Valentines day is usually the holy grail of food challenges but, since we were working on that Hallmark holiday and then forced to lounge on the beach in Maui for ten days, the meal had to be postponed. We call it "vegan challenge" and this over the top tofu, mushroom, cassava chip stack (I wanted to call it "Poseidon's demise" but got shot down) places her well ahead of the pack (and by pack, I mean me). The gauntlet has officially been thrown.
Listing the ingredients for this meal would probably take two pages and preparation time is around ten hours (slight exaggeration). So, I'm just going to list the elements of the meal with some quick instruction and you can decide for yourself if you think you have it in you to even try to emulate this culinary Picasso. Erin served this as a small entree plate but I could also see it getting paired down as a beautiful plated appetizer. I will say this, the flavor pairing was amazing and sampling one or both of the surrounding sauces in conjunction with a fork full of the main attraction resulted in a different bite every time and leaves you begging for more. Alright, I admit it...I ate two.
O.K, here's what's happening: working from the bottom up we have wilted pea shoots followed by purple kale chip crusted tofu, roasted brussel sprout petals, sauteed oyster mushrooms with preserved lemon and cassava chips. The accompaniments on the plate, which I would like to refer to as "the monkey and the weasel" but would get too much flack from the vegan community, are walnut and roasted pepper relish and green harissa. I think I eluded to the fact that this meal is created strictly for advanced foodies and anything less than a ninth level wizard shouldn't even be reading this.
The pea shoots were quickly sauteed in a hot pan with sun dried tomato oil and seasonings. Purple kale was tossed in pistachio oil, za'atar, smoked paprika and olive oil before being toasted in the oven @ 300* for about 20 minutes or until crisp but not burnt. These chips were then crushed and used to coat the tofu which had recently spent the last four hours just lounging in vermouth, stout mustard, cider vinegar and bourbon maple syrup (what a lush). The kale crusted tofu was then baked @350* for 20-30 minutes, flipping the patties halfway through. The brussel sprouts were carefully pulled apart and tossed in olive oil and sea salt before being lightly roasted at 300* for 15-20 minutes(until they are a bit crispy but still green). Oyster mushrooms were sauteed in a hot pan with olive oil and chopped preserved lemons and a bit of white wine. Cassava, aka: yuca, aka: tapioca root, aka: about a dozen other names is a starchy tuber that once peeled and sliced thinly on the mandolin was shallow fried and lightly salted. The relish was made from toasted walnuts, roasted red peppers, chopped orange and zest with chili flakes, fresh herbs and olive oil. The green Harissa was made with roasted pasilla peppers, cilantro, mint and parsley, preserved lemons and olive oil. Now I need you to reproduce all of these steps simultaneously and present this stack in an artful manner before it gets cold. Go.
Did I mention that this was a high maintenance meal? It really shows you how the vegan challenge has progressed over the years and the one-upmanship has been elevated to dizzying heights.