Saturday, May 29, 2010

Unique & Elegant Vegan Hors D'Oeuvres Class at Natural Gourmet Institute

This past week I took the "Unique & Elegant Vegan Hors D'Oeuvres" class at Natural Gourmet. You may remember that just the week before I took "Homestyle Chinese Cooking" there, and now I can safely say that Natural Gourmet is my favorite place in the city to sign up for cooking classes. They are so friendly, helpful, and organized, and offer a wide variety of interesting and all-vegan classes.

Our instructor was Louisa Shafia, author of Lucid Food: Cooking for an Eco-Conscious Life, and former chef at the famous Millennium in San Francisco. Louisa, if you are reading this, I would like to say that despite one student's bizarre skepticism at the beginning of the class (not mine!), your hors d'oeuvres were all unique and elegant, and delicious.

While none of the recipes alone were too difficult, we did learn how challenging it is to prepare and garnish so many bite-size pieces for a cocktail crowd. I've never worked in catering, but I can see now how labor-intensive it must be. Our menu included: Avocado Cucumber Soup Shooters with Toasted Almonds & Mint, Sundried Tomato & Thyme Puree on Crostini, Indonesian Corn Fritters with Tamarind Ketchup, Black Bean Chipotle Sliders, Baked Tofu Bahn Mi Sandwiches with Pickled Cucumbers & Miso Herb Dressing, and for a sweet bite, Green Tea Tofu Cheesecake Triangles with Graham Cracker Crust. Who wouldn't love to attend a party where all that was served?!

Baked Tofu Bahn Mi Sandwiches with Pickled Cucumbers & Miso Herb Dressing

The Baked Tofu Bahn Mi sandwiches had an absolutely amazing dressing on them, made from fresh pineapple, sweet white miso, dijon mustard, brown rice syrup, and other seasonings. It was sweet and tangy and really brightened up these little bites. Traditional bahn mi sandwiches usually have a fatty meat (pork), pickled vegetables, and lots of fresh herbs, so this was a much lighter, sweeter variation. I would definitely like to make this recipe for full-sized sandwiches too.

Indonesian Corn Fritters with Tamarind Ketchup

The Indonesian Corn Fritters were, without a doubt, the class favorite. I'm still dreaming about these delicious little fritters. Made from fresh corn and millet, and seasoned with lemongrass, ginger, and galangal, these were incredibly fragrant and flavorful. The homemade tamarind ketchup put them over the top. I am going to make these at home, and soon.

Sundried Tomato & Thyme Puree on Crostini

The Sundried Tomato Puree on the crostini was also very flavorful. The puree itself is actually raw, the tomatoes are basically blended in a processor with fresh squeezed orange juice, raw cashews, garlic, and herbs. It would also be delicious as a dip for crudite, to keep it all raw, or mixed into pasta as you would use any type of pesto.

Black Bean Sliders

These cute little open-faced black bean sliders were topped with a dollop of the tamarind ketchup from the corn fritters, and a pickled cucumber from the bahn mi sandwiches. The burger base is black beans, brown rice, walnuts, smoked paprika and other seasonings. They were a bit dry on their own, but definitely benefited from the condiments.

Avocado Cucumber Soup

I don't even like cold soup (I'm talking to you, gazpacho) but I actually liked this one. With jalapeno, cumin, lime, and mint, it had a completely unexpected kick to it.

Assortment of hors d'oeuvres that ended up in my belly.

And lastly, for dessert we had the green tea cheesecake bites. The crust was made from coconut oil, raw almonds, orange zest, sugar, and graham cracker crumbs. The filling was made from silken tofu, sugar, coconut oil, green tea powder, vanilla, orange and lemon juice. These were really delicious. There was just enough green tea powder to give it color and a hint of flavor - a delicate balance because too much green tea powder would make it bitter. The citrus juices really brightened these up, and it tasted like a perfect spring/summer dessert. My only complaint was that the texture was basically exactly like silken tofu - I'm going to play around with this recipe to see if I can make it a little creamier and fluffier, to give it a more traditional cheesecake mouthfeel.

Green Tea Tofu Cheesecake Triangles



  1. Everything looks fantastic and very impressive! I would love to take a course like that.

  2. Wow, great post! And these pictures...yum! I want to take that course now. :)

  3. Nice! I may just have to look into taking some classes there myself.

  4. Haley - you should! It's really fun. Let me know if you're signing up for something, it's always more fun to go with a buddy :)

  5. Oh, i wish they had classes like that in HK!! What city is it in? Looks great! x