Last month, my friend Christa and I hosted a dinner party to make up for an event that unfortunately did not come together as originally planned. A shame, yes, but not the end of the world. We were able to pull together a great time that allowed us to sample wines from The Vegan Vine and treat a few friends to a menu of delicious dishes. Christa is the woman behind Veggin’ Out With Christa, where she expounds about her life as a vegan, as well as sharing her coaching tips and advice for people who are looking to improve their health through food and exercise. She is also a contributor to I Eat Grass, and that is where you can read the details of her write up. You all know that neither Amir nor I are vegan, but we’ve always been vegan-friendly through our own cooking and restaurant explorations. Combining an evening of vegan recipes with vegan wine seemed like a great way to expose even more of our friends to the experience as well.
We had big plans to do this dinner in a Downtown loft with tons of people, candles, linens, and sexy music, but when our location fell through, we went with the back up course of action–a much smaller group sitting at the tiny dining table in my living room. Just a small setback. It would change the layout of our dinner, but it would not ruin the fun. The folks at The Vegan Vine sent each one of their varietals for us to sample: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Red Wine Blend and Cabernet Sauvignon. What makes their wine certified vegan is that it does not make use of any of the usual animal byproducts that appear in the filtering process of many wines, beers and other spirits. The wines are produced by Clos La Chance in San Martin, which is part of the California Central Coast area. The winery is Certified Sustainable, making Vegan Vine wines not only great for dinner but also easy on the environment.
This was a four-course dinner that left us tipsy and giddy. The first course featured a Spicy Coconut Butternut Squash Soup with a savory base of celery and onions cooked in coconut oil and spikes of fresh ginger and serrano pepper smoothed out with lots of coconut milk. The soup was paired with the Chardonnay with its light, fruity aromas and notes of lemon and honey. This wine was a favorite for a couple of friends. Next up, a Beet, Edamame and Grapefruit Salad with salty Marcona almonds and a tangy balsamic vinaigrette over a bed of micro greens. Glasses of Sauvignon Blanc were sipped during this course. The wine’s citrus aroma hints toward lemon and grapefruit with a tinge of wet grass. The third course was a bold Red Blend with Mixed Mushroom Couscous. The Red Blend is mostly a mix of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Zinfandel with heavy notes of blackberries, cherries and a bit of cedar. Finally, we finished off the evening with the Cabernet Sauvignon and Vegan Strawberry Cake. This wine was another one with big berry and fruity flavors–blueberries, blackberries and cherries–with just a bit of plum and tobacco. The house Cab fan fell for it right away.
Here is a big thank you from Christa and I to The Vegan Vine for providing wine for the party. Not only did we have the opportunity to learn more about the product, but it also allowed us to share the moment with friends. If this is not a fabulous benefit of wining and dining, then what is?
Mixed Mushroom Couscous – Serves 6
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces white mushrooms, sliced
8 ounces baby Bella mushrooms, sliced
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup vegetable broth, warm
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
10 ounces Israeli couscous, cooked
2 tablespoons vegan butter
Fine sea salt, to taste
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley, optional
1. Heat the olive oil over a medium flame in a large skillet. Once hot, add the mushroom, stirring until they are coated in the oil. Cook for 10-12 minutes, or until softened.
2. Add the garlic and cook for another 3-5 minutes.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the broth and cornstarch. Pour the mixture over the mushrooms, then stir in the cooked couscous. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until the liquid thickens.
4. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the vegan butter. Season to taste with salt and garnish with parsley, if desired.
Vegan Strawberry Cake – Serves 8 (Adapted from Honest Fare)
2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1 1/4 cup almond milk
3/4 cup water
Zest and juice of 1 large lemon
1/2 teaspoon almond extract extract
10 large strawberries, stemmed and roughly chopped
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/3 cup cake crumbs
6 ounces silken tofu
1/8 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grapeseed oil
1-2 tablespoons almond milk, plus more as needed
1 pint strawberries, to top the cake
1. Start with the cake. Spray a 9″ round cake pan with floured baking spray and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and baking powder. In a separate smaller bowl, whisk together the remaining wet ingredients for the cake until thoroughly combined. Once well mixed, whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until done. (The cake will rise and brown slightly, but it won’t be as brown as typical cakes, so insert a toothpick in the middle to ensure it is cooked through. The interior will be dense and moist, but it should not be wet and loose.) Remove from the oven and allow to cool to the touch.
3. Once the cake is cool, scoop out some of the middle, leaving a 1″ border along the edge. Make sure there is at least 1/2″ of cake layer at the bottom. Save the interior cake crumbs in a separate bowl.
4. Make the strawberry filling by cooking the strawberries, sugar and water in a medium sized pan over medium high heat until the mixture begins to thicken, approximately 5-7 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Thoroughly stir in the cornstarch and remove from heat. Allow to cool slightly.
5. Make the cake custard by placing some of the reserved cake crumbs, tofu, sugar, vanilla and oil into a food processor. Blend until completely smooth. Start with 1 tablespoon of almond milk to thin out the mixture. Add a bit more 1 teaspoon at a time, up to 1 tablespoon, until the mixture is the consistency of pudding. Set aside.
6. To assemble the cake, cover the bottom layer with the cooked strawberries, then carefully fill with the tofu custard. Top with a ring of fresh strawberries and chill for at least 2-4 hours before serving.
Click HERE for printable recipes.
Disclaimer: The Vegan Vine provided wine for our party, but they did not send monetary sponsorship for the event. All opinions expressed here are our own.