Friday, January 29, 2010

Tuesday, January 19th

This blog entry is sadly late, as I’m getting ready for a trip out of the country, but want to get it published while my memory is still fresh. This was a vegan night led by Guest Chef Phil Gelb ( Here’s what we made:

Winter Vegetable Bean Soup—I’m generally not a fan of soups that have lots of chunky stuff in them, and this one was definitely that. I tend to prefer blended soups that then have several garnishes, not a brothy soup that has a whole bunch of stuff floating around. But this one was chock full of so many ingredients, some large, some small, some with skin, some naked, but the thing that held it altogether for me was a really great flavor to the broth. I was especially skeptical of the kabocha chunks with the skin on them but ended up enjoying the taste, texture, and even the peeling experience along the way. And garlicky broth is good broth. In all, I give it a score of 6 bucks.

Blood Orange, Fennel, and Watercress Salad—Again, another dish with a lot going on, and again, a really good dish. When Phil described this dish, he talked about how blood oranges were his favorite citrus, and I really developed a new love for the fruit on this night. This salad was wonderfully complex, citrusy but really interestingly so, crunchy and juicy, tart and sweet. I would have liked to have had a bit more vinegar in the dressing, but apart from that, it was a really excellent salad. I give it a score of 7 bucks but it could have very easily been .5 higher with a bit more tang.

Tempeh Marsala—for many people, this was their favorite dish. Not for me. Phil makes his own tempeh, and it’s really good stuff to start with. I really like that it was fried—I guess I like most anything fried—but the Marsala and spicing was not enough for me. It was a bit too delicate, and I think that I would have really liked several shots of soy sauce on each piece. With this said, I kept eating it, so it couldn’t have been all bad, and thus I give it a score of 5.5 bucks.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pine Nuts and Olives—this dish had the potential to be really good but for me fell short. I like Brussels sprouts and I love pine nuts and olives, but there wasn’t enough holding the pieces together. The sprouts, in my opinion, were undercooked and not sufficiently flavored. I wanted the flavor and texture of the pine nuts and olives to be infused in the sprouts, but they were really more of a garnish, and I wanted more of that since that was the flavorful part. Perhaps it could have been improved by some balsamic vinegar or some lemon, or by chopping the sprouts smaller so that everything was more uniformly sized, but as it was, I can only give it a score of 4.5 bucks.

Pear Crisp—this was a really nice dessert. The pears were perfectly cooked, the topping was outstanding, and Phil had made some wonderful cashew nut ice cream that was to die for. Was it pumpkin flavored? In any case, perfectly baked fruit is a nice thing, especially with some grains and nuts and other dried fruit on top, so I can do nothing but give it a score of 7 bucks.

Overall—this was quite a nice meal with several highlights for me. And like “A Prairie Home Companion”, all the dishes were above average. And in all, a meal valued at 30 bucks is quite a bargain for 8, and this one was. Here are the recipes…

Winter Vegetable Bean Soup

Adapted from Phil Gelb’s January 2010 Guest Chef Night

½ C olive oil
2 onions, diced
2 leeks, diced
6 t sea salt
4 stalks celery, diced
4 carrots, diced
2 fennel bulbs, diced
2 potatoes, diced
1 small kabocha, seeded and diced
1 radicchio, diced
2 bulbs garlic, diced
4 tsp dried thyme
4 tsp dried oregano
2 cups red wine
18 cups stock
2 cups cooked beans
3 cups basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped parsley
4 lemons zest and juice

1. In a soup pot, heat olive oil, add onions, leeks and salt and let sweat for 10 minutes.
2. Add the next nine ingredients (through thyme and oregano) and cook 5 minutes.
3. Add red wine to deglaze and let most of it evaporate.
4. Add the stock and cooked beans. Bring to a simmer.
5. Add fresh herbs, lemon juice and zest at the end. Season to taste and serve.

Serves 18

Blood Orange, Fennel, and Watercress Salad

Adapted from Phil Gelb’s January 2010 Guest Chef Night

Dressing Ingredients
Zest and juice of 3 blood oranges
2 T balsamic vinegar
4 T champagne vinegar
2/3 C olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1 shallot, minced
½ t sea salt

Salad Ingredients
2 bulbs fennel, shaved
3 bunches watercress leaves, chopped
7 blood oranges, sectioned removing all the pith
20 green olives, pitted and chopped
1/3 C walnuts, toasted

1. Mix together the dressing ingredients thoroughly.
2. Combine the fennel and watercress and dress.
3. Top with blood oranges, green olives, and walnuts

Serves 10

Tempeh Marsala

Adapted from Phil Gelb’s January 2010 Guest Chef Night

Olive oil
½ lb tempeh, sliced into ½ inch strips
Kosher salt
1/3 C Marsala

1. Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat. Coat lightly with olive oil.
2. Fry strips on one side until brown.
3. Turn over—only once—and brown on the other side.
4. Sprinkle with salt and add the Marsala wine at the end, after it browns. Cook 10 seconds and remove from heat.
5. Serve warm.

Serves 4

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pine Nuts and Olives

Adapted from Phil Gelb’s January 2010 Guest Chef Night

1 lb Brussels sprouts
1 t sea salt
1 T safflower or vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 T pine nuts
10 olives, chopped

1. Trim Brussels sprouts and cut in half.
2. Place sprouts on a roasting pan and sprinkle with salt, oil and garlic. Cover with aluminum foil and roast for 15 minutes.
3. After 15 minutes, remove foil, add pine nuts and olives, and roast for an additional 10 minutes, or until sprouts are al dente and slightly caramelized.

Serves 8

Pear Crisp

Adapted from Phil Gelb’s January 2010 Guest Chef Night

Topping Ingredients
1 ½ C rolled oats
¼ C buckwheat flour
1/3 C walnuts, chopped
¼ C Earth Balance or other vegan margarine
¼ C maple syrup or agave

Pear Ingredients
8 pears, cored and sliced thin
1 t cinnamon
1 T kudzu or potato starch
½ t sea salt
½ t allspice
¼ t cloves
2 T maple syrup or agave
½ C dried cranberries

1. Mix together the oats, buckwheat, and walnuts, then add the Earth Balance and syrup.
2. Mix all of the pear ingredients together and then place in a baking dish.
3. Place the topping on top of the pears, covering the pears completely.
4. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until it starts to bubble up on the sides.
5. Serve warm with ice cream.

Serves 8-12

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