31 December 2012
Christmas dinner: the vegetables
Oh boy. Where do we start?
Since we were feeding a selection of omnivores, vegetarians, and vegans, we wanted to keep everything but the roast and its accoutrements vegan. This way everyone could eat everything without worrying about it at all. This also meant the vegetable selection was quite extensive. Good deal, but a lot to write about in one go.
We started the night before with vinaigrette and white bean butternut squash soup (and the roast sauce, but we've already covered that).
Our standard vinaigrette comes from the Bouchon cookbook and consists of only three ingredients. It's super easy, although you do need a blending device of some kind.
Red wine dijon vinaigrette
1/4 cup dijon mustard
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups canola oil
Mix together your mustard and vinegar in a blender or with some sort of blending device. We used an immersion blender this time; it worked admirably. Slowly pour in half a cup of your oil, blending the entire time to emulsify. Now pour your mixture into an appropriate mixing bowl and whisk in the rest of the oil in a steady, slow stream. Voila! A delightful vinaigrette that goes well with practically any salad.
The soup was one of our two main vegan/vegetarian protein sources. We knew we wanted to do something white bean-based, since white bean soups are generally excellent. But we hadn't decided on the exact soup until we actually got to John's mom's house and discovered three big butternut squashes on the kitchen counter.
White bean butternut squash soup
cooked white beans
bay leaf, fresh thyme, sage, marjoram, salt & pepper
water/vegetable broth/bean broth
optional dry vermouth or white wine
chives or parsley to garnish
This is a pretty standard vegetable and bean soup. You can probably figure out what to do just by looking at the list of ingredients.
Start by peeling, seeding, and cubing your butternut squash. We used two squashes to serve eleven people. This is by far the most arduous part of this recipe. Peel and dice your onion, mince your garlic, and chop up your scrubbed carrots and celery while you're at it. I'd use about one medium to large onion, a handful of garlic cloves, a big carrot, and a couple stalks of celery per squash. Since we had two squashes, we doubled everything up.
In a large soup pan, warm a slug of olive oil. Add the onion, garlic, carrot, and celery; saute over medium to medium-high heat. Season with a bit of salt, a branch or two of fresh thyme, a couple bay leaves, and some dried sage and marjoram. Congratulations! You now have garlicky vegan mirepoix!
When your mirepoix is soft and aromatic and delicious and starting to turn golden, add your cubed squash. Mix everything up and cook, stirring occasionally, for a good five to tem minutes. If necessary, deglaze the bottom of the pan with a couple glugs of dry vermouth or white wine.
Next, add your white beans to the pot and cover everything with water or the broth of your choice. We used three cans of beans, drained, since making dry beans from scratch was a little much to do on top of everything else. If you make your own beans from scratch, go ahead and use their broth in the soup.
Bring your soup to a boil, lower heat, cover, and simmer until all your vegetables are tender. Take the pot off the heat, remove the bay leaves and thyme branches, and puree with an immersion blender. Then put the pan back on the heat to reduce down to your preferred thickness. Taste and correct seasonings, adding some black pepper at the least.
When the soup is to your liking, serve it with the garnish of your choice. Hooray!
Both of these went into the refrigerator to wait overnight.
The next day, we were up bright and early (read: by eleven) and got into the kitchen to start cooking everything that needed to be chilled before serving. So we made lentils vinaigrette and our dessert, which is getting its own post later.
The lentils were obviously our other big protein source.
I've talked about lentils vinaigrette a couple times before. The recipe, again, comes from the Bouchon cookbook (and yes, you should go to the library and take a look). They are super easy, although time-consuming, and worth a search for puy lentils. We found ours in the bulk bins at the East Lansing food co-op (which, incidentally, is well worth a visit if you're in town). If you can't find puy lentils, this would still be well worth a try with standard green or beluga lentils. Don't use red; they'll disintegrate.
We doubled this recipe for as many lentils as possible.
herb bouquet: garlic, bay leaves, fresh thyme, peppercorns
red wine vinegar
chives & parsley
First, make the herb bouquet. Tie up a halved head of garlic, 12 peppercorns, 3 bay leaves, and 3 thyme branches in a piece of cheesecloth. We did not have cheesecloth, and ended up using coffee filters sewed together with thread. Okay then.
Pick over and rinse a cup of lentils. Put them into a large saucepan or dutch oven, along with your herb bouquet, half an onion, a whole scrubbed or peeled carrot, and a halved and washed leek. Cover with water by two inches.
Bring the whole shebang to a boil and then immediately reduce the heat to a very gentle simmer. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the lentils are cooked through.
Next, pour the whole pan of lentils, vegetables, and liquid into a casserole dish or other wide, deep dish. Add two tablespoons of salt and two teaspoons of red wine vinegar, stirring gently to combine. Let the lentils cool in their liquid. This will take awhile. When the dish is cool, remove and discard the herb bouquet and the vegetables, leaving just the lentils behind.
Strain the lentils in a sufficiently fine sieve. Mix them with half a cup of finely diced red onion and dress them with vinaigrette. Add salt and pepper to taste.
When you're ready to serve, garnish with more finely diced red onion and a big handful of snipped fresh chives and parsley. If you're not keeping it vegan, a dice of hard-boiled egg is really good too.
After we finished making the lentils and dessert, we stuck them in the refrigerator and took a wine break.
Next: mashed potatoes. You know how to make mashed potatoes. The only thing we do differently is poaching our garlic in olive oil.
Mashed potatoes with garlic poached in olive oil
salt & pepper
chives & etc to garnish
Peel and quarter as many potatoes as you want to eat. Bring a sufficient pot of water to a boil, add the potatoes and a bit of salt, and boil until tender. Depending on your potatoes, this may take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.
While your potatoes are cooking, poach your garlic. Start by smashing a bunch of garlic cloves with the flat of your knife and removing the peels. Put a small saucepan on the heat, add enough olive oil to sufficiently season your potatoes, and add the whole smashed garlic cloves. Cook very gently over the lowest possible heat for at least twenty minutes. Congratulations: you now have a beautiful garlic-infused oil.
When your potatoes are done cooking, drain them well. Mash them with a couple splashes of rice milk or other non-dairy milk of your choice. Add in the oil, garlic cloves, and some salt and pepper to taste, and beat together until well mixed.
Garnish with chopped fresh herbs. Voila!
Peas, pearl onions, and endive
bag of peeled red pearl onions
several heads of endive
two bags of frozen peas
salt & pepper
John made this one, so I'm not entirely sure how it went down. Let's ask him.
"Ok. So. Put oil in. Cook the pearl onions. When the onions are soft and have some color on them, core the endive and cut them into quarters. Put the endive in with a little bit of water and white wine. Stock is fine too. When that was soft I added the peas, salt and pepper, and a little bit of oil. And that's it."
THERE YOU HAVE IT.
In last-minute prep, we made a green salad. This was very simple, and just consisted of washed & dried salad greens tossed with some of our vinaigrette. No worries there; we just had to make it immediately before we sat down to eat. I believe we used a mix of romaine hearts and baby spinach.
Then we all sat down to eat as much as humanly possible.
Here's my plate.
Needless to say, no one left that table the slightest bit hungry. Success!