If any of you are like me, then you’ll remember that line from My Big Fat Greek Wedding where Aunt Vula is appalled that Ian Miller is a vegetarian. She comforts him by assuring him that since he doesn’t eat meant, she’d make him lamb. Well, I can identify with Aunt Vula. I’ve grown up in an Egyptian kitchen. In other words they stuff meat with more meat. If they could find a way to put meat in dessert they would. So, you can imagine how stumped I was when I had to cook for a family of vegetarians. Well, I like a challenge. So, I came up with a special menu just for them. Since they don’t drink alcohol either, I’ve left out the wines, but don’t worry, stay tuned. Regular programming to commence.
Marcona Almond Avocados
Ingredients for Marcona Avocado Salad
- 1/4 cup of crushed Marcona Almonds
- 4 avocados, sliced
- 2 cloves chopped garlic
- 1/4 cup of cilantro
- 3 tomatoes diced
- 1 chili pepper
Steps for Marcona Avocado Salad
- In a small saucepan heat olive oil, fry almonds and chili peppers.
- In a bowl mixed diced tomatoes with cilantro and garlic. Salt to taste.
- In a plate arrange slices of avocados, pouring a small amount of tomato mixture between each avocado slice.
- Spoon almond and chili pepper mixture over the avocados.
- Squeeze half a lemon over mixture. The oils from the chili peppers and almonds will be enough to act as dressing.
Note: make sure to wear gloves when you chop the red chili peppers. I didn’t and my hands were on fire for hours. I had to soak my hands in milk to stop the pain. Don’t make my mistake.
Coconut Rice with Spicy Butternut Squash
(continuing the spicy theme from above, but you can eliminate chili peppers from both recipes)
Ingredients for Coconut Rice & Butternut Squash:
- 1/4 cup of crushed Marcona Almonds (optional. If you are doing the avocado dish above, then I would leave out the almonds)
- Butternut Squash. Use this video for instructions on cutting and baking https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNi8ZGX0ts4
- 1/4 cup of canola oil
- 1/4 cup of parsley
- 1/4 cup of soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons of rice wine.
- 1 tablespoon of ginger powder
- 1 clove of crushed garlic
- 1 tablespoon of crushed pepper
- two cups of coconut milk
- 1 cup of jasmine rice
Steps for Coconut Rice:
- Bring two cups of coconut milk to a boil
- Add 1 cup of jasmine rice to boiling coconut milk
- On low cook rice for apprx. 20 minutes. Keep checking rice as stovetops and saucepans can have varied results.
- Salt to taste
Steps for Butternut Squash
- Cut Butternut Squash in cubes and put in a bowl. See video clip above.
- Add canola oil, rice wine, ginger, soy, garlic, crushed pepper, salt, pepper. Bake in a dish until soft. Salt to taste (remember that tasting your food is the best way to perfect it. Don’t be afraid to taste once it’s soft and add more of an ingredient that suits your palate. Most likely others will enjoy it too.)
- Grease a small ramekin and use as a mold for the rice. Turn upside down in the center of the plate for presentation.
- Add butternut squash atop the rice. Garnish with parsley and/or almonds. You can also use the sauce from the squash to decorate your plate. (there should be a nice sauce at the bottom of the baking dish. You can further reduce this sauce in a saucepan. This is optional)
Creamy Tomato Basil Penne
Ingredients for Tomato Basil Penne :
(makes approximately 5 large servings)
- 1 package of penne pasta
- 1 cup of sherry wine
- 2 shallots
- 2 cloves of chopped garlic
- 3/4 cup of freshly chopped basil
- 5 cups of tomato sauce. You can buy tomato sauce in a can.
- 1 cup of heavy cream
Steps Tomato Basil Penne:
- In a sauce pan melt a tablespoon of butter and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
- When olive and butter are melted and sizzling add shallots first, a minute later add garlic. As soon as shallots are yellow add the basil. Fry together until aromatic but not burned.
- Deglaze the pan with the sherry wine and then add the tomato sauce.
- When the sauce comes to a boil, salt to taste.
- Let the sauce simmer on low for about 30 minutes.
- Add heavy cream. Once again taste and add salt if needed.
- Let the sauce simmer until the cream is integrated.
- Before serving mix the cooked penne with the cream sauce. Make sure the penne is well coated with the sauce. Serve hot and garnish with parsley and/or grated parmesan.
Note: If you want to cook this ahead of time, this sauce can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. In fact, I like it better that way. When you make your pasta make sure to add butter or olive oil when it is cooked so it doesn’t stick together. Don’t try this dish with fresh pasta. Fresh pasta is easily ruined if you don’t make and serve immediately. I did that once and the pasta clumped up really badly. Big mess.