September 30, 2010 § 7 Comments
I just completed a power cooking session: 3 courses in a full two and a half hours, which produced the following:
1st course: Watermelon-Tomato Gazpacho
2nd course: Brussels sprout casserole
3rd course: Plum tart w. homemade coconut chocolate truffle ice cream (ice cream was made the night before)
So, there are a few things I realized: first, power cooking is a serious stress reliever! Two, don’t turn the oven on if you’ve got two things to bake and neither is anywhere near completion! The rest are nuances of the dishes. I was not a fan at all of the brussels sprout casserole, and will post it as a FAIL in the upcoming days, with details as to why. Next to come will be the recipe for my plum tart and homemade coconut ice cream!! So check back for that in the near future or sign up for the updates!
To kick it all off, tonight I am posting the watermelon-tomato gazpacho for my friend who needs cold soup!!…and for all the poor folks suffering in California from the heat wave. This is a great first course because it combines all the ingredients of a watermelon salad, but pureed so that it’s just easier to eat, and you can serve it to your friends who are short on teeth this way =)
There was nothing original added on my part here (this was a learning exercise for me, taking on the challenge of dishes I’ve never done before, but mainly it was all about my tart, the beauty). I used the recipe from Good Housekeeping (link), which is pretty solid as is. As far as flavor goes, there’s not much I would change, but watermelon paired with other ingredients is new to my palate, and I’m going to have to think about it a little more thoroughly as I eat my way through the rest of life. I would serve this as a dessert to an uber health conscious crowd (or gluten free, vegan, etc.). Otherwise, as a first course I believe it’s a nice opener, a little unusual, but still good, which is just the way I like my food. The only difference here is that I adapted the recipe to make two servings:
(adapted for serving size from Good Housekeeping, makes 2 servings)
2 cups watermelon cubes
1/3-1/2 cup cubed cucumbers (adjust according to how bland you like your food, less cucumber => stronger tomato/watermelon flavors)
1 + 1/2 roma tomatoes
about 10-12 good sized basil leaves (picked from my plant, I usually just take whatever the poor thing can bear to give me)
the juice of one lime
pinch of salt
green onion for garnish (one stem chopped should do it for two bowls)
Puree the watermelon cubes. Pour into a large bowl. Then puree the remaining ingredients (cucumber, tomato, lime juice, basil, salt). Incorporate this into the watermelon mixture.
Note: if you like your gazpacho a little chunky, don’t puree the mixture too thoroughly.
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September 28, 2010 § 6 Comments
It’s one of these episodes that served as the inspiration for this dish. He performed the operation on a fish (tearsob, Cat??!) but the whole time it just looked like a little white piece of silken tofu. And all I could think was, how am I going to recreate this dish in my own kitchen (minus the fish of course). I also recommend shows like these (there are also instructive videos on Bravotv.com that break down the winning dishes from Top Chef…love chef Voltaggio’s video on Kevin’s unique version of the Singapore Sling which won him Top Chef!!!) for presentation, which is parallel to outlining. When you have an approximate for presentation of your main ingredient, the rest is fill in the blank, e.g. hmm, I need a base of unruly vegetables, etc..
For the base (can’t remember what Symon used), I decided to make a carrot salad. I just had carrots lying around and have been wanting to make a carrot salad for a while. I decided to go Asian, just in staying true to the tofu. So, the carrot salad is infused with hot chili sesame oil, ginger and garlic.
Ginger Carrot Salad
Measurements are approximate, the quantities here will make about 2 plates (as shown above)
1+1/2 shredded carrots
1 tsp grated ginger
1 clove of grated garlic
1 stem of green onion finely chopped
1 tbsp of sunflower seeds
3 tbsps of hot chili sesame oil (if you find you need a bit more oil, fill in with sesame oil or extra virgin olive oil)
salt and pepper to taste
juice from half a lime
Mix. Cover with a plastic wrap and refrigerate. You will love this. The aroma will hit you in the face and you’ll have a hard time not eating it all on the spot. The longer you let this marinated mixture sit, the stronger the flavor will be.
2 tbsp earth balance
grated lime peel (the shavings from one lime is enough)
salt and pepper
This process may be a bit difficult to translate. I started by cutting the tofu into fillet-like pieces (see picture). Then, thoroughly dried each piece in a paper towel. I created a mixture (unknown quantities, just a little of this and that) of corn starch (probably a tbsp), flour (probably two tbsps) and tempura flour (equal parts as flour). I coated each of the tofu pieces in the dry mixture (see picture), then put them into an oiled frying pan on medium heat (the pan should already be warm), adding salt and pepper to taste to each side. Once both sides were cooked w. a golden brown finish, I set them on a cooling rack and added the butter and lime peel to the pan to create a sauce. When serving I spooned this sauce over the tofu fillet, which I served over couscous (see below). Hope you enjoy. This was definitely one of my best so far. Bar is raised now!!
September 27, 2010 § 4 Comments
This was my first foray into Ethiopian food. I kept hearing good things regarding the vegetarian angle, and wanted to try it for a long time. For the ambiance and the yelp rating, we settled on Muzita Bistro in the University Heights neighborhood of San Diego.
Now, this injera bread is amazing. I’ve never had anything like it. It’s light and fluffy and closely mimics what it must be like to eat a thin sponge. If not for this novelty, the night’s evening would have been a bust, I’m sorry to say. The Tofu Silsi lacked flavor and wasn’t cooked in any way special. People who often cook with tofu tend to know that you can’t just throw a thick sauce on cubes and then serve. This leaves you with two distinct flavors in your mouth: 1) whatever the sauce is and 2) bland tofu. This, I’m sorry to say is what you get with the Tofu Silsi here. The Kantisha Kilwa vegetable medley had a bit of a spicy kick to it, and was the only item to go mostly unfinished at our table.
The Shiro was another savior for the night. The dish came in a bowl separate from the congealed rif-raf in the middle of our table (pictured here). Perhaps the separation contributed to maintaining its strong distinct flavor, which was much like an oily hummus infused with tomato sauce. It was very tasty. We followed up with each of the vegetarian sides which were less memorable. The flavors are reminiscent of Indian cooking. There is the similar strong presence of the tomato base present in Ehthiopian fare. The problem here was that each of the components lacked a distinct pride of flavor, kind of like everything was cooked in the same pot.
The dessert was a nice end to the meal. A pot of chocolate, not quite literally, more along the lines of a small tea cup with a thin layer of chocolate and an overflow of whipped cream. Though the whipped cream was good, and fresh, it didn’t take away from the disappointment of realizing it was going to take a serious dig to get to the good stuff at the bottom. It did inspire the idea that I should spend some time eating in my own kitchen and maybe on experimenting with different flavors of truffles.
Order the Shiro with Injera and follow with the Pot au Chocolate and you will enjoy your meal. Skip the rest!!
September 26, 2010 § 6 Comments
So, I thought I’d be adventurous. We have some fresh plums this week and I wanted to make a multi layer dish. A balsamic plum concoction on top of a pudding cake drizzled w. the balsamic syrup and basil, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side. That was my plan. The pudding cake didn’t really work out. I tried a few variations. In keeping with a vegan restriction, I used soy milk with the pudding powder (the box clearly states that soy milk won’t allow the pudding to rise), thinking that when mixed with flour and baking soda/powder it might work out to give me something a bit denser/gelatinous. Instead I got an inedible gelatinous (yes, what I was going for minus the inedible part) thing that couldn’t be pried from my dish, even though it had been greased sufficiently. The cakes were cooked in a water bath. I’m open to suggestions, if the readers have any. I’m aiming to revisit this somehow. I’ve got plums that I need to turn into magnificence!!!
September 25, 2010 § 6 Comments
Just in time for Saturday morning breakfast!!… I’ve been seeing a lot of bread pudding postings these days. They look so gooey and wonderful, and since I’ve never tried bread pudding, I thought I’d take a shot at it. I came up a bit short of pudding, and instead was left with a variation on french toast, which I love anyway, so my taste sensations were still very happy with the result. It was kind of a french toast cup, a less fattening version of bread pudding I suppose, and I used a high grade maple syrup instead of sugar, because I’m all about lowering the sugar intake wherever you can …and, with apples layered in, because it’s always a good idea to stick a fruit in a dessert so that you can get your 5-a-day!! I already have some ideas about how to redo this, making it more custard-y.
Apple French Toast Cups
(double this recipe to make 6 individual cups)
5 slices of bread cut into 1/2 inch cubes (I like to mix whole wheat and sourdough)
1 apple (cut into small cubes)
1 cup of soy milk
1 tbsp brown sugar
4 tbsp of high grade maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 cup of chopped walnuts for topping
Earth balance (enough to coat the cups, and also to sautee the apples)
Butter the individual cups. Layer half of the cubed bread on the bottom of the cups. Add a layer of the sauteed apple (as pictured). Finish with a final layer of bread cubes. Pour the liquid mixture into the cups and top with the crushed walnuts. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.
The reasons that this doesn’t quite turn into bread pudding fall to two major categories:
1) Lack of custard-y filling. My idea for redo-ing this is to add maybe 4 tbsps of instant vanilla pudding in place of the eggs.
2) The baking method. Here I didn’t bake my cups in a water bath. That’s the shortcut that makes this easier to execute.
This is a less fattier version of true bread pudding, but that is a result of the vegan ingredients. I believe that if the instant pudding works as I expect it will, the difference where fat content is concerned will be minimal.
September 24, 2010 § 2 Comments
As the last season of open doors for paying customers comes to an end at El Bulli on Spain’s Costa Brava, Master chef Ferran Adrià already has a plan for the future, and he’s discussed it widely. In the past week two magazines I randomly picked up profiled the Master chef, and magazines from somewhat opposite ends of the spectrum I should add: Vanity Fair and Bloomberg Markets. The overarching message seems to be two-pointed:
1) to publicize the last days of the restaurant, a seemingly zero net benefit effort since the restaurant is already completely booked and Chef Adria doesn’t price gauge (he charges well below what the market would bear for the chance to sit in the privileged seat of one the restaurant’s last patrons, 35 courses for $340), and
2) to publicize a class in culinary science at Harvard University, set to commence this fall.
Molecular Gastronomy: Science and Art, I’d like you to meet my friend FOOD
For those of you who don’t know, (honestly I didn’t either until I saw Wylie Dufresne during the Top Chef season of Richard, the most awesome contestant in Top Chef history!!), there is a restaurant world where science, art and food meet. And, El Bulli is the mecca. Home of a culinary variety known as molecular gastronomy, which experiments with the physical and chemical process of cooking (think decomposition via a mold of strawberry made of various components of the strawberry). These chefs experiment with sensations (‘How our brains interpret the signals from all our senses to tell us the “flavor” of food’, from Wikipedia) and non-traditional methods of cooking ingredients. Each dish tends to focus on one or few ingredients. Many of the courses within the 35-course dinner at El Bulli are composed of vegetarian ingredients, although many also arean’t (think ravioli made of gelatin wrappers).
Vegetarian/Vegan cuisine left in the dust
The scientific culinary discipline which focuses on the exploration of a few or sometimes even one ingredient would seem to lend itself well to vegetarian ingredients. In fact, the days that each of the writers visited, many of the items on the fixed menu were vegetarian: Nori-trias (“Black nori seaweed made crisp and crackly…then folded around sesame butter”), Amaranth with hazelnut oil, Pine nut bonbons (“Racy-looking bitter sweet chocolate globes, each with a single pine nut extending from it like a nipple”), Gorgonzola mochi. So where is all the creativity in vegetarian and vegan food today??!!! There are few restaurants around the U.S. that provide menus a foodie might consider inspired, Millenium in SF, Madeline Bistro in CA and Green Zebra in Chicago come to mind. But, the vast majority do not!!! I have to say, I’m a bit sick of seeing the tofu scramble. I understand, most days as a consuming nature-made machine food in any form will do, being vegetarian only adds to the stress of procuring your meal for the night, but leaders must emerge in our realm of the culinary arts to dispel the traditional notion of boring old vegan/vegetarian. Innovation, whatever that may look like, is a good thing.
Will the vegetarians evolve??
The link to Harvard’s page on the lectures states that, luckily for those of us not based in Boston on the weekdays, the lectures will be streamed live. I will definitely be posting post-lecture recaps. The techniques seem like natural applications for emboldened veggie cuisine, and a worthwhile challenge. While I’m limited by some of the equipment, I’ll spend some time posting on how to inspire creativity in your daily meals, and also attempt some of the more involved creative project dishes. (it’s easy when you break it down, truffles…easiest place to start. infuse with chili, etc…decompose a chile and turn it into chocolate??) What do you think?
September 23, 2010 § 2 Comments
We found the most amazing flatbread recently. I recently used it in my post about bruschetta. This flatbread is low in fat and is bread-y enough, yet crisps easily when toasted. It is, I have to say, the best flatbread I’ve ever had. We only bought one package on first encounter, but once tasted, we went back (the same day, no exaggeration, and I have to say quite unusual for us) to stock up and fill our freezer. Items such as this are good to keep around in the event that you come home late and have no plans for dinner. I’m beginning to be more conscious about my gluten intake, so this isn’t something I’ll be eating, or cooking with very often, but it definitely is a lifesaver for those nights when you’re famished and just don’t know what to cook.
Veggie flatbread pizza:
1 large flatbread
1/4 cup pesto sauce (which will serve as the base, although the brand we bought is a pesto flatbread)
1/4 – 1/2 cup grated cheeses (parmesan, mozzarella, gorgonzola, this is simply a matter of preference, as is the quantity)
1 medium sized tomato
1 cup of broccoli heads and stems, cut to small pieces
1 bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped zucchini pieces
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tbsp of cooking oil
Sautée the garlic in oil on medium heat. Add the veggies. Cook until slightly tender (take care not to over-cook the veggies). Spread the veggies onto the flatbread and sprinkle cheese on top. Bake in a toaster oven on ‘toast’ until the cheese is melted. Eat and enjoy!
Question for the readers: Now that I’ve hit 20+ posts, I just want to find out for the 5 readers out there =) (love you!) how am I doing? Do you like the inclusion of easy meals that aren’t always from scratch (like this one)? And how about the reviews? Any of you out there who would like to see more vegan recipes? I’d love to hear your suggestions regarding how I can make this blog better for you, so please leave your comments. I can’t wait to hear them.
September 21, 2010 § 2 Comments
I’m trying to jumpstart my creative culinary instincts after a brief hiatus which left me reaching to frozen food for almost every meal =( My default tool is always pancake mix. There’s so much one can do with it: watery = crepes, less watery = pancakes, thick = biscuits, and so on… In an attempt to finish the last of the cream cheese from the prior week, I activated the no-fail killer combo: cream cheese, tomatoes, basil, and cracked black pepper. I wanted to stuff them into biscuits so that the gooey insides would hit on impact making the whole picture a hearty breakfast component on a foggy morning. I ended up making the half rounds you see pictured b/c jamming the filling into a flat disc had no chance, logistically speaking.
1 cup of Multigrain baking/pancake mix
1/3 cup milk
1.5 tsps vegetable oil
1 roma tomato, diced
handful of basil leaves
1/3 cup of cream cheese
cracked black pepper to taste
In a bowl, mix the basil, cream cheese, tomatoes and black pepper. In a separate bowl, mix the baking mix, milk and oil. Knead on a flat, flour-dusted surface. Roll until flat. Cut out large circles. Place a spoonful of filling on one half of each circle. Fold over to make a half circle. Press on the edges w. a fork to ensure that the filling doesn’t escape during the baking process. Bake in a pre-heated 425 degree oven for about 8-10 minutes.
September 20, 2010 § Leave a Comment
…At least according to Vito’s. Vegetarianism on the Hoboken side isn’t too hard to accommodate, a fact that I learned on my trip out this past weekend. However, venturing into Manhattan is a different animal, w. restaurant options that could hold one over for months. Hoboken is overrun with and known for its delis which serve fresh ‘mutz’, or mozzarella cheese made in the neighborhood. I can attest to the freshness and the stringiness experienced one bite in that often lacks in the imported varieties we find in other parts of the country. Vito’s is one of the more frequented delis on Washington Street, the city’s main drag for food, so watch out if you’re stopping in during the lunch hour, as the line generally runs out the door. The menu is vegetarian friendly with a good handful of interesting options such as the Hoboken Hero, which is filled w. grilled eggplant, roasted red peppers, artichoke hears, pesto, and mutz.
A good stop for brunch is the Cinnamon Snail, a cool vegan truck that finds a space in Hoboken near the waterfront for breakfast and lunch from Thursday thru Saturday. The menu is inspired, with options such as Blue corn pancakes with piñon butter and Vermont maple syrup & Jalapeño red quinoa fritters with tomatillo salsa, mashed avocado, cilantro roasted garlic cream, arugula and peppered red wine reduction. The inspiration is a definite rarity for vegan fare, let alone that it’s all from a food truck!! Plan your day early. You won’t want to miss this one. I unfortunately did with my time crunch. I may have to jet back sometime soon, when the truck expands its route to NY!!!
Interesting spots for dinner include Cucharamama and Amanda’s. Amanda’s appetizers are almost all vegetarian this season, w. highlights being the Sweat Pea Risotto w. Pea Shoots and Garlic Chips & Roman Gnocchi, Ricotta, Heirloom Tomatoes, Pine Nuts and Parmesan Reggiano. The entrees are scant for us, making Amanda’s an awkward choice for dinner if ordering multiple appetizers in place of a main course doesn’t appeal to you. Cucharamama serves S. American food, and the menu is just so awesome that I’ve listed most of the veg. options on my ‘To do’ page, and can’t wait to recreate them in my kitchen. You MUST make a reservation if you plan to dine on a Friday or Saturday night. The restaurant is usually booked, but I was able to get in on a cancellation for a table for 4 @ 8:30 on a Saturday night w. a good hour’s notice.
September 18, 2010 § 2 Comments
As I’m sure you can tell by now, I am a bit obsessed with whole wheat cous cous. It stems from the belief that whole wheat is healthier than white flour based wheat. Many of my friends have recently cut down on gluten on the recommendation of their doctors. From what I understand, at some point the body becomes unable to breakdown the gluten that is in wheat, and then develops an autoimmune disease. My friends have noticed very clear changes in their health due to cutting out gluten, and milk in the case of others. I’ve always been precautious, perhaps overwhelmingly so, and am leaning towards cutting down on my dairy for starters, and maybe being more mindful of my wheat intake. I’ve already completely cut out white bread. We’ll see how it pans out. I’ll spend more time @ the blog on vegan and gluten-free recipes from here on forward. So, here’s another cous cous recipe. Cherish it b/c you may not see another for awhile =) I hear quinoa is a good substitute, so I’ll spend some time on experimenting with that as a base. That’s what the Veggie Test Kitchen is all about, experimentation!!!
Broccoli cous cous potato cakes
(makes about 9 small-ish squares) I simply altered the recipe (and the shape) of my earlier cous cous potato cake recipe, adding broccoli/hummus/cous cous w. the potato.
1/2 cup cooked whole wheat cous cous
1/2 cup chopped broccoli (you want to chop the broccoli as small as possible)
1/4 cup of hummus
1 small boiled potato
salt and pepper to taste
Mix the ingredients together, first with a fork. Eventually you will want to get your hands in the mix to really smash and incorporate all of the ingredients together to get the right consistency for frying (see my cous cous potato cake recipe, linked above, for a picture of what the mixture should look like before pan frying). Spoon out the mixture into small balls (you can shape them anyway you like: squares, discs, etc. Just make sure that they’re a uniform thickness. This is so that they will cook evenly). Pan fry and serve!
September 15, 2010 § 2 Comments
I’m awful at remembering significant dates, so when I overheard my brother wishing my mother a Happy-Early-Birthday-b/c-I’ll-forget-to-call-you-on-the-actual-day I figured I’d need to whip up baked goods quickly. I settled on the easiest cake recipe on earth, followed up w. a cream cheese frosting (b/c it’s my favorite). And for sure I knew I was stuffing fruit into the center of this thing, since we’re slightly health-conscious here. Since I know that berries are wonderful w. basil I took the risk of making my cream cheese frosting basil infused. It turned out wonderfully. The basil/berry pairing is so refreshing that I’m planning basil/strawberry cupcakes before the end of fall when the angel of death will claim my poor plant.
Makes 4 two-tiered mini cakes
1 box of Butter flavored cake mix
330 ml of Perrier (make sure to use an unopened bottle)
4 tbsps of butter (melted, still slightly warm), this can be substituted w. olive oil to cut down on the fat, although sometimes you just need to enjoy your butter
Beat the cake mix and Perrier together. Add the melted butter. I like to use warm butter b/c this makes the batter thicken a bit while you’re mixing it. Add the batter to 8 small, well-greased baking pans. I like to use these crème brûlée dishes; they’re the perfect size and can withstand the heat. Place the baking dishes on a large baking sheet. Bake on 350 degrees for 15-22 minutes (until golden brown and when an inserted toothpick comes out clean).
Basil Cream-cheese frosting:
This recipe should frost two cakes, you can double this recipe if you’re cooking all 4 mini-cakes at once. I tend to make two-mini cakes (requires the cake recipe to be halved) at a time.
8 oz of low fat whipped cream cheese
1 cup of powdered sugar
1 tbsp of vanilla extract
handful of fresh, finely chopped basil
Whip the ingredients together with a fork.
It doesn’t get much easier than this. Assembly isn’t too tricky either. When slightly cooled, turn over the baking dishes, and carefully remove the cakes to place on a cooling rack. Once cooled, place a cake on your serving dish, top w. a layer of the frosting. Add a layer of your berries. Frost one side of another cake and then place the frosted side on top of the berry layer. Then frost the top and sides to your taste. Leaving the sides unfrosted gives the cake an interesting strawberry shortcake/french pastry hybrid look.
September 12, 2010 § 3 Comments
Chilo is a popular breakfast item in India. It’s a savory pancake made with graham flour, the whole wheat variety used to make graham crackers. It’s a good substitute for the omelette breakfast element. My sweet tooth prefers a french toast or fruit pancake anyday, but supplemented w. a side of fruit and veggie infused hash, it makes for a healthy breakfast.
To make it, you simply mix the ‘pancake’ mixture (graham flour, touch of salt, baking powder) w. water and your veggies, and proceed to cook as you would a pancake. Bear in mind that the graham flour is much thicker than pancake batter, so if your chilo is laid on a frying pan too thick the center may be raw despite exhibiting the appearance of having been thoroughly cooked (browned, crunchy sides, etc.).
Interesting side note, graham flour was named after Sylvester Graham who was one of the earliest U.S. proponents of the vegetarian diet, which he promoted back in the 1830′s. He went on to establish the American Vegetarian Society in 1850. Graham flour is a combination of separately ground white flour and wheat bran and germ.
September 10, 2010 § 4 Comments
I loved having tiramisu before I went eggless. Thanks to the lady fingers this dessert is now off limits in restaurants, but a simple substitution using Nilla wafers brings this surprisingly easy to make favorite to the home. Being able to whip up a good range of tasty eggless desserts at home gives you something wonderful to come home to after a long meal out ;)
8 oz. mascarpone cheese
1/2 standard container of Cool Whip
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. cane sugar
1/2 box of Nilla wafers
1 cup of coffee (refrigerated)
1 tsp instant coffee
1/2 cup of shaved truffles (a good dark or milk chocolate will work also, depending on your tastes…as long as you’re happy)
Mix the mascarpone, Cool Whip, vanilla extract, sugar and instant coffee. Soak the Nilla wafers in the refrigerated coffee, and layer them in your dish as the base layer. Spread half the mascarpone/Cool Whip mixture over the soaked Nilla wafers. Add another layer of the coffee soaked Nilla wafers, followed by a final layer of the mascarpone/Cool Whip mixture. Refrigerate for a good 3-4 hours; the longer it sits, the better the flavor. Just make sure that your refrigerator is clean ;). Top with the shaved truffles before serving.
Note: Nilla wafers aren’t very porous. They don’t manage to pick up the coffee flavor too well. So, if you’re looking for a really strong tiramsu, where coffee is concerned, I would suggest adding a good quality instand coffee (ha, if that’s possible!) to the mascarpone/Cool Whip mixture.
September 7, 2010 § Leave a Comment
I am so glad that I decided to try this place.
Located on an unassuming block on University Ave., you’d more than likely miss Spread if you happened to walk past. The food experience begins via the long-winded translation of the terse menu, and takes place in a hip dining room boasting Stockholm design elements. There may have even been a DJ booth in the corner! The menu options were scant -probably a byproduct of being a Tuesday night- as were the descriptions: pasta w. brussels sprout and zucchini in heirloom tomato sauce read as ‘spaghetti’, but quality scant just may be Spread’s charm.
1st course –> Bruschetta w. grape tomatoes: Syrupy vinegar and grape tomatoes, seasoned w. 18 spices on well-cooked bread: not dry, not hard, and most importantly possessing the satisfying baked-with-a-healthy-amount-of-oil chew.
2nd course –> Cauliflower fritti: Reminiscent of popcorn chicken coating w. a spicy sweet n’ sour sauce covering the tender cauliflower, which was cooked to the consistency of potato. This dish was definitely the star of the evening.
3rd course –> Gnocchi (originally meant to be a spaghetti, but the chef replaced the option with an eggless gnocchi for us): The gnocchi was tossed w. brussels sprout and zucchini in an heirloom tomato sauce. It was a good dish, but not great, missing the mark on the main course heartiness factor by a bit. The tomato sauce could have been great with a slight kick of spice and a heartier stock of tomatoes.
Dessert course –> House special spread w. assorted fruits: This pb/white-chocolate spread is Spread’s specialty. The dish is a light chaser to a wonderful meal, but nothing to write home about. I was expecting a full on fondue, which would have been awesome. The spread, however, is great and I would recommend buying jars to have at home on toast, or even as a cupcake filling.
On the whole, the Spread three course meal is really one of the best vegetarian multi-course restaurant meals I’ve had in a while, right up there with Millenium in SF, however they need to provide a more substantial dessert option to satiate the sweet tooth and turn patrons away completely enamored. I am dying to try the Sunday supper, and also to head back in the winter when the season change inspires a fresh menu.
Spread is located at 2879 University Ave. in San Diego. Open Tues-Sun, 6pm-close.