This last weekend I hosted my annual holiday dinner party with close friends and family. It’s a party Jersey and I both look forward to every year where we can share good food, cocktails and conversation with those in our inner circle (which is small by design). This year I went a nontraditional route decorating the table with a colorful runner I got last year while in Mexico and place mats from Seychelles (intended for outside) that just happened to match. I follow design bloggers and got the idea to create menu cards and even pull some herbs from the garden to decorate the plate setting. Seriously I had so much fun. I put the menu together thinking it would be a tapas approach with everyone trying a small portion of each. It worked out perfectly with each dish having a very unique flavor. I hope you will give these a try and enjoy them as much as we did!
I do have a layout of appetizers in the kitchen where my brother also has his bartending station. I made the nut mix I shared last year again and Jersey always picks up some Cento Stuffed Red Peppers from the Italian Deli. I always put some olives out and a crudite with hummus is always popular. This year I did make a cheese dip I found in Bon Appetit but instead of putting perperoncinis on the top I added some red peppers in the dip. So good. Why is cheese so evil? Why?
Wedge Salad with Anchovy Dressing
This creamy pungent salad dressing was a party favorite. I found the recipe in one of my Food and Wine magazines. Although I couldn’t find the Little Gem lettuce, regular Romaine worked fine. We do eat fish from time to time but I did substitute all the dairy ingredients for more animal friendly versions. I made the salad dressing the night before as part of my preparations so the garlic and anchovies got to really soak in.
- 1 cup veganaise (or regular mayonnaise)
- 1 (2-ounce) can flat anchovy fillets in oil (such as Roland), drained
- 1 ounces Follow Your Heart Paremsan cheese finely grated (about 1/4 cup)
- 1 1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 small garlic clove
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Finely ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup panko
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh chives
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 4 (4-ounce) heads Little Gem lettuce, stems trimmed, outer leaves removed, and heads cut lengthwise into 6 wedges each
- Combine mayonnaise, anchovies, cheese, vinegar, mustard, and garlic in a food processor; process until smooth, about 45 seconds, stopping to scrape down sides as needed. Transfer mixture to a bowl; season generously with salt and pepper. Refrigerate, uncovered, until ready to use.
- Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium until shimmering, about 2 minutes and 30 seconds. Add panko; cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a small baking sheet; let cool 10 minutes. Stir in chives and lemon zest.
- Using a small offset spatula, spread anchovy dressing over cut sides of lettuce. Dredge in panko mixture. Transfer to a platter or board, and serve.
Turkish Eggplant Pie
I was going through my magazines this Fall and came across a 4 year old Vegetarian Times and was instantly drawn to this recipe. If you want to expand your palette, try the flavors of mint, anise, cumin, and paprika that make up this pie. It’s decadent and spicy AND vegan. When Jersey and I tried this in September we knew it had to make our menu for the dinner party. The first time I made it I used the phyllo sheets – they officially suck. This time I used puff pastry for the crust and it worked out perfectly. It’s very satisfying for me to find my way through recipes and know enough to make things work. I used to be the WORST cook and pretty much a nightmare in the kitchen but I’m learning and the process has been so rewarding.
- 2 eggplants (1 lb.), pierced with fork
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- 1 medium red onion, chopped (11/2 cups)
- 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped (1 cup)
- 1 Tbs. dried mint
- 2 1/2 tsp. anise seeds
- 2 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 1 1/2 lb. Roma tomatoes, chopped, plus 2 sliced tomatoes for garnish
- 2 Tbs. tomato paste
- 3 cloves garlic, minced (1 Tbs.)
- 12 sheets phyllo, thawed (I used puff pastry instead)
- 1/3 cup whole-wheat breadcrumbs, plus more for topping, optional
- 12 pitted black and/or green olives, halved
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat 10-inch fluted-edge tart pan with cooking spray.
- Roast eggplants on baking sheet 50 minutes, or until tender. Cool. Scoop flesh into food processor; purée until smooth.
- Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper, mint, anise, cumin, paprika, and pepper flakes; sauté 8 minutes. Add chopped tomatoes and tomato paste; simmer 10 minutes. Stir in eggplant and garlic; cook 10 minutes.
- Press 1 phyllo sheet into prepared tart pan. Spray with cooking spray, and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Repeat layering with remaining phyllo and breadcrumbs. Roll over edges, and coat with cooking spray.
- Spoon eggplant mixture into crust. Arrange tomato slices and olives over top, and sprinkle with breadcrumbs (if using). Bake 1 hour, or until phyllo is golden. Cool 10 minutes before serving.
Vegetable Welling Redux
This was the hit of the party and another recipe I found in that 4 year old Vegetarian Times. It’s full of veggies with pesto and goat cheese wrapped in a puff pastry. I mean how can you go wrong? This recipe was made simple by using jarred pesto and red sauce. When you are feeding a table full of people, it’s nice to find a recipe with shortcuts.
- 1 Tbs. olive oil
- 1 lb. asparagus, cut into 11/2-inch pieces
- 2 medium red bell peppers, cut into thin strips
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced (11/2 cups)
- 1 5-oz. pkg. baby spinach leaves
- 1 4-oz. jar prepared pesto sauce
- 1 large egg
- 1 17.3-oz. pkg. frozen puff pastry, thawed
- 1 10-oz. log fresh goat cheese, softened
- 1 16-oz. jar prepared tomato sauce, warmed
- Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add asparagus, bell peppers, and onion, and sauté 5 to 10 minutes, or until vegetables begin to soften. Add spinach, and cook 3 to 4 minutes, or until spinach wilts. Stir in pesto. Cool.
- Whisk egg in bowl, and set aside. Cut 15- x 10-inch piece of parchment paper, and set on work surface. Place 1 sheet puff pastry on parchment paper. Lift parchment with puff pastry, and place parchment-side-down in 9-inch loaf pan. Press pastry into pan, being careful not to let folds get caught in parchment and allowing excess parchment and pastry to hang over sides. Cut squares from second puff pastry sheet, and press onto short sides of parchment-covered pan to make dough shell. Prick bottom of puff pastry all over with fork.
- Spread goat cheese over bottom of puff pastry. Top with asparagus mixture. Fold excess puff pastry over vegetables, and brush edges with egg.
- Cut 91/2- x 51/2-inch piece of puff pastry from remaining sheet. Set on top of asparagus mixture, pressing to seal edges. Refrigerate 30 minutes, along with unused pastry scraps and egg.
- Preheat oven to 425°F, and place oven rack on second-lowest level. Brush top of Wellington with egg, and poke 2 or 3 holes in top. Cut decorative leaves and stems from remaining pastry, press onto top of Wellington, and brush with egg. Use tip of small knife to score leaves and top with decorative touches.
- Bake Wellington 15 minutes. Reduce oven heat to 350°F, and bake 45 minutes more. Cool 15 minutes.
- Use parchment to lift Wellington from loaf pan. Remove parchment, and transfer Wellington to flat serving plate. Slice, and serve with tomato sauce
Jersey used to love his mom’s bolognese full of sausages and meat but this hearty sauce is a healthy runner up full of flavor from the mushrooms and cauliflower. Jersey brought home cauliflower rice already ready to go which was so convenient. I love the serrano chili they have in this recipe, brings the perfect amount of spice to the dish. I made this vegan by replacing the Parmesan with Follow Your Heart Parmesan and no one knew the difference!
12 oz. mushrooms, such as shiitake or crimini, stems removed
1 medium head of cauliflower (about 2¼ lb.), broken into florets
¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
1 large onion, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 chile, such as serrano, Holland, or Fresno, thinly sliced, or ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp. finely chopped rosemary
⅓ cup double-concentrated tomato paste
1 lb. rigatoni
2 oz. finely grated Parmesan (about 1 cup), plus more for serving (use . . .
3 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley
- Pulse mushrooms in a food processor until finely chopped. Transfer to a small bowl. Wipe out food processor bowl.
- Working in 3 batches, pulse cauliflower in food processor until pieces are about the size of a grain of rice (some smaller and some larger ones are fine), transferring to a medium bowl as you go.
- Heat ¼ cup oil and 2 Tbsp. butter in a large heavy pot over medium-high. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 4–6 minutes. Add onion and 2 Tbsp. oil to pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is very soft and golden brown, 6–8 minutes. Add garlic, chile, and rosemary and cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is softened and mixture is very fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until paste is slightly darkened, about 2 minutes. Add cauliflower and cook, yes, still stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is cooked down slightly and begins to stick to bottom of pot, 6–8 minutes. Season with salt, then keep warm over low heat.
- Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until almost al dente, about 1 minute less than package directions.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer pasta to pot with sauce. Add 1 cup Parmesan, remaining 2 Tbsp. butter, and 1 cup pasta cooking liquid. Increase heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta is al dente and sauce is clinging to pasta, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in parsley. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt (it’ll probably need another pinch or two). Finely zest lemon over pasta and toss once more.
- Divide pasta among bowls. Top with more Parmesan, then drizzle with oil.
Every year I cannot wait to share my home and the kitchen with those closest to us. I also enjoy the trying different recipes throughout the year as part of the selection process. I want to thank Brock for taking all the pictures. Until next year!
“Nothing makes me happier than making food for friends and family then sitting down to watch them enjoy it while hearing about their lives.” Brodi