Monday, April 16, 2012

Celebratory Vegetables Wellington

Vegetables Wellington with Cabernet Mushrooms
I went on a mad shopping spree today. And when I say shopping, I mean grocery shopping. Duh. After a perfect afternoon spent with my pup, hiking in the hills, with one of the most beautiful and inspiring views of the bay, I decided to stop off at the Berkeley Bowl. I wanted to stock up on some veggies and add some super foods to my diet. Because, I have a confession to make. I have been eating pretty terribly lately. Now don't worry, I haven't gone to the dark side of those salivating sloth-like meat eaters (click on link to see how freaking adorable baby sloths actually are!). But I have been living off of crackers, cheese, hummus, cereal, and english muffins. All store bought, i.e., pre-made, processed foods. Not too great. I blame it all on the wine bar that I recently started working at. Plating all these yummy cheese plates has had me craving cheese and sweet french bread! With a glass or two of vino, of course.

This past weekend was my graduation commencement ceremony from the CCA. Yes, I did technically graduate back in December of 2011. But we had to wait until April 14, 2012 for our ceremony, and "walk". I really didn't know what to expect, and honestly I wasn't expecting much. But, boy was I wrong. Just seeing all of the graduates, and my few former classmates, (most of them) in their clean and pressed chef coats, and our chef instructors (some of them), there for our support. I was immediately uplifted, and felt a sure sense of pride.

My class was small to begin with. I was in the night class which are always the smallest classes. But out of the original 7 or so classmates, only three of us showed up and/or graduated on graduation day...

California Culinary Academy 2011 Graduates
...and it was really, really wonderful to see them. Once the ceremonies began, with a speech from our executive chef, chef Michael Weller, and master chef Ed Leonard. It was emotional, it was inspiring, it was laugh-out-loud, it was heartfelt, it was meaningful. It made me feel grateful for what I have. It made me feel proud for what I have accomplished. It made me feel confident for what I can accomplish. It made me FEEL PROUD. To simply be a part of it all. I will forever be an alum of the amazing school, the California Culinary Academy, in San Francisco. I will miss these people, the students, the halls, the kitchens, the stupid greasy pans, the instructors. I cried, I laughed, I smiled, and I held my head high.

And then came time for our walk across the stage. I was proud to have achieved awards with high honors (gpa of 3.75 or higher, I held a 4.0 throughout), as well as exemplary attendance (never missed a single day of class). The hard work was well worth it. For these silly little red and yellow ribbons...

And so after all of the inspiring words from our well respected, experienced, and talented chefs, I decided it was time to start cooking again. It is time to start making the foods that I am so passionate about. It is time to make this my own. It is time to stop having store bought crackers and hummus, or cereal for dinner. It is time to make a beautiful dish. And it is time to start making vegetarian dishes that are dynamic, healthy, delicious, colorful, and fulfilling.

So to kick things off, I put together this dish of Vegetables Wellington. I did cheat just a wee-bit, by buying frozen puff pastry, but I don't feel at all bad about that! I know exactly what it takes to make puff pastry, and after a long hike in the hills, and only running on coffee and an english muffin all day, I wasn't about to go making my own puff pastry. This Vegetables Wellington was quick and easy to put together. Here is a quick overview of how and what...

For one serving

Shallot, fine brunoise
6 stems of Pencil Asparagus, chopped in half
4 Brussel Sprouts, chopped in half, chiffonade
4 Cherry Tomatoes, sliced in half
Half a carrot, finely shredded
4 Mushrooms, thinly sliced
small handful of pea sprouts
pine nuts
goat cheese
red wine
canola/olive oil blend
salt and pepper
dried thyme
one package of frozen puff pastry, partially thaw, cut off 1/4 of one strip

Heat oven to 400, line sheet pan with foil and coat lightly with oil

Once oven is at temp, place thawed puff pastry on oiled foil lined sheet pan and place in oven, cook at 400 for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown on top. (Can coat with egg wash for better browning, but I chose not to use an entire egg for my single little piece of puff pastry)

Heat oil, add half the shallot, heat until almost cooked through, add the asparagus, cook 2-3 minutes, add the brussel sprouts, add the carrot, and pine nuts. Season with salt, pepper, cumin. Let cook for 2-3 minutes.

In a separate pan, heat small amount oil and two pats of butter, add rest of shallot and heat until almost cooked through. Add mushrooms, cook until lightly browned. Add more butter or oil if more fat is needed. Season with salt and pepper. Add red wine and cook at low-medium simmer until slightly thickened and the alcohol has evaporated. Taste and adjust as needed.

Plate vegetables, goat cheese, mushrooms. Drizzle with red wine reduction. Add puff pastry, and garnish with pea sprouts.

Bon Appetit!

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