“Eat Your Vegetables” Luncheon

As children, most of us absolutely abhorred eating vegetables. If it was green, Mom could forget about forcing it down the hatch, unless cleverly guised in a veil of cheese sauce.

We’re all grown up now and having developed a discerning palate for all herbaceous plant matter, we’ve grown quite fond of vegetarian cooking. There is an art and finesse to vegetarian cooking that not many chefs study. After all, there are thousands of types of vegetables to learn to work with, but only four major proteins to master.

A long time innovator in vegetarian cooking is world-renowned Greens Restaurant in San Francisco. For this month’s meeting of the Parties That Cook Cookbook Club, we delved into the vibrant water-colored pages of Everyday Greens written by long time Executive Chef Annie Somerville. The book focuses on recipes for “home cooking” – rustic ragouts, satisfying stews, vegetables on the grill, quick stir-fries, pizzas, tortilla dishes, savory tarts, pastas, sandwiches and desserts, of course.

On the menu for our belly-bursting vegetarian affair:

  • Green Salad with Beets, Fennel, Walnuts and Ricotta Salata – A winning combination with a tangy, sherry vinegar and orange juice vinaigrette. Liz didn’t have any walnut oil on-hand, but the dressing was still wonderfully balanced.
  • Grilled Fig and Endive Salad with Watercress – Erin couldn’t find any figs and substituted bursting-ripe Santa Rosa plums, which ended up being the unexpected star of this simple salad.
  • Moroccan Chick-Pea Soup – Lauren wrestled a bit with the ROI on this dish (3+ hrs preparation versus final taste). With the additional of extra salt and garlic, this recipe still wins our recommendation. Very spicy!
  • Soft Tacos with Grilled Summer Vegetables – Tanya had no idea this recipe actually is three recipes-in-one and forgot to copy the garlic oil and chipotle puree recipes. She winged it and upped the ante with sides of butt-kickin peppers & spring onions (she is our Chef de Cuisine after all!). She also miniaturized the tacos to make for a better potluck portions.
  • Gypsy Peppers Filled with Fromage Blanc and Fine Herbes – Michelene substituted sweet piquillo peppers for gypsy, which comes into season in late summer. Fromage Blanc was also mysteriously sold-out at Whole Foods, so the peppers were stuffed with chevre instead. Decadent and simple, they were the perfect pick for Michelene, who is a busy mom.
  • Mexican Pizza with Corn, Tomatillos and Chipotle Chilies – A favorite at the luncheon, expertly produced by Executive Chef Bibby. Her only revisions – doubled the cheese and highly recommends using a pizza stone for crust as crisp as it should be.
  • Artichoke and Portobello Mushroom Lasagne – We loved this rich and hearty lasagna, but thought it more appropriate for a cold winter’s day. Crissy suggests skipping the hassle of trimming the small artichokes and opt for frozen instead, since their flavor is secondary to the heavy tomato-zinfandel sauce. Also needed more salt than called for. Many people had seconds of this one!
  • Rhubarb Tartlets with Almond Streusel – The streusel topping was loose and definitely needed more butter/less flour than instructed. Rosie decided the cream cheese-based crust absolutely needed to be served warm for pleasing texture/taste.
  • Basmati Rice Pudding with Mascarpone – Christina earned cookbook club brownie points by creating two versions of this recipe, one with coconut milk and the other with half-and-half. Topped with fresh raspberries, we thought both were a winner with the slight edge going to the slightly thicker textured half-and-half version.

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