Monday, November 24, 2008

Three Vegetarian Dinners

Dear Boo,

I know I promised a pie post, which is forthcoming, but before you have dessert don't you think you should eat your vegetables? I do.

A certain member of the Brown Theater Faculty used to like to say, "Twice is repetition. Three times is motif." Or something. Which, though not all that helpful as an undergraduate actor, does make some sense. Think of the banana/orange knock knock joke. Or Santa. Two Ho's just doesn't seem right. (get your head out of the gutter, you hussy.) The point is, threes are good. And thusly this post will be a trifecta of meals. All vegetarian. All delicious.

Dinner #1:

We begin with Election Night. I was in a STATE to end all states all day which culminated in me nearly driving the Boyfriend to leap out the window by obsessing over our dinner plans. SHOULD we ORDER IN??! Should I COOK SOMETHING?? SHOULD I WAIT until our GUESTS ARRIVE to get THEIR OPINION??!! Should I LIE on the FLOOR NOW and GUZZLE VODKA until I pass out and you can just wake me up when it's OVER FOR LORD'S SAKE??!!!

In the end I concluded I needed something to do to distract me so I decided to cook some comfort food. Specifically, grilled cheese made with cheddar and fontina (and a little slather of chutney for me), tomato soup with cilantro stems and lime from Orangette, and our Uncle Barry's salad, a fabulous alternative to caesar. The soup channeled my anxious energy, the grilled cheese soothed me and reminded me of a time when I didn't care about politics, and the salad gave me something to pick at nervously throughout the night. In the end--well, we all know how that turned out. :)

Uncle Barry's Top Secret Salad

Chop one large clove of garlic. Put in the bottom of the salad bowl you plan to serve in. add a good pinch of kosher salt. With the back of your spoon, smush the garlic and salt against the bowl until it becomes a paste. Add black pepper. Add one Tablespoon of worcestershire sauce and one Tablespoon of dijon mustard. Add 3 Tablespoons of Olive Oil, whisk until emulsified. Add chopped romaine, about the equivalent of 1 head. Toss with dressing. Squeeze one half a lemon, and sprinkle with parmesan. Tada.

Dinner #2:

One of the members of our household who shall remain nameless had a weekend that looked a little something like this: Friday night: bacon cheeseburger & beer. Saturday brunch: Turkey Burger, Saturday dinner: Short rib burger and beers, Saturday late night: Tacos. Pizza on the way home. Sunday breakfast: Leftover pizza. yyyeeeaaahh. I wanted to cook something on Sunday but was implored to make it vegetarian and on the light side. There went my fantasies of standing over a steaming pot of beef stew. Instead I concocted what will now be known as Prague Cous Cous Salad, after an item on the menu at the Globe Bookstore in Prague where I ate probably 2 meals a week at while studying abroad. My version, also influenced by this recipe from 101 Cookbooks, goes a little something like this:

Prague Cous Cous Salad

1 butternut squash, carefully peeled and cubed.
4-5 small red onions, peeled and quartered in wedges.
3 zucchinis, chopped.
Few big handfuls of cremini mushrooms, quartered.
1 orange or yellow pepper, chopped.

Toss the above with a good few glugs of olive oil, some kosher salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
Spread on a roasting pan that's been preheating in the oven at 400. Roast for 30 minutes or until nicely browned and soft. You might want to do the onions and squash first, then the rest.
Take two cans of organic chick peas and a couple big handfuls (sorry, I don't have the foresight to measure most of the time) of pepitas (pumpkin seeds), toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and maybe some other seasonings to shall we say, kick it up? Throw those on the roasting pan for a couple of minutes until toasted a bit.
Make some whole wheat (if you're feeling super virtuous, which I was) cous cous according to the package directions. I think this would also work well with wild or brown rice, or quinoa.
To serve, pile some arugula (or baby spinach) on a platter--a big one. I've inexplicably given you a recipe for about 10. Dress with olive oil, squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper.
Pile cous cous jauntily (what?) on top.
On top of this, layer the roasted veggies, chick peas and pumpkin seeds.
Garnish with chopped scallions and cilantro.

To make dressing: whisk a cup of greek yogurt (i like Fage 0%), juice of half a lemon, quarter cup olive oil (or thereabout), kosher salt, pepper, and a handful of finely chopped cilantro. Drizzle over top.
Eat for weeks.

Dinner #3:

So at physical therapy for my elbow, we do all sorts of exercises to re-buff my arms and then when that's all over, sweet Ashley puts me in a private room where I lie down with a special ergonomic pillow under my knees, two electrodes attached to my arm to give me slight tingly kisses, and an ice pack. And then she dims the lights and leaves me there for 15 minutes. During which, for the past couple of sessions, I've taken to sleeping. Like, full on dreaming. It's lovely. So the other night, I had just woken up from just such a nap, hungry, as I always am after napping, and was walking home to the above leftovers, when I passed a gorgeous bin of brussels sprouts at the farmers market. I couldn't resist.

We had enough roasted vegetables at home to last a month at least, so I fantasized about how else I could prepare my bounty as I headed across 17th Street. A gratin, I thought, would be just the thing. And I already had most of the ingredients at home. Consulting Ina Garten's recipe for zucchini gratin (because any recipe with butter and cheese will inevitably be insanely good when made by the Barefoot Contessa), I came up with this:

Deliciously Sleepy Brussels Sprout Gratin:

2 lbs brussels sprouts, sliced thinly--you can use a mandolin, but I kind of really enjoy the shook-shook-shooking of the knife through all the crispy layers of cabbage, so I do it by hand.
4-5 large shallots, sliced thin
1 cup of low-fat milk (I had low-fat, but I'm sure it would be even awesomer with whole)
2 T flour
1/2 C (I think that's about how much I used) grated parmesan
1/2 C shredded cheese (I had cheddar and fontina from the grilled cheese night, but I think gruyere is what this dish was really calling out for to give it a little sour stinkiness)
Few Tablespoons of bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste

Sautee the shallots in a few glugs of olive oil until soft but not brown. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add brussels sprouts and stir, sauteeing until bright green and tender (cover for a couple minutes if you need to). Reseason. Add milk and flour and mix. Sautee until it thickens a bit. Add half the parmesan and half the cheese. Mix. Pour into baking dish. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and cheese. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until brown on top and bubbling. mmmmmmmmm

Eat your veggies. Vegetables, that is. Not vegetarians. Too gamey.


The Mouse

1 comment:

jellykean said...

OMG I am drooling on my keyboard at work!!