The week before last was a week of good-byes for me, so a feast was called for. My daughter went back home after a nice long stay, my husband & I enjoyed our last stay at our Portsmouth Pied-a-terre, winter had melted away in our yard AND it was the final episode of Downton Abbey – too much to not mark the moment in time with a feast!
On my vegetarian daughter’s last afternoon with me we watched the final episode of Downton Abbey. To celebrate these farewells we prepared a variety of produce-based dishes to feast on while we watched. Vegetarian cooking is something my daughter and I have shared through the years, prepping together to find new ways to tickle our taste buds with technique and spices while trying to adhere to the principles of good health. We find our process opens up the world of flavors to us where traditional American vegetarian recipes we grew up with were always a bit bland.
I would say that this round of cooking has a little inspiration from the Mediterranean region with an influence from the indigenous America’s. Let me share them with you so you can enjoy them with your own feast; perhaps to celebrate the arrival of spring or add to your Easter celebration!
Stuffed Roasted Red Peppers; stuffed with a quinoa pilaf and real parmesano reggiano topped with a cashew gravy, their flavor is nutty and sumptously sweet.
Prepare the peppers.
- Roast 4 red bell peppers then steam off their peels. METHOD: place on a vegetable steamer over a gas flame or under a broiler in the oven, char all sides of the peppers until they are blackened. immediately place inside of a covered bowl or in a paper bag and let “steam” for 10 minutes after which time the peels will pull right off.
- When cool, peel then slice open the peppers on one side and remove the seeds.
Make the pilaf.
- In 2 T clarified butter [called ghee; butter with the fats removed] plus 2 T olive oil, saute on low heat one red bell pepper diced and half of an onion diced. After 10 minutes add 1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds and cook stirring for another 5 minutes until the seeds just start to brown.
- Add to pan: 1 cup raw quinoa, 2 cups vegetable broth. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low, cover pan and simmer for about 20 minutes until the quinoa is tender.
- Toss into cooled simmered mixture: 1/2 cup drained canned cannellini beans and 1/2 cup coarsely grated parmesano reggiano cheese.
- Fill the peppers with the pilaf mixture and place them cut side down in a baking pan that has been oiled with a little olive oil.
- Cover the peppers with cashew gravy. Soak 3/4 cup of raw cashews in 2 cups of water for 30 minutes. Meanwhile saute 2 shallots finely chopped in 2T olive oil. Add 2T nutritional yeast plus 2T corn starch. Mix well then add the cashews and water stirring & heating gently until thickened.
- Add some herbed sauce to the center of the peppers. To make: In a sauce pan, heat up 1 tsp of olive oil and turn off heat. Add 1T dried/crushed tarragon leaves plus 1/4 tsp cinnamon and let them “marry” into the warm oil by sitting for a few minutes. (NOTE: to release the volatile flavor oils in herbs, they must be heated in oil) To this add one 8oz can of tomato sauce and heat through; add salt and pepper to taste.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until heated through and slightly browned on top.
Pureed root soup; using the last of our stored winter roots we created a flavorful puree that went down like silk.
- Clean and slice 2 leeks discarding the tough green ends. In a large soup pot saute these in 1T olive oil until soft but not browned.
- Peel and cut into chunks one celeriac (celery root) and three small potatoes (or two medium potatoes). Add to soup pot.
- Add one box of vegetable stock to pot, put on the lid and simmer about 45 minutes until the vegetables are very soft.
- Use a stick blender to emulsify the vegetables until they are smooth and creamy. Add salt and white pepper to taste plus 2 pinches of nutmeg. NOTE: if you do not have a stick blender, let the mixture cool then process in a food processor. Alternatively using a potato masher can work although it will not be as smooth.
Shaved fennel salad; a simple and nutritious fare, fennel helps the body digest fats and provides a good foil to the taste buds against the creamy textures of the other dishes.
- Simply shave one fennel bulb, discarding the stems, on a mandoline or in a food processor or by hand taking care to keep the slices a thin a possible.
- Drizzle the fennel with pomegranate molasses and a small bit of olive oil. Sprinkle with poppy seeds and sea salt.