Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Middle Eastern Feastern

Recently, some friends and I decided it was time for a nice little dinner party. As the date grew closer, I developed a Grand Vision. Instead of the usual low-key potluck affair, I was called to do something more ambitious. Deep inside me, I felt the stirrings of a culinary adventure calling out to me: I called it the Middle Eastern Feastern. Pretty much every recipe I made was adapted from or inspired by recipes from Modern Flavors of Arabia, a really beautiful (non-vegan) cookbook (I did a review of it a while back).

First things first: the mandatory vegan deliciousness of Baba G & Hummus. So good, so simple. This Baba Ghanoush is so good: smoky, creamy eggplant is mixed with tahini, garlic and a little yogurt... garnished with pomegranate seeds and toasted pine nuts.

... and who really needs another picture of hummus? 
Well, I made it, so I'm gonna share the picture! I love the hummus recipe from this book. It uses fresh-cooked chickpeas (I even skinned most of them), and also has ice cubes and yogurt in it. The end result is a super light and creamy hummus. Topped with a few whole chickpeas, toasted pine nuts, and smoked paprika. Beautiful and delicious!


Inspired by a recipe in Modern Flavors of Arabia ~ I made these delicious little cheeseballs. They were definitely one of the highlights of the evening. I used the Cashew Chevre recipe from Artisan Vegan Cheese for the foundation. Then I made some Dukkah, which is a wonderful seeds-and-spices-and-nuts mixture. I used my favorite recipe, which is from Vegan Eats World. Then, I added in some fresh thyme leaves to the dukkah, and rolled my little cheeseballs in the mixture. They were just totally out of this world delicious. So good and special!


I didn't take a picture, but all these goodies were served along with a pretty platter of crudite: carrot sticks, yellow bell pepper slices, celery sticks, and baby hearts-of-romaine scoopers. The lettuce scoopers were Mr. Vegan Eats & Treats' idea, and they were great. They were light and fresh and a great vehicle for the flavor-packed dips and spreads.

 I even made little breads to go with the spreads! In the book these are called Fresh Thyme Stars, because she used a star-shaped cookie cutter... but I just had to go with hearts. It was an easy, low-fuss and already-vegan recipe for bread with loads of fresh thyme stirred in. The rolls are made with all-purpose flour as well as semolina flour, which gives them a golden color and a light flavor. These were super good and super easy. After rolling them out, I had some leftover bits of dough that I rolled back up and baked like a little focaccia and that came out great too. It's a versatile recipe that I would definitely use again.

 After some lovely chatting and munching, we adjourned to the table for our official dinner. I made many dishes, knowing that once they were split 6 ways, there probably wouldn't be too much food left over. This wonderful dish was one of my favorites. In the book it's just called Beet Salad, a name which doesn't really do it justice. The beets are roasted until they are super soft and practically caramelized. Then they have an orange juice-orange zest-garlic dressing with fresh mint on top. As you can see, I used different types of beets for extra beauty! Earthy beets go so well with the sweetness of orange juice and the tart brightness of lemon juice - such a great combo.

 I also made the Date & Rice Pilaf, which had dates and hot chilies and cinnamon and saffron and rosewater... all sorts of amazing flavors that harmonized well together. The only problem was that for some reason my rice turned out a bit heavy and clumpy instead of light and fluffy. Sigh. Somehow I am not very good at cooking rice. Still, the flavors were very nice, so I would be willing to give this recipe another try and maybe just pay closer attention to the rice... maybe keep the lid of the pot off next time, so more moisture could escape. Any suggestions for avoiding clumpy rice?

This is not a great picture (you can tell when the sun went down!)... but this Lemony Cabbage Salad was simple and yummy. It just had two kinds of cabbage, tomatoes, and a citrusy-fresh mint dressing. I knew there would be lots of food, so I wanted to be sure that many of the dishes were light and refreshing. Also an easy dish to make with winter produce (lucky us, we can still buy organic tomatoes at the farmers markets!)

 I also made some grilled tofus. I did a mash-up of a favorite tofu recipe and the suggested flavors for a meaty dish from the Modern Flavors of Arabia and ended up with tofus marinated in a mixture of lemon and orange juice, olive oil, pomegranate molasses, fresh parsley and fresh cilantro. I love grilled tofus!

 These are Roasted Cauliflowers with Citrus Tahini Dressing. So good! I made this before when I first reviewed this cookbook and I knew I wanted to make it again. The grilled cauliflowers are pretty straightforward, but the sauce is really special : onions and garlic, tahini, orange juice and orange zest... and then garnished with pistachios and pine nuts. Such a delicious combo of the richness of tahini and the freshness of the cauliflower and the citrus flavors.

Here's my dinner plate full of yummy goodness. Up in the top right, you can see two delicious drinks that we had! My friends K&K brought along the drinks: an iced tea laced with cardamom and rose water (mmm!) and a fresh mint lemonade. Oh man, that lemonade was outta sight! For whatever reason, I've had lemonade on my mind for the last couple of weeks, so that stuff really hit the spot. Super refreshing!


Last but not least! I made these date cookies called Batheeth. They were super easy and perfectly light after such a deluxe meal. I served them with some fresh orange slices, which I forgot to take a picture of. These no-bake cookies are made with lightly browned flour (in a saucepan), fresh dates, cardamom and nutmeg, a little vegan butter, and it's all mixed together and rolled out. They definitely have a strong date flavor, which I love, but if you aren't into dates, this isn't the cookie for you! I loved the suggestion to drizzle them with just a little chocolate. Mmm!

happy in the kitchen!

It had been quite a while since I'd had the time or opportunity for a big ambitious kitchen adventure and it felt so good. I got started on my cheeseballs 3-4 days in advance, and spent much of the day before the dinner party cooking and preparing things that could be made a day in advance. It was fun to clean the house and light the candles and anticipate the evening. I love a good potluck as much as the next person, but it was also very wonderful to have the chance to go all out for my sweet friends.

26 comments:

  1. Lordy! What an amazing, scrumptious, lavish production! Makes my own cooking adventures look quite paltry by comparison. Sigh.

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    1. Oh Momsie, I love you AND your cooking adventures! xoxo

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  2. Hi Amie! This meal/feast looks amazing, and truly inspiring for us culinary adventuristas like yourself. Question—did you grill the tofu in your panini press? I recently received one, and I've only made sandwiches so far. I remember you mentioning using yours to grill tofu and veggies.

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    1. Hi Lyndsay, Yes! I totally did! I love using the panino press for tofus (and veggies!) because you get perfect grill marks and also they get cooked evenly through from both sides. I use the medium heat setting. Try it!!

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    2. Thanks! I definitely will give it a go!

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  3. Wow, you went all out! What extremely lucky dinner guests! I would definitely have had a plate full of food as everything sounds and looks so delicious...but that Baba Ghanoush is what is making me really drool right now. I love the added pomegranate and pine nuts.

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    1. I know! those fancy garnish ideas came straight from the cookbook and they are so beautiful and yummy!

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  4. I'm overwhelmed by this veritable feast! You always go all out for dinner parties and potlucks! Everything looks phenomenal and now I really want this book. That cauliflower recipe is calling to me...

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    1. Thanks C&B - i'm pretty stoked about how many vegan or easily veganized recipes are in such a thoroughly non-vegan cookbook!

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  5. Wow, this is amazing! What a lovely feast for your friends!
    Everything looks s good, but that cauliflower with tahini sauce sounds particularly amazing, as well as the cheeze balls. Yum!

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    1. those were my two favorite dishes - good picks!! <3

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  6. You are a force of vegan brightness.

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    1. oh ff, I'm blushing! :)

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  7. OMG Amey this meal looks INCREDIBLE! I don't buy non-vegan cookbooks anymore, but you have me sorely tested with this one!
    For non-clumpy rice I would probably try reducing the amount of water/stock just a little.... but I have to say I do quite like clumpy rice. Stodgy carbs, mmmmm.
    xx

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    1. that's so funny, Mia, because after I posted this, one of my friends who was at this dinner party told me "I LIKE clumpy rice!" ha ha! So, you're not alone. Also, that rice made really great left overs

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  8. Such a fantastic range of dishes! Totally inspiring.

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    1. HI Imogen Michel - it was so fun to prepare so many dishes. I have so much pent up culinary energy that I'm already excited about more upcoming parties (I am hosting TWO parties next weekend!)

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  9. Yum, lots of great inspiration here, thanks!

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    1. yeah! you're so welcome! isn't it fun to get ideas and then tweak them to meet your own preferences? happy cooking!

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  10. You are magnificent.

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    1. Oh Vegan Lisa, don't you wish we didn't live so far apart? You are magnificent too!!

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  11. That all looks amazing! Especially the rolls and rice. I'm going to see if my library has this book.

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    1. And they do. I want to try that rice and the rolls.

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    2. awesome!! and I *really* recommend the cauliflower dish and the date cookies. there's also a recipe for walnut crepes that's basically vegan, I really want to try it. I was thinking of making the walnut filling from this book and just putting it in an already vegan crepe. I hope you enjoy investigating the book! <3

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  12. Feastern, indeed! One of my favorite cuisines...so much more complex than we tend to distill it into in the US. I can almost smell the depth of flavors you captured in your photos!

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  13. Thanks for inspiring people to try vegan fare!

    It is really easy to be a vegan in United States!

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Happy VeganMoFo! I love comments, they really make my day!