Margaret Riesen Cooks

Food for Thought

Help!

“My child has decided to become a vegetarian” . . . it’s a story I hear more and more frequently. My own grandson, aged 7, recently became a vegetarian (“It’s not fair to the animals, Nana”). Thankfully, my daughter is a wonderful cook, and a vegetarian in the family does not pose a problem.

But for many parents, this can be a challenge. Newby vegetarians often gravitate toward a diet heavy in pasta and cheese . . . there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with pasta and cheese, but it should not be the main staple. Between trolling the internet and the large selection of delicious fake “meats” available at the supermarket, there are now many options for ensuring a vegetarian child’s optimum nutrition. And “complete protein” meals can be achieved with a combination of grains and legumes — or rice and beans — the main staple of many of the world’s cultures.

Try a Syrian Mujaddara, a combination of rice and lentils, seasoned with cumin, cinnamon and lots of caramelized onion, and topped with cilantro and a dollop of Greek yogurt.

B’nai Mitzvah Catering Favorites

We love the challenge of creating kosher-style menus that appeal to young and old alike. Sometimes, that means offering two menus – one for the adults, and one for the young people. Consider this sampling of menus that consistently meet with success.

 

Year-round favorites are the cuisines of the Mediterranean, which offer variety, fresh local ingredients, and something for everyone, including fabulous selections in the Sephardic tradition. Appetizers include a sampling of beautiful cheeses, marinated olives, a hummus bar, a smoky baba ganouj with pomegranate seeds, or a spicy Moroccan muhammara. Main courses span the entire Mediterranean rim: a Greek spanakopita, a creamy polenta, a Spanish paella, a Moroccan tagine.

 

Sides might include grilled vegetables, Israeli style chopped vegetable salad, King Solomon salad (with 2 grains and 5 fruit), or watermelon salad with feta and mint – to mention a fraction of our selections.

 

When it comes to dessert, an ice cream bar for the young crowd is a hands-down winner. We include two or three flavors of artisanal ice creams, syrups, sprinkles, sliced fruit, toasted nuts, whipped cream. For non-alcoholic beverages, young people always enjoy our Italian soda bar with sparkling waters and syrups .

 

It’s an honor to cater your milestone celebrations, where family and friends, young and old, come together in loving community. We work with your vision and budget to help create the celebration of your dreams, with an ambience that matches the occasion. We make it easy, and we make you look good!

Señorita Momentita . . .

. . . sounds so much better than “Senior Moment”, don’t you think? But memory loss is no laughing matter. It currently affects 5.7 million Americans, and that number is expected to increase to over 14 million Americans by 2050.

 

Is it inevitable? What we know is this. According to Dementia.org, trace elements and chemicals found in packaged foods have been found to damage brain chemistry. A study published in the University of Minnesota’s Chemical Research & Toxicology Journalfound that . . . “regular intake of diacetyl influences the buildup of beta amyloid proteins in the brain”. This buildup, which causes clumping, is now considered one of the PRIMARY CONTRIBUTING FACTORS TO THE ONSET OF ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE.

 

Diacetyl, you say . . . never touch the stuff. Think again . . . how many times do you eat “buttered” popcorn? Diacetyl is a chemical that delivers the “buttery” flavor in popcorn and many other packaged foods. Wonder why you didn’t know that . . . it’s because there is NO MANDATE FOR PRINTED WARNINGS. The lesson? Stay away from processed foods – and avoid food products with “natural flavorings”. Michael Pollan: “Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Tis the Season

. . . for comfort food! Here’s a perfect winter soup in the Sephardic tradition from the shores of the Mediterranean. It’s a soup eaten by Jews and Muslims alike upon breaking a fast. Traditionally made with lamb, it combines chick peas, lentils, vegetables, cilantro, garlic and exotic spices – saffron, ginger, cumin, turmeric. Omit the lamb, and it’s vegan – delicious and highly nutritious.

Fit for a Queen!

Put some pizzazz into your next fundraiser (or book club gathering, or baby shower) by hosting a classy, authentic English High Tea. Picture a table set with fine linen, beautiful antique cups and saucers, and a spread fit for a Queen! Your guests will enjoy locally sourced blends of teas, a variety of finger sandwiches (on organic bread from a local bakery); miniature scones paired with delicious jams, clotted cream and lemon curd; little lettuce cups with curried chicken salad; and a beautiful spread of buttery short breads and little tea cakes. Add some bubbly to that, and your guests will gladly whip out the checkbook . . . now doesn’t that sound better than the proverbial rubber chicken?

Comfort Me with Persimmons . . .

Shhhhh, they’re back . . . my very favorite winter fruit. Persimmons are showing up again at farmers markets and the shelves of Dan’s Produce and Alameda Natural Grocery. I’m always amazed how many people don’t know what they are or what to do with them. Like any fruit, persimmons come in a number of varieties. Best known locally are the hachiya and fuyu cultivars. Hachiya are eaten only when very soft – in order to avoid the astringency present in the unripe fruit – and can be spooned right out of the skin like pudding. Fuyu are more like apples, eaten while still firm, and they’re sweet and crunchy. Look for fruit with good coloring and a bit of give. If very firm, allow to ripen on the windowsill or inside a paper bag.

 

Fuyu persimmons can be part of a fruit salad, they make great snacks (with a handful of nuts), add them to a green salad in place of tomatoes (when tomatoes are less than fabulous) — or serve them with cheese and your favorite cold cuts to jazz up an antipasto platter.

A Stand Out Corporate Holiday Gathering!!!

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. 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, vegan, vegetarian).

 

While many holiday offerings can pack on the calories, how about offering a menu that is healthy AND delicious! Try it and you will like it.

 

Check out The Vegetarian Gourmet’s website to menu choices and contact us to create a unique and pleasing menu for your guests.

Apple Rösti–a Swiss Comfort Food

Like many comfort foods, this simple dessert does not require a trip to a fancy store but makes use of what is on hand: day-old bread, apples and butter. Cut bread into fine slices and brown in butter. Remove from pan and add sliced apples, a little sugar, lemon zest and cinnamon. Cook until apples are softened, then add toasted bread to soak up the liquids. Serve with a dollop of cream.

OMG- Vegan Empanadas!

Empanadas, dim sum, pasties, piroshky…the list goes on. Many cuisines feature tasty little packages of meat and vegetables wrapped in dough–the perfect finger food–which can be served as an appetizer or with a salad for a light meal. Our vegan empanada is a new favorite from The Vegetarian Gourmet, served with chimichurri sauce. The filling has a nice little bite to it, made of a mix of caramelized onion, yams, black beans, cilantro, garlic and Field Road Mexican chipotle sausage. Our chimichurri sauce has lots of parsley, mint, cilantro, garlic, olive oil, salt and a splash of red wine vinegar.

Freekah…Freakin’ Awesome

A newly “discovered” grain, freekeh, has been a staple in Mediterranean cuisines for centuries. If you’re gluten-free, this one’s not for you, as it is created from green durum wheat. The grains are harvested while still green and roasted over an open fire, to burn off the straw and chaff. What remains is a tasty wheat berry with a slightly smoky flavor. Available as a cracked grain from Bob’s Red Mill, it can also be found as a whole grain in most Middle Eastern markets.

High in protein and fiber, as well as iron, calcium and zinc, freekeh has been called the new “supergrain”. It cooks in about 20 minutes and can be eaten in place of rice, as a cereal, or added to a salad. I love the combination of cooked grains or legumes with raw veggies, olive oil, white balsamic and spices. Try a drizzle of pomegranate molasses for a tangy treat.