Friday, August 17, 2012

Vegetarian Wine Dinner

Each August, we hold our annual Harvest Dinner to celebrate the hard work of Beth and Gene Nowak at Mayfair Farm. Beth and Gene supply the vast majority of produce to the restaurant and this is our way of saying "Thank you!" for all that they do for us and for our community. The dinner is made, as much as is feasible, exclusively from products from their farm. And because they produce no meat, the dinner is vegetarian.

This year, our dinner was almost entirely vegan although that wasn't a criterion in designing the menu. It was an artifact of our taking a tour through Asia with our dishes. This was our seventh Harvest Dinner and after working with the same vegetables and fruits each August with the same American/Western European mindset, we needed to do something entirely different. And so we embarked on a tour of Asia.

Melon Soup with Lumpia
Filipino Melon Soup with Lumpia. The soup is made from cantaloupe and cucumber and seasoned with a few aromatics and a touch of chile. The lumpia are filled with a mixture of red and green cabbage, onions, green onions, and carrots seasoned with soy sauce.

Vegetable Satay with Peanut Sauce
Vegetable Satay with Peanut Sauce. We marinated strips of eggplants, yellow squash, and green squash in soy sauce and garlic, then grilled them. When cool, we threaded them on skewers in the manner of satay. The plate is finished with a peanut sauce (natural peanut butter, hot water, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, sambal oelek, palm sugar, and a lot of lime juice to balance).

Building the Eggplant Bánh Mì

Eggplant Bánh Mì
Grilled Eggplant Bánh Mì. We decided since we were doing tasting portions for a crowd to build our bánh mì on grilled focaccia for ease of handling. The large eggplants were sliced; marinated in a slurry of kaffir lime, Thai basil, cilantro, ginger, and garlic; then grilled. We have developed our own style of dressing bánh mì: we first brush the bread with the same slurry that we marinated the eggplant in and then we drizzle the bread with a sweet and spicy chile sauce that we make in house. The layers are pretty traditional: cucumbers, lots of cilantro, and carrots. We don't pickle our carrots in any way.

Soba. One of the beautiful things that we got from Beth was a haul of cheese pimientos, red peppers so called because pre-annato they were used to color orange cheese. Another was some really pretty broccoli. For some reason, they both triggered visions of soba in my head. So here we have buckwheat noodles, green onions, peanuts, broccoli, cheese pimientos, and white sesame seeds in a dressing of rice vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and sesame oil.

Green Vegetable Curry on Thai Fried Rice Cake
Green Thai Curry. Curries are never beautiful dishes, but they are so fragrant and so delicious. We made a classic Thai fried rice by first frying a shallot-cilantro-Thai basil paste in oil and then frying the vegetables and rice. Then we added egg to the cool fried rice and made rice cakes from that, cakes that we subsequently re-fried. On top is a curry of a eggplant, squash, the broccoli stems from making the soba, yellow peppers, and cherry tomatoes. The curry paste we made very heavy on kaffir lime both for color and for fragrance. We finished the curry with huge handfuls of cilantro and Thai basil leaves. The tricky part of this dish, because it is vegetarian, was getting the flavor just right without the use of fish sauce.

Plum Clafoutis
Plum Clafoutis. This is another in a series of experiments in making gluten- and dairy-free desserts. To give our clafoutis an Asian feel, we made it with rice flour and coconut milk. Quite delicious if I do say so myself and really wonderful when paired with an Orvieto Amabile.

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