A quick setup for an existing space, but designing a new menu and testing it, then going on with it. Sprouts came to life in less than a week and it fully was operational.
Twenty three dinners and six brunches of solely vegan food. The menu is designed to fill you up on nutrients rather than bread (if you came hungry and could not resist nibbling on the delicious bread, I lift the responsibility off my back) with dishes that focus on pulses, grains, beans, and of course vegetables. Cooking vegan is a lot harder than vegetarian cooking or cooking with meats. You need to bring up the flavor with cooking techniques and spice blends, and the main ingredients themselves. It is challenging, and i think I played the challenge well.
Cooking for a day or three is one thing and managing the whole space while you’re preparing the daily menu, sourcing the ingredients and preparing them, cooking them and then setting up the dinner space and serving the food is a whole different thing. A guest chef would get his food, lay it out, serve it and leave. A resident chef and a manager (and that’s one person) has to keep an eye on everything. It is a totally different experience.
I cannot say that this experience has changed my mind completely and convinced me of having a restaurant of my own, but it did help me figure out how I’d like to have things going and how to run it in case it were to happen. I am sleeping less of an ignorant with each passing day.
If you are in Beirut and you have tried the food at Sprouts, I am glad you liked it. If you are in Beirut and you haven’t tried it yet, SHAME on you!!! Even if you are not vegan nor vegetarian, I am sure you would enjoy the dinner. Some of my favorite responses to the whole experience were:
the food has a really good earthly flavor to it
it’s been a while since I sat down and took the time to enjoy a good meal
the food presented is filling yet you don’t feel heavy afterwards
During this month, we’ve had two excellent guest chefs, Lamia and Sandra. Both vegans and prepared a really delicious menu on two separate weekends. This weekend, my mom (non-vegan) will be cooking a brunch menu as an ode to the original owner of the shop, Michel, who used to serve authentic fool & hummus. The brunch will be drizzled with Palestinian touches, reminiscent of last year’s very successful Palestinian brunch that my mom and I cooked and served on exactly the same day (Thank you Facebook memories)
I hope to see you this weekend, and maybe for dinners some time to try the amazing soups I am cooking, and falling in love with, and the great starters and main dishes people have been loving. As for now, I will leave you with an easy vegan dish I cooked a couple of days ago and loved. Try it yourself!
Jeweled Quinoa Stuffed Vegetables
- 4 medium tomatoes (stems on for better presentation0
- 4 small bell peppers (any color you like)
- 1 cup quinoa (experiment with other grains)
- 1 cup chickpeas (or less if you prefer)
- handful of almonds, pistachios, raisins, dried apricots, dried cranberries (adjust to your own liking)
- vegetable stock (homemade, preferable)
- Olive oil
- salt and pepper
- In a small pot, heat a splash of olive oil and add the quinoa (I do not wash or soak it. I have never, to date, had any incident of getting bitter tasting grains). Toss the grains until they starting giving out a toasty scent. Adjust the heat to avoid burning the grains. Add half a teaspoon of salt and stir well. Pour in around 2 cups of stock or water to cover the quinoa. Listen to the splash and sizzle then lower the heat, cover, and keep for 15-20 minutes until puffed. Fluff with a fork and leave to one side
- In the meantime, wash and dry the vegetable. Chop the nuts and dried fruits and add to the cooked quinoa with the drained chickpeas
- To empty the tomatoes, place the tomato on its side and slice off at where the curve of the tomato begins. This should leave you with a good tomato lid. Use a spoon to break the joints of the tomato heart and scoop it out. You can collect the hearts and use for delicious tomato soup. Repeat coring the rest of the tomatoes but keep each one with its matching lid and arrange in a baking tray
- For the peppers, it is a similar process. Set the pepper on one side, slice off the top keeping in mind it should go low enough to keep the stem attached. Slice a bit of the bottom as well to flatten it so that it would stand upright. Using your fingers, pull out the heart and and use a spoon to scoop out the white insides and the seeds. Arrange on the baking tray with the tomatoes
- Divide the filling between the tomatoes and peppers. Put their lids back on and bake in a pre-heated 170ºc oven for 30-40 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Serve with a nice fresh salad on the side