To My Boys,
This meal was in honor of my great friends who are yogis and their wonderful son who came along with his friend. I have always been an admirer of vegan cuisine and followed it as much as I could for about a year. And then it became too difficult to cook separate meals for myself after chasing you three, the dog and the house. So I had to let it go, along with other things, to preserve some sanity. Otherwise you all had wonderful cooked meals and I had granola bars. But I do aspire to return to vegan cuisine as much as I can because I do believe that it awakens the senses. Food does taste better once you have been on vegan meals for a while. And the array of vegetables and plant based food comes alive and you’re just amazed at what you can do after perusing farmers markets and produce aisles.
Shopping for vegan meals is exciting. Many people consider life without animal products to be sad (especially when you ask them to give up bacon) but really its the exact opposite. We have access to produce brought in from around the world as well as access to more locally grown produce that is incredibly versatile when its fresh. And we now have access to recipes from around the world as to how to use those vegetables to their max. Not to forget the perfect marriage of spices and vegetables in so many cuisines.
The guests we had for this meal were also special because their mother was a vegetarian cookbook author from Greece. And one of the common threads we’ve had between us is the love for food and its connection to our spirituality. We show the people we love how much we love them by nurturing them. And the meals we cook do just that.
The meal began with a platter that had my Cider Hummus as its star. I played with my recipe for hummus for years and then finally settled on a version that has more garlic than usual, uses Apple Cider Vinegar and is always adorned with a healthy dose of organic oil and spices. I have made it for almost all the birthday parties and it is my favorite snack to put out when we have guests.
The soup course, Cabbage Cannellini Soup, is also a staple in our house. We were members of a CSA one year where we got a few cabbage heads every single week for half the year. So we had a lot of kimchi and a lot of cabbage soup that year. But this recipe was passed down from my sister and I’ve tweaked it over the years to include some of the bounty from our garden and what we received from the farmers.
The Late Summer Salad with Strawberry Balsamic Glaze was a dish that really turned into something I did not expect. It was such an amazing balance of sweet, tart and crunchy. It was the perfect timing for the small heirloom tomatoes to shine and the watermelon was almost over ripened. But the glaze! We had some strawberries that were starting to look sad so I decided to make a glaze to drizzle over the salad and I was so glad I did.
The Mushroom Thyme Rice did not turn out for this meal. I swear to you, I can cook some amazing dishes but my downfall is always the rice. I thought I had this recipe down. It sounded so simple! I had heard it from a radio host one day and thought” I can do a variation of that!” But the rice didn’t cook to the texture that I wanted it to and the mushrooms became invisible. For the recipe I’ve added some changes that I think will make it work better. Ugh-Rice!
At least the main course, Bread Bowl with Roasted Vegetables and Rosemary Walnut Cheese, turned out amazing. It was such a hit that the guests took the remainder home. This was a recipe that I had put together because I love bread bowls and I love vegan cheeses made with nuts. I had a feeling when coming up with this recipe that it was going to be earthy and satisfying and thats exactly what it was.
The palate cleanser of Herbal Soda also didn’t turn out how I wanted it to. But thats how we learn, right? I realized that adding the simple syrup made of herbs to ginger ale just created a sugary mess. It really should have been a mixture of the simple syrup with sparkling water. So I have changed the recipe to reflect those lessons.
This Vegan Zucchini Cake is one that I have made many times and have been complimented on each time. It is from one of my favorite books, The Joy of Vegan Baking, and it is gold. The cake is moist and has the perfect amount of spice and sweetness. The leftovers for the cake were also packed for the guests because they fell in love with it.
The finale for this course was Rose Tulsi Tea and Candied Ginger. The tea that I used is from Organic India and it holds a special place in my heart. I once had a traveling store of sorts where I would set up booths on college campuses and craft fairs and sell organic, fair trade items. I was trying to raise some money for my films in a creative way while helping spread awareness about some of the wonderful, conscientious companies out there that didn’t have mainstream marketing. This was one of the teas that I used to sell. And sometimes on bad days I would drink it and be reminded of rose gardens in India and my tulsi plant that I grew on my balcony in Mumbai. It would make me happy and grateful for the positive moments. The recipe I’ve included here is for candied ginger. It makes such a great accompaniment to floral teas.
This meal was one that was largely made of recipes that I had developed over the years. It was a meal that came from my heart for our dear friends. These friends graced us with their presence throughout so many important moments in our lives. They have taught me so much about being honest with ourselves and nurturing to our own souls. I hope you recreate this menu one day for the sake of this memory.