Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Expert and the Elf – WE BEGIN!!

OK!! We are off on our Elf-cellent adventure with our very first FatFree Vegan Kitchen meal…Eggplant and Chickpea Curry And we have even made our own garam masala, as the recipe suggests. It’s not like we don’t have several variations of garam masala in our spice drawers but we figured we’d jump into the whole routine by making it fresh as Susan suggests in the recipe. We were pretty shocked to have all the ingredients for the masala on hand, so all that we needed to do was MAKE IT! Several years ago, my brother sent me a small grinder for coffee, which I have never used. After scurrying through several cabinets, it was found and engaged…what a joy. We put in 1 tablespoon of black cardamom seeds, a cinnamon stick (approximately 2-2 ½ inches long), 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon whole cloves, and 1 teaspoon black peppercorns and fired up that little grinder. 
Dry ingredients and grinder thingie

As directed, we ground to a powder and placed in a small sauté pan to toast until fragrant. I’m always leery of letting it cook too long so as soon as that SUPERB fragrance wafted up, it was done. Took it off the stove and brushed it into a small bowl to cool. It’s now sitting in a labeled jar waiting for this evening. And BOY! did the Elf’s kitchen smell great.
Toasting CAREFULLY!!
Cooling down the toasted spices
Finished product!

Making sure that things are timed right so that everything is ready for the table at the same time is a big deal for me…as I’m sure it is for most of y’all. I have a REALLY strong tendency to wait too late to start stuff and then everything is late. So today, I got the eggplant baked in plenty of time to cool off, get skinned/chopped as well as the other ingredients ready to assure that I wasn’t searching the cabinets/refrigerator or wherever else at the last minute trying to find something. The ONE thing I had to alter a bit was to sub green pepper in lieu of red pepper. I swore that I would ONLY go to the store once to get this recipe done and that once had come and gone…with no red pepper. Tough stuff but we resisted the urge and used the green. 
Baked and cooled Eggplant

Sauteing peppers and onions

All the stuffs are simmering
I DID stop at a local Indian grocery to get some naan (Big Solid, my husband is not a rice aficionado) only I could NOT find vegan naan. Wound up toasting some home baked pumpernickel bread for him and brown rice for me. Made NO difference at all since the overall success of the Eggplant/Chickpea Curry was a YAY!!  Actually, a friend of mine in TN recently tried this recipe and wrote me how good it was...THANKS ANNA!!
Curry with Brown Rice

The Elf's plate
So, now it’s time to select the FFVK (that’s FatFree Vegan Kitchen) recipe for the coming Wednesday (Feb 11). Initially, I’d selected another ethnic cuisine but then opted for a more traditional meal. We love all ethnic cuisines but will alternate ethnic with ‘home-grown’.  The dish featured this week is Chickpea and Broccoli Bowl with Tahini Sauce.

Also, in keeping with my elf-fort to be more organized and holding down my trips to the grocery store, I decided to develop a MENU!! I only need to prepare for 4 days (Sun-Wed) since we always have “burger night” on Thursday night, Friday night is Date Night (we have cozied up to some great vegan meals at local restaurants), Saturday night we usually eat out as well (gotta keep those restaurants on their toes), leaving only Sunday – Wednesday to actually cook and now that Wednesday is ‘spoken for’, it’s really only Sunday, Monday and Tuesday that need to be ‘designed’.  So, a menu it is—gives me a chance to try out some recipes from other resources as well as more of FFVK! I have debated whether or not to share this week’s menu plan with you but if I don’t, I’ll be less likely to STICK TO IT and go off track, so to speak. In addition, going off track means, probably, a rush to the grocery at the last minute—NOT in keeping with the PLAN. So here goes…and I’ll report out again next Sunday on how it went (as well as the Wednesday The Elf and The Expert meal). I do, however, reserve the right to switch up days. So here goes:

Sunday 2/8 (today) – Tempeh Salad. This recipe is from a new cookbook I just got called TEFF LOVE by Kittee Berns.  It’s a Vegan Ethiopian cook book; one of my most favorite cuisines.

Monday 2/9 – Crazy Sexy Chili from Kris Carr’s website

Tuesday 2/10 – Black-eyed Pea and Collard Soup (FFVK) with Vegan Corn sticks (The

Wednesday 2/11 –  Chickpea and Broccoli Bowl with Tahini Sauce (FFVK as The Elf and The Expert Day)

So there you have it…NOW, it’s up to the Elf to, with apologies to Captain Jean Luc Picard, make it so.

New V List Restaurant
We are very happy to add Lou’s Full-Serve restaurant in the historic Belhaven area of Jackson MS to our growing list of restaurants that will go above and beyond to prepare a really good, creative vegan entrée.  We dined there Friday night with friends and had a lovely, lovely dinner. I had contacted them ahead of time to see what vegan options they might provide and we decided on a vegetable risotto (The Elf is a risotto aficionado). Well, not only did Lou (that’s the chef Louis LaRose) prepare the risotto but he also marinated and grilled a fabulous Portabello cap. You can see for yours-elf how nice the presentation was. Big Solid (my husband of 30 years) had salmon. I don’t remember what our tablemates had but they had dined there previously and highly recommended it.  So, if you are from the Jackson area and want a really nice meal (vegan or otherwise), try it. I’m sure if given a head’s up, Lou will knock himself out to ‘fix’ you a vegan dish.
Grilled Portabello Cap over Mushroom Risotto

Louis LaRose (another Expert) and The Elf

A couple of thoughts as well on the comments (THANKS SO MUCH) from last week. I have added a follow on Facebook button/gadget or whatever you call it. I am still trying to figure out how to enable folks to subscribe...if any of you have smarts to guide me through it, please let me know.

And that’s a wrap for this week…make that a vegan wrap. Til next week, y’all, breathe deep, eat plants and love life.
The Elf
In loving memory of Stella “Beaux-dog” Swearengen
Stella...Run Free and Healthy

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