The Edgy Veggie

Vegan dinner puts plants on South Beach Wine & Food Festival menu

Avocado ceviche: As served at Basil Park in Sunny Isles Beach.
Avocado ceviche: As served at Basil Park in Sunny Isles Beach. Basil Park

Step aside, Burger Bash. Move over, Meatopia. Make way for South Beach Wine & Food Festival’s single vegan event.

Saturday night, Tim Andriola, Tal Ronnen and Matthew Kenney, three passionate chefs with South Florida ties, gather at Basil Park in Sunny Isles Beach for a plant-based feast.

Andriola owns and chefs at Basil Park, named one of the Miami Herald’s top 10 restaurants of 2014. While offering vegan dishes, including quinoa with spicy braised vegetables, Basil Park’s menu isn’t entirely vegan, nor is Andriola. But serving food that’s nutrient-dense, organic and Earth-friendly is what both are all about.

“Matthew and Tal are two of my biggest inspirations and the guys that got me inspired when I started to plan Basil Park,” Andriola said. “They are the best in the business when it comes to a healthy approach to food. It was a no-brainer to work with two such geniuses.”

Longtime local vegans may remember Ronnen, who cheffed at Fort Lauderdale vegan mecca Sublime. Now based in Los Angeles, The Conscious Cook author brings the vegan yum to celebs (he catered Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi’s wedding), runs his restaurant Crossroads and is co-founder of Kite Hill, a line of so-luscious-you-can’t-believe-it’s-vegan plant-based cheeses, available at Whole Foods.

Kenney brought his raw vegan game to the South Beach Wine & Food Festival last year, with a veg-forward dinner with Alfred Portale of Gotham Bar and Grill and Butter’s Alex Guarnaschelli. Butter, of course, isn’t vegan, nor was the dinner, except for Kenney’s contributions (including his showstopping kimchi dumplings).

Kenney said he enjoyed working with both chefs, but he’s “really excited about this year’s dinner because it will be fully plant-based.”

Dinner guests can look forward to a signature dish from Kenney’s Santa Monica restaurant M.A.K.E. — heirloom tomato lasagna, made extra-divine with South Florida tomatoes at their seasonal peak.

More to look forward to — Kenney’s raw vegan restaurant White Lotus and adjacent Matthew Kenney Culinary Academy, slated to open in Wynwood this summer.

“Tal is a friend and colleague in the Los Angeles plant-based restaurant world,” Kenney said. “Tim helped our team produce a dinner in Miami last October” for Seed Food and Wine Festival, Miami’s inaugural vegan food fest.

“It’s a really great collaboration,” Kenney said.

And a really great dinner.

Ellen Kanner is the author of “Feeding the Hungry Ghost: Life, Faith and What to Eat for Dinner.”

Avocado Ceviche with Coconut Milk, Lime and Aji Amarillo

A tropical plant-based refresher with all the zing of traditional ceviche, minus the fish. Makes 2 servings.

1 small sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

5 whole limes, juiced

1/4 cup coconut milk

1 to 1-1/2 tablespoon aji amarillo purée (see note)

Salt to taste

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

3 ripe Haas avocados, pitted, skinned, halved and sliced into uniform wedges

2 tablespoons red onion julienne

2 sprigs of fresh cilantro for garnish

Boil the sweet potato cubes in salted water until cooked through, approximately 10 minutes. Test doneness by using a the tip of a paring knife to pierce the cube. If knife goes easily into the sweet potato, it is ready. Remove from water and let cool. Reserve.

In a Vitamix or other blender, combine the lime juice, coconut milk, 1 tablespoon aji amarillo purée and a pinch of salt. Blend on high for 20 seconds. Taste for spiciness. Add another teaspoon or two of the aji amarillo if more heat is desired. Transfer lime and coconut mixture to a stainless steel mixing bowl.

Sprinkle avocado wedges lightly with salt. Add avocado to the mixing bowl and toss with chopped cilantro. Divide the mixture into two shallow serving bowls.

Place 3 sweet potato cubes in the center of each bowl and then divide the red onion equally, placing on top of the sweet potato cubes. Garnish each bowl with a fresh sprig of cilantro and serve.

Note: Aji amarillo is a staple of Peruvian cuisine and a beautiful, spicy yellow pepper. The commercial chile paste is available in some Latin markets and online at and Brands include Miami’s own Goya.

Source: Recipe adapted from Tim Andriola, Basil Park.