Portobello Wellington (Vegan)

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This vegan Portobello Wellington is pretty enough to serve as a main course for Thanksgiving or Christmas. It features layers of rich beluga lentils, whole portobello muchrooms and sauteed garlic spinach. I made a vegan Wellington last year using chestnuts and portobello mushrooms as the predominant ingredients.  While the dish was beautiful, it wasn’t as tasty as I thought it should be.  So this time, I scrapped the chestnuts which are difficult to find, and a bit dry, and layered lentils,  mushrooms and spinach instead.  The dish was a huge success, pretty AND delicious.  Just add mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce!  🙂

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A traditional Beef Wellington is a fillet steak coated with pâté and duxelles, which is then wrapped in pastry and baked.  In this reimagined vegan  version, whole portobellos stand in for the ‘steak’  and the lentils with shallots and garlic would be the ‘pate’ with duxelles, which is just a fancy name for mushrooms sautéed with onions, shallots and garlic.  The flavor combination of the three layers worked so well together in creating a flavorful but still juicy filling.  I cooked the lentils in vegetable broth for more flavor. Of course, adding sauteed shallots and garlic to the black lentils gave them an even richer taste.  They were a great first layer.  Then I placed whole sauteed portobello mushrooms as the middle later and topped with spinach sauteed in garlic.

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Except for the pretty crust, which is what makes this a holiday worthy dish, all of the ingredients add flavor and nutritional value.  Spinach and mushrooms are high in food value, including fiber, vitamins and minerals, plus protein.  They also have zero or low amounts of fat, cholesterol, carbs and sugars.  If I were going to make my own crust, I would try a recipe using white whole wheat flour like this one from King Arthur Flour.  I actually didn’t know I was going to be making this last until the last minute, so I cheated with pre-made crusts.  It happens…

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I chose black lentils, also called Beluga lentils due to their resemblance of black caviar, because I find them the richest in flavor and their texture remains firm when cooked.  However, brown or green lentils would work well here too.  They are also quite healthy.  100 grams of cooked lentils contains 116 calories, 9.02 g of protein, .3 g of fat and 9.02 g of fiber.  They are also rich in minerals and vitamins.  Click for MORE info.

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TIPS:  This recipe is easy to prep a day or so ahead of time and assemble just before cooking.  Just prepare the lentil mixture and saute and drain the mushrooms and the spinach, then place in the refrigerator in airtight containers until ready to assemble.  You can preform them into log shapes before refrigerating for easier assembly.  For those who really like to plan ahead, you could probably assemble the whole thing a day or two ahead and refrigerate until you are ready to bake.

 

PORTOBELLO WELLINGTON

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Note:  This recipe can be made with 3 or 4 large portobello mushrooms.  The 3 mushroom wellington will fit in an 18″ baking sheet, while a 4 mushroom one needs a 21″ pan.  The recipe is for both.  For the larger wellington, use the larger quantities.

  • 1-1 1/4 cup black lentils (or brown)
  • 4-5 cups vegetable broth (optional)
  • 3-4 large portabello mushrooms
  • 3-4 large shallots peeled and minced
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, minced (divided)
  • 3 Tbs olive oil (divided)
  • 8-12 oz fresh spinach (3- 4 cups)
  • 2 – 3 blocks or rolls of pastry dough (or puff pastry, if preferred)
  • 1/4 cup vegan butter or soy milk (as pastry wash)
  • salt and pepper to taste

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  • Cook lentils in vegetable broth for more flavor (optional) following instructions on package.  Remove from heat and let cool. Trim mushroom stalks if needed and wipe caps clean with a damp paper towel. Do not immerse in water.

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  • Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a skillet and place the mushrooms, top side down. Cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Turn them over and cook for another 5 minutes or until you hear the water release and sizzle in the pan. Remove from the heat, and drain on paper towel cap side up as they will release liquid as they cool.

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  • In the mushroom skillet, heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil and half of garlic, lightly saute spinach.  Just cook until wilted and liquid releases.  If you decided to use frozen spinach, squeeze out as much water as possible. Remove from heat and let cool

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  • Saute shallots in 1 Tablespoon olive oil until lightly browned.  Add remaining garlic and cooked lentils.  Stir to combine. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.  Remove from heat and let cool.

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  • Once cool enough, you should be able to form it into a log.  If you can’t, it’s probably too wet, so return it to the stove or put it in the refrigerator to firm up.

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  • Roll out pastry dough into any shape you prefer to make both a top and bottom crust.  I used 4 pre-made pie crusts and rolled 1 1/2 together to make the long traditional Wellington shape, however, you can make it a circle, square or rectangle.

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  • Place bottom crust on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Form lentil log in center of bottom crust and pat into shape

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  • Arrange mushrooms on top of lentils, cap side up

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  • Top evenly with the sauteed spinach.  Pat into as smooth a shape as possible for best results

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  • Place top crust over your lentil, mushroom, spinach creation and smooth it with your fingers.

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  • Cut around the Wellington using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, leaving a generous 1 inch margin.

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  • Using a fork, firmly press the two edges closed going all the way around.

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  • Cut shapes with a cookie cutter to decorate the top if you like.  Save any leftover dough for future use.

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  • Brush the pastry with melted vegan butter or soy milk and poke air holes with a fork.

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  • Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.  If the edges start getting too brown, cover them with strips of aluminum foil.

Portobello Wellington

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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Note:  This recipe can be made with 3 or 4 large portobello mushrooms.  The 3 mushroom wellington will fit in an 18″ baking sheet, while a 4 mushroom one needs a 21″ pan.  The recipe is for both.  For the larger wellington, use the larger quantities.

  • 1-1 1/4 cup black lentils (or brown)
  • 4-5 cups vegetable broth (optional)
  • 3-4 large portabello mushrooms
  • 3-4 large shallots peeled and minced
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, minced (divided)
  • 3 Tbs olive oil (divided)
  • 8-12 oz fresh spinach (3- 4 cups)
  • 2 – 3 blocks or rolls of pastry dough
  • 1/4 cup vegan butter or soy milk (as pastry wash)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Cook lentils in vegetable broth for more flavor (optional) following instructions on package.  Remove from heat and let cool.
  2. Trim mushroom stalks if needed and wipe caps clean with a damp paper towel. Do not immerse in water.
  3. Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a skillet and place the mushrooms, top side down. Cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Turn them over and cook for another 5 minutes or until you hear the water release and sizzle in the pan. Remove from the heat, and drain on paper towel cap side up as they will release liquid as they cool.
  4. In the mushroom skillet, heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil and half of garlic, lightly saute spinach.  Just cook until wilted and liquid releases.  If you decided to use frozen spinach, squeeze out as much water as possible. Remove from heat and let cool
  5. Saute shallots in 1 Tablespoon olive oil until lightly browned.  Add remaining garlic and cooked lentils.  Stir to combine. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Once cool enough, you should be able to form it into a log. If you can’t, it’s probably too wet, so return it to the stove or put it in the refrigerator to firm up.
  6. Roll out pastry dough into any shape you prefer to make both a top and bottom crust.  I used 4 pre-made pie crusts and rolled 1 1/2 together to make the long traditional Wellington shape, however, you can make it a circle, square or rectangle.
  7. Place bottom crust on a parchment lined baking sheet
  8. Form lentil log in center of bottom crust and pat into shape
  9. Arrange mushrooms on top of lentils, cap side up
  10. Top evenly with the sauteed spinach.  Pat into as smooth a shape as possible for best results
  11. Place top crust over your lentil, mushroom, spinach creation and smooth it with your fingers.
  12. Cut around the Wellington using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, leaving a generous 1 inch margin.
  13. Using a fork, firmly press the two edges closed going all the way around.
  14. Cut shapes with a cookie cutter to decorate the top if you like.  Save and leftover dough for future use.
  15. Brush the pastry with melted vegan butter or soy milk and poke air holes with a fork.
  16. Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.  If the edges start getting too brown, cover them with strips of aluminum foil.

Meatless Monday – 12 Trader Joe’s Favorites

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You have heard of Oprah’s Favorite Things.  Well this is not that.  I can’t give you a free car or a surprise gift under your seat, more like several fun and easy vegan and vegetarian cooking hacks and ideas for quick and easy appetizers and meals.  People are often surprised when they come over and I haven’t made everything that I’m serving.  However, I love a good shortcut just as well as anyone.  So when I see something that I really like that saves me time or is an easy presto-chango dish that I can put on the table at the last minute, I’m all in.  It’s always nice to have a few tricks up our sleeves (or in our freezers), especially with the holidays already here.

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Okay, it’s actually 13 favorites plus a bonus.  I just miscounted and didn’t want to remake the collage.  Trader Joe’s has quite a few frozen foods that are actually really high quality and an excellent selection of vegetarian and vegan foods.  They also have the best selection of nuts, cheeses and snacks as well as some good prepared foods for when you REALLY don’t even want to turn on the oven.  Here is a list of some of my current favorites and some suggestions.  My top five that I always have in my refrigerator/freezer are Starred.  Oh, by the way, I’m not getting paid to mention Trader Joe’s products.  I’m just sharing because I like you and its the season of giving.

  1. VEGETABLE BIRD’S NESTS (VEGAN)*
  2. BANH MI INSPIRED NOODLE BOWL (VEGETARIAN/DRESSING HAS EGGS)
  3. THAI VEGETABLE GYOZA(VEGAN)*
  4. FIVE CHEESE GREEK SPIRAL (VEGETARIAN)*
  5. MIDEAST STYLE FEAST (VEGAN)*
  6. EGGPLANT CUTLETS (VEGAN)
  7. MEATLESS MEATBALLS (VEGAN)
  8. SEEDY ALMOND SALAD TOPPERS (VEGAN)
  9. CARAMELIZED ONION AND FETA BITES (VEGETARIAN)
  10. CAULIFLOWER AND BROCCOLI VEGGIE PATTIES(VEGETARIAN/EGGWHITES)
  11. FRENCH ONION SOUP (VEGETARIAN)
  12. BUTTERNUT SQUASH MAC AND CHEESE (VEGETARIAN)
  13. VEGETARIAN SAMOSAS (VEGAN)*
  14. BONUS! PUMPKIN SPICE ALMOND BEVERAGE.  JUST IN TIME FOR THE HOLIDAYS!

SCROLL DOWN FOR PHOTOS, DESCRIPTIONS AND SERVING SUGGESTIONS.

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  1. VEGETABLE BIRD’S NESTS (VEGAN):  These tasty treats are like a potato latke on steroids but with kale and other vegetables rather than potatoes.  They are crispy and delicious and come with their own soy dipping sauce.  Ready in 20 minutes.

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And here is the finished product…great as an appetizer or a side dish.  Especially great for your non-dairy friends. Buy two boxes, just because.  You can thank me later.

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2. BANH MI INSPIRED NOODLE BOWL (VEGETARIAN/DRESSING HAS EGGS)  I love this combination of ingredients which are well balanced with lots of protein.  The dressing is really good too.  This is large enough for two meals for me but you may devour the whole thing in one sitting.

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Just toss together with the yummy, slightly spicy dressing.  I like to cut the tofu into smaller cubes for easier eating and better dressing ratio.20181020_123247.jpg

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3. THAI VEGETABLE GYOZA(VEGAN):  This is my favorite Sunday breakfast served with fresh edamame, sliced oranges and the Sunday paper.  Whip up a quick dipping sauce of soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil and sriracha while they’re cooking and you’re good to go.  Or provide small bowls and let your diners create their own dipping sauce. I recommend skillet directions. Ready in less than 10 minutes.

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These are a house favorite.  Really delicious!

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4. FIVE CHEESE GREEK SPIRAL (VEGETARIAN):  Need I say more?  Just delicious and decadent with a wonderfully flakey pastry crust.  I will admit to making this my whole meal. Not on purpose, it just kind of happened. Ready in 30 minutes.

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This will go fast!  Guaranteed…

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5. MIDEAST STYLE FEAST (VEGAN):  This is an entire value meal;  stuffed grape leaves, hummus, lentil salad and tomato cracked bulgar wheat salad.  I love every part of this ready to eat HEARTY feast. Grab a fork!

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This is a hearty meal for one or two people or an appetizer for a small group. Just re-plate and go… and maybe add pita chips or naan.  Of course, you can make it prettier than this with some fresh herbs or a sprinkle of feta cheese.

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6. EGGPLANT CUTLETS (VEGAN) These breaded eggplant slices are a great time saver.  There are so many ways to use them.  Bake in a hot oven until brown and crispy, then let your imagination take over. Layer them with tomato sauce and cheese for a quick eggplant parmesan.   Tip:  Only cook what you are going to use right away.  They don’t refrigerate well.

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Roast and build a super sandwich with your favorite ingredients. Or just serve as they are with a drizzle of olive oil and some fresh herbs.

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7. MEATLESS MEATBALLS (VEGAN):  These soy protein based meatballs have good flavor and texture. Saute with tomato sauce and serve with toothpicks as an appetizer, a slider or over pasta. (Sauce not included)

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  Everybody loves a good meatball. 

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8.  SEEDY ALMOND SALAD TOPPERS (VEGAN):  These were such a great find.  This combination of seeds, nuts and spices will up your salad game and make any salad seem like you labored over a recipe.  Just open one of the individual packets and sprinkle over any combination of greens, veggies or fruit. Drizzle something. Done!

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9. CARAMELIZED ONION AND FETA BITES (VEGETARIAN):  I have made these by hand and they are delicious but it’s way easier to just pull them out of the freezer and pop them in the oven.  Delicious appetizers ready in 25 minutes while you get the wine ready.

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I have had them turn out prettier before, but I was making lots of food for a book group, so may have been rushed as my guests were arriving.  I know I dropped a few while plating.  They are really tasty though and small one bite treats.

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10,  CAULIFLOWER AND BROCCOLI VEGGIE PATTIES(VEGETARIAN/ CONTAINS EGGWHITES) These tasty cakes made with broccoli, cauliflower and potatoes were a pleasant surprise and a good quick little snack or appetizer.  They are a decent size but there are only four per box.   I recommend stove top instructions. Ready in 12 to 17 minutes. Serve immediately for best results.

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I served these veggie cakes with a jalapeno tartar sauce for me and a spicy cocktail sauce for my husband.  They would also be good with a salad as a light meal.

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11.  FRENCH ONION SOUP (VEGETARIAN):  Most onion soups have a beef based stock but this one features a nice vegetarian broth along with the traditional onions, swiss cheese and crouton.  Ready in 5 to 40 minutes depending on preparation.

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Be warned.  There are only two servings in each package.  My husband asked for seconds.  Oops!

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12.BUTTERNUT SQUASH MAC AND CHEESE (VEGETARIAN) This mac and cheese has a nice cheesy sauce and the butternut squash adds some extra flavor (and nutrition too).  Microwave five minutes.

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This is comfort food at its best. Dig in…

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13. VEGETABLE SAMOSAS (VEGAN):  These are seriously delicious!  These crispy triangles are filled with an Indian spiced mashed potatoes, carrots, peas and lentils.  I like them hot from the oven.  They are also a great small size for passed appetizers.

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BONUS! PUMPKIN SPICE ALMOND BEVERAGE:  Start your morning off right with this seasonal, not too sweet, pumpkin spice ‘milk’ frothed into your coffee.  It’s like the holidays in a cup.  Savor one sip at a time…

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How Do Bloggers Birthday? (Plus Recipes)

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Happy Birthday to Me!  So how does a food blogger celebrate her birthday?  Hint;  food will be involved, (too obvious?) and if she’s lucky, maybe some fun and games.  Last week I was in Maine for my birthday and a few of my peeps threw a goodmotherdiet party for me.  This theme was a sheer stroke of genius by friend and party planner extrordinaire, Kerri Eng (KGEvents) where all my guests brought dishes that have been featured on this blog. I was aware of the goodmotherdiet aspect but not what people were actually bringing, so each new dish was a surprise as well as a walk down memory lane.  I’m sharing the dishes that were prepared for the party as well as a link back to the original recipe, so if you feel inspired, feel free to make and send me a photo.

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Our evening began with a sunset cruise of Bear Pond on a pontoon boat featuring Mango Margaritas made by my friend, Rick from the original blog post: Mango Margaritas and Homemade Tortilla Chips with Grilled Pineapple Salsa

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While we cruised around the lake, we munched on a yummy Asparagus Goat Cheese Tart made by my friend, Karen, from the original recipe: Asparagus Goat Cheese Tart Karen was kind enough to make one without goat cheese for those who abstain (cough, my husband) which was also delicious.

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We also enjoyed a wonderful version of my Cranberry Jalapeno Cream Cheese Dip which had been ‘summerized’ by Kerri by substituting strawberries which are so sweet and delicious right now while cranberries are hard to find.  I love how the same recipe can be turned into a seasonal delight just by changing one ingredient.

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Alas, we finally had to leave the lake and head in to dinner where more goodies awaited.

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Dinner was a fabulous group effort. First up was deliciously spicy Salt and Pepper Shrimp with Garlic and Chile.  I believe that the crew of Kerri, Rick and Jason had to improvise with chile sauce since they didn’t have Chinese 5 Spice.  It was hotter and wetter than the original but delicious. Other substitutions for Chinese 5 Spice would be any combination of star anise, cloves, fennel seed, cinnamon, Sichuan peppercorns and a dash of Creole Seasoning, red pepper and chili powder.  You can’t go wrong and this effort proved it.

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But the ‘piece de resistance’ was the Maple Bourbon Glazed Salmon made lovingly by my son, Eric, and his sous chef, Hannah Grace.  I say lovingly because Eric is an experimental cook like I am, rarely following a recipe twice but this time he followed the recipe painstakingly in honor of the occasion with perfect results, even with our finicky oven.  This dish is a family favorite and a great main course to prepare for dinner parties as it take very little fuss and cooks quickly giving you time to enjoy your own party.

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Eric and Hannah Grace also served a platter of perfectly roasted veggies, including eggplant, red and yellow peppers, yellow squash, zucchini and mushrooms.

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No dinner is complete without a fabulous salad like this Caesar Salad made by my friend, Geof, who went to the trouble to make his own dressing and homemade croutons.  Yum! Marjie brought a delicious carrot cake which wasn’t from my blog but then I don’t make many desserts.  Hmmm, maybe that will change…

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Then the fun and games portion of the evening began with a hotly contested game of FAMILY FEUD hosted by our own ‘Richard Dawson’.  The ‘girls’ squeaked out a narrow victory over the ‘boys’ in spite of the fact that I missed the last of the ‘Top 7 Barnyard Sounds’ by answering Meow instead of Cluck, which if you know that I am also know as the Chicken Lady that is pretty funny. (Check out Mrs Vs Rescue Chickens )  In my defense, my mother in law had already said cock a doodle doo so I figured chickens were taken.  Sigh…  Then on to music.  This photo taken before fab musician, Peter arrived.

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During dinner, my son gave a very sweet birthday toast and then asked me how it felt to see so many of my recipes come to life and if it was intimidating.  Surprisingly, I found it very validating as a blogger, especially one who is not experienced at creating recipes (which is harder than you might think).  All of the recipes were a success, even those that were adapted to accommodate seasonal ingredients or availability.  Whew!  I suppose it could have been a disaster, but it was sure fun.  For someone whose Mom always had to scrape up enough neighborhood kids that were in town in July to make it seem like a birthday party, I feel pretty lucky. (I’m sure other summer birthday people know what I’m talking about) Maybe I’ll celebrate the whole month…

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Pan Seared Halibut with Lemon Caper Sauce over Roasted Fennel and Garlic Mashed Potatoes

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One might think with the dearth of posts from Goodmotherdiet that I am still on vacation, or at least being very lazy.  Well the truth is that I was on a lovely vacation with our friends, Bob and Julie, in beautiful Anguilla (part of the British Virgin Islands)  where we enjoyed 82 degrees every day, long beach walks, bike rides through the countryside, yoga overlooking the ocean and mango margaritas at sunset. Yes, we were spoiled AND it was so nice to get out of the rain! I flew back several days ago, however, my suitcase, in a rogue attempt to extend it’s vacation in the tropics, stayed behind in St. Maarten.  Nestled in among my bathing suits and beach wraps was, you guessed it,  my laptop charge cord.  I had my laptop but without power it was very hard to use.  Rest assured that I do have several new recipes to post, once I get the photos downloaded and recipes written.  So stay tuned for Pasta with Parm Roasted Cauliflower and Power Greens and a Tofu Noodle Bowl.  The beauty of this guilt inspired post though is that it is really a triple whammie, three recipes that I think all work well together, but you can pick and choose at will.  Make just one or all three!

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I love this flavor combination. Halibut is a mild but flavorful fish with a really great texture that is gets crispy golden on the outside and light and flaky on the inside when pan roasted.  Served over the top of roasted fennel and creamy, smooth garlic mashed potatoes with the delicious and savory lemon caper sauce drizzled over the top of everything…heaven!  The halibut recipe is easy and fast.  The halibut cooks in about 6 minutes and the sauce takes another 5 minutes and there is very little prep work.  Add a salad and dinner can definitely be on the table in 15 minutes!  The fennel and mashed potatoes take a little longer but are totally worth it.

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I love fennel, both raw in salads and cooked, but my favorite preparation is simply roasted with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Fennel has a very elegant taste and has a delicate but sweet flavor when roasted. If you slice the bulbs into ‘steaks’, it is a very pretty presentation too. I’ll bet you didn’t know (I didn’t either) that fennel is in the carrot family. I would not have guessed that little fun fact.  Fennel is thought to have many health benefits and has been used in natural remedies since ancient times.  It is loaded with nutrients; iron, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc and vitamin K content present in fennel all contribute to building and maintaining bone structure and strength, so ladies in particular, take note.

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TIPS: I have written this as three separate recipes and you should be able to print them that way.  If you want to make all three (which I recommend), start by roasting the garlic and getting the potatoes boiling.  Then slice the fennel, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with spices and put that in the oven with the garlic. Finish off the mashed potatoes and take the fennel out of the oven and set aside.  Pan sear the halibut, make the sauce and dinner is served! Note:  garlic can be roasted way ahead of time and left to cool.

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PAN ROASTED HALIBUT WITH LEMON CAPER SAUCE

  • 4 Halibut fillets
  • 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning (optional)
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbsn butter
  • 2 Tbsn olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large lemon (about 1/4 cup lemon juice)
  • 2 tsp lemon zest (optional)
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 Tbsn capers
  • 1 Tbsn parsley, chopped

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  • Season both sides of fillets with salt, pepper and Old Bay, if using. Heat olive oil and butter in a large pan over medium heat until very hot. Place halibut fillets in pan and sear for 3-4 minutes, then flip and cook the other side for another 2-3.

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  • Remove from heat and loosely cover to keep warm.

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  • Lower heat and add the garlic and cook until fragrant. 2-3 minutes. Add lemon juice and wine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer 5 minutes, until thickened.

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  • Stir in the capers, parsley and lemon zest, taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

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  • Transfer fish to serving plates and spoon sauce over the top.

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ROASTED FENNEL

  • 2 large bulbs fennel
  • 1-2 Tbsn olive oil (or olive oil spray)
  • 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano or Italian Seasoning

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  • Remove fennel stalk and cut lengwise into thick slices.

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  • Brush or spray both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with oregano, salt and pepper.

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  • Roast at 425 degrees, turning once for about 25 minutes.

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GARLIC MASHED POTATOES

  • 2 large russet potatoes
  • 1 head garlic
  • 1/2 cup milk (or almond milk )
  • 3 Tbsn butter
  • salt to taste

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  • Slice top off of garlic bulb, exposing the cloves.  Drizzle with olive oil and wrap in foil.  Bake at 425 degrees for about an hour.  Remove from heat and let cool.

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  • Peel potatoes and cut them into chunks.  Boil about 20 minutes, or until very soft.  Drain potatoes and place them in a large bowl.  Squeeze garlic into potatoes and puree using a potato masher or food processor.
  • Add milk, butter and salt and pulse or stir to combine.

 

Pan Roasted Haliut with Lemon Caper Sauce

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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PAN ROASTED HALIBUT WITH LEMON CAPER SAUCE

  • 4 Halibut fillets
  • 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning (optional)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsn butter
  • 2 Tbsn olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large lemon (about 1/4 cup lemon juice)
  • 2 tsp lemon zest (optional)
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 Tbsn capers
  • 1 Tbsn parsley, chopped
  • Season both sides of fillets with salt, pepper and Old Bay, if using. Heat olive oil and butter in a large pan over medium heat until very hot.
  • Place halibut fillets in pan and sear for 3-4 minutes, then flip and cook the other side for another 2-3.
  • Remove from heat and loosely cover to keep warm.
  • Lower heat and add the garlic and cook until fragrant. 2-3 minutes. Add lemon juice and wine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer 5 minutes, until thickened.
  • Stir in the capers, parsley and lemon zest, taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
  • Transfer to serving plates and spoon sauce over the top.

Roasted Fennel

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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ROASTED FENNEL

  • 2 large bulbs fennel
  • 1-2 Tbsn olive oil (or olive oil spray)
  • 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano or Italian Seasoning
  • Remove fennel stalk and cut lengwise into thick slices.
  • Brush or spray both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with oregano, salt and pepper.
  • Roast at 425 degrees, turning once for about 25 minutes.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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GARLIC MASHED POTATOES

  • 2 large russet potatoes
  • 1 head garlic
  • 1/2 cup milk (or almond milk )
  • 3 Tbsn butter
  • salt to taste
  • Slice top off of garlic bulb, exposing the cloves.  Drizzle with olive oil and wrap in foil.  Bake at 425 degrees for about an hour.  Remove from heat and let cool.
  • Peel potatoes and cut them into chunks.  Boil about 20 minutes, or until very soft.
  • Drain potatoes and place them in a large bowl.  Squeeze garlic into potatoes and puree using a potato masher or food processor.
  • Add milk, butter and salt and stir to combine.

Meatless Monday – Mini Mushroom Vegetable Pot Pies

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‘Twas the night before Thanksgiving and I was looking for some inspiration for dinner.  All of our food preparation had been about the ‘Big Day’ tomorrow with no thought to tonight.  So with the recent nip in the air, I decided to make cozy, comfort food that would bake in the oven sending lovely smells throughout the house and bring warmth into the kitchen.  Checking the refrigerator yielded two already prepared pie crusts that we didn’t use and loads of mushrooms not destined for the dressing/stuffing.  So I quickly brainstormed a vegetable pot pie starring criminy mushrooms and a rich mushroom base using a creamy portobello mushroom soup which I had picked up at Trader Joe’s.  I added a couple of carrots, a potato and frozen peas and corn.  I loved this combination!  Even my meat loving family came back for seconds! Most people ate two mini pies, so this recipe would serve six people as a main course and 10-12 as a side dish.

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I opted for mini pies because I’m still enamored with pretty little food that is easily served as individual portions.  Plus, we already had quite a few big pies in the works for Thanksgiving.  For mini pies, use a 4 inch cookie cutter to cut the bottom crust and a 3 inch round for the top.  OR you can use shaped cookie cutters because, well…cute.  It’s also an easy way to make your little pies part of a theme.  I used small leaf cookie cutters to go with our Thanksgiving/Fall theme.  For St. Patrick’s Day I would probably go with the one that looks most like a clover, hearts for Valentine’s Day.  You get the picture.  If you use a full top, just pinch the edges closed, like you would on a large pie, and make a few slits in the top with a sharp knife to let steam escape.  You can also make this as a large pie and place assorted leaves all over the top for a pretty presentation. I have had my leaf cookie cutters for over ten years but they are still available on-line.  Try googling  Mrs Andersons 42111 Leaf Cookie Cutters, set of seven. I found them for $14.36 on jet.com.

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This turned out to be a very flavorful and savory pot pie.  I loved the mushroom soup as a creamy base but without the cream.  The potato added substance and the veggies all added not just flavor but fiber and nutrients.  Substitute any veggies that your family likes, especially root vegetables.  If you have a non-mushroom lover, substitute cream of celery or other condensed soup or prepared gravy, or you can make a nice thick sauce with reduced vegetable broth, butter and flour.  With mini pies, dice vegetables fairly small so you get a nice selection of them in each pot pie.

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TIPS:  For a more nutritious pie crust, try substituting whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour.  Yes, that is a thing.  White whole wheat flour is ground from white wheat, rather than from red wheat, which makes the traditional whole wheat flour. Both are 100% whole-grain and have the same nutritional benefits; but the white wheat flour has a milder taste and lighter color.  Whole wheat pastry flour is red wheat ground very fine which makes it much lighter than regular whole wheat.  When using whole wheat flour, you may have to add a bit more water but only do so a tablespoon at a time or you could end up with a gooey dough. Whole wheat dough should also rest for a half hour before working with it or it can crack and crumble. The dough is ready when it sticks together in a clump when squeezed.  Dough can be made a day ahead and refrigerated until ready.

NOTE:  I made this recipe last minute and on a whim so used two already prepared pie crusts.  Next time I will use white whole wheat flour and make it myself.  For great step by step instructions on making a homemade pie crust with photos go to Chez Pim.

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MINI MUSHROOM VEGETABLE POT PIES

FILLING

1 medium or 1/2 large onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, dice
1 russet potato, peeled and diced
1/2 cup water
1 lb criminy mushrooms, roughly chopped
11 oz condensed mushroom soup
1/2 cup frozen or fresh peas
1/2 cup frozen or fresh corn
1 Tbsn fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste

DOUGH ( OR 2 prepared pie crusts)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 sticks chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces

  • To make the dough for the pie crust, mix 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and 1 teaspoon each salt and sugar in a medium-size bowl. Cut 2 sticks chilled unsalted butter into pieces. With a pastry blender, cut in butter, working until mixture resembles coarse meal.
  • Add 4 tablespoons ice water; work with hands until dough comes together. If dough is still crumbly, add more ice water a tablespoon at a time (up to 4 more tablespoons).
  • Divide dough in half, and flatten halves into disks. Wrap disks separately in plastic; refrigerate at least 30 m9nutes. Take out 10 minutes or so before rolling to let it soften.

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  • Saute onions in olive oil for several minutes until translucent.  Add carrots and garlic and saute another few minutes

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  • Add potatoes and water, cover and saute on medium low for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionaly.  If it starts to stick add a bit more water.  Potatoes and carrots should be softened.

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  • Add mushrooms and saute until they start to lose their water.

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  • Stir in mushroom soup and fresh herbs and let bubble on medium low until veggies are all soft. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.

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  • Fold in peas and corn, turn off heat and let cool.

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  • Roll out dough.  Using a 4″ circle cookie cutter, cut 12 rounds

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  • Place each round in lightly greased cupcake tins, pressing sides into place.

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  • Spoon filling into each tin.  If you overfill, it will overflow when cooked.

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  • Using a leaf (or other shape) cookie cutter, cut 12 – 24 shapes.  Or you could cut 3″ circles and completely enclose pies by pinching the sides together. Make a slice in the top of each to release steam.

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  • Arrange leaves on top of mini pies.

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  • Beat an egg with a tsp of water in a small bowl and brush mixture on the tops of each pie. (optional)

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  • Bake at 375 for about an hour. Let cool slightly before removing from tins.

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Mini Mushroom Vegetable Pot Pies

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print
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FILLING

1 medium or 1/2 large onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, dice
1 russet potato, peeled and diced
1/2 cup water
1 lb criminy mushrooms, roughly chopped
11 oz condensed mushroom soup
1/2 cup frozen or fresh peas
1/2 cup frozen or fresh corn
1 Tbsn fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste

DOUGH ( OR 2 prepared pie crusts)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 sticks chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces

  • To make the dough for the pie crust, mix 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and 1 teaspoon each salt and sugar in a medium-size bowl. Cut 2 sticks chilled unsalted butter into pieces. With a pastry blender, cut in butter, working until mixture resembles coarse meal.
  • Add 4 tablespoons ice water; work with hands until dough comes together. If dough is still crumbly, add more ice water a tablespoon at a time (up to 4 more tablespoons).
  • Divide dough in half, and flatten halves into disks. Wrap disks separately in plastic; refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Take out 10 minutes or so before rolling to let it soften.
  • Saute onions in olive oil for several minutes until translucent.  Add carrots and garlic and saute another few minutes
  • Add potatoes and water, cover and saute on medium low for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionaly.  If it starts to stick add a bit more water.  Potatoes and carrots should be softened.
  • Add mushrooms and saute until they start to lose their water.
  • Stir in mushroom soup and fresh herbs and let bubble on medium low until veggies are all soft. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Fold in peas and corn, turn off heat and let cool.
  • Roll out dough.  Using a 4″ circle cookie cutter, cut 12 rounds
  • Place each round in lightly greased cupcake tins, pressing sides into place.
  • Spoon filling into each tin.  If you overfill, it will overflow when baked.
  • Using a leaf (or other shape) cookie cutter, cut 12 – 24 shapes and arrange them on top of mini pies.  Or you could cut 3″ circles and completely enclose pies by pinching the sides together. Make a slice in the top of each to release steam.
  • Beat an egg with a tsp of water in a small bowl and brush mixture on the tops of each pie.
  • Bake at 375 for about an hour. Let cool slightly before removing from tins.

Bridal Showers 101: Or How To Throw a Bridal Shower

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You’ve sent out the invitations and the RSVPs are in.  Now what?  I have attended many bridal showers over the years, including my own, but I have never planned one, until now.  I recently hosted a shower for my beautiful future daughter in law and I turned to the internet (doesn’t everyone?) to make sure I did it right.  Bridal showers are fraught with tradition and ‘rules’ that go beyond coffee, cake and presents.  There is even lore in opening gifts.  While everyone keeps count, for every ribbon the bride breaks while opening presents, the happy couple can expect a baby. And the bride cannot be expected to break tradition by showing up at the wedding rehearsal without a ribbon bouquet! I figure I am not alone in being a first time bridal shower planner and thought I would share my new found expertise.

I have broken down the event into the following categories:  Decorations/Table Settings, Party Favors, MENU, Party Games, and Making a Ribbon Bouquet, so either click on the name of the category you are interested in which should take you right to that section or just scroll down.  I hope this helps you plan a fabulous event for your special person!  I know this is a departure from my regular food posts but I plan to start a Dinner Parties/Events Page so stay tuned!

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DECORATIONS/TABLE SETTINGS

The easiest way to make an event more festive is to set a pretty table, even if you are planning to serve buffet style.  This gives you the opportunity to decorate with pretty linens, flowers and favors.  Of course, if you are having more guests than can fit at your dining table and you don’t want to rent, you can still set a beautiful buffet table and include a basket of silverware rolled up in  cloth napkins and tied with a ribbon.  If you are having more people than you care to buy cloth napkins for, just use a pretty paper dinner napkin tied with raffia or curling ribbon.  If you have picked a theme, go with it!

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  • In lieu of purchasing a quantity of napkin rings, roll cloth napkins into tubes and tie with white tulle (bridal veil fabric).  At $1.49 per yard, tulle is a very inexpensive way to decorate and fits the wedding theme perfectly.

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  • Flowers are always a perfect centerpiece (Thank you Susan!) but the party stores are full of fun themed decorations.

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  • To hide (enhance) folding chairs, cut tulle into 12-14″ strips and tie to the backs of each chair.

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  • Instead of buying bottled water, fill glass milk jars with chilled tap water, sliced lemons and a sprig of mint. Of course, tulle is an option.

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  • To add a bit of flair to your table, print place cards onto plain white cardstock, cut and embellish with jewels, heart stickers or whatever strikes your fancy or matches the bride’s personality.  You can download a template for creating the place cards HERE.

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  • Use small canning jars for individual desert servings and decorate them to match the theme.  I made little garter belts from ribbon and miniature bows that I found at Michael’s.  A little help from my glue gun and the jelly jar is transformed!  Of course, plain ribbon is pretty too.

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PARTY FAVORS

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  • Party favors are not necessary but they are an opportunity to further decorate your table and to thank your guests for coming.  I like to make candybars, or rather I buy candybars and make personalized wrappers. I put a candybar in each water glass along with a couple of curly ribbons to make it festive.  Another idea is to check out The Container Store’s supply of pretty cardboard boxes and bags that you can fill with treats and tie with ribbons.  If you are not feeling so crafty, there are many websites that offer favors for sale like My Wedding Favors.

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MENU

If you will be serving dinner, I would offer several appetizers including a cheese or veggie platter for guests to nibble on while waiting for everyone to arrive.  I have listed a few suggestions below that are mostly ‘make ahead’ or ‘fast cooking’ recipes with links to the recipes, however, dinner and lunch parties are not the only way to go, especially for large groups.  Wine and appetizers or coffee and cake are also very appropriate refreshments to serve at bridal showers.

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APPETIZERS (One or Two plus a cheese or vegetable platter)

Antipasti Platter – Roasted Eggplant, Peppers and Tomatoes with Burrata

Asparagus and Goat Cheese Tart

Crostini with Fava Beans and Lemon Ricotta

Feta, Chili and Lemon Dip

Glazed Pecans

White Bean and Kale Dip

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DINNER/LUNCH (I recommend one main and two sides plus bread)

Maple Bourbon Glazed Salmon OR Sesame Crusted Salmon

Roasted Halibut with Lemon, Tomatoes and Capers

Scallop Ceviche with Avocado and Tomatillo

Salt and Pepper Shrimp with Garlic and Chile

Chili Lime Grilled Tofu with Avocado Mango Salsa

Summer Vegetable Tart

Eggplant Parm Minis

Pasta with Fried Lemons, Kale and Chili Flakes

Pasta Primavera with Summer Squash, Peas and Arugula

Roasted Eggplant with Goat Cheese and Pine Nuts

Israeli Couscous with Asparagus, Baby Spinach and Morel Mushrooms

Fennel Citrus Salad with Avocado and Olives

Endive Salad Bites

Composed Salad

Black Bean Mango Quinoa Salad

Roasted Beet Salad with Ripe Peaches and Goat Cheese

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DESSERT (You can go for a very traditional cake or make mini desserts like the following)

Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse Party Sized

No Bake Mini Cheesecakes with Raspberry Sauce

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BEVERAGES (Stick with wine or choose a specialty drink and infused water)

Citrus Strawberry Infused Water 
Lemon Cucumber Mint Water 
Mango Margaritas 
Watermelon Breeze

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PARTY GAMES

Games are not required but they are fun and act as an icebreaker for those who don’t know each other very well.  There are many games out there but I chose two, ‘The Nearlywed Game” and “Mystery Gift Game or Yankee Swap” which are outlined below.  For more games click HERE for a list of games from The Knot.  Just keep in mind that the purpose of the games is to have fun and not to embarrass the bride to be who is most likely a little bit uncomfortable being the focus of so much attention and largess.  That is why the Mystery Gift Game is a good choice, since it diverts the attention away from the blushing bride and everyone goes home with a little something.

Nearlywed Graphic Credit: Democratandchronicle.com Blog

  • THE NEARLYWED GAME –  We played this game during the cocktail hour, just as the last guests were arriving.  I wrote out questions in a HE SAID/SHE SAID format.   I asked the bride and groom to answer the questions separately before the event. Then at the shower we got to see how they matched up.  This was definitely a crowdpleaser and I would recommend it again.  For printable versions of The Nearlywed Game click the links HE SAID and SHESAID.  Then you just have to get your best Bob Eubanks going…

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  • THE GIFT GAME/YANKEE EXCHANGE – The host usually asks people to bring small gifts for this game, but since my guests were already bringing presents for the bride, I started collecting small things, like candles, bookmarks, notepads, etc., one for each guest except for the host(me) and the bride.  Wrap each gift and keep them separately from the gifts for the bride.  Write out a number for each of your guests on a small square of paper and put the numbers in a container. If you have 16 guests, you will write out all the numbers from 1 to 16. I used a top hat from my costume box for extra flair!   Have each guest pick a number.  The guest who picked number 1 goes first and chooses a gift from the pile to open which she shows to everyone.  Guest #2 has the choice to steal  #1’s gift or open a new one.  Guest #3 and all subsequent guests can steal from anyone who has opened a gift or choose to open a new gift.  If a guest’s gift is stolen, she gets to choose a new gift to open.  Only a few rules here; 1) no hiding gifts and 2)the same gift can only be stolen three times 3) stealing is encouraged and makes it more fun.

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MAKING A RIBBON BOUQUET

Supplies:  Heavy duty paper plate, 2-3 ribbons, hole punch or sharp knife/scissors  Note:  If you know the bride’s wedding colors, use those for the ribbon.  If have have many guests coming, you made need to make more than one (for the bridesmaids or flower girl).

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  • Punch holes every couple of inches around the perimeter( just inside the rim) of a heavy duty white paper plate with a hole puncher or sharp knife.

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  • Using a sharp knife (xacto-knife) cut a 2 inch hole in the center of the plate (It doesn’t have to be pretty.  No one will see it.)

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  • Knot one end of the ribbon and thread through every other hole and tie off the end.

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  • Repeat with second ribbon making sure all sides of plate are covered. If you want to add a third ribbon, thread it in and out of the other two ribbons into a nice pattern.

 

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  • Pull all ribbon ends through the middle.  Either side can be the ‘top’ of the bouquet.  Just choose the side that looks prettiest.

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  • At the shower, choose your most creative friend (or the most recent bride) and have her apply the ribbons to the top as the gifts are unwrapped.

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  • Don’t forget to ask someone to make a list of the gifts that are opened to organize the bride for her thank you notes.

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Above all, enjoy yourself and make sure the bride has a memorable time!  If you are reading this because you are throwing a bridal shower for someone you love, Congratulations!

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Don’t forget to take lots of pictures for the bride’s memory book…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Antipasti Platter – Roasted Eggplant, Peppers & Tomatoes with Burrata

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NBA Playoffs are here and my husband had an offer to go the the Warriors game LIVE, so I invited my two lovely neighbors over for some impromtu girl time.  Yes, the game was on and the Warriors won!  But more importantly, we watched female style, champagne in hand and a lovely antipasti platter spread before us.  Needless to say, a good time was had by all and my platter with thin slices of roasted eggplant, charred mini sweet peppers, wilted cherry tomatoes, salty olives and creamy burrata passed the test!  The eggplant was a rich and flavorful, the mini peppers just got sweeter through roasting and the burrata was a delight.  The big winner though, was the balsamic reduction that I drizzled over the whole thing. Credit goes to my son, Eric, for that recipe.  Yum!  Oh, and here are our fun napkins…just because.

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If you have never had burrata, it’s similar to fresh mozzarella but creamier and even more delicious! Burrata means ‘buttered’ in Italian if that gives you any indication of it’s yumminess. It resembles fresh mozzarella but it’s insides are soft and ooze out upon cutting it open. Mmmm….. I used a burrata from Belfiore, one of the few small family owned, cheesemakers in the SF Bay Area.  I love to promote local companies, especially when they take such care to use only quality natural ingredients, and the owners just happen to be friends of mine – even better!  Belfiore handcrafts their cheeses using no artificial ingredients, additives or preservatives.  In addition I love that they  use a vegetarian rennet in making their burrata.  I really like this brand but there are many other good handcrafted cheese companies out there too so look around.

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TIPS:  I love fresh herbs on almost anything.  I just walk outside my kitchen door and clip whatever I have on hand.  This time it was fresh basil, thyme and parsley, however, any fresh herbs will work just fine.  If you don’t have access to fresh herbs, sprinkle a bit of Italian Seasoning on top of everything before drizzling with balsamic reduction.  The balsamic reduction is heavenly and I can think of dozens of ways to use it in the future.  It’s easy to make but if you don’t want to go to the trouble, a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar and a drizzle of olive oil will be tasty too.

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I will be out of town next week at Rancho La Puerta (an early birthday present to myself) so I will not be in my kitchen but getting inspiration from the wonderful chefs at The Ranch.  So stay tuned, especially on FACEBOOK and INSTAGRAM for photos from my week at The Ranch.  When I come back, I’m sure I will have a lot to share… Have a good week!-Joyce

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ROASTED EGGPLANT, PEPPERS & TOMATOES  WITH BURRATA

1 globe eggplant
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 pint miniature sweet peppers
8 oz burrata, room temperature if possible
1/4 cup olive oil plus more for drizzling
1 cup fresh baby arugula
1/2 cup fresh mixed herbs, parsley, basil or thyme, roughly chopped
1/2 cup kalamata or black olives (optional)
1 cup balsamic vinegar
2-3 Tbsn sugar, brown sugar or honey
Vinaigrette:  2 Tbsn olive oil, 2 Tbsn lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste

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  • Remove the leafy stem and cut the aubergine into half lengthwise

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  • Then slice thinly lengthwise using a sharp knife or a mandolin

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  • Spread the slices on papertowels and sprinkle liberally with salt.  Let sit for at least 10 minutes to let the excess water come out.

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  • Wipe eggplant slices dry. Lightly oil a large cookie sheet and spread eggplant evenly in the pan in a single layer.  You may need more than one pan depending on the thickness of the slices.

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  • Brush tops with olive oil and roast at 400°F until they turn light brown, about. 25-35 minutes

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  • Place cherry tomatoes and peppers in another lightly oiled pan and roast in the same oven until charred in spots and wilted. Turn peppers once.
  • Stir balsamic vinegar and 2 Tbsn sugar together in a small saucepan and place over high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the vinegar mixture has reduced to 1/3 cup, about 10 minutes. After 5 minutes, taste and add another Tbsn sugar if it seems too acidic and cook another 5 minutes.. Set the balsamic reduction aside to cool (It should be a syrupy consistency)

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  • Remove the eggplant from the oven and let cool slightly.  Combine the vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl and pour the vinaigrette onto the warm eggplant and lightly toss to combine.

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  • Arrange eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, olives and burrata on a platter.

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  • Sprinkle herbs and arugula over the top.  Drizzle with olive oil (optional) and balsamic reduction.

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  • Serve room temperature with crusty sourdough bread and the remaining balsamic reduction on the side.

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Roasted Eggplant, Peppers & Tomatoes with Burrata

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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1 globe eggplant
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 pint miniature sweet peppers
8 oz burrata, room temperature if possible
1/4 cup olive oil plus more for drizzling
1 cup fresh baby arugula
1/2 cup fresh mixed herbs, parsley, basil or thyme, roughly chopped
1/2 cup kalamata or black olives (optional)
1 cup balsamic vinegar
2-3 Tbsn sugar, brown sugar or honey
Vinaigrette:  2 Tbsn olive oil, 2 Tbsn lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste

  • Remove the leafy stem and cut the aubergine into half lengthwise, then slice thinly lengthwise using a sharp knife or a mandolin
  • Spread the slices on papertowels and sprinkle liberally with salt.  Let sit for at least 10 minutes to let the excess water come out.
  • Wipe eggplant slices dry. Lightly oil a large cookie sheet and spread eggplant evenly in the pan in a single layer.  You may need more than one pan depending on the thickness of the slices.
  • Brush tops with olive oil and roast at 400°F until they turn light brown, about. 25-35 minutes
  • Place cherry tomatoes and peppers in another lightly oiled pan and roast in the same oven until charred in spots and wilted. Turn peppers once.
  • Stir balsamic vinegar and 2 Tbsn sugar together in a small saucepan and place over high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the vinegar mixture has reduced to 1/3 cup, about 10 minutes. After 5 minutes, taste and add another Tbsn sugar if it seems too acidic and cook another 5 minutes.. Set the balsamic reduction aside to cool (It should be a syrupy consistency)
  • Remove the eggplant from the oven and let cool slightly.  Combine vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl and pour the vinaigrette onto the warm eggplant and lightly toss to combine.
  • Arrange eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, olives and burrata on a platter.
  • Sprinkle herbs and arugula over the top.
  • Drizzle with olive oil (optional) and balsamic reduction.
  • Serve room temperature with crusty sourdough bread and the remaining balsamic reduction on the side.

 

 

10 Mother’s Day Recipe Ideas

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For those of you who are still looking for Mother’s Day inspiration, I have compiled 10 vegetarian and vegan ideas to help you pamper your Mom on her special day.  Just click on the links below for recipes and directions or Pin them for later (See below).

Happy Mother’s Day!-Joyce

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Heart Shaped Eggs  Start your Mom’s day with these adorable and easy heart eggs with toast, strawberries and a big mug of coffee. LOVE.

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Summer Vegetable Tart Slices of eggplant, zucchini and tomato alternating with fresh mozzerella baked into a flowery tart.  This is a personal favorite and although it’s not quite summer yet, these vegetables are readily available now or you can substitute what you have on hand.

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Asparagus and Goat Cheese Tart  Serve this easy and fast tart with a salad and a glass of wine.  Done!  Top it with cherry tomatoes which will blister and wilt for a colorful presentation.

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Endive Salad Bites  (with crumbled goat cheese, avocado, citrus and red grapes) Serve 2 or 3 as a wonderful salad course or platter them as lovely appetizers.

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Israeli Couscous with Asparagus, Baby Spinach and Morel Mushrooms  Israeli or Pearl Couscous combined with spring vegetables makes an elegant and delicious vegan dish.

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Fava and Spring Pea Risotto with Greens  Risotto with young fava beans and peas is the essence of springtime.  It’s also special in that fava beans are only around for a short time so get them while you can. (vegan)

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Roasted Beet Salad with Ripe Peaches and Goat Cheese This is a colorful and satisfying salad topped with a yummy balsamic vinaigrette, fresh mint and basil.  Apricots are in season and would make a good substitute if you can’t find good peaches.

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Black Bean Quinoa Salad  I love this colorful quinoa salad with mango, red pepper, purple onion and black beans with a tasty cumin orange vinaigrette.  Delicious, happy and vegan!

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Meatless Monday – Crostini with Fava Beans and Lemon Ricotta  I love tender young fava beans and piled on top of toasted ciabatta and creamy ricotta with lemon and parmesan = Yum! Pair with  soup or a salad for an elegant meal.

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Potato Crusted Spinach Herb Torta Beautiful flowery crust made with potato slices (which taste like french fries) and gluten free. What’s not to love…

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Wheatless Wednesday – Potato Crusted Spinach Herb Torta

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Elegant and delicious, perfect for Mother’s Day, this beautiful torta is made with creamy ricotta, feta, spinach and fresh herbs in a pretty crust that looks like a flowery pie crust but tastes like french fries. Not kidding!   I warned that this week was all about Mother’s Day!  Not that this dish can only be made for a special occasion, it’s just that I think all mothers deserve something beautiful and pretty on their special day.  Moms are certainly worth a little extra effort to thank them for all their years of servitude wonderful mothering, which we all know is a 24/7 #lifelong #novacation job.

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I adapted this lovely recipe from Grown To Cook but it is originally from Deborah Madison: Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, Revised,.so thumbs up to both of them.  The ingredients are simple, typical breakfast ingredients you would use to make an omlette and hash browns.  With a bit of effort, you can turn them into a showpiece, great for a brunch or garden party.  It’s not hard to make but cooking the potatoes first takes a bit of time since they won’t all fit in the pan at the same time.  Otherwise it’s pretty easy to assemble. Potatoes are the ultimate gluten free crust substitute.  Nutritionally speaking, potatoes win hands down over traditional crusts made with white flour and lard/butter.  Potatoes are complex carbohydrates and a great source of vitamin C, potassium (one potato has more than a banana), vitamin B6 and a host of trace minerals and have NO fat, sodium or cholesterol (except for what you add).  Use a good olive or avocado oil and even fried, they are still healthy.

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Spoiler Alert!  Stay tuned.  On Friday I will be posting a compilation of 10 ideas to make for your Mother’s Day brunch, lunch or dinner.

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TIPS:  I used my fancy new mandolin to slice the potatoes and loved the perfection of each thin slice.  I gave away my ‘professional’ mandolin, the one that real chefs use with lots of parts and adjustments, after my friend sliced off the end of her finger.  I just didn’t trust it any more.  This one, however, I would feel comfortable letting inexperienced or young cooks use (with supervision, of course).  I also used a springform pan which makes the torta removal very easy, as you just release the spring and the sides magically come off. Springform pans come in many sizes.  This recipe is for a 9 1/2 inch round springform pan which is on the smaller side.  If you have a larger pan, you may want to double the filling recipe or make 1 1/2 times the amount listed or your filling will be quite thin.  For the size of my pan (10 1/2), I should have made 1 1/2 times the filling.  Next time…

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POTATO CRUSTED SPINACH HERB TORTA

3 large russet potatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cups spinach leaves, stems removed
2 eggs
1 cup ricotta
1 1/2 cups chopped spring herbs: parsley, chives, dill
2/3 cup feta, crumbled
grated zest of 1 lemon
salt, pepper

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  • Peel the potatoes. Slice two of them crosswise into rounds about 3-4 mm (1/8 inch) thick using a mandoline or sharp knife. Cover with a damp papertowel to keep them from turning brown. Slice the third potato lengthwise, also 3-4 mm thick.

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  • Brush some olive oil in a wide skillet and set over high heat. When it’s hot, reduce the heat to medium and place a layer of potato slices in the skillet. Fry on both sides until golden and tender when pierced with a knife. Remove to a paper towel and repeat with the rest of the potato slices.  Sprinkle the long potato slices generously with salt while still warm.

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  • Add the spinach to the same pan with the water clinging to its leaves (or add a little water if dry). Cook until wilted and tender, about 4 minutes. Transfer the spinach to a sieve and press out any excess water.

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  • In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and ricotta. Add herbs, feta and lemon zest.

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  • Chop the spinach and add it to the mixture. The finer you chop it, the easier it blends.  Season with salt and pepper.

 

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  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly butter a 24 cm (9 ½ inch) spring form pan. Arrange the long slices (salted side out) overlapping each other, around the sides, pressing to keep them in place.   Line the bottom of the pan with the round potato slices, overlapping where necessary to cover the bottom completely.

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  • Pour in the ricotta mixture and spread it evenly in the pan.  If your sides have fallen in, try using a bit of ricotta mixture to ‘glue’ them together.

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  • Bake until firm and golden in places, 30-40 minutes. Check the first 10 minutes to make sure the sides are still in place.

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  • Let cool slightly.  Gently ease a knife between he edge of the pan and the potatoes. Release the spring and carefully remove the sides of the pan.  If it seems floppy, let it sit a bit longer before removing the springform.

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  • Serve warm or at room temperature.

Potato Crusted Spinach and Herb Torta

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

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3 large russet potatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cups spinach leaves, stems removed
2 eggs
1 cup ricotta
1 1/2 cups chopped spring herbs: parsley, chives, dill
2/3 cup feta, crumbled
grated zest of 1 lemon
salt, pepper

  • Peel the potatoes. Slice two of them crosswise into rounds about 3-4 mm (1/8 inch) thick using a mandoline or sharp knife. Cover with a damp papertowel to keep them from turning brown.
  • Slice the third potato lengthwise, also 3-4 mm thick.
  • Brush some olive oil in a wide skillet and set over high heat. When it’s hot, reduce the heat to medium and place a layer of potato slices in the skillet. Fry on both sides until golden and tender when pierced with a knife.
  • Remove to a paper towel and repeat with the rest of the potato slices.  Sprinkle potatoes with salt while still warm.
  • Add the spinach to the same pan with the water clinging to its leaves (or add a little water if dry). Cook until wilted and tender, about 4 minutes. Transfer the spinach to a sieve and press out any excess water.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and ricotta. Add herbs, feta and lemon zest.
  • Chop the spinach and add it to the mixture. The finer you chop it, the easier it blends. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly butter a 24 cm (9 ½ inch) spring form pan. Arrange the long slices (salted side out) overlapping each other, around the sides, pressing to keep them in place.   Line the bottom of the pan with the round potato slices, overlapping where necessary to cover the bottom completely.
  • Pour in the ricotta mixture and spread it evenly in the pan.  If your sides have fallen in, try using a bit of ricotta mixture to ‘glue’ them together.
  • Bake until firm and golden in places, 30-40 minutes. Check the first 10 minutes to make sure the sides are still in place.
  • Let cool slightly.  Gently ease a knife between he edge of the pan and the potatoes. Release the spring and carefully remove the sides of the pan.  If it seems floppy, let it sit a bit longer before removing the springform.
  • Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wheatless Wednesday – Endive Salad Bites

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Appetizers are the little things you keep eating until you lose your appetite. ~ Joe Moore
I don’t know who Joe Moore is but I’m with him on this.  The way I look at it, you might as well make the appetizer as yummy and nutritious as dinner.  This one is sure to satisfy, or at least start your night off on a delicious, healthy and low cal note.  I’m loving the three bite salad!

I was feeling a bit under the weather today, perhaps a result of spending so much time clearing out and planting my garden.  My raging allergies  have turned into a cold and the best remedy for a cold is soup.  So I made a big pot of White Bean and Swiss Chard Soup for dinner last night, which is a personal favorite. It has luscious creaminess without any added cream or thickener. Click on the link for the recipe. I also had some endive from my CSA box that was not yet destined for anything so decided to make salad bites. I am a sucker for foods that have a nice presentation and are easy to eat appetizer style, my kind of eating! Their shape is perfect for stuffing. I just tossed all the salad ingredients with the dressing and piled them up in the endive spear, or boats as I have always thought of them.  Their slight bitterness is offset by the sweetness of the orange and grapes and the creaminess of the avocado and goat cheese.  The vinaigrette is simple but helps to blend the flavors nicely.

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Alternatively, you could julienne the endive and toss the whole thing together as a large salad.  Either way, delicious!

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This is only the second time I can remember using endive.  It definitely won’t be the last.  I thought it was a really tasty salad/appetizer and I will make it again with whatever is in season.  My CSA box came with an informational blurb on endive which I found quite interesting.  Endive is a member of the chicory family (which makes me think of coffee for some reason).  Belgiun endive is grown from chicory roots in a dark environment, which is why their tender leaves are such a light color. I was enthralled, so I googled, and here is what endive looks like growing. You can click on the photo link for the full story on endive.

For their pale complexions, endive are surprisingly nutritious, providing many valuable vitamins and mnerals, including vitamin C, calcium, iron and zinc, among many others.  The biggest surprise is that it is a good source of beta-carotene which we usually attribute to the orange vegetable family.  But that’s not all.  It has more than 50% of the potassium of a banana. Not too bad for our pale friend, the endive.  It also makes a darn good edible appetizer boat.

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ENDIVE SALAD BITES

1 head Belgian endive
1 orange or grapefruit
1 avocado
1/2 cup red grapes
4 scallions, chopped
1/3 cup crumbled goat, gorgonzola or blue cheese
1/3 cup cilantro or parsley, chopped (or more)

Marinade

2 Tbsn olive oil
1 Tbsn balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsn red wine or apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

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  • Cut the ends off orange and remove the peel by cutting in a downward motion going all the way around.  Cut into wheels and then sections.  Place in a large bowl.

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  • Slice grapes and admire their gorgeous jewel toned colors.

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  • place in the bowl with the oranges.

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  • Halve avocado and cut into pieces a similar size to the orange segments.

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  • Add avocado, cilantro, scallions and crumbled goat cheese to the bowl.

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  • Prepare marinade and drizzle over salad sparingly.  You can always drizzle more later and since they are to be eaten by hand, you don’t want them too drippy.

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  • Cut the core end off the endive. Clean by gently wiping both sides with a lightly damp paper towel. Pull off as many leaves as you want to use. The remainder can be stored in the refrigerator under a lightly damp paper towel.Place 1-2 tablespoons of salad into each endive spear.   Arrange on a platter and garish with extra cilantro.

 

Endive Salad Bites

  • Servings: 12 pieces
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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1 head Belgian endive
1 orange or grapefruit
1 avocado
1/2 cup red grapes
4 scallions, chopped
1/3 cup crumbled goat, gorgonzola or blue cheese
1/3 cup cilantro or parsley, chopped (or more)

Marinade

2 Tbsn olive oil
1 Tbsn balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsn red wine or apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

  • Cut the ends off orange and remove the peel by cutting in a downward motion going all the way around.  Cut into wheels and then sections.  Place in a large bowl.
  • Slice grapes and place in the bowl with the oranges.
  • Halve avocado and cut into pieces a similar size to the orange segments.
  • Add avocado, cilantro and scallions to the bowl.
  • Crumble goat cheese and add to the salad.
  • Cut the core end off the endive. Clean by gently wiping both sides with a lightly damp paper towel. Pull off as many leaves as you want to use. The remainder can be stored in the refrigerator under a lightly damp paper towel.
  • Prepare marinade and drizzle over salad sparingly.  You can always drizzle more later and since they are to be eaten by hand, you don’t want them too messy.
  • Place 1-2 tablespoons of salad into each endive spear.   Arrange on a platter and garish with extra cilantro.

Wheatless Wednesday – Tostadas with Halibut, Spicy Slaw and Avocado Crema

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Can we talk about the Avocado Crema? You have already heard that we should be eating avocados every day due to their health benefits. So here goes…  You’re either an avocado lover or a hater, most people don’t seem to be happily ambivalent.  I am a total Lover and could eat this Avocado Crema all by itself. I mean, someone has to taste it… So delicious!  And it’s a healthy topping for practically anything, tacos, salads, roasted veggies….  Simple and just a few ingredients, including water. and it’s super easy to make in about a minute whizzed in a blender or food processor. Healthy, happy, looking forward to leftovers…Just saying.

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The slaw – my husband won’t come anywhere near the crema or anything else creamy, so this slaw is Jeff approved, crisp and spicy, tossed with olive oil, herbs and spices. I have gotten used to his peccadilloes regarding food and actually think that this is a more crowd friendly slaw as it is dairy free.  If you are setting up a taco bar, even vegan friends can participate, mixing the spicy slaw with the garlicky black beans, and if you use a dairy free yogurt, the avocado crema is just divine.  A little Sriracha on the side is also not a bad idea.  If you don’t like spicy jalapenos, substitute red bell pepper.  If you like it extra spicy, use more jalapeno or an even hotter variety of pepper.

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The beans – I add garlicky black beans to my tostada bar because I love the salty richness and extra boost of protein and all the lovely vitamins and minerals that they provide. They also give non-fish eaters something other than vegetables to put onto their plate.  You could also prepare rice if you wish.

TIPS: When buying seafood, check out Seafood Watch who makes recommendations of what fish and shellfish are  ‘healthy’ to eat and which are farmed or caught in a way that doesn’t harm you or the environment.  I used live caught California halibut which is considered by Seafood Watch to be a “Best Choice” option.

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AVOCADO CREMA

1 ripe avocado
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 tsp fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp. salt more, to taste)
1/4-1/2  cup water (to desired consistency)

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  • Halve and pit the avocado and peel or spoon the flesh into a food processor or blender.

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  • Add the rest of the ingredients and blend just until smooth. Add more water for a more fluid consistency. You can add a pinch of cumin as an option.  I didn’t do so for this dish because I had already used cumin in other dishes.
  • Transfer to a serving bowl. Serve thick with a spoon or thinner like a dressing in a container with a pour spout. Can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

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SPICY SLAW

2 cups shredded cabbage (green, red or savoy)
1 red jalapeno chili, seeded and diced
3 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbs. minced red onion
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 tsp fresh lime zest
2 tsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil

  •  Combine all ingredients and toss until combined.  Refrigerate up to several hours before serving.

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TOSTADAS WITH HALIBUT AND BLACK BEANS

1 lb. halibut or other firm-fleshed white fish fillet, skin removed
2 Tbsn olive oil
1 tsp lime juice
1/2 tsp sugar, honey or agave nectar (or to taste)
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 tsp pepper
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 can black beans, drained
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsn olive oil
8 corn tortillas

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  • Combine olive oil, lime juice, sugar and spices in a small bowl.

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  • Wash and dry halibut filets.  Cut them into smaller pieces, if desired, and place on an oiled baking dish. Pour marinade over the top of the fish and let sit at least 20 minutes.  Turn the filets several times to coat both sides.

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  • While the fish is marinating, heat the beans in a small stock pot with the garlic and olive oil. Remove from heat until ready to serve.

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  • Heat tortillas in a covered cast iron or heavy pan on low until heated through,  You can flip by quarters and thirds so the bottom doesn’t get too hard. Remove from heat and keep covered until ready to serve.  If you like crispy tostadas, fry each one in oil on both sides a few minutes until crispy and let drain on papertowels.

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  • Broil fish 3- 4 minutes in top third of oven. Turn fish and broil another 3 to 4 minutes or until the fish flakes easily.  Cover until ready to serve.

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Tostadas with Halibut, Spicy Slaw & Avocado Crema

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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AVOCADO CREMA

1 ripe avocado
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 tsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp cumin(optional)
1/2 tsp. salt more, to taste)
1/4 – 1/2 cup water (depending on desired consistency)

  • Halve and pit the avocado and peel or spoon the flesh into a food processor or blender.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and blend just until smooth. Add more water for a more fluid consistency.
  • Transfer to a serving bowl.  Can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

SPICY SLAW

2 cups shredded cabbage (green, red or savoy)
1 red jalapeno chili, seeded and diced
3 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbs. minced red onion
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 tsp fresh lime zest
2 tsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil

  •  Combine all ingredients and toss until combined.  Refrigerate up to several hours before serving.

 

TOSTADAS WITH HALIBUT

1 lb. halibut or other firm-fleshed white fish fillet, skin removed
2 Tbsn olive oil
1 tsp lime juice
1/2 tsp sugar, honey or agave nectar (or to taste)
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 tsp pepper
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

8 corn tortillas

  • Combine olive oil, lime juice, sugar and spices in a small bowl.
  • Wash and dry halibut filets.  Cut them into smaller pieces, if desired, and place on an oiled baking dish.
  • Pour marinade over the top of the fish and let sit at least 20 minutes.  Turn the filets several times to coat both sides.
  • Heat tortillas in a covered cast iron or heavy pan on low until heated through,  You can flip by quarters and thirds so the bottom doesn’t get too hard.  If you like crispy tostadas, fry each one in oil on both sides a few minutes until crispy and let drain on papertowels.
  • Broil 3- 4 minutes.
  • Turn fish and broil another 3 to 4 minutes or until the fish flakes easily.  Cover until ready to serve.

Meatless Monday – Eggplant, Potato & Goat Cheese Gratin

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Looking for healthy comfort food?  Picture yummy layers of roasted eggplant, caramelized onions, buttery mushrooms and creamy potatoes topped with fresh herbs, tomatoes and goat cheese.  This is my favorite kind of food, loaded with flavor and oozing with goodness.  You might ask, what exactly is a gratin?  It’s a fancy name for a dish with a lightly browned crust of breadcrumbs or melted cheese, usually served in the dish in which it is cooked.  The word ‘gratin‘ has an interesting history of evolution, from the original French which derives from the word gratter meaning “to scrape” or “to grate” as of the “scrapings” of bread or cheese. Le gratin evolved to signify the ‘upper crust’ of society and has subsequently been borrowed into the English language , particularly in food terms.

Each layer in this gratin has something to offer.  The creamy white potatoes on the bottom soak up all the lovely flavors and form a delicious bottom ‘crust’.  Regardless of what you have been lead to believe, Potatoes are not worthless fattening carbs.  They are complex carbohydrates which provide energy for our bodies along with significant amounts of Potassium and Vitamin C. The layer of caramalized onions is not only delicious but loaded with antioxidants and vitamins including vitamin B complex. Earthy mushrooms provide nutrients that are also found in meats, beans and grains like selenium, potassium , riboflavin, niacin, vitamin D, which makes them a great meat substitute.  Eggplant with it’s gorgeous purple skin offers a host of vitamins and minerals along with it’s delectable flavor.

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TIPS: I really love the tang that goat cheese adds but if you’re not a fan you can substitute your favorite cheese.  Mozzarella, gruyere or parmesan are good choices.  If you are vegan, use breadcrumbs instead of cheese. for a crispy top.

If you don’t have the time or inclination to pre-cook the vegetables before layering them, you can skip a few steps. Instead of roasting and boiling you can bake the mostly raw ingredients which is easier prep but will take quite a bit longer to cook.  You will lose some of the nuances of flavor but it should still be delicious.  Don’t skip the step of salting the eggplant but while it’s resting, chop onions and saute them with garlic until soft.  Slice all vegetables ( I would omit the mushrooms since they make so much water) and layer them raw as per the directions.  You may want to store the sliced potatoes in cold water or slice them last to prevent browning until you’re read to layer. I would wait on the last layer of cheese or it could get overbrown. You may not need as much broth as the raw veggies have so much water.  Cover tightly and bake for one hour. At 30 minutes, using a flat spatula, press vegetables down so juices come to surface. If it seems dry add a bit more liquid. At 60 minutes, uncover, press veggies again and check for doneness. If veggies seem soft sprinkle with cheese and bake another 15 minutes or until cheese is golden brown and juices have evaporated.  Otherwise, cover and bake another 20 minutes or so.

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EGGPLANT, POTATO & GOAT CHEESE GRATIN

1 large or 4 small Japanese eggplants
2 large potatoes
3-4 Tbsn olive oil
1 large onion
6 large brown mushrooms (optional)
1 16 oz can chopped tomatoes with juice
1 Tbsn or more fresh thyme or 1 tsp Italian seasoning
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 oz goat cheese
1/3 cup vegetable broth (or more)

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  • Slice eggplant into 1/4 inch rounds and spread in a single layer on paper towels.  Sprinkle liberally with salt and let sit at least 10 minutes or until you see beads of water forming on their surfaces.

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  • Peel and slice potatoes, slice into 1/4 inch rounds and place in a pan filled with cold, salted water.  Heat the potatoes to a boil and cook for about five minutes, until slightly soft but not losing it’s shape.  Drain and rinse with cold water. Lightly oil the bottom and sides of a baking dish.  Layer the potatoes in the bottom of the dish.

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  • Lightly oil a baking sheet and arrange eggplant circles in a single layer.  Brush with olive oil and roast in a hot (450 degree) oven for about 10 minutes, turning once. Remove from heat and let sit.

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  • Peel and slice onion into 1/4 inch rounds.  Brown them in a frying pan with about a Tablespoon of oil over medium high heat.  Flip to brown the other side, then break circles apart and add garlic.  Let sit for a few minutes of lower heat until softened. Layer the onions over the potatoes.

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  • Clean the mushroom caps with a damp paper towel and slice in half horizontally. Add a bit more oil and saute until golden on each side.  Layer over the onions.

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  • Dot the vegetable mixture with about half of the goat cheese.  Sprinkle with herbs, salt and pepper.

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  • Add a layer of eggplant slices.

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  • Pour the tomatoes evenly over the eggplant and dot with the rest of the goat cheese.  Pour vegetable broth over the top.  Add sprigs of thyme, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

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  • Bake at 425 degrees for about a half hour, covered.  Check after 15 minutes, if it’s not starting to bubble add a bit more broth.  Then uncover and let bake another 5 to 10 minutes.

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Eggplant, Potato & Goat Cheese Gratin

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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1 large or 4 small Japanese eggplants
2 large potatoes
3-4 Tbsn olive oil
1 large onion
6 large brown mushrooms (optional)
1 16 oz can chopped tomatoes with juice
1 Tbsn or more fresh thyme or 1 tsp Italian seasoning
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 oz goat cheese
1/3 cup vegetable broth (or more)

  • Slice eggplant into 1/4 inch rounds and spread in a single layer on paper towels.  Sprinkle liberally with salt and let sit at least 10 minutes or until you see beads of water forming on their surfaces.
  • Peel and slice potatoes, slice into 1/4 inch rounds and place in a pan filled with cold, salted water.  Heat the potatoes to a boil and cook for about five minutes, until slightly soft but not losing it’s shape.  Drain and rinse with cold water.
  • Lightly oil the bottom and sides of a baking dish.  Layer the potatoes in the bottom of the dish.
  • Lightly oil a baking sheet and arrange eggplant circles in a single layer.  Brush with olive oil and roast in a hot (450 degree) oven for about 10 minutes, turning once. Remove from heat and let sit.
  • Peel and slice onion into 1/4 inch rounds.  Brown them in a frying pan with about a Tablespoon of oil over medium high heat.  Flip to brown the other side, then break circles apart and add garlic.  Let sit for a few minutes of lower heat until softened. Layer the onions over the potatoes.
  • Clean the mushroom caps with a damp paper towel and slice in half horizontally. Add a bit more oil and saute until golden on each side.  Layer over the onions.
  • Dot the vegetable mixture with about half of the goat cheese.  Sprinkle with herbs, salt and pepper.
  • Add a layer of eggplant slices.
  • Pour the tomatoes evenly over the eggplant and dot with the rest of the goat cheese.  Pour vegetable broth over the top.  Add sprigs of thyme, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Bake at 425 degrees for about a half hour, covered.  Check after 15 minutes, if it’s not starting to bubble add a bit more broth.  Then uncover and let bake another 5 to 10 minutes.

Wheatless Wednesday – Fennel Citrus Salad with Avocado and Olives

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Is the dinner party dead?  One of my goals for this new year is to host a dinner party every month. My husband and I are finding that as ’empty nesters’ we are no longer attending school events where we get to hang out with our friends without any planning on our part,and we just aren’t seeing people that we really like as often.  Let’s just say that it takes more of an effort when you have to physically reach out and organize something.  In some ways, our schedules are less busy with soccer and lacrosse games, carpools and school events in the distant past. In other ways we are busier than ever.  Chairing a school committee segues into a new hobby, like volunteering at WildCare, competing in triathalons or starting a blog about something you enjoy (sound familiar?). There is more time for hikes and hot yoga classes if you are so inclined.  Unless you have a Boomerang kid (of which we have had our share) it’s easier to take off and travel. Many of my friends never seem to be around any more.  So this is where the dinner parties come in.  I’m going with the “You build it they will come” theory. We had a dinner party last weekend, a group of 10 fun people for no specific reason, and hopefully, just the first of many in 2015.  January, done and great fun!

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Arugula + fennel bulbs + blood orange + red onion+fresh cilantro from my CSA box + oranges from my tree + an avocado and olives from the market = a gorgeous salad for dinner.  Along with the Fennel Citrus Salad, I served Maple Bourbon Glazed Salmon, a deliciously easy main course that can serve many people, along with one of my favorite GMD dishes, Black and Wild Rice with Roasted Squash and Pomegranate followed by Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse for dessert. You can click on the links to go directly to those recipes. My guests asked what the trick is to having a successful dinner party without being really stressed out. One friend claims she runs around like a crazy person when she has just a couple of people over. I think she is not alone which is probably why people don’t have very many dinner parties.  I think the key is to keep it simple.  I like to have only one item that needs my immediate attention during a dinner party.  The Fennel Citrus salad and dressing can be made ahead and tossed right before serving.  The Black and Wild Rice dish is best served at room temperature so perfect for making ahead.

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The Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse is a very easy, no-cook recipe I’ve been making since the 80’s and prepared the day before and put right into small jelly jars so they’re ready to serve.  Only the salmon required my attention.  It was pre-cut and resting in the glaze needing less than 10 minutes in the oven for a perfect golden finish. Set up a lovely buffet and you’re all set. I used the lovely china from Nana Rosella, my husband’s grandmother, because I like an excuse to use them and I don’t have ten of my regular plates that aren’t chipped, however you could use paper plates and the salad would still be beautiful and delicious, just don’t use plastic forks unless you’re at a picnic.  I don’t know anyone that can eat with those dreaded implements.  Dinner parties are fun but only if you’re relaxed and enjoying your guests.  It’s not really about the food.  It’s about the friends…

FENNEL CITRUS SALAD
2 cups fresh arugula
2-3 small fennel bulbs
2 large naval oranges (grapefruit or blood orange)
1/2 red onion
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1 firm avocado
1 Tbsn fresh herbs (cilantro, mint or parsley)

Dressing: 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 Tbsn lemon juice,1 Tbsn apple cider or red wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.

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  • Wash and dry arugula and place in the bottom of a salad bowl

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  • Trim fennel bulbs taking care not to cut too much off the bottom end.  Cut each bulb in half lengthwise, then into quarters lengthwise.  Slice quarters as thinly as possible. Place in the bowl with the arugula

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  • Slice both ends off the oranges and place one cut end on a cutting board.  Using a downward motion, slice the peel and pitch away from the fruit.  Go back and get any remaining pith then slice horizontally into wheels.  Use wheels whole or quartered.  OR if you like perfect slices, check out this handy short video: How To Peel An Orange in 5 Seconds

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  • Slice the onion in half lengthwise and then into quarters.  Slice each quarter as finely as possible.

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  • Slice avocado in half and then slice horizontally. Add all vegetables into bowl with arugula.  If you aren’t serving right away include the avocado pits (to keep the avocado from turning brown) but take them out before tossing.

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  • Whisk together the dressing and set aside until you’re ready to serve. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss.  Sprinkle with fresh herbs.

Fennel Citrus Salad with Avocado and Olives

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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2 cups fresh arugula
2-3 small fennel bulbs
2 large naval oranges (grapefruit or blood orange)
1/2 red onion
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1 firm avocado
1 Tbsn fresh herbs (cilantro, mint or parsley)

Dressing: 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 Tbsn lemon juice,1 Tbsn apple cider or red wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.

  • Wash and dry arugula and place in the bottom of a salad bowl
  • Trim fennel bulbs taking care not to cut too much off the bottom end.  Cut each bulb in half lengthwise, then into quarters lengthwise.  Slice quarters as thinly as possible. Place in the bowl with the arugula
  • Slice both ends off the oranges and place one cut end on a cutting board.  Using a downward motion, slice the peel and pitch away from the fruit.  Go back and get any remaining pith then slice horizontally into wheels.  Use wheels whole or quartered.  OR if you like perfect slices, check out this handy short video: How To Peel An Orange in 5 Seconds
  • Slice the onion in half lengthwise and then into quarters.  Slice each quarter as finely as possible.
  • Slice avocado in half and then slice horizontally.
  • Add all vegetables into bowl with arugula.  If you aren’t serving right away include the avocado pits (to keep the avocado from turning brown)
  • Whisk together the dressing and set aside until you’re ready to serve.
  • Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss.  Sprinkle with fresh herbs.