Vegetarian Night

As one of the newest members of the Rogue Estate contributors I have to make a full disclosure...I'm a vegetarian. Many of you who regularly read this blog and follow along in the escapades of these merry bandits will know that the dishes lean heavily towards the dead flesh variety. Megan and I were tasked with coming up with a theme to host for our first ever Chef's Night and we bantered around many ideas such as homemade pasta (coming), traditional Mexican (done before), Ethiopian (coming possibly), Canadian (eh?), German (coming) and vegetarian if for no other reason to greatly mess with the meat-filled sensibilities of the current Rogue Estaters.  We figured we'd save the vegetarian night to give everyone a chance to get to know me and not hate me right off the bat.  Oh, well. The menu was devised with the idea of promoting alternative proteins for the non carnivore. Beans, whole grains, tempeh and tofu would all make an appearance in the meal. For the appetizer Chilly was set to make crackers to pair with Megan's creation of Hillbilly Hummus. The crackers are a pretty simple recipe that allow for infinite variation in toppings and flavourings. The Hillbilly Hummus is an interesting spin on traditional hummus with a southern flare using black eyed peas in place of chick peas and peanut butter in place of the sesame tahini. Jack, being the master of all things uncooked got tasked with the salad; endive and quinoa salad with poached eggs.  Endive is one of those more underrated, underused and under-appreciated vegeatables (more possibly on that at a later date).  The quinoa is a unique product that is usually considered a grain, but is in fact a seed.  Quinoa is found in most supermarkets with the rice and beans and has a nutty flavour.  Here the quinoa was added atop a salad of chopped endive and vegetables and a balsamic vinaigrette.  The whole salad was further enriched with a perfectly poached egg.  The egg yolk mixes with the salad ingredients to add a certain unctuousness to the whole dish. The main dish I took care of was the maple mustard tempeh.  This is a fairly common dish to be served in our household as it's tasty and pretty simple.  Tempeh is a pressed and fermented soybean patty.  It also has a nice nuttiness that works well in multiple presentations.  Here the tempeh was marinated in a fairly neutral marinade before frying in a pan.  The tempeh needs a bit of marinating as it's a pretty dry product (see un-marinated and tasteless blackened tempeh slab from the Lundi Gras Chef's Night).  The tempeh is glazed in pan with a combination of dijon mustard, maple syrup, hard cider and cider vinegar.  Simple and fantastic.  The maple mustard glaze can easily be applied to any protein and would be great on chicken or pork as well. The vegetable side was a dish of balsamic glazed brussels sprouts.  The brussels sprouts is one of the most unloved vegetables on this side of the planet.  Many people dislike the funky quality of this relative of the cabbage family.  This dish may have been the easiest to prepare and has made re-appearances in this house.  The sprouts are roasted until golden brown in the oven then topped with a simple balsamic vinegar glaze of two parts vinegar to one part sugar.  The sprouts are finished with a sprinkling of dried cranberries to add some textural contrast and a pleasing sweet-tart flavour. Bob was our Indian specialist for the evening as he was tasked with a palak paneer.  Paneer is an Indian cheese that is a simple preparation of whole milk and lemon juice.  The mix causes the milk to curdle and the curds to separate from the whey.  The whey is poured off and the curds are pressed with cheesecloth typically overnight but for this evening only for about two hours which still resulted in a pretty firm cheese.  The cheese is then fried on its own to give it a bit of a crust and body then set aside before the palak (spinach), tomato and spices are sauteed up.  Traditionally, palak paneer is more of a gravy of pureed spinach but Bob went crazy and left it unblended and it resulted in a much fresher and heartier version once the cheese was added in at the end.  It was a great idea and it makes me wonder why this doesn't get prepared like this more often. Megan took on the vegan tofu chocolate pudding.  This is another favourite recipe around the house and it's great to serve to the unsuspecting (once you know they don't have a soy allergy) as no one would guess the main ingredient is tofu.  A brick of silken tofu is whirred up in a blender with melted chocolate, Kahlua and golden syrup.  The intention of the recipe was to put it into a chocolate cookie pie crust but the crust was too dry and unusable, so pudding it is.  Still darn tasty. Sadly, I can't remember all of the beer pairings.  I do remember a Detroit lager for the hummus and salad.  A nut brown ale to pair with the brussels sprouts, tempeh and palak paneer.  Finally, a lambic for the dessert.  I have to admit I normally don't like lambics and was trying to find a polite way to decline, but Jack's choice was really good and a perfect pairing for the pudding.  Rounding out the evening was a bloody mary with almost an entire salad as garnish.  Perfect.
Brussels sprouts with cranberries in a balsamic glaze
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Recipe Type: side dish
Author: Jason
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 30 mins
Total time: 40 mins
Serves: 6-8
Roasted brussels sprouts with tangy cranberries and a syrupy balsamic glaze.
Ingredients
  • 2-3 pounds brussels sprouts
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cups dried cranberries
  • salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Trim the base off the brussels sprouts and remove the outer leaves if yellowed or dry looking. Cut in half.
  2. Mix brussels sprouts and oil together on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Roast brussels sprouts in oven at 375 for 30 minutes or until desired amount of brownness.
  4. While sprouts are roasting mix balsamic vinegar and sugar together over medium heat until sugar dissolves then reduce to a low simmer to reduce until thick generally about 15-20 minutes depending on the heat you have your stove top set to.
  5. When sprouts are finished remove from oven and pour over dried cranberries and transfer to a serving dish.
  6. Drizzle balsamic glaze over sprouts and cranberries.
  7. Serve immediately.
Notes
You can increase or decrease the amount of brussels sprouts for this recipe depending on how much glaze you want with your sprouts. The sprouts should be roasted until golden brown, but are pretty good and have a nice caramelly bitterness if done to a slightly deeper brown. Since the glaze and cranberries are pretty sweet the bitterness is not overpowering and is actually well complimented. The glaze will set up pretty fast if you let it sit at too cool of a temperature and can over reduce if not watched properly. If either of these happen just reconstitute with a tablespoon or two of water and reheat on low. Raisins can be used in place of dried cranberries, but honestly the tart-sweet cranberries work best.
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In the end it was a pretty successful and satisfying meal.  Everyone seemed to enjoy a meatless meal and no one (to the best of my knowledge) snuck in any bacon to eat while my back was turned.  The great thing about a vegetarian meal like this is that it is fairly adaptable and can be served to carnivores and herbivores without coming off as a health meal.  The point of this meal was not to create a meal using meat substitutes but to use proteins suitable for a vegetarian diet.

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