Margaret Riesen Cooks

Food for Thought

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!

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.

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.

Polenta with a Latin Twist for Your Holiday Table

Not sure what to serve your vegetarian guests at your Holiday Table?

Polenta is always a wonderful choice on a cool day – filling, comforting and gluten-free! Try this version with a Latin twist:

  • Cook the polenta according to package directions and pour into an oven-proof serving dish.
  • Sauté thinly sliced onion, garlic, chilies, bell pepper in olive oil, and pour over cooked polenta.
  • Add fresh chopped cilantro, cream, fresh cheese (queso fresco or feta), and pecorino. Place into a hot oven until heated through

We offer in-home cooking classes of your choice. If you’d like to learn more about our gift certificates, contact us.

We are here to serve – contact us if you need help during the Holidays or any other time. We make it easy, and we make you look good.

Spice Up Your Thanksgiving!

Cranberry Salsa

12 oz. fresh cranberries
½ c parsley
2 Tb lime juice
1 tsp lime zest
½ jalapeno chili, chopped
1 small red onion
½ c fresh orange juice
2 Tb orange zest
5 Tb honey
1 Tb cilantro

Finely chop the red onion, chili, parsley and cilantro and place it in a bowl.
Coarsely chop the cranberries in the food processor and add to the onion and parsley mixture. Fold in the orange and lime juice, honey, and zest. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Making Your Next Holiday Mixer AMAZING!

With corporate Holiday gatherings right around the corner, a great way to show employee appreciation is to make allowances for people’s dietary preferences and multi-cultural backgrounds.

Healthy and delicious appetizers.

A great menu is one that delights and surprises – with options that offer variety and take special dietary needs into consideration, e.g. gluten-free, vegetarian, etc. While many Holiday offerings can pack on the calories, how about offering a menu that’s healthy AND delicious? Try it – you’ll like it!

Rock Those Leftovers!

In our haste for convenience, we often overlook some of the delightful ways of “repurposing” left-over foods. Many of our comfort foods had their origins in creating something tasty from food that had lost its freshness, e.g. over-ripe fruit, old bread, etc. Over-ripe fruit gets turned into jam, compote, cider or hard alcohol. Stale bread can be turned into bread pudding or plum pudding. In Switzerland, my grandmother used up old bread to make “Rösti” with apple or plums. Here’s how: the sliced fruit is steamed in some butter, with a little added sugar. Remove the fruit from the pan, add more butter and toast the thinly sliced hard bread, until brown and crisp. Add the fruit back to the pan, with a pinch of sugar, lemon zest and juice. Serve warm, with a splash of cream.

HEY, IT’S GLUTEN-FREE . . .

. . . what more could you want? This fabulous “chwockwat” mousse (as my granddaughter calls it) is high in fat and calories, made with real butter, eggs and real cream. It’s a treat – so you eat a small portion and savor it. There is no comparison between REAL FOOD and processed low-fat, low-everything STUFF! Try it, you’ll like it . . .