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French for Vegans — Continued

When I posted about my French dinner last week I got lots of nice comments and e-mails, not only about the meal I prepared, but also about plans for a vegan French cookbook.  They also asked me to share my thoughts about my old restaurant days when I worked in French restaurants.

The photo above was taken in 1986 (!) in front of Marianne, a then-popular French restaurant in downtown Charleston, S.C.  That’s me in the front row (third from the left) — the only one wearing white pants.  Assembled with me were many of the top chefs in Charleston at the time.  The reason we were all together was to cook a multi-course benefit dinner for a charity fund-raiser — on our only day off.

After working as a cook for several years in Pennsylvania, I move to Charleston in 1983 when I was hired as a chef for a Charleston restaurant. I worked as a chef at a few other restaurants in Charleston during those years, but the only strictly French restaurant was called Amalie.  It was an intimate, elegant space down at the Battery looking out onto the Charleston harbor. Those professional years in restaurants gave me the background I needed for my current career, developing recipes from various cuisines for my vegan cookbooks.

As for a French cookbook, the answer is yes.  For many years, I’ve been planning to write a “French for Vegans” cookbook.  Somehow, other projects always seem to get ahead of it, and so it has remained simmering on the back burner for a long time.  With all the interest and enthusiasm I’m hearing from you all, I hope to move on to it after my current project is finished.

In the meantime, my new book, Quick-Fix Vegan will be out very soon and is now available for pre-order on Amazon.  Work (and recipe testing) is currently going on for the new slow cooker book. 

Thanks again to one and all for your interest and your kind comments, notes, and messages. Your appreciation for my work sustains me.

French for Vegans

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In the 1980s I was chef at a small French restaurant in Charleston SC.  After that, when I worked for a catering company, many of the menus featured French cuisine. When I first went vegan in the late 1980s, I took special delight in “cracking the code” of the meat and dairy-laden French recipes into plant-based versions.
I admit I don’t cook French food very often these days. Mostly because there are several other cuisines that beat it out as favorites in our house.  We tend to gravitate to Thai, Italian, Indian, and Vietnamese dishes, interspersed with good old American.  But French, not so much. 
Last weekend we had friends over for dinner.  When company’s coming, I often like to plan a menu around a particular cuisine — usually one of our aforementioned favorites.  This time, however, I decided on French. 
We began with Kir Imperial as an aperitif — one part framboise (black raspberry) liqueur to two parts chilled sparking white wine.  They went down nice and easy served with a plate of crispy-flaky and delicious palmiers filled with a tapenade made with green olives, capers, sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, and roasted bell pepper.
The main event was seitan bourguignon or “au vin” — chunks of seitan simmered with mushrooms, shallots, and carrot in a red wine sauce, seasoned with thyme and some herbs de Provence.  It was served with mashed potatoes and green beans provencale.
For dessert, I wanted to feature blackberry coulis made from our own blackberries, so I made a plain cheesecake to pair with it.  At the last minute, I added a couple tablespoons of lime marmalade to the cheesecake batter and — wow — that touch of citrus really added a fantastic flavor dimension.
After such a fabulous meal, I can tell you that French for vegans was definitely not lost in translation!  I may need to revisit my list of favorite cuisines….
In Other News…
I’ve been nominated in two categories in the 2011 Veggie Awards.  Why not take a few minutes to fill out the survey and vote for me in the “favorite cookbook author” category and also for my Global Vegan column as your favorite VegNews feature.  There are some great prizes this year including a vegan Caribbean cruise, a VitaMix blender, and a year’s supply of Coconut Bliss ice cream.   (thanks!)