This was the first year that I did not travel to my home in Colorado for the holidays. As sad I was not to be with my family for Christmas, my plans to stay in San Francisco and cook a truly epic meal with my best friend Alma gave me adequate tidings of comfort and joy.
We daydreamed and plotted for weeks ahead of time of wild food combinations and adventurous flavors, and on Christmas Eve morning, we filled our glasses with bottomless pineapple mimosas and began our heavy work load in the kitchen...
(So much happened in both the weeks of planning and the in-kitchen 10+ hours of speed cooking, that is impossible to document every spice, thought and detail that occurred. I will do my best to share an overview of what we made and the essentials of how we got there.)
PURPLE LAVENDER ROSEMARY MASHED POTATOES:
I began by simmering fresh rosemary and dried lavender buds in a cup and a half of earth balance (vegan butter substitute). I stirred this on low heat for 15-20 minutes.
Using cheese cloth, I strained out the lavender and rosemary and set aside my infused "butter" to thicken up at room temp.
I washed our 2 dozen or so, organic purple potatoes and boiled them in left over beet water (to enhance the color that much more) until soft and ready for mashing.
I threw in several chopped garlic cloves, my rosemary-lavender infused earth balance, a splash of hemp milk, salt, pepper, cinnamon, agave, cayenne, curry and powdered ginger. I spiced and adjusted until the taste of this lavender sea of clouds made us weep with awe and intoxication.
STUFFED PEPPERS AND MUSHROOMS:
Alma began by washing her mini sweet peppers and cutting off the tops, and using a small tspn to 'gut' her crimini mushrooms without mercy. She made sure to keep the insides of the mushrooms so she could use them for the stuffing pate.
Next she fried onions, garlic, the saved mushroom innards, and walnuts in a large pan with olive oil. She spiced with cumin, white and black pepper, paprika, salt. When done, she placed this in a food processor and ran it until her pate was perfectly creamy. She stuffed the peppers and mushrooms with pate, garnished with pine nuts and added a pinch of paprika on top.
Finally she placed them in the stove for 20-30 min at 300*. Dangerously good and so small they mysteriously kept disappearing...
COUS-COUS STUFFED APPLES:
Alma had me cut the apples in half and gut them (again, mercilessly).
She cooked a big batch of semolina cous cous which tasted amazing. To add to her cous cous, she sauteed eggplant, onions, walnuts, vegan field roast sausage, cilantro and mint. She spiced all this with lemon, garlic, white pepper, agave nectar, chili powder, and salt. She made sure to put plenty of olive oil on the apples before stuffing them and throwing them in the stove for about 30 min at 250*-300*.
To top off the stuffed apples, we whipped up a mind-blowing batch of cashew cream. We did this by soaking cashews for a few hours, draining them, and putting them in the food processor with some coconut milk yogurt, lemon, agave, salt, paprika, cinnamon and water.
MANGO CHUTNEY (DIPPING SAUCE 1 FOR NAAN APPETIZER):
I have never made a mango chutney, so I started by looking up this recipe found on the food network website:
It called for:
- 4 pounds fresh mangos, ripe but not too soft, peeled (I Actually only had 2 mangoes and it worked fine.)
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon chile flakes
- 2 1/2 cups medium dice red onion
- 1/4 cup minced fresh ginger
- 1 cup small dice red bell pepper
- 8 ounces unsweetened pineapple juice
- 4 ounces cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
- Kosher salt and fresh ground white pepper
- 1/2 cup raisins or golden raisins (I did not use these- Alma hates adding raisins in food!)
- 1/2 cup toasted, roughly chopped macadamia nuts (I used peanuts instead since I had them!)
In a saute pan heat the oil and add the chili flakes. Be careful not to burn the chili, just toast to flavor the oil. Add the onions and sweat until soft. Add the ginger and bell pepper and saute for 1 to 2 minutes. Finally add the sliced, chopped mango and cook for 1 more minute.
In a separate bowl, combine the pineapple juice, vinegar, sugar, and curry powder. Add this mixture to the pan. Stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a bare simmer and reduce for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Season with salt and pepper. Add the nuts (peanuts) and set aside to cool.
I also added fresh cilantro, mint, cayenne, and various other things until I was happily satisfied with its tangy, spicy balance.
Alma also made a second dipping sauce with lentils. She cooked green lentils until soft and threw them in the food processor with plain vegan yogurt, a touch of milk (hemp), fried onions and garlic, garam masala, white and black pepper, lemon & salt. She blended this until creamy, and played with the spices like "a fragrant sandbox..."
We planned on making our Naan from scratch, but once we realized how many dishes we had left to make, we ran to the market in a sweat, and luckily found some lovely whole wheat naan already made. Both sauces were a very big hit!
During our planning stages we decided to make a scallop appetizer and we envisioned a lovely beet pesto topping each succulent sea pillow. As with every sauce we made, I went WAY over board and made an entire vat when we only needed a few dollops...
I threw in several fresh handfuls of organic basil in food processor with 4 or 5 beets I had boiled until soft, a 1/2 cup of pine nuts, several garlic cloves, 2 or 3 tbls olive oil, a squeezed lemon, salt, pepper, and cayenne.
Just...damn. We ended up putting this on everything in the end it was so good!
The best scallop dish I ever had out in a restaurant was in Nelson, New Zealand where they served them over a cauliflower puree. I've been meaning to recreate it for years and I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to make and make well.
We boiled a chopped head of cauliflower in water until soft. After draining it, I put it in the food processor with a few sprigs of fresh rosemary, cumin, salt, pepper, cayenne, lemon and paprika.
Enough said and done- this cauliflower puree was AMAZING!
We pan-seared each scallop in hot safflower oil, sprinkled a little lemon and paprika on them once golden brown, and we had one heck of a scallop appetizer!
Alma put together a perfect salad of fresh arugula and spinach, blueberries, artichokes hearts, shaved fennel and almond slivers. We both tampered with the salad dressing so long, I couldn't possible begin to tell you everything that made it in. We'll just call it a wasabi tahini lime dressing! (All you need to know is that is was delicious!)
We had a ton of the eggplant/vegan sausage cous-cous left over so we just served it for another side dish...(like we needed more food..)
SESAME-LIME ENCRUSTED BLACK COD:
It's a rare and special occasion when I buy seafood to cook for a meal, but this was certainly one of them. I went down to the San Francisco Ferry Building and purchased some wild-caught Black Cod along with our scallops. About a half hour before dinner time, I washed the fish pieces and patted them dry with a paper towel.
I prepared a crust of black and white sesame seeds, panko crumbs, shaved ginger, shaved lime zest, salt and cayenne pepper.
We coated the fish in a mix of egg white and hemp milk and generously bathed each piece in our crunchy crust.
We cooked each piece of fish in safflower oil on high heat for maybe 3- 5 minutes on each side until golden brown, and put them in a baking dish in the oven at 350* to finish cooking through until medium done. Once we pulled them out of the oven, I gave them a nice spritz of fresh lemon juice.
LEMON- CHOCOALATE- ROSE RAW CHEESECAKE:
Last, but CERTAINLY not least was dessert. Alma had acquired the raw lemon cheesecake recipe from Cafe Gratitude and we decided to go all out and make it, only adding our own twist by adding cocoa powder and rose water.
I'll let you google their recipe for it, but I can tell you it uses cashews, dates, almonds, vegan milk (almond), lemon juice, agave, liquid vanilla, lecithin, and coconut oil...
Dear God, it should be illegal!
Although we doubted it in moments, we pulled our monster of a meal off just in the nick of time. Our guests were more than pleased to take some of the feast off of the table and into their bellies. The only problem was that we only invited two people over...you can imagine the leftovers we were forced to consume over the next several days!