Recipe Test Nest » 5 Star » Vegetarian Test Nest
Vegetarian Test Nest

I’ve had several vegetarian friends request that I do a vegetarian night. With all of the heavy foods around the holidays, and the fact that I think I ate meat everyday for 2 weeks strait, I was feeling the need to lighten it up a bit. I learned a lot about the balance of food, proteins, flavors and textures from my expert vegetarian diners, and I really enjoyed the challenge. My fabulous testers included Joon Shin, Victoria Walters, Sheila O’Connor, April Thibeault and Donovan Bunker.

Balance becomes more difficult with vegetarian dishes and this menu made me want to learn more about eating vegetarian and challenge myself to eat less meat. I didn’t do a Mocktail for this dinner and most of my guests were drinkers so Joon helped me out with providing guests a selection of wines and of course also took fabulous pictures.

White Bean and Butternut Squash Soup (3 Stars)

This simple recipe of broth, white beans, butternut squash and sage has a lot of potential. I used vegetable stock instead of chicken stock in this recipe I should have added a little bit of salt and more herbs to further flavor the broth. The beans could have also used a little more flavor and even though I soaked them 24 hours and still boiled they weren’t quite soft enough. I need to get my friend Hilary to teach me some tricks; she’s the queen of beans. I should have also cubed the squash into smaller pieces as well. A spoon full of the beans, broth and squash was definitely the best flavor profile. The recipe called for 3-4 sage leaves and I put more in it than called for but still wanted more, I also cut sage leaves as a garnish. Adding some Parmesan or garlic flavored croutons would also help make the flavors pop.

Caramelized Sweet Potato Focaccia (5 Stars)

Fresh out of the oven (and I warmed leftovers by toasting again in the oven after realizing the microwave did no justice to the flavors) this is an absolutely mouth watering bread. It is packed with great flavor and a perfect mix of sweet and savory. The caramelized sweet potatoes are neutralized yet also enhanced by the rosemary. The Gouda cheese is mild but also adds a sharp yet mild savory burst of flavor.

Vegetable Lasagna (4 Stars)

The mushrooms in this recipe had everyone talking. I learned that mushrooms are often used as a meat supplement in vegetarian food since it also soaks up the flavors and is juicy. The amount of sauce was perfect and not too much tomato, so the flavors popped rather than drowned by the sauce. Maybe cut up the mushroom a little more than just sliced so that not as prominent in every bite. A lot of traditional veggie lasagna’s have spinach so while one tester suggested adding another tester liked the fact that this didn’t have it, yet still had a plentiful flavor profile with the other veggies (eggplant, zuccinni, xx). I used the no-cook lasagna noodles, which worked well but would be even better with fresh whole-wheat pasta. I was skeptical of making it in the crock-pot but the slow cooking allowed the deep-dish lasagna’s flavors to gel together. I added extra cheese on top the last 15 minutes.

Mixed Greens and Fennel (5 Stars)

This was a hard one to judge because it was a perfect compliment to the lasagna so testers were not sure how it would measure up on its own. This light salad is meant as an enhancement side salad – a simple mixture of endive, red leaf, and fennel and a simple dressing of olive oil, fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper. Vicki wanted a stronger cheese like Feta or goat rather than the light Ricatta Salada cheese – which both would be a great addition.  As a companion to cheesy lasagna a light cheese was best. Donovan liked how it cleansed the palette. Maybe add some sliced almonds.

Blood Orange Granita (5 Stars)

I wanted a light dessert since the focaccia and lasagna were full of carbs and this was the perfect choice to reset the palette for a refreshing dessert. Testers called it DIVINE, full of flavor and not too sweet. Sheila avoids oranges and orange flavor but really liked this dish.

Lemon Zest Shortbread (4 Stars)

I cooked the shortbread in a long rectangular tart pan versus round so I should have lessened the cooking time 5-10 mins at least. It was a little over cooked and dry, but the flavor still came through. It was a nice complement to the granita and also added some crunch to the complete menu as well. Biscotti would also have been a great choice to complement the granita and finish off the complete menu.

3 Comments (Leave a Reply)

  1. Mom (March 12, 2011)

    The focaccia looks amazing, I’ll have to try a few of these recipes. They all look yummy.

  2. Sheila (March 16, 2011)

    Everything was amazing, especially the focaccia. You can definitely prepare a great meal without meat.

  3. Donovan (April 1, 2011)

    This was a truely awesome meal! Yes, the salad was awesome with the meal and the Granita definitely was divine! Definitely worth doing again and it was a wonderful first experience in the Test Nest with food and great people! Thank you.

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