This season’s award shows – from the Critic’s Choice Awards to the Golden Globes – have done it, and even this weekend’s Oscars will showcase plant-based menus. And as we shift gears to celebrate the day that’s all about love – Valentine’s Day – Chef Simeon Hall is defying the norm while still satisfying the expectations for the upcoming night of love with his all-vegan meal.
“It’s 2020 – the year of craftsmanship, creativity and uniqueness – and I am ready to defy the norm while satisfying the expectations. And vegan, because I think [this year] is not just thinking outside the box, but destroying the box altogether,” said Hall.
The chef’s Valentine’s Day menu showcases bold but refreshing tropical and traditional flavors that he says won’t leave you craving anything else.
“Composing a menu usually takes any half decent culinarian a few hours, at least. You have to think about the purpose of the event, the audience, the equipment, the season, which are just a few of the factors to consider in menu planning. Certainly, when creating a Valentine’s Day menu, components such as love, opulence, sexiness and aphrodisiacs come to mind. Very rarely does the thought of veganism, fruits and vegetables resonate.”
Challenged to produce a vegan Valentine’s Day menu, he said it literally took him months to compose the perfect no-meat evening that will rival any carnivorous composition.
He came up with an appetizer featuring heirloom tomato crudo; a cauliflower cream soup; gully wash ice intermezzo; roasted vegetable ragu pasta entrée; and a sweet papaya bowl that is filled with aphrodisiacs and feel good foods.
But to do it up right, he encourages people to also consider doing a welcome rosemary citrus oshibori (a fancy name for hot towel) to the evening’s offerings, which he said would be the perfect welcome for your valentine and set the tone.
Hall – who currently lives in Kapolei, Hawaii, where he serves as executive chef of La Hiki at the Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina – says the techniques for his Valentine’s Day creations will inspire the foodie and have others considering taking the full plunge into a plant-based lifestyle. And whether you’re a meat lover like Hall, or a full-fledged vegan practitioner, he said his recipes will appeal to all.
His one suggestion to anyone following a recipe is to always make the recipe their own and to use a recipe as a set of rules to guide them through it.
If attempting Hall’s recipes this Valentine’s Day, you will need to purchase edible flowers, have a powerful blender, visit a neighborhood farm and use quality organic ingredients as there’s not the usual high-fat butters and cream to hide behind. And you will have to channel your inner chef to make this work.
“I never said this would be easy, so make sure your date is worth [the effort],” said Hall. He also says his vegan meal may probably be a little more expensive to pull off, but will be worth it in the end.
• Print an actual menu. Be creative. (If there ever was a night to go all out, this is it.)
• Heirloom tomatoes are quite perishable because of their sugar content, but necessary for this recipe. Check Solomon’s Fresh Market they usually carry these or ask them to bring some in. If you can, use different varieties of heirloom tomato for a better presentation. I use both beefsteak and cherry heirlooms.
• Take all your spices and herbs and throw them away. Yes, I said it! Vegan food depends on high quality fresh ingredients. If you had any of your spices for more than a month, they’re done – start fresh.
• Wash all your vegetables. This is often a forgotten step, but definitely necessary.
• When blending hot ingredients for soups, purees, etc. do not seal with the lid. The steam will literally cause your blender to explode. Use a towel and blend with the top slightly open.
A welcome Rosemary Citrus Oshibori
Appetizer: Heirloom Tomato Crudo
Soup: Cauliflower Cream
Intermezzo: Gully Wash Ice
Entrée: Roasted Vegetable Ragù Pasta
Sweet: Sweet Papaya Bowl, (filled with aphrodisiacs and feel good foods)
Heirloom tomato crudo
The best way to describe this dish is a very fancy, “no-conch, conch salad”. For this recipe you will need a blender and a coffee filter. This recipe is super simple and should be assembled last minute. The green oil is the most “technical” part of this recipe; so, you may want to make it days ahead.
3 varietal colored and types of heirloom tomatoes
Juice from 1 orange
Juice from 1 lime
Juice from 1 lemon
1 red onion, sliced thin
1 bird pepper, sliced thin
Micro cilantro (Green Leaf Farms)
Edible flowers (Green Leaf Farms)
Kosher or sea salt, to taste
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 bunch of parsley
1/2 cup vegetable oil
To make the green oil: Bring a pot of distilled water to boil. Have a bowl of iced water nearby. Submerge the parsley in the boiling water, count to five, remove parsley and immediately plunge into the ice bath. Remove parsley and squeeze dry in a paper napkin or clean kitchen rag. In a high-powered blender, blitz until the mix almost becomes a puree. Remove and strain over a cup topped with a coffee filter.
Take all the citrus and juice them separately. Then combine them depending on your personal preference. I like a very acidic “sharp” conch salad and that holds true here.
To your citrus blend, add 1/2 the onions, your desired amount of bird pepper, the ginger salt and pepper to taste.
To assemble: Slice the tomatoes and add to a wide-rimmed, fancy bowl. Spoon some of the citrus liquid over the tomatoes, add a few drops of your green oil, thin onions, edible flowers and micro greens.
Cauliflower cream-less soup
1 whole cauliflower
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
A few splashes of Tabasco
Salt and pepper to taste
Green oil (from Heirloom tomato crudo recipe)
Poached baby vegetables, optional garnish
Bring a pot of water to a fierce boil. Salt the water. Cut the cauliflower loosely to fit in the pot. Save a few florets for garnish.
Cook until a little more than fork tender; about 8 minutes. (Do not let the cauliflower cool, blend while it’s still hot to make it extremely smooth.) Use some of the cooking liquid to get it going. Add the coconut milk, salt and pepper and then finish by streaming in the olive oil. If you like a thinner soup simply add more of the cooking liquid.
To serve: Assemble the leftover cauliflower shaved thin, the coconut flakes, some edible flowers and a few drops of the green oil in a soup bowl. Add the soup to a sauce-pourer and add to the bowl in front of your guest.
Gully Wash Ice
Nearly all “fancy” restaurants serve a palette cleanser or intermezzo before the entree. This one literally is the easiest to do. For this recipe you will need a whisk.
2 cups of fresh coconut water
Juice of 1/2 a lime
Add the coconut water and lime juice to a square oven pan. Place the pan someplace even in your freezer. Every five to ten minutes simply whisk it to form ice crystals. This is the process of making a granita. This will take about 1 to 2 hours depending on your type of freezer. It should look like snow cone ice at the end. It is so simple to make.
Scoop into a nice bowl or cup, garnish with flowers and serve.
Chef’s trick: Serve it in the coconut shell that you got the liquid from.
Roasted vegetable ragu pasta
By now I’m sure everyone knows I think we should all know how to make a simple bowl of pasta, but for Valentine’s we are kicking up a notch and making it sexy!
2 portions of your favorite dried pasta. (I use Barilla spaghetti, cooked as directed on the box always works.)
A loose handful of fresh basil, chopped
A loose handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
¼ onion, small diced
½ eggplant, diced
½ zucchini, diced
½ button mushrooms, diced
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
1 cup premium organic, cold pressed EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil), plus a splash for the pasta
2 tsps. tomato paste
1 cup tomato puree
1 cup of red wine (I hope you will use some of what you are already drinking.)
Kosher salt and cracked pepper to taste
In a baking pan add the diced vegetables. Season liberally and add ¼ cup of EVOO; toss. Roast at 375°F for about 12 minutes. Turn the vegetables occasionally so that they brown evenly.
In a heavy saucepan add ¼ cup of EVOO, toast the garlic then add the tomato paste and tomato puree. Add the roasted vegetables and wine and simmer for 1 hour. Just before serving add ¾ of the chopped parsley and basil and ¼ of the EVOO for a vibrant finish to the sauce.
In a cold skillet add the remaining EVOO and the breadcrumbs. Season and toast slowly. Drain the breadcrumbs and reserve.
Prepare the pasta as directed and strain.
In a bowl add the remaining chopped parsley and basil and a splash of the EVOO. Spoon the sauce liberally over, and top with the crispy breadcrumbs. Add some edible flowers and micro greens and serve.
Chef’s tip to plate your pasta like a pro: Ever wondered how chefs make simple food look so amazing. Add your al dente pasta to a bowl and toss with EVOO, fresh chopped parsley, basil, salt and pepper. To plate take a carving fork, a service tong or a large cooking spoon, (the fork is easiest) and twirl the pasta around it. Then slide the end of the pasta roll onto the plate. Finally layer the sauce on top and garnish liberally with basil and savory breadcrumbs.
This simple but amazing dessert is truly one of my favorites. Its elegant, refreshing, simple to make and a great close to the night.
1 firm but ripe BAMSI papaya
2 scoops of coconut or pineapple sorbet
1 sweet sugar banana
2 fresh strawberries, sliced
2 tbsps Coco nibs
Edible flowers for garnish
4 blueberries, sliced
2 tsps coconut chips
2 tsps salted nuts
2 tsps local honeycombs
To assemble, chill the papaya at least 1 hour ahead. Wash and cut into half. Scoop out the seeds and discard. Just before service add a scoop of your premium sorbet then assemble artistically by simply spooning the ingredients as you wish.
Citrus Rosemary Oshibori
Oshibori is a fancy name for that cold or warm towel you get at high-end hotels or restaurants to wipe up or cool down. Yes, we are showing off!
2 soft white face towels
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 section of fresh lime
1 cup hot distilled water
A few drops of rosemary oil, optional
In a large bowl add the hot water, 1 twig of rosemary, juice of the lime, rosemary oil and steep for 5 minutes.
Add the towel and then wring almost dry. Roll up nicely, add the last twig and tie together with the twine.
To serve, you can microwave towels for 60 seconds or you can freeze an hour ahead. It all depends on the experience you want to give.