It happens a lot, often after one of our signature ‘Dinner-on-the-Deck’ extravaganzas. As the wine flows and the artful bounty of whole foods slowly disappears, one of our guests at Chef’s House, my little guest house on St. Thomas, will take a deep breath in, turn to me and say, “You know…this has always been my dream… to live on an island… and open a Bed & Breakfast…”
Often, they’re voice trails off as they soak-in the night. Trying to hold on to this moment, right there in their consciousness, forever. From the lush valley below, katydids provide the backbeat and nightbirds sing soprano in Mother Nature’s evening concerto. Overhead, in the big sky, stars play hide-and-seek with the clouds and the moonlight turns the ocean a very true blue. In these modern times, this much peace can be overwhelming.
“Steve,” they say with pauses for extra emphasis, “You… are living… the life!”
And then they ask, “Have you always wanted to do this? Open a B&B?” And I have to tell the truth. “No… I always wanted to win a Pulitzer.”
But for me, there is a logical connection between my former life (25-year journalism vet) and my current one (innkeeper). Both careers afford me the opportunity to meet all kinds of people. And because I have never met anyone I couldn’t learn a lesson from, I do enjoy a steady diet of new faces.
Some guests tell me that I am lucky. But my only luck was being open to change and letting that change happen organically, like a flower moving towards the light. I encourage them to create their own luck… find their own path towards “living the life.” The encouragement comes in different forms, including some that are edible. Yes, good food will encourage you!
I have witnessed amazing transformations in people who have stayed here for a week or two. Breathing clean air, drinking pure water, swimming in the sea and soaking in the sunshine (which has gotten a bad name of late… but that’s another blog) has a noticeable, nearly immediate, effect on a stressed-out body. Adding exceptionally prepared, seasonally fresh, whole foods to the mix is our magic touch.
Here’s my recipe for everybody’s comfort food: lasagna, vegan style. Made with fresh pumpkin, tempeh “sausage” and homemade pasta, it’s time consuming but not difficult to prepare. But if you’re snowed in anyway, with a little effort, you can transform a gloomy winter weekend into a celebration. Think of it an edible inspiration for anyone seeking to “live the life.”
1-1/2 cups semolina flour
1 cup unbleached white flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 to 1 cup water
1-tablespoon organic olive oil
Combine flours and salt in a bowl. Stir in 1/2-cup water and oil. Mix by hand (or dough-hook armed mixer) adding one tablespoon of water at a time until you have the consistency of moderately stiff dough. Knead 6-8 minutes by hand or 2 minutes by machine. Cover dough with towel and let rest for 20 minutes. Cut into 4 pieces, shape with hands and roll into thin sheets. I use a pro-quality, hand-cranked pasta roller… love it!
VEAGAN SAUAGE FILLING
16 oz. tempeh
1 tablespoon tamari (or Braggs)
2-4 cloves garlic
4 tablespoons fresh thyme (or1-tablespon dried… if you must!)
Organic olive oil
Cut tempeh into cubes. Heat oil in pan and brown over high flame, turning to keep from sticking. Add oil as needed. When tempeh begins to brown, sprinkle tamari and stir to coat. Use the back of a spoon to crumble the tempeh. Lower flame, add onions and when wilted, the garlic. Add water and herbs, cover and cook for five minutes, ‘crumble’ again, add water and/or oil as needed, and cook until tender.
2 cups fresh pumpkin, cubed
¼ cup sliced shallots
1-cup soft tofu
½ teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp sea salt
Organic olive oil
Sauté pumpkin over medium flame in oil, stirring. Add shallots and cook a few minutes until just tender. Add water, stir and cover. Cook until very tender. Crumble tofu in bowl, mix in pumpkin, nutmeg, salt and, for smoother consistency (if you wish) a little olive oil.LASAGNA…AT LAST!
Lightly oil your pan. Line the bottom with sliced fresh Roma tomatoes and a layer of fresh pasta. There is no need to boil it first. Now alternate your layers with tempeh and pumpkin, with a layer of fresh pasta between each. Cover the top with pasta and a second layer of fresh Romas. Drizzle with olive oil and dot with shaved garlic. Bake @ 375° about 45 minutes, until hot and bubbly throughout.