Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Simple Summer Salad. A Complicated Night Out.

This morning I was greeted with a big bag of red and orange tomatoes fresh from my friend Chris-Anna's garden. I was attempting to fall back asleep at around eleven a.m., after having gotten up at seven, and our doorbell rang. It was Chris' son with a bag of loot.

Why was I trying to fall back asleep at eleven? Well, Chris and her husband and my husband and I were out late (for me) last night at a Chef's Gala benefit for a very worthy cause, Autism Speaks, so I was feeling rather wasted this morning.

But this bag of tomatoes was screaming to be used right away, and I remembered that I had made a very simple tomato salad years ago that we had loved. A few months ago that same salad came into my radar again when the photograph of said salad was labeled "The Most Pinned Photograph on Pinterest" or something like that. There's just something about the beauty and simplicity of this simple salad. And I guess I'm not the only one who thinks so!

But back to the Autism Speaks benefit. This Chef's Gala-type benefit is not the first of it's kind that I have ever attended. But as my eating tastes have changed over the years, my experience at these events has also dramatically changed. I usually eat something before we go, because the lack of Vegan options is astounding. And if there are any vegetables to be found,  you can just forget about getting any that are not drowning in oil.

This particular event is headed up by my great friend Shari Goldberg and Chef Michael Symon. My printing company, Luscious Verde, has helped out with the event for the past few years, providing printing services for the invitations, programs and other stuff. 

Chef Symon happens to be a great friend of Autism Speaks, I've heard it's because his best friend's child has Autism. I'm not going to go into detail about my thoughts on Michael Symon's food, mostly because he's a gem of a hometown boy and also because he tells me that he often wears the Eat More Kale shirt that I sent to him a few years ago.

I will however go into detail about my thoughts on Chef Brandt Evans. He's the chef owner of a Cleveland restaurant called Pura Vida, which I knew had a full Vegan menu along side a full standard menu. Chef Evans had the first station when we walked into the doors at the event and immediately I asked him if he had any Vegan food. He said that he had considered it, but went with a tuna belly taco instead.

And then something amazing happened. Chef Evans asked his head chef to run and get me some vegan options. It just so happened that the benefit was located at the address right next to his restaurant, Pura Vida.

What they came back with was just so kind. A full Vegan tasting plate of African Peanut Stew, Caramelized Edamame and some kind of delicious ravioli. My friends and I were so impressed that we bid on a dinner for four at his restaurant and won. I'm totally looking forward to redeeming our prize. I have been aching to go to Pura Vida ever since I had discovered their extensive vegan offerings.

But wait, there's more! Chef Jonathon Sawyer, of The Greenhouse Tavern and Noodlecat, actually served a 100% Vegan dish as his tasting. Holy cow. This was a first for me. Plus, it was totally delicious. I kinda wish I had a plate of this right now as I am writing this blog posting.

Unfortunately, this photography just does not do this Asian Noodle dish justice. It was full of edible flowers and purslane that Chef Sawyer forages himself. Outstanding!

And if all of this wasn't enough, there was my encounter with my new boyfriend, Rocco Whalen, chef owner of Fahrenheit.

You see, I started stalking Mr. Whalen after I saw him on a short run television show called Fat Chef. I was so taken by his story when I saw it that I asked him to be my Facebook friend and started up a short lived conversation about the benefits of no-oil Vegan food. I even offered to have him and his wife over to our house for dinner, an invitation which he ignored, but I have since forgiven him.

A few weeks ago a posting popped up of Rocco's on Facebook. Something about a food truck that he owns being parked at Brown's training camp. Something glorifying the over consumption of fatty animal products. The name of the food truck, ShortRib1, kinda says it all. Anyway, I took the opportunity to ask him publicly about the possibility of glorifying vegetables instead, and it started a new conversation going. It ended with Chef Whalen promising to bring me some Vegan food on the night of the Autism Speaks benefit.

A man named Rocco who cooks delicious Vegan food for me? I think that makes him my new boyfriend, yes?

So why are these events so complicated for me? Oh, the glorification of meat and cheese and oil. But I still have a ton of fun, socializing with friends and hunting for the scraps of Vegan food that I can uncover at the event (this one turned out so differently, there's hope for the future!). Like I said, it's complicated!

But this salad? NOT complicated.

HGK's Tomato, Cucumber and Red Onion Salad
serves 6

3 cups halved yellow and red cherry or grape tomatoes
3 cups 1/4" sliced Persian cucumbers (or other cucumber medium diced, peeled first if necessary)
1 cup thinly sliced red onion, 1-1 1/2" lengths
2 Tbsp dried parley flakes
3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
salt (or not) and pepper to taste

Place all ingredients into a bowl and toss to combine. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator until serving.

There's something about these Chef's Galas that really rubs me the wrong way. On the one hand, they sure are fun, especially for someone as enthralled by people who are as passionate about food as I am. Plus, they are always for a good cause, of course, but no one seems to care about the food that's being served. It's not benefiting the humans that are eating it, and it's certainly not benefiting the animals that are suffering for it. So why do I even attend? I don't know, I'm really torn. 

The obvious answer is that these events only happen once in a while. I mean, people are not eating like this all the time--at least I hope they're not! The most ironic of all of these events locally is the one that benefits a large hospital and cancer center, yet the whole event centers around the glorification of disease promoting food. It's crazy! 

What do you do in these types of situations? To leave a comment/view the comments, please click on the title of this post (the orange text above).

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