Friday, September 18, 2009

Yes, There Really are Vegetarians in Texas!

Here is a seasonal, vegetarian di
nner party menu that is absolutely delicious, as requested by Phil, a loyal follower. It's full of flavor and elegant enough to serve on the good dishes. This menu works as a "family-style" menu where everything is served in the middle of the table, but it is also a good menu for a plated dinner. The dishes are Mediterranean in structure, with a nod to Tex-Mex for Phil who lives in Dallas-Fort Worth and wants to entertain vegetarian friends.

The risotto is contained in the pepper which keeps things from getting too messy and everything is colorful enough that you don't have to do much garnishing. I have written this to feed a dinner party of 4-6 people with leftovers. Here is a photo I took of a gorgeous poblano at Blue Hill Farm.

Here are some photos to accompany the menu.

1st course
Roasted Tomatoes and Baby Spinach Salad
with Feta Cheese and Moroccan Olives

main course
Carrot and Basil Risotto-stuffed
Poblano Peppers

Roasted Spiced Butternut Squash

Chocolate Ganache Cake w
ith Whipped Cream

The Day Before

Bake cake
Roast poblano peppers
Roast tomatoes
Make risotto
Chop squash

The Day Of

Prep onions and olives for salad
Crumble feta
Roast butternut squash
Whip cream
Bring cake to room temperature

To Serve

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
Heat stuffed peppers for an hour.
Warm squash about 25 minutes.
Warm tomatoes about 15 minutes.
Put together salad.
Chop basil just before serving peppers.
Turn oven off after entree is removed.
Let cool for a few minutes and put cake into oven as oven cools--by the time you are finished eating it will be slightly warmed.

Bon Appetit!

Roasted Tomatoes and Baby Spinach Salad with Feta Cheese and Moroccan Olives

about 2 lb plum tomatoes (approx. 15 tomatoes--sounds like a lot but they shrink)
4 T extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 t sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 t minced garlic
2 T white balsamic vinegar (Trader Joe's has it or use the dark kind if you can't find it)

1-5 0z. "clamshell" of baby spinach
1 c diced onion
1 lemon
a 7-8 oz chunk of good feta cheese (try to find a good sheep, goat, or blend of the two)
about 1 cup pitted and halved Moroccan olives (these are very salty, shiny, wrinkled, black olives--you can substitute kalamatas or use a mix of olives, if you prefer or can't find them)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Have a large mixing bowl ready for tomatoes. Line 2 baking sheets with foil or parchment paper.

Wash tomatoes and slice them into rounds about 1/2 inch thick, and transfer to mixing bowl. Add olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and vinegar. Toss together gently and distribute evenly onto baking sheets.

Roast for 30-35 minutes, tossing once about halfway through roasting. When they are fragrant, a little bit browned, and just beginning to break down, they are done.

If you are making this a day ahead, transfer to a container and store in the fridge, then warm slightly before serving. Set aside at room temperature if you are making just a few hours before.

To serve: Arrange baby spinach on individual serving plates or in a large salad bowl. Sprinkle diced onion over the spinach. Slice lemon into a few wedges and squeeze a little lemon juice over greens. Sprinkle olives on, then add still slightly warm roasted tomatoes on top of greens. Crumble feta and grind some black pepper on top.

Carrot and Basil Risotto-stuffed Poblano Peppers

6-8 poblano peppers ( try to find large ones, that aren't too folded in the center)
2 cans vegetable broth
2 Tbsp butter
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
6 medium carrots, grated
sea salt and black pepper
1 1/4 c arborio rice (or long-grain white rice if you can't find it)
1/2 c dry white wine
1/4 c grated parmigiano reggiano
4 cups fresh basil leaves, washed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash peppers and rub them with a bit of olive oil. Line the up on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or so, uncovered. Watch them closely--you want them to be crisp enough to hold their shape, but not raw. Set aside to cool when they are done.

In a saucepan, bring broth and 2 cups water to barely a simmer over medium.

In a large saucepan, melt 1 Tablespoon butter over medium. Add onion and carrots; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5-7 minutes. Stir in rice. Add wine; cook, stirring, until absorbed, 1-2 minutes.

Add 2 cups hot broth, stirring constantly. You are essentially knocking the grains together in the broth to create the creamy sauce; keep simmering over medium-low, stirring, until mostly absorbed, 10-12 minutes. Continue process, adding a cup of broth at a time, stirring frequently, waiting until liquid is almost absorbed before adding more. Cook until rice is creamy and just tender, about 20 minutes.

Remove risotto from heat. Finely chop about half of the basil. Stir in parmigiano reggiano and basil. Let cool a bit.

Return to the cooled peppers. With a paring knife, carefully cut a 2"x 4.5-5" piece out along the length of each pepper, preferably on top. You want to be able to dig out the seeds and stuff it without tearing it. Try to rescue the piece you are cutting out and save it for garnish.

With a spoon, try to carefully scoop out the seeds of each. It's okay if you leave some behind. Carefully fill each pepper with slightly cooled risotto.

Top with the saved piece you cut out. If they didn't all make it, cut the remains into long strips and arrange them across the tops of the peppers instead.

If you are making this a day ahead, cover and chill until you are ready to heat them up.

To serve: Bake at 350 degrees, covered, for 30-35 minutes. Chop the remaining basil and sprinkle on top just before serving.

Roasted Spiced Butternut Squash

3 lb butternut squash
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Peel butternut squash and scoop out the seeds and seed goo with a spoon. Cut into approximately 1"-1.5" chunks. Toss with remaining ingredients.

Roast for 45 minutes. Let cool and store in the fridge until ready to heat.

Chocolate Ganache Cake with Whipped Cream
from "Big City Cooking", by Matthew Kenney and Joan Schwartz

2 sticks/1/2 lb butter, cut into pieces, plus more for the pan
8 oz good-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 eggs, separated
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup toasted almond flour, almond meal, or toasted ground almonds
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
powdered sugar for dusting

1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
2 Tbsp powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Butter an 8 or 9-inch cake pan, and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper, buttering the parchment as well. If you don't have parchment, butter and flour the pan, knocking out the excess flour.

In a double boiler or a metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and the butter, stirring until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

Using an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks with about half the sugar on medium-high speed until pale and thick, about 3 minutes. Fold the chocolate into the egg mixture and set aside.

Wash and dry the beaters. In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks begin to form. With the mixer running, gradually add the remaining sugar and continue beating until medium-firm peaks form, about 5 minutes. Fold the egg whites into the chocolate-yolk mixture in 3 additions.

Put the almond flour, cinnamon, and salt in a fine strainer held over the batter, and sift it into the batter, folding it in 3 additions.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake on the middle rack of the oven until a toothpick or knife inserted into the center comes out with only a few crumbs attached, 45-50 minutes.

When the cake has cooled completely, run a small knife around the pan sides to loosen it. Invert the cake onto a plate or cooling rack; then invert it again onto a serving plate. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired.


In an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the chilled cream until slightly thickened. Add the sugar and vanilla extract and beat until firm peaks begin to form; do not over beat.


Top each slice of cake with a dollop of whipped cream. The cake can be made 1 day ahead and stored at room temperature, covered with a dome or with parchment paper and then plastic wrap. It can be refrigerated for up to 2 days and then brought back to room temperature or gently reheated before serving. It is also good served chilled, but the texture will be firmer.

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