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Food Stuff 

VOGUE VEGGIES

When Amy Jean Thompson makes a vegetable tray, she doesn’t rely on the usual carrots, broccoli and celery. Thompson, a vegetarian who owns and runs Creative Catering in Huntington Woods, goes way beyond basic veggies; her trays push the veggie experience to a new level.

Thompson, who is often the first to introduce her clients to some of the voguest veggies, says the veggies of the millennium include mushrooms, potatoes and anything "baby."

Forget the old standbys, Thompson suggests. If your menu calls for a salad, don’t just go with iceberg lettuce, a few tomatoes and some croutons. Thompson suggests a salad composed of baby greens such as endive, arugula, radicchio, escarole, watercress and red oak leaf – a mixture sometimes called "mesclun," and now available at most good grocery stores.

Thompson serves veggies both raw and cooked – her current favorite creation consists of red and white new and baby potatoes, mixed mushrooms, parsnips, turnips and various squashes; roasted with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. It is always the first dish to go on the buffet.

Another favorite is the steamed baby vegetables. You’ve seen them – those bizarre miniature versions of the real thing at stores such as Westborn Market and Holiday Market. Thompson combines green pattypans and golden scallop pattypans, an assortment of zucchinis, including the pale, creamy Lebanese zucchini, and joins them with baby carrots, green beans and even baby artichokes with fresh herbs she grows year-round. The baby artichoke is the best, because the "choke" part in the middle didn’t develop and is extremely tasty. "Baby vegetables are cool to look at and delicious at the same time," Thompson says.

A mushroom fanatic, Thompson whips up a dish of six different mushrooms with exotic names including Enili, Tortini and Remini. "I like using vegetables no one has ever seen or heard of before," she says, but her favorite mushroom dish uses the always-popular portabella mushroom baked with goat cheese. "People are afraid of goat cheese for some reason," she says, "until they try it, of course."

Thanks to her parents (and everyone else on the carb-free diet), her newest discovery is sweet potatoes. Because the orange potatoes have no starch, they are allowable on a diet when other potatoes are considered taboo. She adds asiago cheese or goat cheese to her twice-baked sweet potatoes or will add roasted sweet potatoes to her baby green salad. While her customers are usually receptive to her vegetarian creations, she wishes people would be more comfortable with the eggplant. "It really loses its flavor with breadcrumbs," she maintains, referring to the vegetables’ most favored method of serving. Thompson roasts her baby eggplant (otherwise known as Asian eggplant) with red bell peppers and makes a puree out of it which she tosses on top of her vegetarian chili. Or, she will cube it and use it in a stir fry. Whatever vegetable Thompson makes, the biggest "secret," she maintains, is balsamic vinegar and olive oil. She says that combination works with everything.

Creative Catering and Amy Jean Thompson can be reached at 248-398-2629

TREATS

Cooking temps? Not exactly, but Kelly Services now has a cookbook, entitled Kelly Classics. A compilation of dozens of new and exciting recipes, the $15 book’s proceeds benefit HAVEN and Forgotten Harvest. Order your copy by calling Mariana Craft at 248-244-5561. ... Check out the new Whole Foods Market in West Bloomfield. Opening on Thursday, Feb. 3, it has 35,000 square feet of healthy treats, and is located in the Gateway Shopping Center on Orchard Lake Road at 14 Mile Road.

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