|leftover polenta casserole with extra spinach|
Last weekend I hosted a dinner for nine that was relatively relaxing to prepare, and very satisfying to eat. I spread the cooking over two days — preparing some foods on Saturday to be reheated Sunday so I wouldn't feel rushed. My husband was out of town until Sunday, so I had the kitchen to myself, and no set meals to worry about. I accepted offers from guests to bring food, and I used some store-bought prepared foods to make the cooking a little easier. Chickpeas were soaked on Friday then cooked overnight in the slow cooker. Late Saturday afternoon I prepared chola tikki and soup. For the soup, I cooked and puréed the veggies but didn't add any seasonings, because seasonings can loose their spark in the fridge overnight. I spent about four hours, on and off, cutting and cooking.
Just before the company arrived we set out h'ors d'oeuvres, and were able to relax with our guests until my last minute cooking of the mushroom and spinach topping for the casserole. I was so involved with the event that I completely forgot to take photos until one of the guests mentioned it, and I just managed to snap a few bad photos of the food as an afterthought. Too bad, because it was pretty. I made way too much as usual. Here's the menu and information about the recipes:
calamata olives (from my giant Costco jar), grape tomatoes in a bowl, carrot sticks, guacamole, crackers (Trader Joe's savory rice crackers), edamame hummus (Trader Joe's)
potato soup inspired by this one from oh ladycakes. My soup had yukon gold potatoes, sweet potatoes, celery, onion, carrots and cauliflower. I puréed it smooth and creamy and added lots of lemon juice. It was seasoned with hickory smoked salt and fresh-ground black pepper, and drizzled with sriracha. (I use Shark brand sriracha from Thailand. It's a little sweeter than Rooster brand, and doesn't contain preservatives.) The soup in the picture is actually from microwaved leftovers I ate the next day, and contained leftover crema as well as sriracha. (I added the crema before heating, the sriracha, after.) It was beyond amazing with the crema.
chola tikki from this recipe, made the day before the dinner. (I previously wrote about chola tikki, here.) I added coriander and turmeric to my chola tikki, and sautéed them on a cast iron griddle before refrigerating them. I made them about 2-inches in diameter and about 1/2-inch thick. The next day I heated them on a sheet pan in the oven for 15 minutes at 350˚F and they came out perfectly crisp and delicious. The tikki were served with the amazing green onion salsa from "Viva Vegan" by Terry Hope Romero. The salsa is very versatile and goes with many styles of food.
cabbage salad. A simple salad of shredded red and green cabbage, carrots, a bit of kale, and red onion mixed together with a unique dressing from the Gentrified Coleslaw recipe in "Celebrate Vegan" by Dynise Balcavage. There are a couple of unique, unexpected ingredients in the dressing that indeed elevate the salad to new heights. So good.
baked polenta casserole. The basic polenta is based on a recipe from "Passionate Vegetarian" by Crescent Dragonwagon. In this case I used 1 cup of coarse cornmeal, 4-1/2 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt. I baked this in a 10x13 ceramic casserole (measured on the bottom=9x11) that holds 2-3/4 quarts. I baked it 40 minutes at 350˚F, then removed it from the oven and gave it a stir, put it back and baked about 20 more minutes until it was thick and set. I removed it from the oven, spread a layer of Trader Joe's salt-free organic marinara sauce over the top, added a layer of pine nut crema*, and returned it to the oven for 30 to 40 minutes. Meantime, I used the recipe for Spinach With Pine Nuts and Raisins from "The Urban Vegan," except dried cranberries instead of raisins and a LOT of thickly sliced baby bella mushrooms. I cooked the mushrooms first, then added the spinach at the last minute to wilt it before topping the polenta with the spinach and mushrooms and serving the casserole. Even as leftovers, which you see at the top of the page, this casserole was great. I made two of these but one would have been enough. Now we have lots of frozen casserole in the freezer.
quick pickles from cukes and roots. Brought by a guest, and delicious.
quick cucumber and red onion pickles. Made by me and very plain.
cookies from "Vegan Cookies Take Over the World," brought by a guest.
*Pine Nut Crema is from Viva Vegan, and is amazing. I used a modified version that contained only pine nuts, almond milk, garlic, lime juice, oil, starch and salt, and is much thinner than the original, but I imagine the original version is fabulous. One of these days I'm going to make enchiladas with the real crema recipe.
Overall, I'd say the dinner turned out very well, and I wasn't stressed-out and exhausted. The cleanup was pretty easy since everything had been made in stages and dishes and pans cleaned as I went along. Managing the kitchen clutter goes a long way towards keeping things calm, and is especially helpful when kitchen space is limited. (It also helps a lot to have a kitchen slave who does your bidding.)
|photo by Kate|