Appetizers Produce Sides Soups and Stews Uncategorized Vegetarian

Dinner Party Recap and A new adventure

Over the past six days, I’ve shared each course of a five-course dinner I cooked for my husband’s recent birthday party. Looking at the array of photos below, would it occur to you that this is a collection of vegan, gluten-free recipes? Think of it. No cheese. No pasta. No fish or fowl. If you had asked me on my husband’s birthday last year whether I could (or would even want to) make a dinner like this, I would have answered, “no,” flatly. Now, I can barely imagine eating any other way. Well, almost barely.

Marinated Olives with Fennel Cucumber & Avocado Ceviche Artichoke Velouté with Black Truffle Carpaccio
Roasted Asparagus w/ Grapefruit & Lemon Oil Saffron and White Wine Braised Spring Vegetables Strawberry Sorbet

Yes, we are happily joining the national craze of eating in a sustainable, healthful way. In fact, just yesterday, I planted a whole pallet of seeds which means we’re joining the garden-at-home craze too. Count on a whole host of blog entries about this new adventure. When I was on the outside looking in at this fad, I thought it was a bit of overblown malarky, and, well, just a fad. Now that I’m joining in, I can feel myself transforming into an evangelist. I guess 38 per cent of Americans (the number of people who had a vegetable garden last year) can’t be wrong. Well, sometimes they can, but not this time.

Seeds germinating after just 24 hours

I absolutely must thank Viviane Bauquet Farre for her inspiration and help on this birthday dinner project. If you haven’t seen her blog yet, you are really missing out. You can find her at food and style and please, go “Like” her facebook fan page. Viviane creates the most original and beautiful recipes. She also produces some of the highest quality cooking instructional videos on the web. See them all on It took me months to figure out that her recipes are vegetarian, so they will appeal to you whether you are a vegetarian, a vegan, an omnivore or someone determined to subsist on truffles and scotch. Seriously. Thanks again, Viviane!

Viviane Bauquet Farre
Dessert Produce Uncategorized Video How-to

Strawberry Sorbet

Strawberry Sorbet

It’s day six of my blogging event: “How to host an elegant, flavorful, vegan, gluten-free dinner party” in which I feature recipes created by the wonderful Viviane Bauquet Farre of food and style. With husband and friends avoiding meat, dairy and gluten, I knew I needed to turn to my friend Viviane if I was going to pull off an elegant birthday celebration. Not all of her recipes are vegan or gluten-free, but she consistently uses fresh, seasonal produce to create inspiring, yet simple dishes. Today’s installment features the final course: dessert.

Strawberries are in season again in California so I was able to purchase an entire flat of strawberries at the Mill Valley Farmer’s Market for $20 bucks. That’s 12 pints, people. Love it. So I made strawberry sorbet, strawberry ice cream, strawberry sandwiches, you name it.


To make the sorbet, I had to take a plunge I’ve been contemplating for years. I bought a Cuisinart ice cream machine.

I’ll be able to make sorbet, ice cream, frozen yogurt and other frozen desserts (remember sherbet)? This is going to yield fun all summer long. And I can’t wait to make pumpkin pie ice cream next fall.

But back to the sorbet.

I learned a few things about my new ice cream maker. The insulated “chilling chamber” needs to be in the freezer overnight before using it. The model I purchased (click on the photo above) came with two chilling chambers and at first I thought, “What do I need two for?” Well, as it turns out, it’s helpful to have two because if you use one to make ice cream, then it’s at least a day before you can use it again. Even still, I thought, when am I going to need to make more than one batch of ice cream in a 24-hour period? Well, for the dinner party (12 guests), I felt compelled to make two batches and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the extra chilling chamber.

Viviane demonstrates how to make the sorbet in this video. She uses a food processor to purée her strawberries, but I did it in a blender.

I held off on adding Grand Marnier. The flavor of the strawberries jumped out of the dish all by themselves. The maple syrup made it just sweet enough. I served mine with a little piece of dark Sharfenberger chocolate: the perfect complement.

Strawberry Sorbet with Grand Marnier
A recipe by Viviane Bauquet Farre of food and style
Reprinted with permission
See her original post here.

makes 3 to 3 1/2 cups


1 1/2 lbs ripe strawberries – washed and hulled
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup Grand Marnier
2/3 cup maple syrup (grade A or B)
Mint leaves as garnish


1. Place the strawberries, lemon juice, Grand Marnier (optional) and maple syrup in the bowl of a food processor (I used a blender). Process at high speed with a steel blade until ingredients are very smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until well chilled, about 2 hours to overnight in the refrigerator or 45 minutes in the freezer.

2. Pour the chilled strawberry purée into the ice-cream maker and freeze according to the instructions of your ice-cream machine.

3. Scoop sorbet in glass bowls or cocktail glasses and top with fresh mint leaf. Serve immediately. (Or put in an airtight container and store in the freezer. You may need to allow the sorbet to soften for about 10 minutes for trying to scoop it and serve).

Strawberry Sorbet
Appetizers Produce Salads Uncategorized Vegetarian Video How-to

Roasted Asparagus w/ Grapefruit and Lemon Oil

Asparagus with Grapefruit and Lemon Oil

It’s day four of my blogging event: “How to host an elegant, flavorful, vegan, gluten-free dinner party” in which I feature recipes created by the wonderful Viviane Bauquet Farre of food and style. My husband and several of his friends have transitioned to a vegetarian diet and several of them are also avoiding dairy and gluten, so when I decided to celebrate G’s birthday with a dinner party, I knew I needed to turn to my friend Viviane who features such refined recipes which also happen to be meat free. Today’s installment is the third of that five-course meal. For the next course, you’ll just have to check back tomorrow.

So far in this dinner, we’ve enjoyed cucumber and avocado ceviche, and slurped down an artichoke soup with truffles on top. Now we’re ready for a scrumptious early Spring salad, so Viviane’s Roasted Asparagus with Grapefruit is just the thing. Here’s what I learned by making this recipe: It is soooo easy to make and it is easy to prepare ahead of time, when it was time for this course, I could truly relax. All I had to do was plate everything and drizzle it with oil.

Roasted Asparagus

The other revelation I had while making this recipe is just how easy it is to roast asparagus. Brush the spears with a little olive oil, pop them into an oven preheated to 500˚F and 7-10 minutes later you’ve got roasted asparagus. No careful chopping, no peeling, no long wait. It’s like fast food. Well, sort of.

Brush with olive oil, then roast

Watch Viviane’s video for more tips on roasting asparagus and to watch her demonstrate how to prepare grapefruit slices with no pith or membrane in sight. Again, now that I’ve done it once, I want to do it this way all the time. My kids love eating citrus in our house now because I prepare for them this way now.

Roasted asparagus with pink grapefruit and lemon oil
Adapted from the recipe by Viviane Bauquet Farre of food and style, with permission.
See her original recipe here.
serves 4

1 large Texas Rio Star grapefruit
1 1/4 lbs asparagus spears – washed and stem snapped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt or to taste
2 tablespoons pine nuts
4 teaspoons lemon infused oil as garnish
A bit of lemon zest for garnish
freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 large jellyroll pan


1. Peel the grapefruit down to the flesh, Quarter lengthwise and remove the thin membrane around each slice, being careful not to break them. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

2. If your pine nuts are raw, preheat the oven to 425˚F. Place the pinenuts on a baking sheet and roast for about 2 minutes, but watch carefully through the window to make sure they don’t burn. Set aside.

3. Increase oven temperature to 500°F. Move rack to the top of the oven. Spread the asparagus on a jellyroll pan. Brush with the olive oil and sprinkle with the salt. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes (depending on their size) until the tips begin to brown. Remove from pan and let cool for 10 minutes.

4. Place a bundle of asparagus in the center of each plate. Top with 3-4 grapefruit slices and sprinkle with the pine nuts. Drizzle with the lemon oil and finish with a bit of fresh lemon zest and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Roasted Asparagus with Grapefruit
Appetizers Soups and Stews Uncategorized Vegetarian

Artichoke Velouté with Black Truffle Carpaccio

Artichoke Velouté w/ Truffle Carpaccio

It’s day three of my blogging event: “How to host an elegant, flavorful, vegan, gluten-free dinner party” for which I feature recipes created by the lovely and talented Viviane Bauquet Farre of food and style. Today’s installment is the second of the five-course meal. Check back Monday for course number three.

Velouté in French means, “velvety,” and this soup is made velvety, not by creating a butter and flour roux, as are most French velouté sauces, but rather by puréeing the soup (including the artichokes and potatoes) in a blender and then pressing the it through a fine sieve. Whenever I strain a sauce or soup through a sieve, I am reminded of Thomas Keller because he has said that ‘nothing moves from one pot to another in the French Laundry kitchen without first passing through a sieve.’ Now that I have gotten into this habit as well, I highly recommend it.

The other special trick for this soup is the black truffle carpaccio as the garnish. Viviane featured these in her original post, and I was compelled to order some myself. They are available at Gourmet Attitude in New York City. They FedEx them to you in a chilled box. They were a wonderful addition to this soup and I can’t wait to try them in other dishes as well. These are the first truffles to take up residence in my kitchen, so I am very excited about that.

This would be another great occasion to own a stick blender. Every time I make a soup like this, I think it’s time to buy one, but I’ll be honest. I haven’t yet pulled the trigger.

Parlsey and Thyme Bundle

Artichoke Velouté with Black Truffle Carpaccio
From a recipe by Viviane Bauquet Farre, by permission
serves 6 (makes 8 cups)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium Vidalia or Spanish onion – skinned, quartered and thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 garlic cloves – skinned and finely chopped
8 oz Yukon gold potato (1 large) – peeled and cut in 1/2” cubes
2 8oz boxes of frozen artichoke hearts
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
2 1/2 cups spring/filtered water
1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt or to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 Italian parsley sprigs & 6 thyme sprigs – tied in a bundle with kitchen string

1/2 – 2.82 oz jar Black Truffle Carpaccio or truffle oil as garnish
1/4 cup finely chopped chives as garnish


1. Heat a large heavy-bottomed soup pot at medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and onion, stir well and sauté for 5 to 6 minutes, until just golden, stirring from time to time. Add the garlic and wine. Stir well and continue to sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, until the wine has reduced to a syrupy sauce and has almost all evaporated. Add the potato cubes, frozen artichokes, stock, water, salt, pepper to taste and herb bundle. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover the pot and slow-simmer for 40 minutes until the artichokes are very tender. Remove the herb bundle and discard.

2. Purée the soup with a stick blender, food processor, or blender until very smooth. Strain in a sieve and return to the soup pot and gently re-heat at medium heat. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.

3. Ladle the soup into soup bowls, put a spoonful of black truffle carpaccio (or a spoonful of truffle oil), garnish with a swirl of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of fresh chives and serve immediately.

Amy’s tip: Viviane recommends straining this soup through a medium sieve. I own a fine sieve but not a medium one. It was time-consuming to strain it through the fine sieve as she warned ,but I was glad I did it anyway. I used a wooden spoon to press it through and just tried to stay patient.

Artichoke Velouté
Appetizers Produce Salads Uncategorized Vegetarian

Cucumber and Avocado Ceviche

Avocado and Cucumber Ceviche

It’s day two of my blogging event: “How to host an elegant, flavorful, vegan, gluten-free dinner party” for which I feature recipes created by the lovely and talented Viviane Bauquet Farre of food and style. This recipe was the first course of the dining extravaganza that was my husband’s birthday dinner this past weekend. This kicked off a wonderful five course meal. For course number two, you will have to check back tomorrow.

Avocado and Cucumber Ceviche

Normally, when one thinks of ceviche, one thinks of raw seafood that has been cured in a citrus marinade. Well, this is a vegetarian version of ceviche. It’s an incredibly light dish, perfect for spring and summer gatherings and it is surprisingly easy to make. I prepped all of the vegetables ahead of time except for the avocado. I waited until just before I assembled the dish to cut the avocado. Drizzling it with a lime-based marinade helps keep it from browning, but it’s important for the avocado to be fresh.

The tabasco sauce in the marinade does give it a little kick. If your guests like spice, you can heat up it even more by adding another 1/4 tsp. For me, it was just perfect.

I remembered having traditional ceviche served in a martini glass at a restaurant in San Francisco and I wanted to recreate that effect here, but you could just as easily serve it in a shallow bowl or on a salad plate.

First Course of the Dinner

Cucumber and Avocado Ceviche

by Viviane Bauquet-Farre of food and style
serves 6

For the dressing
1 small shallot – skinned and finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

For the ceviche
1/2 of a (seedless) English cucumber, peeled and diced
2 medium tomatoes – seeded and cut in 1/8″ cubes
1/2 ripe but not-too-soft avocado – pit removed, skinned and cut into small cubes
Cilantro sprigs as garnish


1. To make the dressing, place all ingredients except the olive oil in a small bowl and toss. Gradually whisk in the olive oil, beating continuously to create an emulsion. Set aside.

2. Toss a large spoonful of cucumber into a martini glass or shallow bowl. Place a spoonful of tomato cubes on top of the cucumber and a spoonful of avocado cubes on top of that. Drizzle with dressing and toss a bit to coat. Garnish with a sprig of fresh cilantro. Serve immediately.

Cook’s note: This recipe can also be served as a side salad. Instead of serving it in individual small plates, serve it in a large platter.

Avocado and Cucumber Ceviche
Appetizers Vegetarian

Marinated Olives with Fennel – The Start to a Wonderful (Vegan?! Gluten-Free?!) Dinner Party

Marinated Olives with Fennel

This weekend, I hosted a birthday dinner for my husband, but this year was different from all the rest. The entire menu was vegan and gluten-free. Several of the guests are vegetarian and a few are gluten intolerant. In addition, many of them are trying to avoid dairy, so I decided to just take the menu all the way. I knew that I would need help to make it an elegant, flavorful dinner with these restrictions in place. I am a newly-minted vegetarian chef, so I turned to my friend and amazing gourmet blogger/writer/instructor/video-maker, Viviane Bauquet-Farre, author of the blog food and style. Viviane and I met when I featured on her cooking videos on Her videos are as beautifully made as her fine cuisine.

Viviane creates innovative, seasonal dishes that are flavorful, deceptively simple, and… as it turns out, vegetarian (not vegan or gluten-free necessarily). I read her blog and watched her videos for about six months before I even realized that they were all meatless. I knew she was the person to call for help with my menu.

Sure enough, we were able to come up with an elegant five-course dinner free of bones, cheese, cream or wheat. Eager to know what the menu was? You’re in luck, but you’ll have to check back. All five courses will be revealed over the next five days.

Vegan, gluten-free dinner about to begin

Today’s post is a bit of a teaser. These marinated olives were among the hors d’oeuvres on the table during the cocktail hour, but there are five courses yet remaining. The olives were devoured, but I have a confession to make. I don’t eat olives. I don’t think an entire olive has ever passed my lips. So I can’t vouch for them myself. And because I don’t eat olives, it didn’t occur to me to put a little bowl out to collect all the pits. It also didn’t occur to me to put out little toothpicks with which to pick up the olives. You can learn from my mistake and use a dish like this one (available at

But this recipe is that good, because despite my lack of proper accoutrements, guests wolfed down these olives with their bare fingers and left the pits wherever they could hide them.

Marinated Olives with Fennel

Marinated Olives with Fennel
By Viviane Bauquet Farre of food and style
Reprinted with permission

makes 2 cups

1/2 small fennel bulb
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fennel greens
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 strips lemon zest – (use vegetable hand-peeler) and cut in 1/16” julienne strips
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/4 lb mixed olives

Step 1: Trim and cut fennel bulb in half. Using a vegetable hand-peeler, shave 12 strips from the bulb and put in a large bowl. Place the balance of ingredients in the same bowl. Mix well and transfer to a Tupperware container.

Step 2: Let marinate at room temperature for 1 hour before serving.
Cook’s note: Refrigerate up to 1 month. Bring to room temperature before serving.

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