First of all, don't worry if you are a meat-eater (I am). Vegan Secret Supper won't try to change your mind. There is one short page filling you in on author/chef Mérida Anderson's food philosophy (organic and local whenever possible), but nothing to detract from the simply delicious-looking, creatively prepared food using only plants and plant products. Vegan Secret Supper is all about the passion for feeding people and doing it in style. You won't miss meat at all.
But what does "secret supper" mean, you might ask. Unfortunately the book doesn't tell you! I found out on Google: 'Secret Suppers'; Thanks to Garbee, not so secret anymore. Essentially, it's a small, unadvertised restaurant in a private home. It's like a dinner party that you pay to attend, but in exchange you get a unique dining and social experience.
Even if you do have to be hip to know about secret suppers, you don't have to be to appreciate this collection of "bold and elegant" recipes from Mérida Anderson's very successful Secret Supper endeavors in Vancouver, Montreal and Brooklyn. How about recipes like these?:
- Warm Roasted Beets with Wild Arugula, Balsamic Maple Pecans & Orange Vinaigrette
- Apple Beet Salad with Lemon Tamari Vinaigrette, Baked Hazelnut Cheese & Sesame Mustard
- Brown Rice Risotto with Kidney Beans & Anise-Toasted Sunflower Seeds
- Miso Eggplant Pierogies
- Fig Maple Pecan Pie with Coconut Lemon Ice Cream
What about that beautiful dessert at the top of this post? It is surprisingly simple to prepare, even if the instructions are long. I will be trying this!—
GRAHAM SHORTCAKES WITH FRESH BERRIES, HAZELNUT ICE CREAM & VANILLA CASHEW CREAM
• MAKES 8–10 SERVINGS.
VANILLA CASHEW CREAM
3⁄4 cup (185 mL) cashews, soaked in 1 cup water overnight and drained
1 14-oz (398-mL) can coconut milk
1⁄3 cup (80 mL) maple syrup or agave
1⁄3 cup (80 mL) coconut oil
1 vanilla bean, scraped, or 1 tsp vanilla extract
In a blender, purée cashews with coconut milk and maple syrup on high until smooth and creamy. In a double boiler on medium heat, melt coconut oil. While blender is running, slowly add melted coconut oil and blend until incorporated and smooth. Stir in vanilla. Chill for at least 4 hours or overnight. Makes 2 1⁄2 cups (625 mL).
1 cup (250 mL) white wheat or spelt flour
1 cup (250 mL) graham flour
1 tbsp baking powder
3⁄4 tsp salt
1⁄2 cup (125 mL) coconut oil, room temperature 1⁄4 cup (60 mL) light brown sugar
1 cup (250 mL) nut or rice milk
coarse salt, to garnish
sugar, to garnish
Preheat oven to 425 ̊F (220 ̊C). In a food possessor, pulse flour, baking powder, salt, coconut oil, and sugar until crumbly and combined well. Transfer to a bowl and slowly add milk, stirring with a wooden spoon until a smooth dough forms, then use your hands, as needed. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out to 3⁄4-in (2-cm) thick. Stamp out biscuits with a 1 1⁄2-in (4-cm) cutter, brush with a little milk, and sprinkle with coarse salt and sugar. Bake for 15–20 minutes, or until golden. Makes 10–12 shortcakes.
HAZELNUT ICE CREAM
• MAKES 21⁄3 CUPS (550 ML).
1 14-oz (398-mL can coconut milk 1⁄4 cup (60 mL) agave syrup
1⁄4 cup (60 mL) maple syrup
1⁄8 tsp guar gum
1 vanilla bean, scraped, or 11⁄2 tsp vanilla extract
1⁄4 cup (60 mL) toasted and skinned hazelnuts, soaked in 1 cup water overnight and drained 3 tbsp chopped toasted hazelnuts
In a pot on medium heat, bring coconut milk, agave syrup, and maple syrup to just under a boil. Whisk in guar gum and stir until mixture starts to thicken. Let cool. Stir in vanilla.
In a blender or food processor, purée soaked hazelnuts with coconut milk mixture. Stir in chopped hazelnuts. Chill in a covered bowl or container in the refrigerator overnight before following manufacturer’s instructions for ice cream maker, or those provided on p. 161.
3 cups (750 mL) fresh seasonal berries Hazelnut Ice Cream (p. 163)
Slice shortcakes in half. Place bottom half on plate and top with berries and dollop of Vanilla Cashew Cream. Top with other half of shortcake.
From Vegan Secret Supper by Mérida Anderson. Used by permission.
Are you as impressed as I am with what you can do with NO animal products at all? Vegan Secret Supper is a breath of fresh air if you're in any sort of food rut. It happens, doesn't it? Especially if you've been cooking for years. New ingredients and old ones used new ways is inspiring and fun. Take a look and see what you think.
*I was given a copy of Vegan Secret Supper for review purposes. All opinions expressed are my own.