The menu is one Kayne created with chef Lori Stern, who incorporated edible flowers like bachelor button from her Santa Barbara garden. Not only do they add color, “they also have medicinal benefits,” says Stern. (Bachelor button, aka cornflower, can be made into a tea to help with fever, among other uses.)
Guests like gluten- and dairy-free Kelly Sawyer Patricof, co-president of the nonprofit baby2baby, and pescatarian Molly Sims and her carnivorous husband, Netflix’s original films head Scott Stuber, mingle over eggplant “meatballs” spiced with flowering-plant sumac in a sauce made from cashews and saag, or spinach. The sauteed, baked and deep-fried “meatballs” get their full-bodied texture from ground flaxseeds, while the saag sauce derives richness from a cream that starts with soaked and blended cashews. To plate, Kayne spreads the saag sauce onto a large platter, drizzling cilantro cashew sauce and placing the fried eggplant meatballs on top, then garnishing with nasturtium flowers. Samosas filled with pink beets, peas, purple cauliflower and potatoes seasoned with turmeric are also served.
The menu is ideal for Sims, who stopped eating red meat, dairy and gluten in January. “It’s changed my life,” says the actress. “I can eat more and have more energy than ever before.” Cutting out red meat except for once or twice a year also has been a game-changer for Jesse Ehrman, Warner Bros. executive vp production, whose wife, makeup artist Katie Fine, is gluten-free. “I became a pescatarian four years ago,” Ehrman says. “I noticed that I was having an animal protein with almost every meal.”
To satisfy current and former meat eaters, Kayne tries “to make sure there is something more substantial like cauliflower steak or mushrooms — or in this case, the jackfruit tikka masala” as a main course. The designer relies on meat-mimicking jackfruit, flavored with tomatoes and a garam masala spice blend cooked in a large pot on the stove, to add an element of heartiness to the meal. “I think if you have lots of different veggies with delicious flavors and a starch or carb, everyone leaves satisfied, even if you’re used to eating meat,” she says. “People always leave feeling lighter but like they indulged.”
JACKFRUIT TIKKA MASALA
1 can jackfruit, drained, rinsed and strained; 2 tablespoons olive oil; 1 teaspoon kosher salt; 1 large onion, finely chopped; 2 garlic cloves, minced; 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced; 2 tablespoons garam masala spice blend; 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder; 1 teaspoon organic coconut sugar; 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper; 1 teaspoon organic tomato paste; 1 28-ounce can organic whole plum tomatoes. Optional garnish: lots of fresh cilantro leaves, flowers and 1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds
In a large enameled dutch oven or pot, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil until simmering. Add the onion, salt, garlic and ginger and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender and golden, about 6-8 minutes. Add the garam masala, chili powder, tomato paste and cayenne pepper and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the coconut sugar and tomatoes with their juices, breaking up the whole tomatoes as your pour into the pot. Season with salt and pepper.
Lower the heat to a simmer and partially cover the pot, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes. Break up the jackfruit into shreds and put into the pot of simmering sauce, keeping the pot partially covered, for an additional 10-20 minutes or until the jackfruit is completely combined and the sauce starts to thicken. If at any point the sauce looks too thick, add several tablespoons of filtered water. When the sauce has reduced and thickened just slightly, it is ready to serve. Pour into a serving bowl and sprinkle on the toasted sliced almonds, cilantro leaves and flowers.
EGGPLANT “MEATBALLS” IN SPINACH CASHEW SAAG SAUCE
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds; 1/4 cup warm water; 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided; 1 medium onion, diced; 3 garlic cloves, minced; 1 medium Italian eggplant (about 1 lb.), peeled and very finely diced; 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped; 1/4 cup nutritional yeast; 1 cup almond flour; 1 teaspoon cumin; 1 teaspoon coriander; 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt; 3 cups grapeseed oil for frying
First make the flax egg by whisking the flax seeds and warm water together in a small bowl, allowing the mixture to sit for at least 10 minutes until thick. While the flax egg is thickening, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in skillet. Add the onion and salt and saute on medium heat until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin and coriander and continue to saute until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Add the eggplant and continue to cook for an additional 10-15 minutes, flipping occasionally, or until the eggplant is soft and browned in spots. Allow to cool completely.
Place the eggplant mixture into a large mixing bowl, along with the flax mixture, and stir in all remaining ingredients. Mix well (hands work great here), and then shape the mixture into 1-inch balls (about 20 of them).
Arrange the meatballs on the baking sheet and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
When the meatballs are cold, pour your oil into a large pan with higher than 4-inch sides, so that the oil is about 2 inches high. Heat the oil on high until it is almost smoking. Turn down the heat to medium to keep that temperature constant. Carefully put the meatballs into the oil, do not overcrowd. Move them around in the hot oil until they are slightly brown on all sides. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel-lined plate. Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to fry the meatballs in batches. Once the meatballs are all fried, set aside.
1.5 cups raw cashew pieces; 2 cups filtered boiling water; 6 cups fresh spinach, washed; 2 cups dinosaur kale, washed and thinly sliced; 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, leaves removed from stems; 1 small onion, chopped; 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced; 3 garlic cloves, minced; 2 tablespoons olive oil; 1/2 cup vegetable broth or filtered water; 1 tablespoon lemon juice; 1 teaspoon cumin; 1/2 teaspoon salt
First make the cashew cream. Put the 1.5 cups cashews in a large, wide-mouth mason jar and pour in the 2 cups boiling water. Let sit for at least 1 hour or overnight. Once the cashews are soaked and soft, pour off 1 cup of the liquid and blend until the cashew cream is the same thickness as yogurt, adding more water if necessary, and set aside.
Pour the olive oil into a deep saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions and salt and saute for several minutes, adding the ginger, garlic and cumin, sauteing until fragrant. Put the spinach, kale and vegetable broth or water into the pan and turn down the heat to medium low, cover and let the greens steam, checking every couple of minutes until the greens are sufficiently wilted. Set aside and let cool completely.
Take your cashew mixture and reserve 1/4 cup in a separate mason jar. Using a handheld blender, blend the reserved 1/4 cup cashew cream with 1/3 cup cilantro and a pinch of salt, adding a few tablespoons of water so the consistency is that of a loose smoothie. This lighter green sauce will be used to drip onto the plated eggplant meatballs in saag.
Combine the remaining cashew cream with the spinach, kale and onion mixture and add the lemon juice. Using a handheld blender, blend completely until the consistency is like a sauce, adding tablespoons of water as necessary.
Spread the saag sauce onto a large platter and drizzle the light green cilantro cashew sauce in an artful way. Place the fried eggplant meatballs spaced apart onto the saag sauce and decorate with nasturtium flowers.