Composing a menu usually takes any half decent culinarian a few hours at least. The purpose of the event, the audience, the equipment, the season are just a few of the
factors to consider. Certainly, when creating a Valentine's Day menu components such as love, opulence, sexiness and aphrodisiacs come to mind. Very rarely does the thought of veganism, fruits and vegetables resonate.
Well, it's 2020 - the year of craftsmanship, creativity and uniqueness. And so here we are. Ready to defy the norm while satisfying the expectations of our Night of Love.
It has literally taken me months to compose the perfect "no meat" evening that will rival any carnivorous composition. But, let me warn you in advance that this will probably be more difficult and a little more expensive to pull off.
You will need to purchase edible flowers, have a powerful blender, visit your neighborhood farm and use high quality organic ingredients. There's not the usual high-fat butters and cream to hide behind. You will literally have to channel your inner chef to make this work! Sorry; I never said it would be easy; so make sure your Date is worth it! #sorrynotsorry
Our menu for Valentine's will be:
A welcome Rosemary Citrus Oshibori
Appetizer - Heirloom Tomato Crudo
Soup - Cauliflower Cream
Intermezzo- Gully Wash Ice
Entree- Roasted Vegetable Ragù Pasta
Sweet – A Sweet Papaya Bowl, (filled with aphrodisiacs and feel-good foods)
1. Print an actual menu. Hey, if there ever was a night to go all out, this is it. Be creative.
2. Heirloom tomatoes are quite perishable because of their sugar content, but necessary for this recipe. Check Solomon's Fresh Market they usually carry these or ask them to bring some in. If you can, use different varieties of heirloom tomato for a better presentation too. We use both beefsteak and cherry heirlooms in this dish.
3. Take all your spices and herbs and throw them away. Yes, I said it!. Vegan food depends on high-quality fresh ingredients. If you had any of your spices for more than a month, they're done! START FRESH!
4. Wash all your vegetables! This is often a forgotten step, but definitely necessary.
5. When blending hot ingredients for soups, purees, etc. do not seal with the lid. The steam will literally cause your blender to explode. Use a towel and blend with the top slightly open.
Recipes serves 2
Firstly, what exactly is an Oshibori? Well, it's a fancy name for that cold or warm towel you get a high-end hotels or restaurants to " wipe up or cool down." Yes, we are showing off...
Citrus Rosemary Oshibori
2 soft white face towel
2 twigs of fresh rosemary
1 section of fresh lime
1 cup hot distilled water
A few drops of rosemary oil (optional)
In a large bowl add the hot water, 1 twig of rosemary, juice of the lime, rosemary oil and steep for 5 minutes.
Add the towel and then wring almost dry. Roll up nicely, add the last twig and tie together with the twine.
To serve, you can microwave for 60 seconds or you freeze an hour ahead. It all depends or the experience you want to give.
Heirloom Tomato Crudo
3 varietal colored and types of heirloom tomatoes
Juice from 1 orange
Juice from 1 lime
Juice from 1 lemon
1 red onion, sliced thin
1 bird pepper, sliced thin
Micro cilantro (Green Leaf Farms)
Edible flowers (Green Leaf Farms)
Kosher or sea salt, to taste
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 bunch of parsley
1/2 cup vegetable oil
The best way to describe this dish is a very fancy, "no-conch, conch salad". For this portion of the recipe, you will need a blender and a coffee filter.
This recipe is super simple and should be assembled last minute.
The green oil is the most "technical" part of this recipe; so you may want to make it days ahead.
To make the green oil; bring a pot of distilled water to boil. Have a bowl of ice water nearby. Submerge the parsley in the boiling water, count to five and then plunge into the ice bath. Take it out and squeeze it dry in a paper napkin or clean kitchen rag. In a high power blender, blitz until the mix almost becomes a puree. Remove and strain over a cup topped with a coffee filter.
Take all the citrus and juice them separately. Then combine them depending on your personal preference. I like a very acidic, aka "sharp", conch salad and that holds true here.
To your citrus blend, add 1/2 the onions, your desired amount of bird pepper, the ginger salt and pepper to taste.
To assemble, slice the tomatoes and add to a wide-rimmed, fancy bowl. Spoon some of the citrus liquid over the tomatoes, add a few drops of your green oil, thin onions, edible flowers and microgreens.
Cauliflower Creamless Soup
1 whole cauliflower
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
A few splashes of Tabasco
Salt and pepper to taste
Green oil (from recipe above)
Poached baby vegetables (optional garnish)
Bring a pot of water to a fierce boil. Salt it. Cut the cauliflower loosely to fit in the pot. Save a few florets for garnish.
Cook until a little more than fork-tender; about 8 minutes. (Do not let the cauliflower cool, blend while it's still hot to make it extremely smooth.) Use some of the cooking liquid to get it going. Add the coconut milk, salt, and pepper and then finish by streaming in the olive oil. If you like a thinner soup simply add more of the cooking liquid.
To serve, assemble the leftover cauliflower shaved thin, the coconut flakes, some edible flowers and a few drops of the green oil in a soup bowl. Add the soup to a sauce-pourer and add to the bowl in front of your guest.
Gully Wash Ice
Nearly all "fancy" restaurants serve a palette cleanser or intermezzo before the entree. This one literally is the easiest to do.
For this recipe you will need a whisk.
2 cups of fresh coconut water
Juice of 1/2 of a lime
Add the coconut water and lime juice to a square oven pan. Place it someplace even in your freezer. Every five to ten minutes simple whisk it to form ice crystals. This is the process of making a granita. This will take about 1 to 2 hours depending on your type of freezer. It should look like snow cone ice at the end. It is so simple to make!
Scoop into a nice bowl or cup, garnish with flowers and serve. Chef trick: Serve it in the coconut shell that you got the liquid from.
Roasted Vegetable Pasta
By now I'm sure everyone knows I think we should all know how to make a simple bowl of pasta, but for Valentine’s we are kicking up a notch and making it #seccy
2 portions of your favorite dried pasta. I use Barilla this spaghetti, cooked as directed on the box. This always works
A loose handful of fresh basil, chopped
A loose handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
¼ onion, small diced
½ eggplant, diced
½ zucchini, diced
½ button mushrooms, diced
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
1 cup premium organic, cold press EVOO, plus a splash for the pasta
2 tsp tomato paste
1 cup tomato puree
1 cup of red wine (I hope you will use some of what you are already drinking)
Kosher salt and cracked pepper to taste
In a baking pan add the diced vegetables. Season liberally and add ¼ cup of EVOO. Toss. Roast at 375°F for about 12 minutes. Turn the vegetables occasionally so that they brown evenly.
In a heavy saucepan add ¼ cup of EVOO, toast the garlic then add the tomato paste and tomato puree. Add the roasted vegetables and wine and simmer for 1 hr. Just before serving add ¾ of the chopped parsley and basil and ¼ of the EVOO for a vibrant finish to the sauce.
In a cold skillet add the remaining EVOO and the breadcrumbs. Season and toast slowly. Drain the breadcrumbs and reserve.
Prepare the pasta as directed and strain.
In a bowl add the remaining chopped parsley and basil and a splash of the EVOO. Spoon the sauce over liberally and top with the crispy breadcrumbs. Add some edible flowers and micro herbs and serve.
Chef tip how to plate your pasta like a pro.
Ever wondered how chefs make simple food look so amazing!
Add your al dente pasta to a bowl and toss with EVOO, fresh chopped parsley, basil, salt and pepper. To plate take a carving fork, a service tong or a large cooking spoon, (the fork is easiest) and twirl the pasta around it. Then slide the end of the pasta roll onto the plate. Finally layer the sauce on top and garnish liberally with basil and savory breadcrumbs.
This simple but amazing dessert is truly one of my favorites. It's elegant, refreshing, simple to make and a great close to the night.
1 firm but ripe BAMSI papayas
2 scoops of coconut or pineapple sorbet
1 sweet sugar banana
2 fresh strawberries, sliced
2 tbsp Cocoa nibs
Edible flowers for garnish
4 blueberries, sliced
2 tsp coconut chips
2 tsp salted nuts
2 tsp local honeycombs
To assemble chill the papaya at least 1 hr ahead. Wash and cut into half. Scoop out the seeds and discard. Just before serving, add a scoop of your premium sorbet then assemble artistically by simply spooning the ingredients as you wish.