Vegetarian dishes for summer visitors
By the time you read this, they’ll be here, my oldest daughter, Anne, and 3 1/2-year-old grandson Robbie.
Since Robbie came into our lives, we’ve visited back and forth frequently. But for the last 11 months for a variety of reasons both legitimate and unavoidable, planned visits both ways have been postponed, rescheduled, postponed again and eventually cancelled. Even now, my beloved son-in-law, Ben, isn’t able to come.
So it’s been almost a full year since we’ve been together. Thank goodness for Skype! Still, when Robbie hugs the computer as we say goodbye, it’s not quite the same.
Although I’m not planning on spending much of my time in the kitchen while they’re here, I have been doing some menu planning. Because my Brooklynites are vegetarian, I’ve been scanning my recipe file for things that will not only appeal to my veg-heads, but that also include some simple tasks that can involve a lively 3 1/2-year-old.
Robbie is used to ethnic flavors and strong tastes, such as curry. (He especially enjoys anything with lots of lemon juice.) For this soup, I’ll ask him to drizzle the yogurt into the soup and to tear off cilantro leaves from their stalks for garnish.
Chilled curried carrot soup
- 1 c. chopped red, white or yellow onion, not super-sweet
- 1 T. butter
- 6 c. scrubbed and chopped carrots
- 1 1/2 c. orange juice
- 6 c. water
- 1 1/2 tsp. curry powder, or to taste
- Salt and sugar to taste
- Plain Greek-style yogurt, room temperature
- Cilantro leaves for garnish
In a large saucepan, sweat the onion in the butter over medium heat until the onion is softened but not browned. Add the carrots, orange juice, water, curry powder. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium. Simmer the mixture until the carrots are completely tender, 20-30 minutes. Cool to room temperature. This can be speeded up by placing the pan in a bowl or sink of cold water. Purée the mixture in a blender or food processor. Chill thoroughly. Season to taste with salt and sugar if necessary. Serve drizzled with the yoghurt and sprinkled with the cilantro. Makes about 9 cups.
Actually, there’s not a whole lot for Robbie to do in this recipe besides salting the hollowed out squashes and turning them upside down, and also sprinkling the filled squashes with cheese. I’ve included it because kids almost always are intrigued by the small, different sized squashes, and think they are fun to eat.
Stuffed summer squashes two ways
- 12 small summer squashes (no more than 6-inches long or 3-4-inches round) such as green or yellow zucchini, pattypans, yellow crookneck squash or ball-shaped zucchini
- 2 c. finely chopped onion, not super-sweet
- 1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 T. minced garlic, or more or less to taste
- 4 c. breadcrumbs, made from stale homemade type bread
- 3/4 c. sour cream or Greek-style yogurt
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 1/2 c. grated smoked Cheddar or other smoked cheese, such as Gouda
- 2 T. chopped fresh sage
- 1 1/2 c. grated natural (not processed) Gruyère or other Swiss-type cheese
- 2 T. chopped marjoram, rosemary or thyme, singly or in combination
- Freshly grated nutmeg to taste
Cut the squashes in half lengthwise (if you’re using ball-shaped zucchini, cut a slice off the top about midway between its top and equator. Using a melon baller or spoon, hollow out the centers leaving a shell at least 1/2-inch thick.
Sprinkle the shells lightly with salt and turn them upside down on paper or lint-free towels to drain.
Chop the centers and combine with the onion. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over high heat and add the centers and onion. Stir-fry until the vegetables are lightly browned and cooked through. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Combine in a large bowl with the breadcrumbs, sour cream, and salt and pepper.
If you are making both fillings, divide the mixture in two and place one half in a separate bowl. Mix in 1 cup of the smoked cheese and the sage into one bowl, and one cup of the Gruyère and the other herb(s) into the other. Add grated nutmeg to taste to the Gruyère mixture.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. With a paper towel, wipe the interior of the shells dry. Lightly brush the squashes’ outsides with olive oil and place them in a roasting pan. Fill the cavities with the stuffing, mounding it up slightly. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the stuffing – be sure to match the cheese on top with that in the stuffing – and bake for 25-35 minutes or until the tops are browned and the squash is tender when pierced with a knife. Serves 6-12.
In the spring, I like to make this gratin – which is essentially a vegetable-centered crustless quiche – with spinach. But spinach is a cool weather crop, so during the summer, chard and kale are the best choices. Robbie can tear the leaves off their thick stems and into small pieces.
Exotic mushroom and greens gratin
- 1 c. heavy cream
- 1/2 oz. dried porcini mushrooms, optional
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 lb. exotic mushrooms such as portabello, shitake, cremini or oyster, a single variety or combination, brushed and cut into bite sized pieces or slices
- 3 T. extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional if needed
- 1-2 tsp. minced fresh garlic, or to taste
- 1 lb. fresh spinach, Swiss chard or kale, washed, with droplets of water still clinging to the leaves
- Salt, freshly ground pepper and freshly ground nutmeg to taste
- 3/4-1 c. crumbled chèvre
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
In a small saucepan or skillet, heat the cream until just until it simmers. Drop in the dried porcini mushroom slices. Remove from the heat and let stand for 30 minutes. If you are not using the porcini, it is not necessary to heat the cream. After standing, remove the porcini from the cream, squeeze them, chop them finely and return to the cream. Add the beaten eggs and set aside.
If using spinach, remove any thick stems and set aside. If using kale or Swiss chard, trim away the thick stems and discard (or save to use, sliced, in a stir-fry). Chop the leaves coarsely and set aside.
In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the mushrooms and sprinkle with a little salt. Stir-fry the mushrooms over high heat until browned and cooked through. It is very important not to crowd the mushrooms in the pan. If your skillet is not big enough, do this in batches, in which case you may need a little more oil. Put the mushrooms in a bowl and set aside.
Heat the remaining oil in the skillet over medium-high heat and add the minced garlic. Cook for a few seconds, stirring constantly, just until the garlic begins to soften.
Immediately add the greens in handfuls and cook, stirring constantly, just until wilted. You may need to sprinkle chard or kale with a bit more additional water.
Combine the wilted greens and the mushrooms.
Pour the reserved cream and egg mixture over the greens and mushroom mixture and combine well. Season to taste with the salt, freshly ground pepper and freshly ground nutmeg.
Turn into a greased 1-quart baking dish and sprinkle with the crumbled chèvre. Bake until lightly browned and bubbly, 30-40 minutes. Serves 6 as a side dish, 4 as an entrée.
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