The Central Oregon Dinner Party, ala Vegan
Before you start cooking you’ll want to call three or four friends who’ve been particularly kind to you, even if it was long ago (never forget a kindness), and invite them to dinner. Plan ahead so if any of them live farther away than this 90-minute recipe takes to create, that they shall arrive when it’s hot.
Tell all of your friends with dogs, or cats or opossums that their animals are welcome to join, as long as they don’t have a hankerin’ to fight with others.
Prepare a frosty delight of carrot sticks and broccoli ends lightly doused with olive oil and a pinch of nutritional yeast, then thrown in the freezer for an hour or so, for the animal companions. They’ll appreciate something to nosh on whilst the humans make gluttons of themselves. Beware of creating a carrot of contention by keeping the animals separated while they are eating. Nothing ruins an impromptu dinner party like a trip to the emergency vet.
Now that you’ve called your friends and gotten a hearty response, you need to light a fire under yourself. I’d suggest that you deal with the preparation of the elixir at this juncture to infuse yourself with its magic thereby extracting the most love from your soul, straight into the cooking.
For each two guests, create one bottle and a half of the following: Zest two fresh oranges and plunk that harvest into a bottle of Californian or Australian orange muscat, gently shaking the ambrosia to disperse zest. M-m-m. The oranges at Newport Market in Bend are really lush right now. Chill these until your buddies arrive. In a pinch, any old champagne, 3T of agave and the juice from one orange will do. Maraschino cherry juice is a nice complement, too, if you are bold enough to admit you have this in your fridge. If you don’t imbibe, use the latter recipe substituting the champagne for the non-alcoholic version, plus one bottle of alcohol-free beer.
On to the table trimmings. Now that you’re committed to having a party, why not prime the evening for success by scouring the internet for titillating facts or scandalous news about topics pertinent to your guests? Print out one for each guest and hide it under their plate where it will wait for that moment when it’s needed most – right after everyone has eaten and gotten lazy, thinking they can just discreetly burp into their sweater arm and go home. No dice, Charlie.
After the facts are read, ridiculed and argued over, you’ll need to let them know that they are still not free to go by mentioning how happy you are that the dessert turned out without catching the oven on fire this time, for all the brandy it requires. No matter that the dessert involves neither brandy nor ovens. The mention of brandy baked into some kind of sweet dish has a hypnotic effect on even the most puritan, tightly laced type-A workaholic (who is already planning the next morning’s duties) and will buy you some time.
If your crowd is the coffee-drinking-at-night type, when it comes time to shove one’s self away from the table and exclaim disgust with yourself for eating too much, assign a friend to start cranking up the cappuchinos while you move the dessert by way of U-Haul to the living room and strongly suggest everyone follow you in there. Someone at that point needs to keep an eye on the dogs and delectables dangerously together in one room.
Wake up! Now, you must begin cooking before the first guest calls and asks if their ferret can come. After that there will be nothing but distractions, and you’ve got to stay focused.
Triple Happiness Cabbage
1 large purple head of cabbage, finely chopped (green will do, too)
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2/3 C ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 C natural peanut butter
3 T unrefined cane sugar (or whatever vegan sugar you choose. Agave will not do.)
1 T blackstrap molasses
1/2 C crushed peanuts
2/3 C soy sauce
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground fennel
1/2 tsp. ground star anise, or five seeds (take the seed out of the star first!)
3 ground cloves
2 C brown or white sweet rice, or sticky rice (6C water)
2/3 C well roasted almonds, crushed by hammer in a double paper bag
1. Saute cabbage in oil for ten minutes or so until its halfway cooked.
1a. Skip down to the bottom to get your rice started, then resume cabbage directions at number two.
2. Add garlic and spices and keep cooking until garlic is halfway cooked.
3. Add everything else and cook down until what you see in the murky pot is a dark, fragrant wilt of murmuring Chinese folk tales.[;)]
Bring 3 C water to a boil. Immediately pour in 2 C rice. Stir and let boil again with lid on. Don’t forget about this rice! You have to do this all as soon as it boils. Take lid off after you see it boil and break lumps up with wooden spoon, quickly. Put lid back on, let it boil again, then turn it down to med-low, keeping lid on. Leave the rice alone for 15 minutes, then check to see it’s done. You only get one chance to lift the lid or you might wreck it, so choose your opportunity wisely! Have I scared you yet? If you want to get fancy, wait until the rice is cool enough to handle and form it into 1 C balls, dousing each with a light sprinkle of black or toasted white sesame seeds and a mound of crushed toasted almonds.
Serve Triple Happiness Cabbage with sweet rice in an artful arrangement, adding whatever you have for color available, such as a tiny shred of red pepper atop.
For dessert you’ll want to get this ready ahead of time so that no one talks about you when you’re out of the room: Mix 1/2 can frozen grapefruit juice, 1 C tahini and chill. Slice papayas, mangoes and jicama and arrange in a kaliedescope dazzle on a big round platter. Cast a light round of paprika on the arrangement for color. Set 1/2 lb. dark chocolate on a double boiler until liquid. Cover and turn off stove. tHis should stay warm enough through dinner. Throw a little bit of shredded coconut in a bowl with a tiny spoon. When people ask what they should do with all of it, tell them to try and heal their childhood traumas by combining various fruits, dips and spreads in whatever way they see fit. They’ll get the idea. The grapefruit tahini is particularly good on the mangos with a spritz of coconut.
For those true blue guest who still remain, rouse them and their dogs for walk in the tall grasses behind your house, under the light of the moon. Or you can wander th bike paths in Sunriver, making a great obstacle course for unsuspecting tourists. Make sure to bring bottles of water, flashlights and blankets in backpacks for these post-feast wanderings are known to stretch until the chill of midnight with earth’s innocent children and beasts just stretched out beneath the winking stars, not believing their luck.