Vegetarian, Teetotaler Feast

The Wife invited over a friend from work and his wife for dinner tonight. Cool! I’ve met them briefly at a social event for her work and they seem like they’ll be a lot of fun. Here’s the catch: they’re strict vegetarians, and teetotalers.

So I found myself challenged to throw a dinner party with no meat and no booze; two of my favorite weapons have been taken away. Fortunately, our guests are not vegans, so dairy products were fair game for last night’s dinner. Here’s what I came up with:

Baked Brie with Berries
1 package pre-made croissant rolls
10-12 oz. brie cheese (cut away crust)
1 egg
frozen mixed berries
(I cheated a little bit here and bought pre-made croissant rolls to use as the crust. If you insist on making your own brioche for the crust, more power to you. You’ll need about a pound of butter and be sure to mix it cold, with cold water. But I’ve never once heard anyone say “Yuk! This is pre-fab brioche!”)

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Pound 2-3 croissant rolls flat into a large sheet. Roll the brie into a ball and place in the middle of the dough. With your hands, work the brie into a rough shoebox shape, with an indentation in the middle of the top. Add frozen berries to top. Fold dough over the top to completely encase cheese. Brush brioche with egg white. Reserve yolk for later use. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Allow to stand before serving. Serve with apples and crackers.

Pear and Walnut Salad
Baby greens, preferably a mix of sweet and bitter leaves
Ripe or slightly underripe (still crispy) pears
1 scallion
sesame oil
lemon juice
1/2 – 1 bunch green onions
dash of garlic powder, salt, black pepper
coarsely chopped walnuts

Finely chop green onions and scallion, place in mixing bowl. Add equal parts honey and sesame oil, 2-6 ounces depending on quantity to be served. For every 4 parts honey and sesame oil, add 1 part lemon juice. Add spices to taste. Refrigerate dressing until ready for service. Toast walnuts by warming at 200 degrees for 4-5 minutes. Julienne pears. Mix salad thoroughly, dress to taste during service.

Pasta Tarantana
1 pound thin spaghetti or angel hair pasta
8 oz. feta cheese (I used the kind that’s marinated in herbs and garlic oil)
2 handfuls pine nuts
8 oz. baby spinach
olive oil

Destem the spinach. Dice the cheese. Toast the nuts by tossing in a saute pan. Cook pasta in at least 1 gallon of well-salted water for 8-10 minutes until pasta softens. 1-2 minutes before pasta reaches al dente, add spinach to the boil. Drain, and place pasta in a large bowl. Add olive oil, pine nuts, and feta cheese. Slice spaghetti into small pieces, separate spinach (which has a tendency to clump together in little lumps of green to distribute throughout the pasta). Toss well, serve immediately.

Almond Poppyseed Torte
8 oz. corn syrup
12 oz. chopped almonds
1 can evaporated milk
4-5 tbsp. poppyseeds
1 tsp. salt
zest from one lemon
1 egg
pre-made pie or cheesecake crust

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In food processor, finely chop almonds. Add corn syrup, continue to mix until emulsified. Combine remaining ingredients, mix well. Pour into pie crust, bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until edges brown and center is wobbly but holds together. Allow to cool for several hours. Serve with whipped cream flavored with ginger.

I was a little bit worried about the torte, becuase it was improvised, and the evaporated milk I used was getting to the end of its shelf life. But it worked out just fine and we enjoyed our guests and our food very much.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.