Foodbuzz PFB Challenge #3: Autumn luxury, vegan style!

by - Sunday, October 03, 2010

I was really excited about this third challenge! Not just because I got to cook and eat delicious food, but because I also get to share a little bit of something that is important to me, with you. My "luxury dinner party" meal was entirely vegan (free of all animal products) and what I want to show you is the abundance of delicious foods that make up this meal. When people ask me, "what do vegans eat?" with a look of skepticism and concern in their eyes, I wish that I could share a meal like this with them to show them that being vegan isn't about restriction and limitations- it is about plentitude and thriving (and chocolate too)!

The menu:

Pear and Pomegranate Salad

A fresh green salad of baby lettuces, red pears, pomegranate arils, and pine nuts tossed in a light pear vinaigrette.


Herbed Mushroom and Walnut Pate

Herbed mushroom and walnut pate served with warm bread on a bed of micro greens.


Butternut Squash and Sage Soup

Creamy butternut squash soup topped with crispy sage leaves.


Roasted Asparagus Crepes

Delicate crepes wrapped gently around oven-roasted asparagus that has been topped with a creamy vegan hollandaise sauce.


Tea Poached Pears

Bosc pears poached in black tea, orange zest and vanilla. Served in velvety smooth chocolate sauce and topped with vanilla non-dairy ice cream.


For our luxury dinner, I set the table with my grandmother's China. This China has been in my family since my grandmother purchased it for her mother in the 1920s. It is a soft shade of yellow with a delicate flower pattern and gold trim:


Sharing a meal with friends and family is about more than just eating. It is about connection and sharing and bonding. My grandmother passed away at age 97 in 2006. Whenever I use this China, I almost feel like I've invited her to the table. I love that!

Some words on planning: When I was creating my menu for this dinner, I wanted to include seasonal produce but I also wanted to create some unique flavors that went well together.

My tips for pulling this off:
  • Choose produce that is in season for the best flavor. Also, shop locally if possible. The closer the produce was grown to your table, the better it will taste!
  • When creating your menu, select dishes that include similar ingredients. For example, my pate and soup both contain thyme; my salad and dessert are both centered around pears; etc.
  • A well-planned menu should draw its variety from multiple ingredients that go well together. Varying textures (crunchy, creamy, chewy, etc.) are okay, but the foods should have similar flavor profiles. No one course on the menu should drown out the others with over-powering flavor.

On wine: With our meal, I served a light white wine (Elva from Jodar Winery which was, coincidentally, named after the vintner's grandmother). For those who prefer a sweeter flavor, an orange muscat would be great (especially with this dessert).

Cheers!

Let's get started!

Pear and Pomegranate Salad

A fresh green salad of baby lettuces, red pears, pomegranate arils, and pine nuts tossed in a light pear vinaigrette.

We began our meal with a baby greens salad with red pears, pomegranate arils, and pine nuts. I tossed the greens in a light pear vinaigrette of my invention and the result was colorful and delicious!

For the pear vinaigrette: In a blender, combine 1 ripe pear (peeled and cored), 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 3 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Blend until very smooth. The dressing was a pretty pale yellow that looked so much like the yellow of my China!

Allow me to pause here to talk about feeding children. My kids are two and four and they are not yet into eating so luxuriously. Planning to feed them isn't tough, though.

Here are two tips to consider when you have little people to feed:
  • Younger kids prefer foods that are disassembled or in pieces. For example, instead of serving my boys a salad, I gave them a plate with pears, pomegranate arils, nuts, etc. that they could enjoy one thing at a time.
  • Serve sauces on the side in a dish that facilitates dipping. Kids are sometimes suspicious of sauce, but they love to dip!
Back to our meal!

Herbed Mushroom and Walnut Pate

Herbed mushroom and walnut pate served with warm bread on a bed of micro greens.

Along side the salad, I served a walnut mushroom pate. This pate was out of this world! It tasted great on the warm bread and would also make an excellent sandwich spread.

Butternut Squash and Sage Soup

Creamy butternut squash soup topped with crispy sage leaves.

For our next course, we enjoyed a rich and velvety smooth butternut squash soup with crispy sage leaves. The fresh thyme in the soup went well with the thyme in the pate and the smell of the onions and sage cooking together for the soup was heavenly. It is one of my favorite things this time of year!

Fresh thyme in my garden.
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The deliciously fragrant onions and soup.
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To make pureeing the soup really fast and easy, I used a stick blender. This is million times easier than trying to gradually add hot soup to a blender to puree. If you don't have a stick blender, I recommend picking one up; it is one of my favorite kitchen tools!

The finished soup:
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Roasted Asparagus Crepes

Delicate crepes wrapped gently around oven-roasted asparagus that has been topped with a creamy vegan hollandaise sauce.

For our main entree we enjoyed roasted asparagus crepes with vegan hollandaise sauce:
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Tea Poached Pears

Bosc pears poached in black tea, orange zest and vanilla. Served in velvety smooth chocolate sauce and topped with vanilla non-dairy ice cream.

To complete our luxurious fall feast, we had Bosc pears that were poached in black tea, orange zest, and vanilla and served in a pool of chocolate tea sauce and topped with non-dairy ice cream. Delectable!

A final word: I feel extremely thankful for all that went into this meal. From the wonderful vegan foods to the loving company of my family, I am so lucky.

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