I had two huge food wins this week that I pulled right out of my ass...
harvest vegan soup
I wanted to make a roasted sweet potato soup. My natural inclination is to saute applewood smoked bacon with mirepoix and add pureed sweet potatoes, finish with heavy cream and sprinkle on some sharp cheddar.
But things took a turn at 7 am. The last of my gifted apples from Petoskey's Jennifer Eis (of Ward & Eis gallery) which were picked over at Bill's Farm market starting getting braised with the mirepoix (no bacon yet) and then I hit them with some crushed red pepper and cinnamon and molasses. And then some apple cider and white wine to deglaze. And then, and then... a butternut squash was roasted and pureed along with the sweet potatoes. Combined them all together and thanks to Stef's suggestions, we cut the sweetness with some lemon juice and a little salt. It was so full of flavor and the texture was outta sight- though the base of the soup was pureed, the chunks of carrot and apple, as well as the rough puree of the sweet potatoes (no thanks to me not having a commercial food processor yet!) made it less baby food textured than squash soups often come out to be....
The second started out as a series of losses.
I make the caramel sauce for the espresso drinks/cider/chai whathaveyou- and the first recipe Sami pulled- I didn't think reading the recipe that it would turn out as sauce, but I gave it a shot anyway. What I ended up with was more of a burnt sugar syrup, close to butterscotch. Very very tasty, but not thick and saucy like I wanted for the drinks.... so I stored it and it had been floating around since a week or so before we opened. I knew I'd find a use for it, but....
On Tuesday my bananas were finally ripe for banana bread. I make, what I believe to be the finest banana bread on the planet- hand mixed and wickedly banana-y, but not sweet. I crust the pans with cinnamon sugar and the loaf comes out airy and dense at the same time.
But at the shop, I doubled the recipe. Only to recognize that my bowl was much too small and there was no going back- I couldn't divvy it into 2 bowls because the ratio of ingredients would be off, etc. So Genevieve suggested I use a bucket- it was difficult for me to think outside the bowl, but I went for it. And the results were what I would expect- there is a certain hand and wrist motion that occurs working with a bowl... a bucket lend itself to shovelling- something quick breads don't love so much.
Once it was baked, I had what felt like 5# loaves of sunken banana mash. boo. But I sliced a loaf and put it out for sale by the slice and I didn't feel good about it, so I covered the other loaves and put 'em aside until I figured out how to deal with my mess. All the while :this is so good:best banana bread:tell me when you make this again comments were floating around. I shrugged and said it was alright, but not how the recipe was supposed to turn out. meh. (food depression isn't pretty)
But... I thought maybe it would make nice french toast. A good baked french toast casserole (I love casseroles) a good saturday breakfast & brunch special... and then the wheels started spinning. Bananas foster... rum, lime, yeah.
walked over to Dos Hermanos to get some whole cumin for the homefries and black bean veggie soup, my apartment to grab the ol' mortar and pestle, called my daughter's dad who was once a pretty renowned chef (Andante, opening chef at Chandler's, Douglas Lake Bar amonst others) around the Petoskey area and starting laying out my idea- he offered some helpful tips regarding cooking off the rum and a plan was born.
later that day while Christine from the Ypsi Citizen was interviewing me, my idea took another level... (oh and thanks to the beer cooler for that rum, it really was for the french toast). I had some egg nog from Calder. I don't really enjoy eggnog, but it would mean that I could cut the amount of egg in the recipe, plus I'd get a nice, rich, perfectly spiced custard out of it. I mixed the egg nog, some extra vanilla, some rum and a few eggs and poured that over 3 loaves of sliced banana bread, covered it with foil and said, "see ya in the morning, drunken monkey bread to be!"
the topping spread was going to be shredded coconut with butter and toasted almonds, and then I'd make a lime rum sauce to serve it with.
Once the morning came around, I saw my burnt sugar sauce sitting on my prep table... and another bunch of bananas. And the pan of soaking banana bread. pow! sliced the bananas and poured the sauce over the bananas in the pan. Let it bake for about 40 minutes... it crisped and caramelized the bananas beautifully. Then I spread the topping on and let it bake another 20 minutes, until the top was golden brown. As that was going down, I started whisking brown sugar with water and lime juice over the stove, then chugged the rum, I mean, poured the rum into the pan and got a little flame (fire at 6 am is a beautiful thing!), it coated the back of a spoon and voila, I was done. Took a spoonful out of the french toast pan and my first bite made my knees buckle.
It sounds like a lot of work- and maybe it was- but it was just a succession of work and experimentation that turned into a happy accident. And it will probably never turn out as deliciously as it did this time, but thanks to my fine obsessing, I recall every detail and it will undoubtedly translate again, likely with a subtle nuance due to humidity, the ripeness of bananas, my hungover and sleepless state or some other astrological pattern I won't be able to put my finger on til after the fact!
all in all, a great week- steady sales and lots of new faces, but even better, lots of the same faces daily and so many wonderful comments....
"I want to move to Ypsi so I can eat here every day!"
"We like your place a lot- [other guy chimes in] No! We LOVE your place!"
"I haven't a soup this good in I don't know when"
Really?! Me?! Us?! We're doin' it!
Yesterday Anna worked on a mini menu in 'veganeze' which could also be adapted for gluten free in the coming weeks.
Almost all the dressings are made from scratch ('cept the ranch and caesar) and I have the ingredients on hand, same with the soup. And the bread. But I just learned about someone having a soy lecithin allergy (I'd not run across that in my years in this business) which is a concern since I use a pan spray that contains it- and I couldn't tell you where I don't use it. The salads are safe. But anything that has touched a pan in the oven or on the stove has likely been hit with it. Hmmm.