Sunday Supper #7 was particularly more stressful because I was the chef and I suffer from Food Anxiety – which is a clinical neurological condition that involves worrying about making enough food for your guests. One of the symptoms is making way too much food! Everyone in my entire crazy family has this problem – it’s a genetic mutation on the Sicilian strand of DNA I inherited from my father Rocco.
For this supper I also wanted to go vegan, partially because many readers had requested a vegan supper and also because I really love animals. Also Sicilian food translates really well into vegetarian and vegan because there isn’t much you have to do – a lot of it is already animal-free.
I decided to share some of my favorite foods, like fava beans, fennel and red tomato sauce. And I tested out a new recipe: cashew ricotta, which I still want to blind taste test on my dad.
How do you know your Italian? When you shop at two different places called Valentino’s!
Cooking for over 25 people was a two day affair and a lot of work. I seriously wonder how people work in restaurants everyday! I did most of the prep the day before so when I arrived at the church the only thing I needed to do was heat the sauce and boil 8lbs of pasta! Good thing they have gigantic pots big enough for me to take a bath in.
Plating and serving that many dishes at the same time is also pretty hectic, but if you have great help, it’s not so bad. Thanks Jon, Martin & Santina!
Ridgewood Valentino’s is my Nonna’s favorite store, but wear ankle protection – old ladies are known to shoo you out of the way with their canes. And there is no concept of lines there – like in Sicily – so take some valium before you go. The price for produce there is cheaper than I’ve ever seen anywhere. I think they buy direct – so the prices are wholesale. We can fill a cart with eggplants and peppers and peaches and watermelons and it’s always under $25.
To make the fava bean paste boil the fava beans for at most 3 minutes in salted water. Remove and add them to a food processor along with good extra virgin olive oil, lemon, garlic cloves, fresh thyme salt and pepper. To make the toast, put Italian bread in the oven and when it’s hot smear it with a clove of fresh garlic. Spread the fava bean paste on top and finish it with a drizzle of olive oil and ground black pepper. Garnish with thyme.
Some tips on frying the eggplants, slice and soak them in salted water first. My Mom and Grandma both do this – they say to remove the bitterness. Fry them in a mix of corn and olive oil. They will be greasy, which is why they are so delicious.
We served each dish with delicious and graciously donated Van Leeuwen Vegan Chocolate Ice Cream.
Sweet or Savory Cashew Ricotta is the easiest thing to make. I got tips from Paulie Gee who uses it on his vegan pizza. What is great is that it’s not trying to be like cheese, it’s totally it’s own thing.
Soak a pound of cashews in water overnight or at least a few hours. In a food processor mix the soaked cashews with about a half a cup of water, some lemon juice, sugar, a little salt, vanilla and grated orange rind.
Served over blueberries, it is the most delicious and addictive vegan treat.