Spiced Pumpkin, Lentil and Goat Cheese Salad

I adapted this recipe from the October (2009) issue Bon Appetit. I added about 1/2 cup of toasted pecans and one chicken breast (grilled and then sliced) for the carnivores in the household to add into their salad. This recipe needed a bit of extra balsamic vinaigrette to really finish it, so I’d plan on adding a bit of extra, if you plan to make this.
This salad is very adaptable. You could substitute blue cheese, if you prefer. This could be a fabulous first course, or, if served in larger portions, it’s a great entree salad. Toasted pumpkin seeds would be nice, too. Substitute lettuce or spinach if you’re not a fan of arugula.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts, Vegetarian Edition

Holy cow, does our family ever love these brussel sprouts. Seriously, it’s a visceral thing. I could eat a pound of them. Every day. They are absolutely addicting. On the rare days when we actually have some left over, I’ve been known to have them for breakfast the next day. But…Girl is now a vegetarian. And that means no pancetta. Well, I’m not insane; it means no bacon for HER. The rest of us still have the original version, but I had to come up with a version for her that would be as tasty (well, close to as tasty…I mean, you can’t just leave bacon out of a dish and expect it to still be as tasty!)
So, anyway…this is the version that I came up with and it was actually quite nice and, with the added nuts and cheese, managed to give her a bit of much-needed protein.
Oven-Roasted Brussel Sprouts
1 pound fresh brussel sprouts, washed and halved
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced (or run through a garlic press)
1 – 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 -2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves (removed from woody stems)
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
(Bake at 250 degrees until fragrant and lightly browned)
2 Tbsp crumbled Blue cheese
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss sprouts with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper and pour into a medium-sized baking pan (you don’t want the sprouts to be too crowded.) Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, or until soft and darkish brown around the edges, turning and tossing about every 5 minutes until uniformly cooked. Sprinkle with vinegar and thyme and stir in to incorporate. Cook for another 3 – 5 minutes, or until vinegar is thickened and absorbed. Remove from oven and sprinkle with the pecans and cheese. Serve.
Vegetarian and Carnivorous Sprouts, ready to go in the oven together.

Brown Butter Gnocchi with Spinach and Pine Nuts

From January 2009 Cooking Light magazine. Recipe here.
Needed more brown butter than the 2 Tbsp specified to give it enough flavor. Pre-packaged gnocchi definitely leave a LOT to be desired. I would make this again, with homemade gnocchi (don’t get scared off by the recipe, gnocchi are EASY), adding a little extra browned butter.
A good vegetarian meal for Girl, though, and a good, easy and quick side dish to accompany Chicken al mattone for the rest of us.

Polenta Triangles Stuffed with Spicy Greens and Cheese

Polenta, served with some pesto-grilled chicken thighs for the carnivores…
This meatless recipe from Serious Eats was tasty and not too difficult (although it does require some advance prep and a few hours of chilling time,) but the wine flavor (I used a light Pinot Noir) in the greens layer was a little too strong for the little people that live at my house. I like this preparation of polenta, but may experiment with sandwiching different things in the polenta layers, like possibly a sun-dried tomato concoction or sauteed mushrooms or maybe spinach (or another green without the wine.)
The greens looked gorgeous as they were cooking (beautiful color!)
Onions and garlic with beet and chard stems.
Adding the greens.
The greens, pretty much fully cooked. I continued to cook them until the liquid was pretty much dry, because I wanted to be sure the alcohol cooked out and because I didn’t want the greens layer to be soupy and risk it separating when I cut the polenta.
Layering the polenta, greens and cheese. I used smoked mozzarella, because I had no idea what Caciocavallo was and didn’t want to go on a search.
Polenta, after being chilled and cut (before baking.) They are not kidding when they say that this recipe feeds a crowd. This dish would be GREAT for a buffet or potluck or for a light first course (instead of pasta) before the main/meat course.

Multigrain Pasta with Pistou Forestier

Finished dish (missing the creme fraiche…if you make it exactly according to the recipe, yours will be “creamier”)
Mushrooms, before roasting
Finished pistou
I found this fabulous recipe (recipe here) on Serious Eats. It was written by Kerry Saretsky, whose recipes are a never-fail for me. This girl knows her stuff. My favorite Salmon with Lentils recipe is hers, too.
The Girl has recently become a vegetarian, so it has required some creativity to please her at the dinner table, while keeping my two resident confirmed carnivores happy. This dish is rich and hearty enough to be a vegetarian main course (round it out with some salad and a nice dessert,) but is light and healthy enough to be a first (pasta) course, if served in small portions.
OK, now confession time…I didn’t do the prosciutto crisps and the herb chips, because it was just too fussy for your ordinary weeknight. If, however, I were serving this for a dinner party, etc., I would absolutely do them. I also completely goofed up and forgot to add the creme fraiche. At all. And it was still fabulous. Obviously, if I do it again, I will definitely add it, because…pass up creme fraiche? Intentionally? I don’t think so.
Oh, also? I used linguine pasta because I couldn’t find the brand that I wanted in spaghetti pasta.