I'm not a chef. The training, ability to scale a simple recipe up to serving dozens or hundreds of people without sacrificing quality, and the dedication to a lifestyle that is not nearly rewarding enough makes that abundantly clear to me.
I'm a home cook. I delight in sharing great food at home with family and friends. Good people and good food mix well everywhere, but there's something special about sharing both at a home. You can enjoy the company and food for hours if you like. The leisure is bliss.
With that in mind, I decided to explore hosting a monthly “Dinner for Eight” that focuses entirely on vegan foods. I aspire to celebrate my veganism not as an exclusion to people who dine in other ways -- but as an opportunity for them to join me for plant-based food that is delicious. Period.
Life’s too short to eat terrible food, regardless of what kind of foods you eat. That's where I start whenever I learn a new dish. The goal is delicious. The plant-based approach is merely my favored methodology.
I chose an Easter theme for the kickoff as it is the big dinner this month. Even families who do not celebrate the religious side of this holiday tend to get together and celebrate Spring with a meal and conversation. I want to show how that's totally in line with vegan foods. The entire experience. A sweet and savory protein, creamy potatoes, and a fresh vegetable to round out a belly busting meal -- all before we look to the dessert.
To make the pre-Easter meal even more special, I invited friends from the Veg Forum on Facebook. A group of vegans and vegetarians from the Ferndale & metro Detroit areas. Yesterday, Vera and I opened our home to five friends from this group.
Vegan Easter Dinner in Three Courses
The menu, as initially planned and offered to friends in the group was as follows:
* Deviled Eggs
* Stuffed Artichoke Bottoms
* Drinks: Coffee, Tea, Water, & Dubonnet Rouge (21+)
Dinner and Conversation
* Glazed Ham
* Scalloped Potatoes
* Roasted Asparagus
* Dinner Rolls Served Warm
* Drinks: Sutter Home Riesling (21+) & Water
Dessert & Long Goodbyes
* Michigan Tart Cherry Pie
* Drinks: Coffee & Tea
That glazed ham wasn't ham of course. It was seitan made from this recipe. I tested this for two weeks leading into the dinner. In the process I made the following tweaks from the original:
By the day of the event I felt good about the seitan ham. The texture and chew was much better for treating it lightly and cutting the cloves back created a better balance of flavors that evoked the notion of a family ham dinner.
For the beverages I chose the Dubonnet Rouge and Sutter Home Riesling after researching both online to confirm they were vegan. It's always surprising to discover which adult beverages are and are not vegan. By the day of the meal the Dubonnet dropped off the menu as I could not find it, and the Riesling was replaced by a Sutter Home Pink Moscato (courtesy of Meijer) for the same reason.
Sometimes you can't find what you plan for. When that happens I choose to celebrate what I can find.
That also meant that the artichoke bottoms went off the menu. I was able to find an endless variety of artichoke hearts, but no stores that I visited had the bottoms. No big deal! Another challenge was the deviled eggs. It was a stretch goal to make them and when I did the agar agar didn't set. So, in the final hour, they weren't available. Lastly, the scalloped potatoes became twice baked using Miyoko’s Kitchen classic Double Cream Chive cashew cheese. They turned out far better than the scalloped attempts.
Fortunately Vera made an incredibly delicious appetizer. I'll let her tell you about it in her own words later.
The tart cherry pie tasted fantastic. I love Michigan berries to understate my focus on them. Vera and I picked the cherries last summer just Northwest of Grand Rapids and I served them from the freezer.
I hit a glitch and forgot how much water would release from the berries as they thawed out and baked, so the pie was very runny, but still delicious. I am reserving the extra cherry runoff to mix up into a cocktail in the near future...can't let them go to waste!
When everyone arrived and we sat down for food it quickly became a meal with old friends -- even the ones we just met for the first time. The casual, family style sharing with lots of conversation and wine went on for hours and became an experience greater than any one part of the meal itself.
It was everything I hoped for. A welcoming home, great guests, good food, and relaxed sharing of life. It's everything food at home should be. I'm now looking forward to doing this as a monthly series. The sharing, the connection, the sense of togetherness validated why this is what I want to do as a home cook.