Sunday, March 30, 2008

Millennium Spring Cooking Class

So today was another beautiful Sunday cooking class at Millennium Restaurant, the amazing gourmet vegan restaurant in San Francisco. Under the guidance of executive chef Eric Tucker and his assistants Eileen and Thomas, 10 lucky people like myself got to develop recipes, learn vegan cooking techniques, and work our butts off producing superb vegan dishes worthy of Millennium guests. And, happily, we get to eat all that we prepare.

The class theme was spring vegetables. I really wanted to do something with green or spring garlic which is currently in season (green garlic is immature garlic that has not yet formed the garlic bulb and looks like a small leek. It has a milder flavor than mature garlic.) We made a delicious Spring Garlic Bisque with smoked paprika oil and crisp fried green garlic leaves. Chef Tucker came up with a wonderful recipe that was totally amazing and was kind enough to give me permission to post the recipe. It follows at the end of this post.

We made dumplings with chives, pea greans, tofu, and Asian spices which were served in a miso-ginger-mushroom broth:

We also enjoyed these without the broth topped with chili oil and dipping sauce.

Vietnamese Style Stuffed Grape Leaves: stuffed with black beans, tofu, mushrooms, scallions, ginger, and garlic. These were broiled topped with a Kumquat Black Pepper sauce and sesame seeds (they're on the menu if you want to try them!):

We ate these in butter lettuce leaves, with extra sauce:

With a side of watercress salad in a sweet aged balsamic vinegar dressing with two spicy chutneys; one made with carrots, one made with beets:

OK...prepare to be wowed here...injera crepes made with teff flour and yeast in less that 3 hours (soooo good!) with cashew cream raita and two versions of wot; one made with french green lentils, the other with seitan:

And for dessert, a pear mousse, topped with Strawberry sauce, cashew crumbs, and sorbet:

Yeah....don't you so wish you had been there!

The great thing about the Millennium classes is that the focus is not on following a specific recipe, but rather on learning how to cook, adjust, fix, embellish on the fly using creativity, knowledge, and technique. You learn better ways to prep and cut vegetables and are introduced to new ingredients and methodologies that really work.

Plus, it's a social, team-building exercise. You get to meet nine other cool people interesting in vegan cooking and work in two teams of five to produce different variations of the recipe, with a Millennium assistant to further educate you. There's pressure to get everything done before the real cooking crew comes in and takes over the kitchen, so everyone's definitely motiviated to make it happen. Chef Eric is always refreshingly open to ideas and suggestions from participants and those are always great learning experiences. The Millennium cooking class is my monthly gift to myself and always an amazing experience.

Green Garlic Bisque:

4 cups of 1/8" sliced green garlic, roots and outer leave removed, white and green parts of the leek part sliced, leaves reserved for the garnish
filtered lukewarm salted water
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup of cognac (est)
1 tsp dried or fresh thyme
5 cups of potatoes, peeled and diced (keep in water to avoid discoloration)
vegetable stock
1 TBS arborio rice
1 tsp of thyme (dried can be used when adding the stock, fresh can be used later)

(Serves 10)

Prep the garlic and place in lukewarm salted filtered water for 15-20 minutes (sometimes green garlic can turn purple/blue, this step prevents that by drawing out the minerals).

Heat the olive oil and add the drained green garlic. Cover and cook for approx. 20 minutes (some browning is OK), stiring occasionally. Add the cognac and stand well back (it will flame). Add the potatoes, salt, and vegetable stock, arborio rice and dry thyme, if using (stock should cover ingredients by 1 "). Cover and cook at a boil for 20-30 minutes, until garlic and poatoes are starting to break down. Remove from the heat.

Add fresh thyme, if using.

Puree with an immersion blender. Adjust seasoning.

Smoked Paprika Oil
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 heaped tablespoon smoked paprika

In a saute pan, combine oil and smoke paprika. Cook until the oil starts to bubble. Remove from heat and allow to infuse for at least 30 minutes.

Green Garlic Leave Chips :
3/4 cup oil (grapeseed oil olive oil blend as it needs to be heated at a high heat)
leaves from 5 green garlic, cut on the diagonal about 1/4" wide

Heat the oil in a saute pan to a very high temperature to mimic deep frying. Fry the cut green garlic leaves unitl crispy ( about 3 minutes). Drain on paper towel.

Serve the bisque topped with smoked paprika oil and green garlic chips.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Cauliflower Steak

Here's another winner from the "Eat Your Veggies" piece in the February issue of Bon Appetit: Cauliflower Steaks. The previous recipe for salt-crusted beets was in the same piece and the brussels recipe is looking good too.
I adapted and simplified the original recipe (which uses the remaining cauliflower to create a puree base). I used less than a teaspoon of olive oil to fry two cauliflower steaks (vs 2TBS in the original recipe). And I added a sprinkle of grated parmesan before putting the steaks in the oven. I then finished them under the broiler for a couple of minutes.

They were absolutely perfect.

Serve with salad: arugula, white beans, and cherry tomatoes in a lemon vinaigrette. And why not add some julieneed basil or another fresh herb to the mix?

Here's the adapted recipe:

Cauliflower Steaks:

1 head cauliflower
1 tsp extra-virigin olive oil
pinch of sea salt (I used French Ile de Re)
2 grinds of black pepper
1/2 TBS grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 250F degrees.

Cut two 3/4" steaks from the center of a head of cauliflower. Sprinkle with salt.

In a skillet, heat up the EVOO over medium-high heat. Add the cauliflower steaks and cook on both sides with salt and pepper. I pressed my down with a spatula to make sure I got the nicely browned florettes.

Remove from heat and place on a baking sheet. Top with grated Parmesan and bake for 6 minutes. Finish under the grill until cheese is bubbling.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Salt & Horseradish Crusted Beets

I have to say I was fascinated by this recipe from the Feb. 2008 Bon Appetite magazine for Salt-Crusted Beets. I couldn't quite imagine how they would taste. As I had a number of beets in my fridge looking for a cool new beet recipe, tonight I planned ahead and roasted my beets in a crust of kosher salt and prepared horseradish. I skipped the grated orange peel, but used fresh lemon thyme.

They looked so pretty and snow-covered before I put them in the oven to roast for 1 3/4 hours:

Not so pretty after:

The salt-horseradish-thyme combination creates a crust around the beets that can be cracked open like an egg shell (Happy Easter!):

Here's the pretty result:

The amazing thing was how the beets tasted. I peeled the beets and ate them straight up (skipping the creme fraiche topping) and they were absolutely superb. No hint of bitterness and perfectly salted with a light horseradish taste. Wow! If you like beets, you've really gotta try this!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

caprese with Cucumber, Avocado & Pine Nuts

Well, it's not exactly summer here, but it was warm enough to feel like a robust salad was the perfect dinner item.

A simple Caprese salad with thick slices of tomato and medallions of fresh mozzarella, with kalamata olives, diced avocado and cucumber with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sea salt and ground black pepper, and a few pine nuts made this appetiser a meal! A little olive bread with butter to soak up the juices made this meal a treat!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Irish Farmhouse Soup for St. Patrick's Day

Here's a vegetarian adaption of Clare Connery's Irish Farmhouse Broth from In An Irish Country Kitchen.

In addition to the leeks, potatoes, and carrots, Connery's recipe adds heartiness with split green peas, red lentils, and pearl barley. Her recipe calls for broth made with meat and is simmered for 2-3 hours. My adaption uses vegetable broth and takes less than an hour to prepare.

Although the ingredients are humble, this soup was truly delicious! I loved the hearty mix of legumes and I'm really loving using leeks in place of onions and garlic. I used Kerrygold Irish butter to cook the leeks - the aroma was amazing! And you use the white and green parts of the leek for this recipe.

Other suggestions for St Patrick's Day follow the recipe. Enjoy!

Irish Farmhouse Soup:
(adapted from Clare Connery's In An Irish Country Kitchen)

1 tbsp Kerrygold Irish butter (salted)
2 medium leeks
4 buttercream potatoes, scrubbed
2 carrots, sliced (and halved if large)
1 Quart (32 fl oz) Vegetable Broth
water, as needed
1/2 cup split green peas
1/4 cup red lentils
1/4 cup pearl barley
salt and pepper

To clean the leeks, remove the outer layer of skin and cut off the coarse tops and the roots. Slice the leeks in quarters lengthwise leaving the very top part intact. Put then leeks in a bowl of water and let them soak for a few minutes. Swish them around to loosen any trapped grit. Remove from water and slice.

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium low heat. Add the leeks and cook for 3 minutes. Add the potatoes and carrots, and a pinch of salt, cover, and cook for 4-5 minutes. Remove the cover and add the vegetable broth, split green peas, red lentils, and pearl barley. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Add salt and pepper. Simmer until green split peas are just tender (about 30 minutes). Adjust seasoning and serve.

Other suggestions for St. Patrick's Day:


Parsnip Pancakes

Cheddar & Chive Buttermilk Scones

Vegetarian Pot Pies

Irish Buttermilk Scones

Irish Chocolate Whiskey Cakes

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Spring Vegetable Soup

Suddenly, all the fruit trees are in full bloom and I have a garden full of pretty flowers. Time for a soup to celebrate the transition from Winter's hearty root vegetables to the tender vegetables of Spring.

This soup combined leeks, potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, and kale with tender peas, asparagus, and the first market appearance of green garlic!

I wish I'd thought to make Green Garlic Cheddar Scones to enjoy with this soup! If you're not familiar with green garlic (pictured below), check out the scone link to find out more. It's definitely one of my favorite Spring things!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Beet Carpaccio

My purpose with this beautiful Beet Carpaccio, aside from celebrating my return to the online world (with a brand new router), is to convince us both that it's possible to lose a few pounds (ok...8-10) without a sense of deprivation.

This dish tasted as good as it looked! Raw Chioggia and golden beets sliced thin and topped with capers, baby red chard topped with diced avocado, all topped with a simple Lemon-Dijon vinaigrette.

Although the golden beets were a little bitter, the Chioggia beets were just right, making this was a very satisfying antipasti. The Lemon-Dijon vinaigrette was very flavorful, even in the smallest amount, and the creamy indulgence of avocado really hit the spot. I kept this version vegan, but carpaccio (an Italian antipasti, typically consisting of thinly sliced raw beef) is frequently topped with shaved Parmesan. Finely sliced red onion is also a common addition. Next time, I'll substitute sweet pine nuts for the walnuts.