It’s not a first date . Just something different . She goes along with pretty much anything I make and vice versa.
NYT published a fabulous recipe for White beans “au vin”, which is essentially a rich beef stew with beans standing in for beef.
I was almost thinking. Small plates . Served with individual vegetables for each course. Sous vide or steamed . No spices per say . Just a small amount of salt and olive oil. One plate at a time .
I do love a variety of small plates. Mezze (or meze) style, with everything on the table at once, is more likely than courses at our house because I’m typically the only person cooking. I mention in just case you may need/want to consider an alternative option.
I like to have (at least) one dish on the table that’s served warm. Perhaps a spinach pie, or a mushroom risotto, or a lentil soup studded with carrots. Good bread or focaccia in the lineup especially if the meal will not include rice, beans, or some type of pasta.
I’m often drawn to the recipes of Yotam
Ottolenghi for inspiration, such as riffing on this recipe for charred cherry tomatoes with cold yogurt. This time of year, I might roast a pile of cherry tomatoes in the oven with garlic, olive oil, and herbs and serve the whole roasty, melty concoction on a platter with burrata. Riffing!
I’m completely blanking on the piece of terminology I wanted to throw at the problem, but the ‘large array of small dishes’ is a thing in Indian cooking too, and obviously much of that is also vegetarian. So that could be a possible theme or source of inspiration. OTOH if you’re looking to actively avoid spices, maybe not!
If you do this, do it with insanely fresh and high-quality vegetables (by which I mean, not a package of pre-trimmed green beans that you buy at Shop-Rite), and you can really show the flavor of each. If you can’t do that then maybe you want to go for a whole dinner of banchan (the Korean little plates of veg that accompany meals—they’re not all spicy) or Turkish mezes. Both of those things are normally meant to precede a larger main dish, though.
The Japanese Okonomiyai cabbages pancakes are delicious, you can cook them 80% beforehand, and heat them before serving. Vietnamese spring rolls are great too, but since you mentioned vegetarian, I don’t know if fish sauce can be used, as it is the key for the sauce. I know there is a vegan version, but have never tried it.
Roasted veggies are always good, especially if they are cooked on a charcoal grill.
A favorite at our house is an asparagus and egg salad (if eggs make the cut?) A 100 different ways to serve it but here is the NYT’s version:
- 1 pound asparagus
- 2 hard-boiled eggs
- 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar or sherry vinegar, or 1 tablespoon each fresh lemon juice and vinegar
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons capers, rinsed and chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or a mixture of parsley, chives and tarragon
- freshly ground pepper to taste
- Snap the woody ends off the asparagus. Steam for five minutes. Refresh with ice-cold water, then drain and dry on paper towels. Cut into 1/2-inch pieces.
- Cut the boiled eggs in half, mince the yolks and whites separately, and season with salt and pepper
- In a salad bowl, whisk together the vinegar (or lemon juice and vinegar) and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the asparagus, capers and herbs, and toss together. Add the chopped egg yolks and whites, then toss together again and serve.
We also like to saute purple cabbage with apple and fennel. Salty and sweet and pretty.
If the OP doesn’t wish to serve eggs, might Marcona (or regular) almonds be a worthy substitute? Asking for a friend.
Good description/explanation. I’m laughing because your title advised “Not a big production”. So I suggested a one pot meal. To me a brigade of small plates is a very big deal! How we’re all different.
My 28 year-old elder son has been steered away from meat eating by his Kiwi girlfriend, and this is something they have introduced us to:
We use 2 peppers per person, and serve with brown rice. Do try it!
This is great without beef–I up the carrots and add cauliflower. You could also add white beans. https://smittenkitchen.com/2014/02/dijon-and-cognac-beef-stew/
Another good one: https://smittenkitchen.com/2008/03/vegetarian-cassoulet/
It’s not a first date - just something different - makes me think that you want something special and want to mix it up a little. Hope I’m not off the mark. One of our favorites as a family is interactive, and therefore, there is a fun factor that is just absent when everything is already cooked and put together. Vietnamese summer rolls. But everyone rolls their own. You have a variety of veg, herbs, all prettily cut and presented, and perhaps your favorite tofu recipe cut up into chunks or strips. A couple dipping sauces. Hoisin, peanut, fish sauce if that is ok. The rice papers and a pie tin of hot water to soften them. It’s a very light dinner though. You might have to have chocolate cake for dessert. Or, going with the theme, a fruit tart.
That’s the one! Thank you!
Remember that bacon is a vegetable and vegetables are good for you.
That recipe sounds delicious, though I think the OP has a more… medium-sized deal in mind, in terms of multi-dish fanciness.
What especially entertains me about it is how long a title they end up to avoid saying “veggie chili”. And to avoid angry Texans outside their door from calling it that, of course!
I don’t seem to be able to get America’s Test Kitchen in these parts any more (and evidently the old gang have broken up acrimoniously and last I heard were suing each other over things), but I treasure the memory of the hosts telling one of the presenter-cooks, “you’re treating chicken as a vegetable – wrap it in bacon!”
That would work for me. Love those.
A baked potato with all the sides might be an option. Sour Cream, veggie chili, butter, broccoli, beans, queso, salsa, guac, and apparently bacon, cause that’s a vegetable too?