Sunday, February 8, 2015

9 Days of Valentine's: Part 1...

I interrupt this Whole Foods Cleanse to talk a little about the holidays. Valentine’s Day is next Saturday and while my husband and I don’t do anything particularly special for most occasions, y’all know I’ll take any excuse to cook a lavish meal. Valentine’s Day is actually one of my favorite holidays to cook for, and the reason is that it’s a low-key holiday. Meaning I’m typically celebrating with only my husband not a house-full of people. I can cook whatever I want on a small scale and keep it as simple or fancy as I want and even if I go all out crazy, there isn’t any stress. Valentine’s Day is also the perfect opportunity to cook something challenging and fancy, but also romantic - because lets face it, even if you love to cook as much as I do, ‘romantic’ food on a not too special Tuesday in June just seems out of place, you know?

Normally I choose dishes that are European, despite my favorite cuisines being Asian and Indian, European food just seems sexier and more romantic doesn’t it? For example last year I went French and Dutch with Seitan Filet mignon, and a potato dish, the year before I went Eastern European with Blintzes for breakfast, then Italian for dinner with Seitan Scallopini and a Green Salad with Roasted Garlic dressing, and Tiramisu for dessert. In 2012 we had waffles for Breakfast, and Italian again for dinner with Caponata and a dish of Rotini with roasted beets, onions, sun-dried tomatos and spinach. Dessert was chocolate cherry cheesecake! Of course every year there is also wine or sangria and lots of it.

French Onion Soup

This year was no exception. After a little over a month of eating nothing but whole foods, mostly raw, sugar-free, gluten-free I’m ready for a little decadence, and I am super craving some down-home, comforting European flavor. I am particularly in the mood for rich French food, and seeing as how my husband and I will be in Europe again next month - Paris being one of our stops - what better cuisine to celebrate the holiday of love with, but the decadently romantic food from the city of lovers? Of course, as usual, I could not narrow down my choices, in the end I found myself starring at a sheet of paper with 9 different meal ideas written down. I spent about 2 minutes trying to cut 8 dishes off the list before I said “To hell with it, I’m making them all” and that is how my husband and I decided to celebrate Valentine’s Day for 9 days instead of 1. Some people might think that’s a little crazy or excessive, but so what? There’s a great quote in the FX series “Fargo” in which Billy Bob Thorton says to Martin Freeman “You live your life like there are rules. There are no rules.” truer words have never been spoken, THERE ARE NO RULES! Life is short, enjoy it the way you want to!

So, with that being said we started off our Valentine’s Day week with a bowl of French Onion Soup, from Mark Reinfeld’s lovely book “The 30 Minute Vegan’s Taste of Europe.” I love this book, and I really don’t use it enough. I was pretty excited to try this recipe out because it just sounded good, and really there’s nothing better then a steaming hot bowl of soup on a cold Chicago evening. This is a simpler French Onion Soup recipe then those I’ve tackled in the past, and so since I had an excess of time last night I let the onions and the soup cook down a lot longer then the recipe calls for. I like my Onion soup really caramelized, and it turned out pretty good. The ingredients are simple, onions, red wine, vegetable broth, parsley, thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Once that’s done you slice some baguettes, brush them with oil, sprinkle them with salt and broil them. Then you plop a toast in a bowl of soup, add some vegan mozzarella and you can either serve as is or broil it a few minutes to let the cheese melt. I didn’t bother with the final broiling, and it was great as it was. The toast was particularly fantastic, especially drenched in the slightly sweet, somewhat savory soup.

Portobello Frites 

For our Main Course we had Portobello Frites from Rich Landau and Kate Jacob’s book “Vedge” this is another book I don’t use near enough, but everything I have made out of it has been out-of-this-world-fantastic! These Portobello Frites were no exception. Portobello Mushrooms stand in for steak. You brush the caps with olive oil, garlic, shallot, and salt then roast in the oven for 20 minutes. Once they pop out, you mix red wine into their cooking juice add a bit of veg stock, Dijon mustard, and tarragon and then simmer the sauce in a pan on the stove until reduced. Meanwhile you bake some potatoes, slice them into wedges and then fry them in a deep-sided skillet on the stove. Serve the Mushrooms smothered in the wine sauce, with a hearty helping of Frites. Oh my, perfection! Seriously, my favorite thing about the whole dish was the wine sauce covering the mushrooms. I even smothered my Frites in it.

So that was our first day of celebration. Check back tomorrow to see the Mixed Italian/French meal I have planned for tonight.


  1. Ah, What a delicious meal to come home to from work! Thanks for making it. It was quite amazing how much those mushrooms had the same consistency as steak. The red wine really soaked into those mushrooms - very tasty!

  2. Your onion soup looks so amazing!! Love it!