Under the direction of celebrated chef  Jose Andres, Zaytinya in Washington, DC, is a vibrant gourmet hot spot (with recent acclaim due to former chef Mike Isabella's appearances on Top Chef.)

The tapas-style menu offers a broad variety of mezze options inspired by Turkish, Greek and Lebanese cuisines (The atypical cocktails are similarly inspired...and quite good.) Since opening in 2003, Zaytinya it has secured it's place as a Top DC culinary destination, and it's long been on my go-to list when I come to town.

As a vegan, you need to clarify with the waitstaff that the veggie dishes don't have any dairy or chicken stock (the bread is a no-no) but they are most helpful.  Some great choices are the Ottoman-style roasted eggplant stuffed with onions and tomatoes, the candy cane and golden beet salad with fennel, cress and walnuts, and the sauteed mushrooms with dates and toasted almonds.  I just had the piyaz for the first time this week and I loved it.  It's a hearty, savory dish of warm giant beans cooked with garlic, kale and oven roasted tomato ~ almost like a vegan stew.

My "usual" is the roasted cauliflower with sultans, caper berries and pine nuts, and now, thanks to Zaytinya, you and I can both enjoy it without needing to travel!  It's a great dish for a cold night, and plates beautifully for entertaining guests.

Here's how to make it ~ just in time for new year's eve!

Blanch cauliflower (just until fork tender) and shock in an ice bath to stop the cooking.
Roast caulifloer in heated pan until they start to carmelize.  Add lemon juice and oil.

Take 1/3 of the cauliflower and puree with pinenuts (soak them in water to soften first.) 
Drizzle the puree onto a dish and place the rest of the roasted cauliflower on top while still warm.  Garnish with capers, sultans (golden raisins), pinenuts and dill (and dehydrated caper berries if you can find them.)

Wishing you a healthy and happy 2011!

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Veg and the City