As a live auction item donation for the Juan de Fuca Festival of the Arts, I arranged for Lindsay Wagner to spend an evening with 8 guests and I offered to host it and cook the vegetarian dinner. Being a fan of the Bionic Woman I was thrilled AND nervous to host a celebrity in our home. When I originally offered to host this dinner I had finnagled my good friend Barb to help me prepare the dinner, since she was a vegetarian, but, it turned out she wasn’t available to help me with the cooking after all. Little did I realize, my palette had changed since I became a carnivore about 7 years ago. But, to jump to the end of the story, the meal turned our marvelous, Lindsay, and her son, were warm, entertaining, down-to-earth and soulful, and everyone enjoyed a magical evening with good food and lively conversation.
Lindsay was gracious enough to let us take photos of her with each couple/family. I printed them on my HP Officejet and everyone went home with a personalized autographed photograph. It was so wonderful to see how much it meant to the couple who bid on this auction item, to meet Lindsay, spend hours with her in such an intimate setting, and go home with a special momento.
The Rustic Vegetarian Menu
Appetizers: Olive and garlic tapenade, crostini, hummous, and crudite
Dinner: Kale, Potato and White Bean Soup with red chilies, warm homemade garlic and rosemary foccacia bread, mediterranean quinoa salad
Desserts: Cheesecake with puree and fresh berries, Vegan Chocolate Cake with ganache
Preparing the Meal
To minimize cooking during the evening I prepared as much as possible ahead of time. The cheesecake, chocolate cake, tapenade, and vegetable stock were made the day before. In the morning I made the soup. Around noon I was looking for ways to doctor the soup because it tasted bland to me. To my meat-eating taste buds my soup needed SAUSAGE! LOL A few phone calls to friends and a visit to the neighborhood market, that serves up amazing soups and vegetarian fare, my soup was rescued! I actually brought some of the soup to Good to Go, let them taste it, and they advised on what to add. Yup, that’s the awesomeness of a small town for you!! My soup went from bland to mmm…mmm…good! Whew! Everyone, even Nora, asked for seconds!! Mid-day I started the dough for the foccacia bread. An hour before dinner I whipped up the hummous in the VitaMix. 45 minutes before our guests were to arrive I noticed a puddle in front of the kitchen sink and underneath I noticed a leak! Fortunately, my hubby was on his way home ASAP but, this little mishap added to my nerves which were growing exponentially! I just thought “Seriously??!! This can’t be happening NOW!!” I still had a ton of dishes to clean! At that moment I remembered we had the foresight to add a small sink in our pantry when we remodeled our kitchen. Boy, did that come in handy!! 15 minutes before the guests’ arrival I hopped in the shower and amazingly the rest of the night went off without a hitch! Since the foccacia bread was meant to be served warm I did have Barb help me prepare the dough by putting it in the pan, I grabbed the fresh rosemary from my herb garden, she chopped it up along with the garlic, sprinkled it on, popped it in the oven and it filled the kitchen with a tantalizing aroma while we munched on appetizers. Try the foccacia recipe…it’s one of my new favorites!
Most of the recipes are straight from the cookbooks verbatim. I have included my own recipe variations below. I do not have a photo of the 6-minute Vegan Chocolate Cake but, I have included the recipe. This was my first time making this cake and I made it with the coffee instead of water as the liquid. I’m not sure what this cake is supposed to taste like but, I have to admit that I did not care for it. However, this recipe was recommended to me so I’m assuming is was “baker-error.” I took a few bites and didn’t finish it. Lindsay didn’t finish her piece either. The other 6 people finished every bite and had no complaints. Actually, Nora said “I don’t like the chocolate cake but, I’ll still eat it.” She ate her entire piece. The Moosewood cheesecake is my favorite. It’s not as sweet as a typical cheesecake and it’s not as high. It’s not as rich. I made it with neufchatel which is 1/3 the fat of cream cheese. It’s really easy to make. It’s a guilt-free pleasure…for me. For all these reasons, I prefer it over other cheesecake recipes. However, I do like to serve it on a puree or with berries to give it a little added sweetness, dimension, and pop of color. Isn’t this cheesecake photo beautiful? It makes me salivate whenever I look at it!!!
Montanas Mom’s Dynamite Cheesecake (from the Moosewood Cookbook)
Make it a day ahead, so it will have plenty of time to set.
Note: Use food processor or blender to make the graham cracker crumbs.
2 cups graham cracker crumbs (~15 rectangles)
1/2 stick butter or margarine, melted
Combine and press firmly into the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan.
16 oz. (two packages) cream cheese, softened (Neufchatel works great too)
1/3 cup sugar (you can also use 1/3 cup agave nectar instead)
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 Tbs. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. lemon rind
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Beat all filling ingredients together until smooth.
Pour onto crust and bake for 25 minutes, or until set. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature. You will need the oven again, so either leave it on, or reheat it.
1 1/2 cups sour cream
3 Tbs. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
NOTE: Instead of making this sour cream topping I have substituted Greek Gods Honey Yogurt before, as-is out of the container, and it is really yummy!
Reheat oven to 375°F.
Blend topping ingredients well and pour on top of cooled cake.
Bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature, then cover tightly (still in the pan) and chill at least 12 hours.
HOW TO SERVE: I served it with a simple berry puree (2 cups frozen berries 1/2 cup sugar, boil then simmer, puree with a hand blender; continue simmering until thickened. Strain the sauce if your berries have seeds.) Serve with a generous pool of puree on the plate then decorate with a few fresh berries on top of the cheesecake. Although the cheesecake is fine unadorned, I recommend serving with a good helping of sauce.
Rosemary Garlic Foccacia Bread (From the Rebar cookbook)
1 3/4 cups warm water
1 tb traditional baking yeast
1/2 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cups unbleached flour
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tb olive oil
2 tsp coarse salt
1 tb chopped rosemary
Pour the warm water into the bowl of your stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast and sugar over top. Let stand 10 minutes until the yeast is foamy. Place the bowl on the mixer and attach the dough hook. Pour in the salt and olive oil and mix briefly. Add one cup of flour at a time and stir with a spoon. When the flour is mixed in, add the second cup, and continue until all the flour has been added. When you can’t stir anymore, pour dough on a floured surface and knead in until dough is smooth and elastic.
Lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough in the bowl, turning the dough to coat in the oil. Place a damp towel over the bowl and let sit in a warm, draft-free location for for 1 hour. Punch down the dough, turn, re-cover, and let stand another hour.
Preheat the oven to 350′. Lightly oil a 12×16 (or similar size) pan and gently press the dough out with your hands to fill the pan.
Pour the 2 tb of oil on the dough and rub over the surface. Sprinkle the dough evenly with the salt, garlic and rosemary. Dimple the dough with your fingers.
Cook for 20 minutes and rotate the pan halfway through. Watch carefully so that the garlic doesn’t burn.
Olive Tapenade (courtesy of my friend Carrie of rhubarbsky.com)
1.5 cups kalamata olives
3 cloves garlic
1 t red pepper flakes (more to taste)
pinch black pepper
some rosemary is really yummy
zip that all around in a food processor or, in a pinch, a blender will do.
plop it in a bowl
drizzle with olive oil (um, about 4 Tbls?) and Balsamic vinegar (2-3 Tbls?)
serve with bread and crackers, or just eat it right out of the bowl. 😉
NOTE: To save time buy PITTED olives. I didn’t think about it when I went to the deli to buy the kalamata olives and when I got home I was annoyed that I had to spend time pitting them! I suppose the “fresh” olives from the deli MIGHT be better than getting them already pitted in the jar but, I suggest going for the convenience and saving the time and effort and get just the olive meat!
(this kale and potato soup is not very photogenic, but, it really is tasty. i was lucky enough to get a personal delivery of freshly harvested sweet young kale from my mom’s garden. the bigger and older the kale gets, the tougher and more bitter it becomes. so, get ’em young, eat ’em raw or try out this yummy soup recipe!!)
Kale and Potato Soup with Red Chilies (From the Greens cookbook)
1 bunch kale
3 Tablespoons virgin olive oil
1 medium red or yellow onion, diced into ½ inch squares
6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 small dried red chili, seeded and chopped, or ½ teaspoon chili flakes
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
4 medium red potatoes (about 1 pound), scrubbed and diced into ½ inch cubes
2 teaspoons nutritional yeast (optional) *
2 cans white beans *
7 cups water or stock
Non-fat sour cream (optional)
* MY VARIATIONS: To add extra flavor I added 2-3 teaspoons of Seitenbacher vegetarian broth powder. Add this powder to taste, like you would add salt. Also, to give the soup some “meat” I added the white beans after pureeing the soup with my hand blender. To let the flavors develop I recommend making the soup in the morning or the day before.
Using a sharp knife or kitchen shears cut the ruffled kale leaves off their stems, which are very tough and take a long time to cook. Cut the leaves into pieces roughly 2 inches square, wash them well, and set them aside.
Heat the olive oil in a soup pot, add the onion, garlic, chili, bay leaf, and salt, and cook over medium-high heat for 3 or 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the potatoes and the yeast, if using, plus a cup of the water or stock. Stir together, cover, and cook slowly for 5 minutes.
Add the kale, cover, and steam until it is wilted, stirring occasionally. Pour in the rest of the water or stock, bring to a boil, and then simmer slowly, covered, until the potatoes are quite soft, 30 to 40 minutes.
Use the back of a wooden spoon to break up the potatoes by pressing them against the sides of the pot, or puree a cup or two of the soup in a blender and return it to the pot. This will make a unifying background for the other elements.
Taste the soup for salt and add a generous grinding of black pepper. If possible, let the soup sit for an hour or so before serving to allow the flavors to further develop. If desired add a spoonful of non-fat sour cream.
Serves 4 – 6.
Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
Because I felt like the menu needed more protein I decided to put together this quinoa salad. Quinoa is a great way to add protein to a vegetarian meal. Here’s my rough recipe for the salad I prepared.
2 cups of rinsed quinoa
3 cups vegetarian broth (prepared using Seitenbracher broth – see notes above in kale and potato soup recipe)
1/4 cup slivered almonds
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1/4 cup currants
1 cup quartered grape or cherry tomatoes
1 1/2 cups halved and sliced zucchini
1/2 cup diced yellow onion
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 tsp salt
pepper to taste
Add the quinoa and broth to a saucepan. Bring to a boil then simmer for 15 minutes or until the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat, mix in the currants then set aside, uncovered. Heat a splash of olive oil in a saute pan over medium high heat, add the onion and saute 3-5 min. until soft. Add the zucchini, 1/2 tsp. salt and saute 5-7 minutes just until soft. Turn off the heat then cover with a lid to let steam. In a large bowl whisk the olive oil, white wine vinegar and remaining 1/2 tsp. salt. Add the quinoa and zucchini. Toss with a wooden spoon. Add the tomatoes and lightly toss. When cooled down (not so hot it melts the cheese) toss in the feta cheese. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Lastly, toss in the almonds before serving. Can be served at room temperature.
6-minute Vegan Chocolate Cake
NOTE: As mentioned…I didn’t care for the cake but, it was probably the baker (ME!), not the recipe. so…sorry, no photo of this cake. i apologize to the cake because it actually was really pretty on the plate, served up with the berry puree and fresh raspberries sitting next to the bragging moosewood cheesecake getting most of the attention. it just didn’t taste anywhere near as good as it looked. i’ll give it another chance…one more chance. then, i’ll report back on how it turns out!
No one would ever suspect that this dark, elegant, scrumptious cake is both egg-less and dairy-less. It’s economical and low-cholesterol, and what’s more, it goes into the oven in 6 minutes with no mixing bowl to clean because the batter is mixed directly in the baking pan. You may be surprised to see vinegar in the ingredient list, but it’s not a mistake. The combination of vinegar and baking soda helps the cake to rise. When cool, cut and serve the cake directly from the pan using small metal spatula or pie server; it cannot be easily turned out onto a serving plate.
However, if you have time for a 12-minute cake, you can mix the batter in a bowl, line the bottom of the cake pan with parchment paper, and generously oil the sides of the pan and dust with flour. Then the cake can be removed from the pan with no trouble at all, for a more elegant presentation or for a layer cake.
For the chocolate glaze, use a good-quality chocolate, such as Callebaut or Valrhona. Or try it with your favorite frosting or a dusting of confectioners’ sugar or topped with whipped cream, ice cream, or sliced fruit.
Preparation time for cake: 6 minutes
Baking time: 30 minutes
Preparation time for glaze: 15 minutes
Chilling time (if using glaze) 30 minutes
Equipment: 9-inch round or 8-inch square cake pan, 2-cup measuring cup, double boiler
1 ½ cups unbleached white flour
⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup cold water or coffee
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
½ pound semi-sweet chocolate
¾ cup hot water
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 375º. Sift together the flour, cocoa, soda, salt, and sugar directly into the cake pan. In the measuring cup, measure and mix together the oil, cold water or coffee, and vanilla. Pour the liquid ingredients into the baking pan and mix the batter with a fork or a small whisk. When the batter is smooth, add the vinegar and stir quickly. There will be pale swirls in the batter as the baking soda and vinegar react. Stir just until the vinegar is evenly distributed throughout the batter.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes and set aside to cool.
To make the optional glaze, melt the chocolate in a double boiler, microwave oven, or reset the oven to 300º and melt the chocolate in the oven for about 15 minutes in a small ovenproof bowl or heavy skillet. Stir the hot water and vanilla into the melted chocolate until smooth. Spoon the glaze over the cooled cake. Refrigerate the glazed cake for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Reprinted from Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts , Copyright © 1997 by Moosewood, Inc. Clarkson N. Potter, Inc. New York, publisher.