Thursday, September 22, 2011

Green Bean, Potato & Olive Salad

Every Saturday, my family and I head out to a local horse ranch (where my son rides) and share a picnic lunch with friends. As a result, I'm always on the look out for new picnic foods. This Green Bean, Potato and Olive Salad is a tasty vegan riff on the Salad Nicoise and very easy to prepare! The saltiness and depth of the herb-marinated olives packs plenty of flavor and the combination of creamy baby Dutch potatoes and crunchy green beans provides substance and freshness.

I dressed the salad in a very simple lemon olive oil, which made this an awesome light dish for a hot day. Next time, I'll try a vinaigrette of lemon olive oil, champagne vinegar and a little mustard to soak up with baguette!

This is a great shared dish and easily prepared in 30 minutes. Put the baby Dutch potatoes in a saucepan with salted water and bring to a boil. Turn down to medium and cook until the potatoes are just soft to a sharp knife. Add either fresh or frozen Haricots Verts (tiny whole green beans). Cook until the beans are cooked, but still have some crunch. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Once the potatoes and beans are cold, mix with your favorite herb-marinated olives and lemon olive oil (or olive oil and lemon juice). Salt to taste with sea salt and pack for your picnic!

If you eat eggs, wedges of hard boiled egg can be added at serving time.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Udon Noodle Soup with Greens & Tofu

The inspiration for this dish is ironically some delicious-looking, street side, fresh noodle soup shown on Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations . As you probably are aware, Tony has a disdainful attitude towards vegetarians, but everyone has their foibles. This delicious udon noodle soup is very easy to prepare, full of fresh colorful vegetables, and a perfect vehicle for tofu.

For me, the fresh jalapenos and fresh cilantro are critical to the success of this dish. Also, I think the spinach, added at the last minute, really adds a freshness and texture that would be sadly missed. I have to admit, I've made this soup five or six times in the last month. It's one of those dishes that is easy and tastes so healthy, you just can't resist making it again and again. For me, you have to eat it with chop sticks and drink the broth directly from the bowl.

Udon Noodle Soup with Greens & Tofu:

1 large garlic clove, very thinly sliced
Fresh ginger (size of a large garlic clove), peeled, and finely chopped
1 tsp grapeseed oil
32 oz vegetable stock (I used Wolfgang Puck's, it's salty than most and has less of a celery flavor)
1 large carrot, sliced thinly on the diagonal
sliced fresh green jalapeno (as desired)
1 cup broccoli florettes
1 cup snap peas
4 scallions, roots removed, sliced on the diagonal
1 package udon noodles and spice pack if included.
8 fresh white mushrooms, finely sliced
6 oz tofu (I've used smoked tofu, plain firm tofu, deep fried tofu puffs - all are good!)
2 cups baby spinach
1/2 cup cilantro

Heat the grapeseed oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan and saute the ginger and garlic for 1-2 minutes. Add the vegetable stock and carrots and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and add the sliced jalapeno. Cook 1 minute and add the broccoli, snap peas, scallions and udon noodles. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the tofu and mushrooms. Cook 2 minutes. Add the spinach and cilantro and turn off the heat.

Serve as soon as the spinach is wilted.

Other vegetable options - frozen peas, kale, leeks for a fall/winter version.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Millennium Heirloom Tomato Dinner: Aug. 31st, 2011

Last night, I had one of the most delicious meals I've ever eaten. The setting was Millennium, my favorite restaurant in San Francisco; the company, foodie friends as stellar as the meal we were served. Millennium's Executive Chef Eric Tucker and his staff created a spectacular vegan Heirloom Tomato Dinner featuring tomatoes from Eatwell Farm.

The special menu began with the Amuse above; early girl tomato & roasted pimenton tartare, crisp tomato skins, carpaccio of Aunt Ruby's green tomatoes, grilled olive flatbread, tomato leaf aioli (yes, tomato leaf), smoky fig & tomato pate.

In addition to the wine pairing, there was a Build Your Own Bloody Mary Bar. As this was my first Bloody Mary experience, I understand from my friends that I am now ruined for life as far as Bloody Mary's go. There were three mixes: Traditional (Sons & Daughters of New Zealand Pink Paste Tomatoes), Exotic Traveler featured below (Thai Curry Green Zebra Tomato & Melon) and Don Juan (Gold Tomato with Habanero). Below are images of the many tomatoes, herbs, and additions that you could build into your Bloody Mary:

I split my vodka into two glasses and tried both the Traditional (I added red and yellow tomatoes, jalapeno, and cilantro) and the the Exotic Traveler (I added green tomatoes, cilantro, and shiso). Eric stopped by at the end of the meal and told me I had to try the Don Juan and brought me another set-up. All three were spectacular - the traditional was wonderfully savory, the Exotic Traveler, very fresh and, well, exotic tasting, and the Don Juan was hot!

Move over Libby's - I'm truly inspired to experiment making my own tomato juice concoctions!

OK, back to the food.

The salad course consisted of Grilled Peach & Radicchio on a Skewer with gold tomato, crisp polenta crouton panzanella with gold balsamic vinaigrette (hiding in the back, but the best polenta ever!), ground toasted hazelnuts, fennel pollen & cacao nibs (!), basil leave and basil oil:

And my favorite dish of the meal: Fresh Corn Masa Sope with cashew-achiote "cheese", sweet & spicy tomato-habanero sauce, gold cherry tomato & nopales salsa:

The sope (a thick masa pancake) was so creamy and tender with fresh crunchy corn, the richness of the "cheese", the fresh salsa, and the beautiful presentation - I could eat this every day.

Diners had the choice of two entrees: I chose the Shady Lady Tomato Coconut Masala, with a butterball potato-chickpea cake (with the most wonderful chunks of potato), roasted Lobster mushrooms, cauliflower, zucchini & romano beans, melon-cherry tomato salad and red onion pakora (on top -incredible!):

The other option was Roasted Eggplant & Tomato Provencal with tofu custard, cinnamon scented tempeh-walnut sausage, stewed tomatoes with chartreuse & caramelized fennel, chrysanthemum greens and pistachio-mint relish:

And, finally dessert: Marzano Tomato-Pineapple Upsdie Down Cake with roasted gold blossom tomato, aged black garlic ice cream, candied tomato & watermelon relish with jalapeno-black garlic brittle and and pink pepper anglaise:

What's truly amazing to me is the tremendous wealth of ingredients utilized in this menu, not just the extensive varieties of tomatoes, but the incredible and complex details that were part of every dish. If you want to experience these special menus, get on the Millennium mailing list and book early. The place was hopping for this incredible menu and the service was, like the rest of the experience, stellar.