Good food for good friends – a vegan Californian experience

A friend of ours (who happens to be vegan) was visiting our home for the first time since we moved to California.  It was great to see him, but unfortunately, we only had one evening to share together.  I wanted to make sure he had the opportunity to experience the summer bounty in California, and as a result, decided to pull together various finds from the farmers market and our garden to ensure he experienced California cuisine at its best.

What better way to showcase California than an heirloom tomato salad.  The tomatoes are definitely not at their peak just yet, but are getting there.  I dressed the arugula with a quick dressing (juice of half a lemon, 1tsp of brown mustard, 3 tbsp olive oil and pepper), layered on the tomatoes and topped the salad with fresh lemon basil.  I usually end up buying sweet basil at the market because of the beautiful aroma, but the lemon basil was so fragrant yesterday, I decided to mix things up a bit.  I also enjoy adding kalamata olives to this type of salad, but in this case, I really wanted to showcase the tomatoes.

I also picked up some beautiful heirloom carrots from the market yesterday – purple, orange and two shades of yellow.  I wish I had taken a picture of the bunch before preparing them.  I chopped them on a bias-cut, just because it looks so much prettier with carrots.  I also added some Japanese sweet potatoes into the mix.  Before roasting the vegetables in the oven, I coated them with a bit of olive oil, cayenne pepper and white pepper and tossed them with some fresh rosemary from my garden.  I roasted them at 400F for about 20 minutes and they were perfectly cooked.

Also on the menu was some Tofu-Life Hot and Spicy Tofu.  I picked up this variety of tofu at Whole Foods last week – it is a local product from Benicia, CA, which is only an hour away from where we live.  I cut the brick into small triangles (who doesn’t love tofu geometry?) and grilled them on my cast-iron grill – super easy. The tofu had a smoky flavour which went well with this meal.  I also picked up other flavours of this tofu and am looking forward to trying them.

The last item on the menu was farro cooked up with mushrooms (from Monterey of course), red onions, and lacinato kale (from our garden). I cooked the farro using a 2.5 to 1 ratio of water to farro – cooked it the same way you would with rice for about 15 minutes.  While that cooked, I sauteed 8 large mushrooms in a bit of olive oil until they gave away their water.  I then added one finely-chopped red onion, 2 cloves of minced garlic, 2 serrano chilis and some salt to the mix.  I mixed the veggies into the cooked farro, but it looked like it needed a bit more spunk, so I grabbed some kale and fresh oregano from the garden and added it to the mix.  Right before serving, I added the juice of half a lemon, which gave the dish a fresh flavour.

I had such a fun time preparing this meal – must have been the inspiration from the great company!

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