Lalé Shafaghi, with her mischievous grin and searing, dark eyes, is magnetic and (I’ll be honest) a little intimidating. Her name means tulip of the sunset in Farsi, and she came to California via London and Tehran. Intrigued? I was, from day one. A slow-foods insider, Lalé oversees the Stonehouse California Olive Oil shop in San Francisco’s historic Ferry Building Marketplace. It’s a year-round farmer’s market where international travelers and locals alike convene to procure an astonishing array of local, sustainable, seasonable goods. Thanks to Lalé, my kitchen is never without a bottle—or three—of Stonehouse’s scrumptious olive oil varietals. The other evening, it was my pleasure and honor to dine at her charming, hilltop house in San Francisco.
Last week, my housemate and I hosted a dinner for the glorious Ms. Wick—it was my first-ever time to prepare a completely-vegan meal. In my kitchen, instead of traditional salt and pepper, I set the table with small jars of red chile flakes, Sel Gris (a gray, French sea-salt that is very tasty and very healthy), and raw pistachio bits. For beverages, I served chilled water with lime, a nice red wine, and champagne.
The simple salad included dark lettuce greens like spinach and arugula, with slivers of cucumber and garnished with dill. I dressed the salad with Persian Lime Extra-Virgin Olive Oil and Napa Rosé Wine Vinegar, both from Stonehouse.
For the main course, I cooked a porcini-mushroom rice with vegetables. In my store’s Estate Blend Extra-Virgin Olive Oil—which is made from mostly black olives, giving it a rich, buttery taste—I gently fried the uncooked rice, until the oil saturated the grain. Then, I added the water and porcini bouillon. No more salt was needed for the preparation of the entrée, as the broth was salty enough.
On to the veggies. In grapeseed oil, I caramelized the purple spring-onions and slow-cooked purple carrots (yes, purple!) from Heirloom Organics Farm in the Hollister area. I also quartered some very green Brussels sprouts, from Iacopi Farms in Half Moon Bay, which I added toward the end. (Louie Iacopi sells 50-percent of his produce to restaurants in the Bay Area and has the BEST artichokes around.) To the veggies, I added saffron straight from Iran and also Lisbon Lemon Extra-Virgin Olive Oil from Stonehouse.
As a side dish, I steamed elephant kale, also from Heirloom Organics. (Can you tell that they’re one of my absolute-favorite farms?) I washed the kale thoroughly, in very warm water, and steamed it on very, very low-heat for two hours.
The dessert was a vanilla soy ice cream with raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries with a teensy drizzle of Blood Orange Extra Virgin Olive Oil and a healthy pinch of sel gris.
All of it was very, very good.