats, a staple that is gaining in popularity among many vegetarians and vegans. There are some excellent products on the market, created from natural, organic ingredients. As an example, Field Roast (www.fieldroast.com) products are vegan and include veggie burgers and sausages; my favorite is their chipotle Mexican sausage which adds texture and “sabor autentico” to a vegan taco bar, enchiladas, or posole.

 

I’m a huge fan of the cuisines of Mediterranean rim, among them the cuisines of Spain, Provence, Italy, Greece, the Middle East and North Africa. Mediterranean specialties tend to be heavily plant-based, with meat added as a condiment. In some instances, the meat can be replaced with a plant-based protein, or it can be left out altogether.

 

Here are a few selections from our Mediterranean menu:

 

Trio of relishes: baba ganouj, muhammara & beet hummus

Elegant platter of high-end cheeses, seasonal fruit & oven-dried tomato

Tortilla Española: traditional potato frittata with caramelized onion, mild chilies and peas

Spanish paella with seared vegetables, saffron, garlic, pimenton & scarlet runner beans

Polenta layered with sauce of tomato, fontina, gorgonzola, basil, marjoram

Moroccan tagine with yam, caramelized pearl onion, carrot, dried plum, saffron, cilantro

Ratatouille with eggplant, tomato, summer squash, basil, garlic, purple yam

Roasted seasonal vegetables with light balsamic reduction

Salad of root vegetables, dill vinaigrette, chopped egg

Silk Road bulgur pilaf with French lentils, caramelized onion, dried cherry, saffron, pomegranate seeds

Persian wedding rice with caramelized onion & carrots, saffron, cinnamon, orange zest, dried fruit, nuts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another popular menu is Cuisines of the Americas, with specialties from Mexico, the American Southwest, and the Caribbean. My favorite is Mexican Posole, traditionally made with chicken or pork and a tasty combination of hominy, seared vegetables, garlic, chilies, and cilantro. Our vegan version includes Field Roast chipotle sausage and heirloom beans.  

 

Samples from Cuisines of the Americas:

 

Mini empanadas with yam/chipotle filling and chimichurri dipping sauce

Mexican posole with hominy, seared onions, bell pepper, chilies, red ayocote beans, garlic, cilantro

Torta Azteca: blue corn polenta layered with sauce of seared onion, chilies, bell pepper, garlic, cilantro, queso fresco

Vegetarian (or vegan) taco bar with seared vegetables, strips of Field Roast burgers, condiments & guacamole

Black beans with mango, tomato, organic corn, avocado, lime, cilantro

Coconut pineapple fried rice with garlic, green onion, toasted cashews

Red, white & green salad with spinach, red cabbage, jicama, avocado

Painted Desert coleslaw: finely shredded cabbage and veggies in a lime marinade

Peruvian vegetable salad with baby vegetables, eggs, olives and thinly sliced vegan ham

 

Our menus span the globe and are prepared with love and expertise from local, organic ingredients. They are custom-tailored to fit our clients’ budget and needs. So whatever menu you choose, follow your heart. It’s your special day, and your guests will be delighted to find out how delicious and satisfying a vegetarian meal can be. And you and your Sweetheart can stay true to what you love – bon appétit!

Vegetarian = Healthy???

. . . not necessarily. Novice vegetarians often gravitate toward a diet heavy in pasta, cheese and refined starches – foods that are not bad per se, but need to be complemented with lots of other foods. Did you know that there are vegetarians who don’t like vegetables . . . kind of ironic, don’t you think? Reminds me of a trip to Scotland, some years back, when a fried potato was the vegetable of choice, but not necessarily the one I had in mind.

Food is like Feng Shui – if everything on your plate is beige, there’s no energy. With summer BBQs right around the corner, here is another take on potato salad. This one has a garlicky vinaigrette dressing (instead of mayonnaise), cubed heirloom tomato (they’re here!!), cucumber (try Persian cucumber, very flavorful), lots of dill, green onion and chopped egg. In order to extract maximum flavor from the tomato and cucumber, cut them into small cubes and toss with a little sea salt; refrigerate for a half hour. This releases juices from the tomato and cucumber and adds lots of flavor to your salad.

Make Mine . . .

. . . (no, not mink), but fake meat. People often wonder why vegetarians and vegans choose to eat “fake meats”, in other words, something that resembles what you’re trying to give up. Isn’t that a contradiction? As a chef and caterer specializing in vegetarian and vegan cuisines, I find that “fake meats” can offer an easy way for people to ease into meatless choices and a more plant-based diet. Making a major dietary shift can be challenging enough, without having to rethink the whole menu plan. To me, it makes perfect sense to ease the transition into a different way of eating by keeping some familiarity while venturing into new territory.

 

“Fake meats” have come a long way in the last couple of decades. You’ll find excellent products in the deli and frozen sections of most markets. Some of my favorite products include Field Roast‘s grain burgers, Beyond Meat’s “chicken strips”, and Lightlife’s “fakin’ bacon” (a smoked tempeh). Any of these products can be chopped up, simmered in a tasty sauce and added to tacos, sloppy Joes or your favorite rice or pasta dish.

Cauliflower Rock!

Here’s a warming side dish for a cold day. Cauliflower can be cut into florets, tossed in a mix of olive oil, turmeric, cumin, salt and garam masala.

Roast in a hot oven for 30-45 minutes and toss with chopped mint and cilantro for a stunning side dish to complement any creation.

Best of Oakland & East Bay…Please Vote

Every year, Oakland Magazine holds a Best of Oakland & East Bay contest where readers vote for the best in various categories. I am so humbled and thrilled to be nominated in the category of caterer for Best of Oakland & East Bay by Oakland Magazine. The Vegetarian Gourmet Catering has made it past the first round and is on the official ballot.

As a small business owner, this type of recognition is exciting.  I invite you to vote for The Vegetarian Gourmet Catering in the Catering category.  Voting will end March 10th. Thank you so much for all of your support!

 

Here is the official link: {www.oaklandmagazine.com/…/Best-of-Oakland-and-the-East-Bay…/}

 

Do the Right Thing!

Whether you’re about to pop the question or just the cork, treat your Sweetie to some chocolate this Valentine. Chocolate mousse is a fabulous choice and easy to make. Want something vegan and gluten-free . . . no problem! Try this very easy recipe with coconut cream, powdered cocoa, sweetener and vanilla extract.

Purée some cold (refrigerate beforehand) coconut cream with unsweetened cocoa powder and powdered sugar (to taste), and a dash of vanilla. Keep mixing until you reach desired consistency. Fill into a small dish or ramekin and top with a little berry and lots of love!

For more ideas – send us a quick note.

Biscotti–Make Your Own!

Afternoon project: chocolate hazelnut biscotti . . . thank you, Martha Stewart, you’re the best! Biscotti are “twice cooked”: the dough is initially formed into long flat sausages and baked until firm. Once the mass has cooled, the loaves are then sliced into quarter inch slices and baked again, which gives them the crunch. You’ll find many different recipes for biscotti. They’re easy and inexpensive to make, and your friends will be wowed. This recipe came from Martha Stewart’s “Baking Handbook”. I love her recipes – they’re easy to follow and always turn out well. Stay tuned for a fabulous gluten-free version . . .

A Healthy Diet . . .

 . . . on a limited budget?? Yes – it’s completely possible – think rice and beans. Look for organic grains and beans sold in bulk at places like Whole Foods and Berkeley Bowl. The combination of grains and legumes provides lots of protein (all the essential amino acids), and other nutrients, at a bargain price. In one form or another, it is the staple diet for much of the world.

Boring? Naw, not with your prolific imagination . . . your options are endless. Experiment with familiar grains like rice, bulgur (cracked wheat), barley, quinoa, maize – or try something different, like faro or millet. The variety of beans is seemingly endless – and the best prices are always in the bulk section. Soak the beans overnight, rinse, and then cook in fresh water until the beans reach the desired consistency.

A favorite of mine is Mujadara, a delicious Middle Eastern dish which combines rice and lentils, and is seasoned with toasted cumin, garlic and caramelized onion. For optimum effect, cook the onions slowly over low heat in olive oil and sea salt. Mujadara can be served as a side dish, or it can be a meal in itself – perhaps with a dollop of plain yogurt and chopped cilantro.