Yesterday was my little Petunia’s birthday and it also marked the return of my neighbors from their trip to the Motherland–England. To honor the daughter and make the lives of jet lagged friends a little easier, we had an intimate gathering of 7 wild kids, four adults, dinner and cake.
Countertops go in tomorrow so all I have to work on is a sheet of pressure treated plywood. No faucets yet in the kitchen. Still, it is a thousand times better than what was previously in place. And that is an understatement. Nevertheless, kitchen stuff is still packed up. I purchased an Oster stick blender at Target Saturday for 20 bucks because I *really* wanted to make tomato soup (t’is the season!). Bought lots of veggies at Ward’s and even picked up some scary real looking fake shrimp from the local health food shop (more on that later).
Our fridges were full, my tofu pressed and stick blender unboxed and washed. I had a menu and a plan. The only thing I didn’t have was a bevy of spices. No matter. Simple cooking, good eating was the theme and I definitely pulled it off.
Braised Artichokes (vegan and butter versions)
Fresh Tomato Soup (vegan)
Vegetable Fried Rice with Tofu & Scary Real Looking Mock Shrimp (vegan)
Salad of Romaine Hearts & Red Leaf Lettuce w/Roasted Pears and Beets dressed in a Vinaigrette (vegan)
Chocolate Cake (vegan)
The cake was, as my daughter said, “from a factory.” Or, more accurately, from a local baker who happens to live about three blocks from us. Without countertops, I refuse to bake. Despite my intense craving for fresh bread.
Although I don’t have recipes to share since I was just kind of cooking on the fly, I will let you in on the simple ingredients that went a long way, allowing me to create a wonderful meal of varied flavors and textures while using the same basic spices and herbs over and over again. I do think the intense heat of my wonderfully majestic Fivestar Ranges helps a bit–I couldn’t have stir fried without it.
So, let me break it down for you….
Vegan version was made with olive oil. Butter version made with…butter. Added a splash of balsamic to the vegan, along with a splash of Bragg’s. Other than that, straight forward salt, pepper, hing, paprika and a handful of fresh herbs (basil, dill, flat parsley). At the end, before serving, I added a generous amount of freshly squeezed lime juice to the sauce. Delicious.
Fresh Tomato Soup
I would have loved for this soup not to be vegan–the things I do for friendship! A chunk of butter and a splash of cream would have made my growing baby in my tummy happy. But to be honest, this soup rocked and I can’t stop eating it despite my gut feeling like it is going to split open and baby is going to slosh out. Okay, gross.
Soup was simple. Lots of big fat fresh tomatoes, red potatoes, water (duh), salt (much), pepper, hing, a spoonful of sugar and a dash of Braggs. After it was all cooked and blended I added lots of fresh herbs from our garden–oregano, basil, flat parsley, dill. See, I don’t care what herbs they are, just throw them i the pot and the effect is awesomeness.
Vegetable Fried Rice with Tofu & Scary Real Looking Mock Shrimp
I didn’t eat any of this the night of the dinner but plated some leftovers today and let me tell you, so good. The tofu. Mmmm, the tofu. I pressed the tofu, marinated for a few hours in balsamic and Braggs and then pan fried in a super hot cast iron skillet with a scant amount of oil. Smoky bliss.
The broccoli, celery, red pepper, mock shrimp and bean sprouts were stir fried at the highest heat I could muster and then tossed with the tofu and rice. The only spicing was fresh curry leaf (lots), pepper, hing, paprika, salt, Braggs, balsamic. That’s it. Are you starting to notice a trend?
Salad of Romaine Hearts & Red Leaf Lettuce w/Roasted Pears and Beets dressed in a Vinaigrette
Pears and beets were pan roasted (separately to avoid color bleeding) and then sprinkled with turbinado and splashed with balsamic and Braggs. Dressing was 1/2 balsamic vinegar, 1/4 olive oil, 1/4 flax oil, salt, black pepper, hing and italian seasoning. Simply good
Because I varied the produce from dish to dish and the cooking methods were also varied, I don’t think my guests had a clue that the same spices and herbs were used to flavor each preparation over and over and over again. I wanted to share the repetitive details of the menu with you to inspire your own table of colorful, healthy dishes. And notice that not a single preparation relied on the overpowering, lingering taste of onion or garlic.