Even though this morning was the first day of my chocolate detox, that didn’t stop me from having a whale of a time at our (slightly postponed) Valentine’s Day Dinner last evening. With the weather being as inclement as ever, the HH and I began prepping our meal around 3:30 PM, and just kept at it till the whole darn thing was ready and we could devour it. I thought I’d provide a quick recap of my last evening of dining decadence for a while. (Thanks Sally, Jamie, Theresa and Johanna for your great suggestions!)
To commence the festivities, the HH poured each of us a glass of our favorite cut-rate bubbly, a Spanish cava that I think rivals true champagne. Here’s the bottle next to one of our special-occasion glasses (purchased just before the turn of the century, in fact!).
Instead of my original appetizer idea for “neat” balls in a sweet and sour sauce, I decided to try Johanna’s Nutroast from Green Gourmet Giraffe. I had planned to make it into balls, but when freshly blended, the mixture seemed too soft, and I was afraid it would fall apart simmering in a sauce. So I just baked it in a square pan, and we then cut it into appetizer-sized squares. I made only minor adjustments to the recipe (miso for yeast extract, spelt breadcrumbs for regular), but otherwise followed Johanna’s excellent recipe exactly.
The planned sauce was one from my childhood, something my Boston cousin used to whip up all the time, in the spirit of “1980s suburban mom must have dinner for 5 on the table in 25 minutes.” The dish was called “Chili and Grape Meatballs.” Now, before you politely excuse yourself and dash from the room, I know it sounds rather, well, purple. Yet there was something very tempting about the combination of sweet, sour and spicy, with a modicum of “barbecue” thrown in.
In an attempt to channel that tangy, sugary spirit (and also to use up a bottle of chili sauce in our panty–from whence I have no idea, it’s that old), I created two dipping sauces for the nutroast. Each contained an equal portion of the sauce (which, as far as I could tell from the ingredients, is basically just a spicy ketchup), and either marmalade or apple butter. The apple butter-chili version was, hands down, the preferred one.
But the nutroast? All I can say is, “I love nutroast! Nutroast is King! LONG LIVE NUTROAST!!” The HH was very fond of it, too. In fact, I would have been satisfied with an entire dinner of just the nutroast, salad (Veganomicon’s Caesar, yet again) and that marvelous soup. (But then, insisted the HH, it wouldn’t have been a “real” meal.) So we ended up having the pasta, too, but without the smoked tofu, as I just didn’t think I could bear something else heavy at that point (and I knew pie was coming later). I also took Jamie’s suggestion for chocolate-dipped fruit (strawberries), as I really couldn’t have an entire meal sans chocolate the very night before banning it from my diet entirely!
And so, without further ado, here’s the rest of our feast from the evening:
Cream of Olive Soup:
This was simply spectacular (and yes, it was that grey-green color you see here). As I mentioned in a previous post, this is a soup I recall eating in my twenties, and the creamy, silky memory has lingered this long. I was determined to reproduce it.
I began with a recipe that’s everywhere on the internet and adapted it to our tastes; I used half green and half black olives and held back about one quarter of these when I pureed the rest (and chopped those very fine, to then be returned to the soup). Even substituting soymilk for the cream, the result was a smooth, salty, overflowing-with-olive sensation. If you like olives, you will love this soup.
Pesto Pasta and Caesar Salad:
The pasta does, I admit, appear very green here. By omitting the tofu, we were left with just pesto pasta and sundried tomatoes, so we added edamame at the last minute. While the combination was, indeed, pretty tasty, I think the pesto could have used more basil.
Next up, dessert! By this point, we were so stuffed that we decided to take a break and tidy up a bit. To say that we are “messy” cooks would not only be an understatement, it would actually be a compliment. You may, indeed, wonder how two fairly well educated, calm and rational people could create such a welter of utensils, pots, pans, spilled sauce, squirts of oil, miscellaneous soiled tea towels and other mayhem when cooking together (why, shame on you! Of course all we were doing was cooking together!). Me, too. But, hey, I’m not too proud to share it all–so here’s a pic of the post-apocalyptic kitchen:
Dessert: Banoffee Pie
My attempt at vegan Banoffee Pie was sincere, but less than successful, I’d say. While not a total failure, it didn’t quite hit the mark I’d intended. First, I whipped up my “cream,” which did manage to hold together well:
After baking the pie crust and letting it cool, I sliced bananas and scattered them evenly over the bottom, then poured the caramel over top:
This base was then topped with the aforementioned cream:
So far, so good, right? Even though the caramel was rather thick and usually cools down to a solid state, some weird alchemy went on under that whipped cream. By the time we finally cut into the pie several hours later, some of the caramel had dissolved, transforming it into caramel sauce that oozed out in dilatory rivulets from under each slice. What to do? In the end, I used the “sauce” as a drizzle over the top of the pie, and we still enjoyed it immensely. (I’ll still need to do a bit of refining before I’m ready to serve the pie to guests, I think).
This morning, after waking up still stuffed from the meal, I was definitely ready to embark on the Week of Chocolate Asceticism (WOCA), which I’ll discuss more next time. On the other hand, the HH wasn’t quite as fulfilled by yesterday’s all-vegan Valentine’s Day dinner. As he prepared his morning coffee, he casually remarked, “You know, that dinner was really good yesterday. But by nine o’clock, I was already hungry enough for another one.”
Well, my beloved HH, I guess you’ll just have to wait until next year.