Saturday, August 13, 2011

~A Vegan Dinner: Roasted-Red-Pepper Dip, New Waldorf Salad, Seitan Bourguignon and Banana,Coconut, and Cahshew-Cream Tart~

Now Playing?  Good Golly Miss Molly, by Little Richard

What!?  A chef in my kitchen?  A real chef?!  Yes, that's right. I had a real chef here last night and we cooked a wonderful, classic vegan meal.  Not only did we dish up some amazingly tasty food, Chef Andrea Seppinni dished out great advice about vegan-motherhood and how to make cooking more fun and simple.

I managed to arrange the table in a semi-formal manner (the whole formal thing just didn't jive for me), and I even had a few extra moments to make some place cards and a flower arrangement from the plethora of flowers and plants in our garden (wiping sweat from brow).   Martha, you always make it look so easy!  I'm  jealous.

By about 2:15pm I ran into the kitchen, slapped on an apron and began working in the kitchen.  I was nervous and my feet were already starting to ache.

This flower arrangement was made from random flowers from our garden. Included are some sunflowers, zinnias, amaranth, Loropetalum, and cosmos leaves. 
Here are some of the name cards that I made.  I just used cardstock and then glued on some dried flowers that were from our garden last year.
The morning of our scheduled dinner I was a wreck.  I was frantically cleaning the house only to have it  unfold behind me.  Ever feel that way?  It felt like it was opposite day or something.  

I'm done freaking out.  Let's begin, shall we?  I started on the appetizer in order to speed things along.
picture from
Recipe from

Serves 12

  • 6 large red bell peppers
  • 1 cup golden raisins, coarsely chopped (6 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons salt-packed capers, rinsed well and drained
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarsely chopped fresh oregano
  • Coarse salt
  • Red-wine vinegar


  1. Roast peppers over a gas flame or under the broiler, turning occasionally, until charred all over, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a heatproof bowl,
    and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand until cool enough to handle. Peel and seed peppers.
  2. Pulse peppers in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Add raisins, oil, capers, and oregano. Pulse to combine. Season with salt and vinegar.

Cook's Note

Dip can be refrigerated for up to 1 day.

Photo Gallery

Red peppers are delicious and healthy.  Aren't they a beautiful bunch?
The recipe said to roast the peppers until they were charred all over.  So I did. 
This was pretty cool.  After the peppers were broiled and charred, the next step was to put the peppers in a bowl that's covered with plastic.  After about ten minutes or so the skins easily slide off of the pepper. 
I liked the dip very much, but let's see what Chef Andrea thinks.
She likes it!  (letting out a big sigh of relief)
Andrea's family came over for dinner too.  On the far left is Shane, Andrea's son.  He is a very handsome and smart dude.  Shane attends Cornell University and graduates next year!  Go Shane!  The lovely young lady in the middle is Olivia, a very talented high school wrestler.  Just like Shane, Andrea's daughter Olivia has a bright future ahead of her.   Lastly, to the right is Kevin, Andrea's husband.  He's an awesome Dad that loves to encourage and stand by his family.  Kev has a thing for basketball and talented chefs (need I mention names?).
Andrea and I had a hungry crowd forming.  I'm glad that we had a delicious Sangria (made by the chef herself) and plenty of roasted-red-pepper dip to hold us over.
Olivia and Shane await the entree.
Gabriel and Sarah are enjoying the dip too.
Pop!  In goes the "good stuff" to kick up the drink. 
Andrea made an awesome Sangria!  This was a seasonal drink (Andrea focuses mainly on seasonal produce) that was made with fresh peaches and nectarines. 
We took a break from cooking to enjoy a glass of ice cold Sangria.  Cheers!  So far so good.  Andrea is an awesome teacher!

Moving along to the salad.  

New Waldorf Salad
picture from

Recipe from

  • For the roasted grapes

    • 1 1/2 pounds red seedless grapes
    • 1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar
    • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • For the dressing

    • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar
    • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
    • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • For the salad

    • 2 celery stalks, thinly sliced crosswise, plus 1/2 cup leaves
    • 1 head frisee, trimmed
    • 1 Honeycrisp apple, thinly sliced
    • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted


  1. Roast the grapes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss grapes with sugar and oil. Roast on a rimmed baking sheet until just starting to wrinkle and burst, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool.
  2. Meanwhile, make the dressing: Combine shallot, vinegar, lemon zest and juice, and cumin in a bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Make the salad: toss grapes (without pan juices) with sliced celery and leaves, frisee, apple, and walnuts. Drizzle salad with dressing, and toss to coat.

Photo Gallery

The red grapes are to be roasted in the oven after being tossed in sugar and oil.
    Andrea shows off the beautiful frisee.

Now for the main...
Seitan Bourguignon


picture from

Makes enough for 4 to 5 servings
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 (1/2-pound) packages traditional-flavored seitan, broken into bite-size pieces
  • 4 shallots, minced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced crosswise into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 (750 mL) bottle pinot noir
  • 1 cup homemade or store-bought low-sodium vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 15 pearl onions, fresh or frozen, peeled
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons margarine
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Mushroom "Bacon" Topping


  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add seitan and cook, stirring, until seitan over medium-high heat. Add seitan and cook, stirring, until seitan is browned and caramelized on all sides. Reduce heat and add shallots, carrots, and garlic; cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
  2. Transfer seitan mixture to a large saucepan; add wine and enough stock to just cover seitan mixture. Add parsley, bay leaves, thyme, and pearl onions; cover and bring to a simmer until vegetables are tender. Transfer seitan, carrots, and onions to a large serving bowl; set aside and keep warm.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together flour and margarine. Add flour mixture to saucepan, stirring until well combined. Let sauce simmer, uncovered, until it reaches a gravy-like consistency. Remove bay leaf and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Pour sauce over seitan in serving bowl; garnish with mushroom "bacon" topping and parsley. Serve.
From The Martha Stewart Show, March 2011

Read more at Seitan Bourguignon

Mushroom Topping


Makes enough for 4 to 5 servings
  • 1 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • Olive oil
  • Coarse salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place mushrooms in a large bowl; drizzle with olive oil and season with salt.
  3. Evenly spread mushrooms in a single layer in a shallow glass baking dish. Transfer to oven and bake, tossing with tongs every 5 to 10 minutes, until dry and crisp, taking care not to burn. Remove from baking dish; mushroom "bacon" may be used hot or at room temperature.
From The Martha Stewart Show, March 2011

Read more at Mushroom "Bacon" Topping

Photo Gallery

Andrea is pausing to read the recipes in-depth before we rock the bourguignon.
  Andrea is cutting the carrots for the bourguignon.
Look at that dice on those shallots!
Definitely a chef!
So most of you are wondering how this is vegan,right? Okay, so I've never heard of seitan before today.  It is a meat substitute that is made from washing the wheat flour dough with water until all of the starch dissolves. To me, it looks very similar to chicken liver.

I doubled this recipe in order to have plenty of food for our guests.  Here are two pounds of beautfiul shitake mushrooms that were the "bacon" for the bourguignon.
We had a lot of seitan to shred.  Andrea helped me to break up the seitan into bite-size pieces.
We had 30 pearl onions to peel.  Andrea had a great tip which was to boil the onions for a few minutes to ease the skin away from the onion.  Once they cooled, it was super easy to peel them.
I took a break from the kitchen to capture what was going on around us.  Olivia and Sarah were playing and having a blast in the playroom.
Jordan and his brother Gabriel wrestled and played while dinner was being made.
One of the best parts!  A whole bottle of wine gets poured into the dinner! Woohooo!  Can you see this Julia? 
Next, we added the onions and carrots and simmered everything in the dutch oven.
A little thyme from our garden gets sprinkled in.
Jordan and the chef pose for a quick pic.
Andrea decided to check on the shitake mushrooms that were baking in the oven.  The mushrooms had a high moisture content and created a ton of steam inside the oven.  When she bent over to open the oven, Bam!!!  Chef Andrea got hit with a wave a steam that scorched her lips! 
Luckily I had just made some St.John's Wort infused oil a few days ago.  Andrea used some of it to soothe her burned lips.  After that we compared our "battle wounds" and chatted about how we got our various scars while cooking in the kitchen.  
The sauce!  This was a totally vegan sauce that was added to the bubbling pot of bourguignon.
Voila!  The Seitan Bourguignon is ready to be served.
Tasty and beautiful.  This is my new favorite vegan dinner. It's an interesting spin on the french classic, don't you think? 
I was inside for so long that by the time I made it outside to photograph the dinner it was nearly dark.  I managed to capture a few photos of the dinner though. 
Bon Appetit!  I know that if Julia Child were still alive she would have loved to have tried this interesting french twist on a traditional bourguignon.  Julia, you will be missed but you are remembered with every bite of good food. 

And for dessert.....

Banana, Coconut and Cashew-Cream Tart

picture from


Makes one 9-inch tart
  • 1 1/2 cups whole pecans
  • Pinch of coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 cups pitted dates
  • 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight and thoroughly drained
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup, and more to taste
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 3/4 cup desiccated coconut
  • 3 or 4 ripe but firm bananas


  1. Make tart shell: Coarsely chop pecans and salt in a food processor. Add dates; pulse until thoroughly combined, 15 to 20 seconds. Add syrup; pulse just until combined and mixture sticks together. Press nut mixture firmly and evenly into a 9-inch pie plate, wetting your fingers as needed. Set tart shell aside.
  2. Make filling: Grind nuts to a coarse paste in a blender. Add water, syrup, and vanilla scrapings; blend until smooth, about 5 minutes, scraping sides as needed. Mixture should be the consistency of thick pancake batter. Set aside 2 tablespoons coconut; add remainder to blender, and process to combine. Pour into prepared shell, spreading evenly.
  3. Thinly slice bananas on the bias; arrange in slightly overlapping rows, beginning at edge of tart. Sprinkle with reserved coconut; serve immediately.
From Martha Stewart Living, March 2003
Read more at Banana, Coconut, and Cashew-Cream Tart

Photo Gallery

Wow, what a delicious, yet interesting crust.  This is made from dates,pecans and maple syrup.  As Ben says, "It tastes like a Larabar!" He's exactly right.
The crust.
The chef and I pause to review the recipe.
And she's back to work.  Andrea adds the ingredients for the cream filling.
The recipe calls for dessicated coconut.  What's that?  I was informed by a Whole Foods employee that dessicated coconut = dried coconut.  Here, Andrea is measuring out the dessicated coconut for the cream filling.  Yum!
Now the filling gets spread into the tart shell.
And she's done!  This looks great!
It is now something like 10:00pm.  We have worked hard together in the kitchen and now it's time to head out to the campfire and rest.  What a fun day this was!
Chef Andrea Seppinnini and her lovely family enjoy both tart and campfire as the evening draws to an end.
 Ben and the kids enjoyed the dessert and the good company.

~Dinner Was Served~

Advice on Vegan Motherhood, Heroes and Healthy Snacking

As Andrea and I were sauteeing, baking, broiling, pulsing, simmering and washing in the kitchen, I made sure to ask her some very important questions about being vegan and how to prepeare healthy snacks.   Read on to find out more.

Andrea and her daughter Olivia

From the moment that Andrea stepped into my kitchen, she was not only funny and light- hearted but she has an intelligence about her that makes a newbie like me fascinated.  She knows her stuff and could win any cook-off there is, Food Network chefs included.  More importantly though, Andrea has so much wisdom and love to share with everyone. These qualities appear to simmer out of her while she effortlessly chops at the cutting board.

As a busy mom with three kids, I'm always looking for healthy and fast snacks for the kids.  Andrea makes large batches of granola for her family and includes healthy items such as 70%Cacao, almonds and whatever she feels will work, that's healthy of course.  Granola is pricey at the supermarket and learning to make this snack from scratch not only saves us money, but it saves on unwanted fat and calories too.  

When it comes to quick, healthy and kid-friendly snacks, Chef Andrea suggests learning how to make kale chips from scratch too.  Often she experiments with the flavor by making her own blended toppings.  She has even created a "cheese" topping by adding nutritional yeast to the kale that adds a cheese-like bite.  Andrea insists that learning to make healthy snacks from scratch before hunger strikes is the key to keeping everyone happy and healthy. 

As the night went on I asked Andrea a few more questions.  I asked the chef what the number one skill was that every home chef should know.  Andrea's answer?  "Have one good knife that you always keep sharp.  It doesn't have to be expensive-just keep it sharp. A sharp knife helps you move through everything so much faster", Andrea says.  

As the evening was drawing to a close, I wanted to ask Andrea where she got her passion, zest and verve for cooking.  She has a fearless spirit for creating vegan recipes in her kitchen.  It is not only her training at the Kitchen Academy (now Cordon Bleu) that keeps her a cut above the rest, but more so it is the close bond between she and her father that develeoped her artistic culinary talent.  While her mother often cooked for her family, it was her father's love of fine specialty items that evolved her interest in food into a passion.  Andrea will forever remember her father's Corti Brothers trips as he gathered up fine holiday food for she and her family to enjoy.  One of her favorite memories is that of her father hovered over the kitchen stove as he made chocolate covered raisins for the family try. Like Andrea, my father has forever made an impact on my love of fine food.

When I asked Andrea why she's vegan she told me simply, "Because when you know better, you do better.  Your food is your medicine and it has a direct impact on how you live your life."  She went on to mention the China study and the book by a Cornell professor that showed a direct link between cancer and animal protein consumption.  Andrea knows her stuff.  She teaches plant based cooking classes for anti-inflamitory diets and hopes to make an impact, one plate at a time. 


Anonymous said...


What a wonderful hostess and cook you are! It was a pleasure working in your kitchen and sharing a meal with your family.

Your blog is great and is extremely generous when speaking of me - thank you for your kind words. By the way, the St. John's Wort-infused oil is miraculous; my sizzled lips are sizzled no longer!

At the time I attended and graduated from culinary school, it was called the Kitchen Academy and has now changed its name to its original parent cooking school's name, Cordon Bleu.

I look forward to cooking with you again soon!

Andrea Seppinni

The Green Mama said...

Dear Andrea,

Thank you! This was a lot of fun. I feel like I learned some new things while having a blast! I agree, let's do this again soon.


P.S. Glad to hear that your lips are unsizzled ;)

livielovesdisney said...

Morgan, I had a blast the other night and your children were so much fun to play with! You're blog is great and I love reading your posts :)

- Olivia Seppinni

The Green Mama said...

Dear Olivia,
Thank you for the nice complement. You are a delightful young lady! I'm glad that you enjoyed the other night and I have my eye on you as our next babysitter ;)
Also, when you become a pro wrestler you can expect to see us in the crowd cheering you on! Until next well!


Carl said...

Morgan this blog is rising to new heights. Now there is a chef in your soup. Amazing. Not only that, but her entire family.

What used to be "gourmet" is now going mainstream in this country and is now just plain "good cooking" or even "fine cooking" when the creativity explodes.

May I offer some recommended reading? Ok, thanks, I shall...David Kamp's wonderful book The United States of Arugula, subtitled The Sun-Dried, Cold-Pressed, Dark Roasted, Extra Virgin Story of the American Food Revolution. The book thoroughly researches and articulately discusses how we as a nation developed into a country that now takes fine cooking for granted.

James Beard is the father of all this with his pre-war cookbooks, followed by chefs from France during the war such as Henri Soule and Pierre Franey. After WWII, Julia Child and Craig Claiborn (The New York Times food and restaurant editor and writer)came on the scene after WWII, mainly in New York City, then shifted west to California after the sixties, along with its wine revolution in the late seventies, to include Alice Waters and then Thomas Keller. Many more chefs and food experts are discussed and given credit for their contributions, such as celebrity chefs Mario Batali, Bobby Flay, Emeril Lagasse, Daniel Boulud, Jacques Pepin, Wolfgang Puck, even Rachel Ray (?). At bottom, this new American Cuisine is based on Auguste Escoffier's perfection of classic French Haite Cuisine and blended with Cuisine Bourgeois and French Country/Farmhouse Cooking, blended with Italian Cuisine, especially Tuscan, and fusioned with Thai and other Asian cuisines, Mexican, Middle Eastern, and certain exceptional American Regional Cuisines. This has taken ultra-fine cooking from the elite stratosphere of three star French Haute Cuisine, blended it, added huge emphasis on organic foods and environmental sustainability, then democratized it...fine cooking and ingredients for everyone. Spam and processed foods and clumsy cooking techniques have been left behind, except for those in the hinterlands and the indifferent everywhere.

Reading this book makes sense of how it all happened. And now, we have suppliers of foods required by these wonderful recipes we find on the cooking shows and cookbooks: Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, many copy-cat "organic" stores carrying international ingredients, even standard "vanilla" supermarkets carry organic items, even Walmart!

Morgan, you are contributing to this wonderful development in your own way, on this blog, in a grass roots way, a real way, an authentic way. More power to you, girl! The cream always rises to the top.

The Green Mama said...

Dear Dad,

I am just blown away at your knowledge! I would love to read this book when you're done reading it yourself.

I am very thankful to be a part of this food movement, if even blog-style. This movement you have been involved with yourself for a long time now, in your own way of course. But this is how it starts! It starts in a small kitchen, in a small house with a little table that families gather 'round to eat REAL food. To eat GOOD food. From one generation to the next, bon appetit! XOXO, Morgan