by Chef Jason Wyrick
Last month, I wrote about how to effectively serve non-vegetarians, and one of the key points of that article was choosing bold flavors. This month's installment continues with a discussion of what bold flavors are and how to achieve them in order to get your meat- eating friends coming back for more!
First, let's talk about what bold flavors aren't. Boiled squash served over rice. Steamed veggies dressed in tamari. Not bold. Not fun. Not even close. I'm vegan and if you served me that, I'd have words with you. Now, consider seared chayote squash with a mango chili lime sauce over toasted sesame rice and roasted potatoes and garlic with a lemon ginger tamari glaze. Bold, fun, creative, and most importantly, appetizing for meat-eaters and vegetarians alike.
What's the difference between the menus? You've probably guessed it by now. Bold flavors. How does one achieve boldness in flavor? First, go for depth. Let's face it, meat is a strong, darkly flavored, heavy ingredient and your food will be competing with that. You'll need a level of depth frequently missing in vegetarian fare. Sundried tomatoes, because their flavors have been intensified through the drying process and their sugars have been slightly caramelized, have a deeper flavor than fresh tomatoes. Toasted sesame seeds and toasted sesame oil have a darker flavor than plain sesame seeds and oil. Look for ingredients like these and let your imagination go wild.
Another way to add boldness to your meal lies in the preparation. Seared will create a stronger flavor than steamed. Roasted creates a deeper flavor than boiled. Caramelized is more flavorful than slightly sautéed. Grilled brings forth an intensity not typically found in baked food. From a health standpoint, I figure when serving meat-eaters, it's ok to throw in smoked foods, heated oils, etc. because it's still healthier than meat and keeps them from going into culinary culture shock. Many of my students are meat-eaters and after a while, they transition to healthier foods. I used to only do optimized healthy cuisine, but I wasn't able to help as many people that way.
Finally, choose ingredients that simply can't be ignored. These are flavors that scream forth from the food, "I am here!" Spicy chili peppers are a perfect example (though be careful with your more "delicate" diners). Mangoes are a rich fruit, and citrus cuts through most flavors. Ginger and garlic are particularly strong ingredients, as are basil, pine nuts, thyme, oregano, toasted cumin seeds, cloves, allspice, fenugreek, and fresh black peppercorns. Note, organic and in-season ingredients simply taste better than their counterparts. These ingredients achieve boldness by featuring their fresh, unadulterated flavors.
See Bold Flavors for recipes and techniques. Eat healthy, eat compassionately, and eat well! Chef Jason Wyrick is the editor and executive chef of The Vegan Culinary Experience http://www.veganculinaryexperience.com, a free vegan culinary magazine designed by professional vegan chefs. He operates a successful vegan catering and culinary instruction company in the United States and has taught alongside doctors Neal Barnard, John McDougall, and Gabriel Cousens and is the first vegan instructor to teach in the Le Cordon Bleu program. You can reach Chef Wyrick at ChefJason@veganculinaryexperience.com.
We are grateful to Chef Wyrick for graciously offering to share these recipes with our readers.
Smoked Black Bean Chili
Type: Main Dish, Chili Serves: 2
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp. of chopped cilantro leaves
1/2 tsp. of olive oil
16 oz. of black beans with liquid
3 tbsp. of San Antonio chili powder (other chili powders can be used)
1 tbsp. of smoked paprika
1 tsp. of cumin
1/2 tsp. of smoked salt (mesquite smoked salt works best)
Chop the cilantro leaves.
Over a medium-high heat, sauté the onion in the olive oil until it browns.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic.
Saute this for another 3 minutes.
Add in the rest of the ingredients and stir (there should be at least 1/2 cup of bean liquid.)
Allow this to simmer for at least 10 minutes.
Low-fat Version (no oil added)
Omit the olive oil and sauté the onion and garlic in a thin layer of water. Make sure to begin with a dry pan and the onion only and once the onion starts to brown, reduce the heat to medium-high and add in the water and garlic.
Soak an ancho chili pepper and three New Mexico chili peppers and then blend them with one cup of water, one clove of garlic, one-quarter of a yellow onion, and one tomato. Stir in the cumin, salt, cilantro, and sprouted black beans. Allow this to sit for at least two hours.
Gnocchi in a Fire Roasted Tomato Sauce
Type: Main Dish, Low-fat Serves: 2
1/4 of a yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
1/2 tsp. of olive oil
1 cup of water
1/8 tsp. of cumin
1/4 tsp. of salt
1/4 tsp. of crushed red pepper
1 tsp. of fresh oregano leaves
4 cups of gnocchi (about 16 oz.)
8 green olives
1/8 tsp. of freshly ground black pepper
Wrap the tomatoes in foil and pierce the foil liberally.
Place the tomatoes on the grill and close the lid to infuse the tomatoes with smoky flavor.
Rotate the tomatoes every 10 minutes, leaving them on the grill until they are soft.
While they are roasting on the grill, chop the onion and slice the garlic.
In a medium-sized pot, sauté the onion in the olive oil over a medium heat until the onion is slightly browned.
Add the garlic and sauté this for another minute, making sure to stir everything every few seconds.
Add the water and stir.
Add the roasted tomatoes, cumin, salt, crushed red pepper, and oregano.
Allow this to simmer for 5-10 minutes.
Blend the sauce together with a food processor or blender.
While the sauce is simmering, boil the gnocchi until the gnocchi floats.
Dump the gnocchi in a colander, but do not rinse it.
Once the sauce is blended, plate up the gnocchi and pour the sauce over it.
Slice the olives.
Dress the gnocchi with the sliced olives and pepper.
Low-fat Version (no oil added)
Sauté the onion and garlic in a thin layer of water instead of in the oil, replenishing the water as it evaporates.
Omit the onion in the sauce and reduce the amount of garlic down to one clove. For the gnocchi, take two cups of almond flour, mix in fresh pepper and salt, and then moisten it until you have almond dough. Form the dough into gnocchi sized balls and refrigerate them for an hour so they can set.