Sunday, January 31, 2010

Final Feast with the Veggie Dinner Club

Fortuitously, my turn to host dinner club coincided with the end of home-cooked January. I decided to make a big meal full of comfort food. If this meal had a theme, it was butter, which was incorporated into most of the dishes. We had spinach yogurt dip for an appetizer, beet and avocado salad, "meat"loaf, macaroni and cheese, carrots, brussel sprouts, cauliflower and biscuits. I made two desserts, a chocolate-pear cake and cocoa brownies (both recipes from Smitten Kitchen, a fabulous food blog and great source of recipes all month). No one went home fact, quite a few of us ate ourselves into food comas, but it was a great time and a fitting end to my month of cooking. I even got to use my new tabletop convection oven (Thanks, Mom!). Here are some photos and recipes:

Spinach Yogurt Dip (from Joy of Cooking)
10 oz package frozen spinach (thawed and drained)
3 scallions
2 cloves garlic
2 cups plain yogurt
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp sour cream
1/8 tsp nutmeg
Minced scallions and garlic in the food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse until smooth. Refrigerate for at least one hour. I served with Hawaiian bread.

Beet and Avocado Salad
3 beets (roasted at 400F for 1 hour, peeled and cooled)
2 avocados, sliced
Red onion, sliced
Layered and topped with:
Lemon Vinaigrette
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
Salt and plenty of black pepper
Combined with 1 tbsp warm water and pulsed in blender to combine and poured over the salad before serving.

Vegetarian Meatloaf (from
1/2 (14 ounce) package vegetarian ground beef (e.g., Gimme Lean TM)
1 (12 ounce) package vegetarian burger crumbles
1 onion, chopped
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon ground sage
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons prepared mustard
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 1/2 slices bread, cubed (I used 1 cup bread crumbs)
1/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a large bowl combine vegetarian ground beef, vegetarian ground beef crumbles, onion, eggs, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, sage, garlic powder, mustard, oil, bread crumbs and milk. Transfer to a 9 x 13 inch baking dish and form into a loaf. Cover with ketchup glaze (1/2 cup ketchup, 1 tsp mustard, and 1 tbsp brown sugar). Bake for ~1 hour.

Mac & Cheese (from the Barefoot Contessa)
Vegetable oil
Kosher salt
1 pound elbow macaroni or cavatappi (I used shells)
1 quart milk
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
12 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (4 cups) (I also used some Parmesan - the photo shows the 12 CUPS total cheese for 2 trays of mac & cheese)
8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar, grated (2 cups)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs (5 slices, crusts removed)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well. Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don't boil it. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a large (4-quart) pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, cheddar, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well. Pour into a 3-quart baking dish. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine them with the fresh bread crumbs, and sprinkle on the top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.

Quick-Glazed Carrots (from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian)
1 pound carrots, sliced
2 tbsp butter
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup white wine

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a boil, then cover and adjust heat to simmer. Cook 10-20 minutes until carrots are tender and liquid is nearly gone. Uncover and boil off remaining liquid.

Braised and Glazed Brussel Sprouts (see previous post)

Roasted Cauliflower
Simply cut a head of cauliflower into florets, combine with some olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 400F until browned (~45 minutes).

Yogurt Biscuits (from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian)
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 to 5 tbsp cold butter (more is better)
7/8 cup yogurt

Using the food processor, mix dry ingredients. Then pulse with butter. Stir in yogurt until it forms a ball. Turn the dough out and knead 10 times (no more!). Press into a 3/4 inch thick rectangle and cut out 2 inch rounds. Bake for 7-9 minutes at 450F. Serve warm.

Al Di La’s Torta di Pere [Bittersweet Chocolate and Pear Cake] (from Smitten Kitchen)
Courtesy of Al Di La Restaurant in Park Slope, Brooklyn

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, at room-temperature
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 pears, peeled, in a small dice
3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chunks

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and dust with breadcrumbs (I cheated and used flour), set aside. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together, set aside.

Using a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the eggs on high speed until pale and very thick. (In a professional Kitchen Aid, it takes at least five minutes; on a home machine, it will take nine minutes to get sufficient volume)

While the eggs are whipping, brown the butter. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan (because it will foam a lot) and cook it until the butter browns and smells nutty (about 6 to 8 minutes). It helps to frequently scrape the solids off the bottom of the pan in the last couple minutes to ensure even browning. Remove from the flame but keep in a warm spot.

Add the sugar to the eggs and whip a few minutes more.

Just as the egg-sugar mixture is starting to loose volume, turn the mixture down to stir, and add the flour mixture and brown butter. Add one third of the flour mixture, then half of the butter, a third of the flour, the remaining butter, and the rest of flour. Whisk until just barely combined — no more than a minute from when the flour is first added — and then use a spatula to gently fold the batter until the ingredients are combined. It is very important not to over-whisk or fold the batter or it will lose volume.

Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle the pear and chocolate chunks over the top, and bake until the cake is golden brown and springs back to the touch, about 40 to 50 minutes.

Best Cocoa Brownies (from Smitten Kitchen)
Adapted from Alice Mendrich’s Bittersweet

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks, 5 ounces or 141 grams) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (9 7/8 ounces, 280 grams) sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 7/8 ounces, 82 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

Melt butter in microwave and add sugar cocoa and salt and whisk until smooth. Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes is Medrich’s suggestion but it took me at least 10 minutes longer to get them set. Let cool completely on a rack. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

Boy, that was a lot of food. Reflections on the month of cooking to come soon. And don't worry, I'll keep posting tasty recipes and stories of our adventures (in and out of the kitchen).

1 comment:

  1. That was an awesome meal. The mac and cheese was the best I ever ate. Thanks Kim (OK and Mike).