Menu of the Week: Welcome to My New Year’s Day Open House

Frank Melanson, my design adviser (and sous chef for the weekend), prepares red potatoes for roasting.


Many years ago I noticed that those of us who have little-to-no interest in football didn’t have much to do on New Year’s Day. That realization inspired me to invite friends over for an open house, and I’ve been doing it annually ever since.  It being my open house, it’s very much centered on food. Sometimes I do an ethnic theme, sometimes an assortment of dishes I’ve enjoyed making during the year, and sometimes my friends are guinea pigs for culinary experimentation.  Thirty to forty people drop in to my cozy abode during the afternoon, and it is the only large-scale entertaining I do at home all year. In order not to be stressed, I like to plan the menu a week to ten days ahead, to do the shopping two days ahead, and to do nearly all the prep and cooking a day ahead. I began by using paper and plastic, but I’ve since acquired all the plates, silver, glasses and napkins I need, so nothing gets thrown away. As my friends are an eclectic group, I have vegetarian and vegan dishes, and usually at least one involving fish or fowl. When I’m in the middle of a mountain of prep, I typically wonder if it is worth all the work, but later, seeing so many people I love gathered in my home, I just feel happy.  And the warm, energetic afterglow lingers on for hours after the final guest has departed.  As for the work,  some good friend always steps forward to pitch in.  So, to all those who’ve helped, and to all those who’ve attended my open houses, I say a deep “thank you.”  Menus for my 2011 and 2010 open houses and a recipe for pumpkin and sesame seed crunch bars appear after the jump…


Pumpkin and Sesame Seed Crunch Bars (wheat and gluten free), recipe after the jump.



(Yields a 9-inch square pan, 16-20 bars)

3 cups toasted pumpkin seeds

1 cup toasted sesame seeds

1/4 cup flax seeds

1/2 teaspoon umeboshi vinegar

tiny pinch of salt

1 1/2 cups brown rice crisps cereal

1 tablespoon Earth Balance, or good quality oil

2/3 cup brown rice syrup

1/4 cup maple syrup

1. Lightly oil a 9-inch square or similar size baking pan

2. Measure 1 cup pumpkin seeds, 1/2 cup sesame seeds, the flax seeds and the salt and umeboshi vineagar into the bowl of your food processor.  Process until you have a coarse meal.

3. In a mixing bowl, combine this meal with the brown rice crisps, and the remaining pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds.  Mix well.

4. Heat the Earth Balance or oil in a small sauce pan until it is hot and bubbly, add the rice syrup and maple syrup and stir together. Heat until this is also hot and bubbly.

5. Pour the hot syrup mixture into the pumpkin seed mixture and stir well until the seed mixture is evenly coated with the syrup mixture.

6. Quickly pour this into your oiled pan.  Oil your hands and lightly press into place, so the bars will be even and smooth.

7. Chill before cutting into 16-20 small bars.


Menu–New Year’s Day 2011

Wild Alaskan Steelhead Salmon Salad, with Homemade Mayonnaise

Seitan and Red Potatoes with Shiitake Mushroom Gravy

Roasted Red Kuri Squash

Ginger and Garlic Stir Fried Long Beans

Belgium Endive Stuffed with Cauliflower Salad

Millet-Potato Croquettes

Mixed Green Salad

Bread Basket

Gingerbread Loaf with Raisins, Cranberries and Apricots and with Vegan Cream Cheese

Pumpkin and Sesame Seed Crunch Bars


Menu–New Year’s Day 2010

Savory Bread Pudding with Roasted Mushrooms and Sun Dried Tomatoes

Roasted Cauliflower “Chicken Salad”

Wild Rice Salad w/ Dried Cranberries, Pecans and Celery

Black-eyed Pea Salad w/ BBQ Seitan and Collards

Glazed Sweet Potato Spears

Mixed Green Salad w/ Pomegranates, Persimmons and Pears

Cheese Board, Bread, Crackers

Cookies: Raspberry Gems, Chocolate-Peanut Butter-Crispy Balls, Pecan Tuiles, Persimmon Bars, Bob’s German Christmas Cookies

7 responses

    • Holly, I’m taking today off, but in a day or two I will post links to those recipes already on the blog, and at least rudimentary recipes for those which are not yet posted. Happy New Year, Gary

  1. I was most fortunate to attend Chef Gary’s New Year’s Day Party. What a wonderful and happy way to start the New Year! The foods cooked by Gary were varied and delicious, with Gary’s hand made Seitan and Red Potatoes with Shiitake Mushroom Gravy taking center stage for me. What a vegan worthy main course! Everyone always says that the kuri squash is the best squash they have ever had! To follow all of these delectables was the Pumpkin and Sesame Seed Crunch Bars. You must try these! They are most fabulous in tast and especially in texture, with the pumpkin seeds softly exploding at each bite, and of course, just sweet enough! A pan of these would be welcome anytime and at any event!

    While the foods cooked by our macro chef and good friend, Gary, were delicious, it was the comaraderie of the friends gathered to celebrate and enjoy another year given. The true gift is in the caring found in an older SF Bay abode, Gary’s house, filled with friends greeting friends. Thank you, Gary, for a very meaningful and fun way to start the New Year 2011. May we each find our dreams coming true in this New Year!

  2. Another smashing success! Although the day was cold & grey, wet and dreary, the food, the company and the ambiance at Gary’s was sumptuous, bright, warm, inspired and very colorful. I will focus on my 3 faves since that number resonates with me. The Belgium Endive Stuffed with Cauliflower Salad both looked and tasted brilliant with just the right amount of crunch. Very satisfying as a starter, side or even a main course.

    My 11 year old son had at least 3 servings of the Ginger and Garlic Stir Fried Long Beans and I noticed that as soon as Gary replenished the beans they seemed to disappear pronto! Very clever to serve them at room temperature. The flavors really came out and I felt so fortunate to be able to have seconds etc. The bright green beans were also very appealing to the eye and made the plate pop much as the perfect accessory would do for a fabulous outfit.

    The Pumpkin and Sesame Seed Crunch Bars were just right to finish off the magnificent meal (and by having something sweet signal the end of the savory foods). They were that delicate combination of crunchy & sweet and were satisfyingly wholesome, so one could enjoy dessert without too much guilt.

    Bravo Gary!!! Thank you so very much for knocking our socks off year after year! Being able to attend your New Year’s day brunches makes it less easier to be in the Bay Area instead of the Tropics. You are the Host with the Most!

  3. Oops! I meant makes it easier to be in the Bay Area instead of the Tropics. How does one remove an unwanted “less”?

  4. Dear MacroChef: A family of three food-lovers in NYC, we are new to vegetarian cooking. I made your Sesame Seed Crunch Bars recently as a portable after-school-snack for my 12-year-old, athletic daughter. Fantastic! We all loved the taste and the texture, and I love how nutritious they are. Many thanks for the recipe!

    • Lynn, Thanks, I’m always happy to get feedback on recipes, and my hope was that they would be kid friendly. Thanks, Gary

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