I woke up yesterday feeling amazing. I often wake up feeling great, but not usually after a big night of entertaining. Normally an afternoon of preparation and a night of rich foods and heavy reds can leave me feeling achy, foggy, leaden the morning after. (Not that the price of a memorable meal isn’t occasionally worth it.) But yesterday was different. I woke up refreshed, invigorated… light! What was different?
We ate vegetarian.
If I hadn’t needed to test-drive recipes for my new book, I would have certainly led with meat. A special night might start with crab cakes or a nibble of smoked salmon. Instead I piqued palates with Pita Pizzas with Caramelized Onion, Dried Cherries and Gruyere.
Rather than my usual first course salad followed by something big and splashy, I served a trio of little plates: roasted carrot soup flavored with ginger and coconut milk, baby spinach salad with egg, mushrooms, red onion, and shaved Parm, and creamy Asparagus Risotto come to life with saffron-infused vegetable broth and knobs of cream cheese.
While the table was being cleared I fired up a shallow skillet of oil and fried Sharon’s leftover dough from the Cinnamon Donut Holes she had developed for an upcoming USA Weekend article. No gooey triple chocolate concoction or buttery pastry. I simply passed a plate of these warm cinnamon sugar-coated nuggets around the table. People could take as few . . . . or as many as they liked.
Usually I uncork a big red at a dinner party, and I would have, except asparagus is cranky even with most whites. So we stuck with wines from the Loire and Oregon Pinot Gris. It worked.
While developing recipes over the last few weeks for my new vegetarian cookbook, my meat consumption’s almost down to nothing, but I still crave it. After our vegetarian dinner party followed by a meatless breakfast and lunch the next day, David and I were ready for a meaty dinner. I sautéed a couple of chicken breasts and served them with a piquant lemon-caper pan sauce. “Ah,” I thought as I savored each bite, “this is why I am a part-time vegetarian.”
uncle tony says
reading the donut hole recipe brings back childhood memories of my grandmother making “Pizza Fritta”– Fried pizza dough with sugar and cinnamon. Much more pedestrian than sharon’s donuts but good none the less . Everyone has some pizza dough that is waiting to be fried
when will we be able to find your new book?
These donut holes are so delicious! They really have that ‘homemade’ taste that I love so much. The base recipe is perfection and I’m sure I could add some other spices, flavors, etc.
Props to you for cooking vegetarian for a dinner party. It’s so easy to just do a big roast or a cut of meat, but of course, you make it sound easy and delicious.
If all goes well, Mary, Cook Without a Book Meatless Meals will be out October 2011.
Amber | Bluebonnets & Brownies says
Those dishes sound wonderful, Pam. I don’t think I would have missed the meat! (Can’t speak for James, you know what he’s like.) I can’t wait for this new book, Mama!
I could so relate to your post. We had guests over for dinner on Saturday night and I spent the day yesterday recovering…needless to say, we didn’t eat vegetarian and we did have martinis, red wine, short ribs, chocolate brownies and coffee for dessert.
I know exactly how you felt, Stephanie!
Definitely a meat person, but I am thinking more and more about incorporating vegetarian into my cooking.
Lisa W says
Great post, Pam! Inspired me to rethink my entertaining strategies.
Brian @ A Thought For Food says
I’ve gone back and forth, but have never gone back to my carnivorous ways. From time to time, I’ll have a bite of something, but I can’t bring myself to eat a piece of chicken or beef… the heaviness alone makes it unappealing.
Where can I get that roasted carrot, ginger and coconut milk soup? Sounds divine.
P.S. I love dinner parties too!
Karen Dougherty says
I’m going to need to create a dedicated cookbook nook just for you!!! I am truly enjoying your latest and will look forward to October!
The pita pizzas sound wonderful! Where could I find the recipe for this? Thanks.
p.s. Also also the roasted carrot, ginger and coconut milk soup!
The pita pizza recipe is in my most recent book Perfect One Dish Dinners, but I’m gonna share it. You’ll have to wait a little bit for the roasted carrot soup!
Pita Pizzas with Carmelized Onions, Dried Cherries and Guyere
Makes 32 hors d’oeuvres
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 very large sweet onion, halved and sliced thin
3/4 cup dried cherries
2 tablespoons kirsch (cherry brandy)
2 cups grated aged Guyere cheese (about 5 ounces)
4 large (7-inch) pocket-less pitas
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions; sauté, stirring frequently, until caramel brown, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile heat cherries and kirsch in a small saucepan over low heat until cherries soften, 4 to 5 minutes.
Scatter a portion of onions and cherries, and then cheese over each pita. Bake until chese melts and crust is golden brown and crisp, about 10 minutes. Cut each pita into 8 triangles and serve immediately.
I feel the same way after I eat vegetarian! The morning after a vegetarian dinner, I don’t need coffee to get myself going! It’s amazing 🙂
Terri Sue says
the dinner sounds lovely. my husband and i have been vegetarians for 30 years and are now in the process of going vegan. i can honestly say we never missed meat after the first year, and that year it was shrimp for him and crab for me. i have never bought into the whole fake meat thing. i gave up meat for moral issues so why would i want to eat something that looked like it? i’ll be looking for your cookbook.
can hardly wait for this cookbook! like mr. rogers used to say, “i never eat anything with a face.”
I can’t wait for the new book.
Marty Gilbert says
Have such a delicious (veggie, of course)vision of you, pilgrim woman, cooking up a storm in the wilderness! I’m eager to follow your lead; just have to convince Rog that he won’t drop dead if he doesn’t have meat.