Having friends over for dinner who are both Kosher and vegetarian can be a challenge, and I love a good challenge. What makes it a fun challenge is that these friends are always up for trying something new, and appreciate the efforts we make to accomodate their dietary preferences. Even better is the fact that our kids are older, which means we’ve moved on beyond just pasta.
Mutual college spring breaks for our daughters was last night’s reason for getting together. It was also the first day in weeks when I did not have to be anywhere but home, having been overwhelmed with work, life and family issues. I actually had time to cook!
Turning to one of my favorite cookbooks, Regional Italian Cuisine, for inspiration, I found it on pages 156-157, where there were photos and recipes for four gorgeous Tuscan vegetable dishes.
- Fagioli all/accelletto (White Beans w/ Sage)
- Spinach gratinati (Baked Spinach)
- Funghi alla toscana (Stewed Mushrooms)
- Finocchi al fortno (Baked Fennel)
“Let’s make them all!” I called to Mr TBTAM, who agreed that they looked so beautiful together in the book, they’d make a perfect dinner. We figured we’d round out the meal with mesclun salad with a lemon vinaigrette and a warm baguette.
So we rode our bikes to Fairway for provisions, doing a Central Park Loop on the way there and back. (My first ride of the season, I can’t wait for more warm weather!)
Believe it or not, preparing these four dishes was not very difficult, and Mr TBTAM and I only spent a total of about 2 hours in the kitchen, including time for making some fresh breadcrumbs. We started with the beans, which we allowed to stew on the stovetop for about an hour, while we made the rest of the dishes. The breadcrumbs and the Fennel were next, and while that baked, I made the spinach. Last was the most amazing – the mushrooms. All the cooked dishes kept nicely while we sat around drinking wine and munching on appetizers for over an hour, and reheated beautifully just before mealtime.
The best part is that we now have four tried and true side dishes for future dinners, vegetarian or not.
And so do you.
I’m starting with the prettiest first, and will post the others over the next few days. Enjoy!
Funghi alla Toscana
Garlic, tomato paste, lemon and mint combine to give these mushrooms a most wonderful flavor. My recipe uses more mushrooms and a tad less olive oil than the original, (17 ounces and 5 tbsp, respectively, in the original recipe).
- 1 1/2 lbs small to medium sized fresh mixed mushrooms (I used bella, white and chanterelles)
- 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- Salt + pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tbsp butter
- 2-4 tbsp chopped fresh mint for garnish
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Clean and thinly slice mushrooms, tossing them with 1/2 the lemon juice. Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet. Add mushrooms and saute over medium high heat – how long? The original recipe does not say. I figured until they just barely give up their water, or about 5 minutes. While the mushrooms are cooking, melt butter in a sauce pan. Saute garlic in the butter until golden, about 1-2 minutes, then add the rest of lemon juice and the tomato paste and season with salt and pepper. Add to the mushrooms, season again with salt and pepper and pop the skillet into the oven for 10 minutes. Top with mint and serve hot in the skillet.