Veggie Much in Need of Some Help


Editor’s Note: You’re not allowed to read this post if you’re currently dating me. Thanks for your cooperation

OK, I’m in need of some serious assistance here, ESers!  So the veggie gf’s birthday is on Thursday. Not really thinking, I suggested we could go to this veggie-friendly fancy restaurant by her house, or she could tell me what she wants me to cook, or I could just cook her a surprise meal. Of course she opted for the surprise, and now I’m freaking out because I’ve committed to crafting a “special” meal, but I’m totally inhibited since usually when I’m trying to go fancy, some form of pork is always my M.V.I.

We cook together all the time, but usually make something fairly simple, like a veggie stir-fry or veggie fajitas. I just don’t know how to go fancy with the veg. God, it’s so much easier to make people feel special when you can just give them bacon.

So I need to devise a semi-fancy menu sans flesh. I’m thinking maybe some kind of spring-y soup followed by, man I don’t even know what.

Limitations: she doesn’t like eggplant, which I think is totally unfair. If you’re going to rule out an entire food group, you really should be required to eat everything in the other food groups. She also doesn’t like tomatoes unless they’re in-season and juicy, which I think is fair. She’s not a vegan (thank god), so cheese is very much on the table.

I know there are a lot of you vegetarians and vegetarian-lovers out there, so hit me with your best “fancy” veggie meal plans. Oh, and if you have a chocolate dessert recipe that a baking-challenged cook can handle, hook me up with that too. I promise to report back with pretty pictures and/or disaster stories.

(Photo: kighp)

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  • Maids May 12, 2009  

    EASY BS – I’d recommend doing a stuffed winter squash dish where you each get your own little half squash to eat it out of (you could do acorn or even butternut…) you can spend time roasting the squash in butter, infusing it with different flavors like apples and nutmeg, cinnamon. Then take out those ingredients and stuff the squash with a filling of creamy white truffle mushrooms and risotto with some Parmesan/white wine sauce on top. Have some nice strong greens on the side like Kale.
    How I wish I could eat cheese. And cream.

  • BS May 12, 2009  

    @ Maids – I like this – actually, kinda like something we already made:
    but it all sounds so winter-y. How could we do something like this but with spring vegetables?

  • Eevee May 12, 2009  

    I made these stuffed shells for my bloodthirsty carnivorous boyfriend and his techs at the body shop – they couldn’t get enough.

    I didn’t use carrots, and I used fresh spinach instead of thawed. Threw all of the vegetables together in a wok, simmered, then let it cool and mixed in the cottage cheese. You could use 8 individual dishes for prettiness, but I lined up the shells in a 9×12 baking dish, spooned the mix into them and baked. When it was ready, I ate it with my bare hands.

  • gansie May 12, 2009  

    i love menu planning!

    okay, i’d do gnocchi (this one includes a creamy meyer lemon sauce and fried sage) and then throw in a spring veggie, either bite size asparagus or a wilted green (arugula). a fried or poached egg on top wouldnt hurt.

    for soup – are you thinking cold or hot? i’ve always wanted to try an asparagus soup.

    sorry i keep going back to the ‘gus but if youve been to a farmers market recently you’ll know that there’s like 3 things available this early in the season. two of them being asparagus and arugula.

    and dont worry – i wont even attempt to offer you a dessert.

  • gansie May 12, 2009  

    and best editors note ever

  • belmontmedina May 12, 2009  


    Get one of the giant ones from the farmers market, and then follow Maids’ directions.

    Also, a modified ratatouille? With just zuchinni and yellow squash? Maybe sub carrots? The presenation alone makes it great.

  • AK May 12, 2009  

    I recently made some veggie enchiladas with this recipe for vegetarian enchilada sauce from the Atlantic food blog ( I didn’t have veggie stock on hand so I just simmered half an onion, a few cloves of garlic, a bay leaf, a few whole cloves, and a cinnamon stick with the sauce. This made a really good spicy/sweet combo. I used whole wheat tortillas and and for the filling used a mixture of corn, black beans, zucchini, carrot, and onion that I sweated in some oil till they were still a bit crunchy. Lots of cheese on top is key. I think the sauce would also work well with chilli rellenos.

    Pasta is always a great option, I’m a fan of fresh pasta of some sort with asparagus and a lemon cream sauce.

    For salads, something simple but decadent like macerated strawberries with arugula and goat cheese and balsamic reduction is always good.

    Risottos are always a good option if you don’t want to go the traditional pasta route.

  • belmontmedina May 12, 2009  

    Oooh- also to riff off gansie, you could do ricotta gnocchi

  • Maids May 12, 2009  

    It does sound wintry (but the spring vegetables seem to be delayed this year, yes?). You could make it more springy…. maybe by adding some ramps and red/green/yellow sweet peppers such to the risotto? Some kind of risotto primavera…. You could stuff a zucchini instead of a winter squash!

  • Maids May 12, 2009  

    woah… great minds …. belmontmedina

  • JoeHoya May 12, 2009  

    Just so’s everyone knows I’m a team player, I sent a suggestion via gchat. This way it stays a secret in case the editor’s note fails to work.

    HINT: It’s something we’ve written about over at Capital Spice.

  • Nici May 12, 2009  

    Butternut squash lasagna…

  • gansie May 12, 2009  

    and as reminded by our flickr stream on the left, there are def wild mushrooms at the market too. maybe a mushroom based soup?

  • gansie May 12, 2009  

    okay, one more comment.

    as much as i think being vegan is insane, this blog might help you out.

    loving the wasabi roasted asparagus

  • LC May 12, 2009  

    For dessert how about fondue: flourless chocolate cake I would try and find a raspberry glaze with all that chocolate richness but, you know, I have no idea, really.

  • C. Christy Concrete May 12, 2009  

    I made this once for a friend and she loved it; it’s a quick-and-dirty dump curry and it’s really easy. There’s tomatoes in it, but you can swap those out with something. Maybe some carrot juice and the aforementioned squashies? The curry flavors are pretty mild, so you can kick it up a…erm…how’s that go? Kick it in the crotch? Something like that…

  • C. Christy Concrete May 12, 2009  

    And if you haven’t heard of or tried the recipe for brownies using black beans, (a.k.a. “blackies”) it works pretty well. Just don’t tell her what’s in it…

    From scratch:

    Here’s a version that uses a box mix:

  • Sara May 12, 2009  

    Maybe a seafood lasagna. I have seen a bunch of recipes around lately.

    Also, I find that any vegetable coated in a tempura batter and deep fried is heavenly. I found a great tempura batter here:

  • Liza May 12, 2009  

    All you need is the Post Punk Kitchen – Matt and I have made lots of fancy veggie meals from them (like not a lot, because they are very special – AKA take some time to make but fun to do and F-ING good)

  • Alex May 13, 2009  

    You could go mildly Indian and do a curried carrot soup to start and grill up some chapati to go with.

  • Very Very Good Girl May 13, 2009  

    I love risotto and think you could include any fresh add-in such as seafood, mushrooms, arugula or Gansie’s ‘gus. Mint & pea risotto? Gnocchi with a fresh basil pesto and some grilled veggies would be great too. I would love an educational post of how to make Gnocchi!!

    As for dessert, I risk being shunned due to the source of this recipe but it is worth it. I first made this for my other 1/2’s birthday and since then for a handful of dinner parties, and it has always been a hit. My oven requires more cooking time so jiggle the contents to be sure the outside is set & it will be oh so special.

    Last entry –

  • BS May 13, 2009  

    WOW. You guys rock, ESers! You’ve really got my gears going….Still very much up in the air, but here’s what I’m thinking.
    First Course: Asparagus Soup. Anyone else have tips on how to make it? Or opinions on other good spring soups (hot or cold)
    Second Course: Maybe gnocchi? I made it once before recently so I’d want to “special” it up a little bit? What do you think about adding arugula or something to the batter before boiling? Would they hold up?
    I also like the veggie tempura idea, Sara. But I’m skeptical about my deep-frying ability. I don’t have a deep fryer and when I’ve tried to half-ass it with a pot of oil, I’ve had some bad results. Have you (or anyone) made tempura without a deep fryer?
    Dessert: I think VVGG’s goop link is leading the way – but I STILL don’t have ramekins – do you think I could make these in muffin tins?
    Keep the ideas coming!

  • NeeNee May 13, 2009  

    Asparagus soup – simple and unbelievably tasty…and in keeping with an ES theme…Frenchie.

    Another great veggie entree is greek style stuffed tomatoes. I went vegetarian halfway through a trip to Greece in March and fell in love with the Yemista. I can’t wait to make them with my own backyard tomatoes later this summer.

  • JoeHoya May 14, 2009  

    @BS – Evening Star in Del Ray does a spinach gnocchi. Not sure of how, but i know it holds together just fine. I suspect arugula could be used interchangeably.

  • Harmony May 14, 2009  

    I just made this very cake for a birthday party, but instead of using the frosting listed in the recipe, I just used cool whip. It’s a chocolate banana cake. Yes, it uses a boxed mix but the taste was light and sweet but still nice and chocolate-ly.

  • Bliz May 14, 2009  

    Holy shit, I love this thread! I too am currently dating a veg-head so I know how tricky it can be to throw together a flashy meal that doesn’t involve pork belly or roast duck.

    Sounds like you got a solid menu set up. But I will say a little tomatoes provancale is always a crowd pleaser:

    With the gnocchi I know you can definitely spike the dough with some blantched, shredded greens. Just add them after the potatoes have been mashed and cooled then add your flour, etc.

    DEFINITELY deep fry! Yeah sure it’s a potentially skin, melting hazard, but it tastes so fucking good! I keep a pot half full of oil on my stove almost all the time now any time I want to fry something up quickly. Using the oil of your choice, get your heat up to medium – medium low and drop a few droplets of water that are gonna sizzle and pop while heating up, but once the noise stops, do a little test and see how the oil fries. I think the ideal temperature is about 350 for what that’s worth.

  • AK May 14, 2009  

    The restaurant where I cook recently had a chilled asparagus soup on the menu that was incredibly light and so very tasty. To make we took asparagus and trimmed the stalks. The woody ends went into a pot with cold water and were brought up to a boil (along with a few garlic cloves and some lemon peel) to make an asparagus “stock”. The rest of the asparagus was blanched in salted water then shocked in an ice bath. We then combined the blanched asparagus (minus a few of the tips since they make a pretty garnish), some cream, and some of the asparagus “stock” in a blender and puree. You can adjust the amounts of cream and stock depending on the consistency you want. But using the stock gives it a greater depth of asparagus flavor. I like to garnish with some lemon zest and asparagus tips. It’s a cool, refreshing spring soup.

  • gansie May 14, 2009  

    @AK – so i’m kinda embarrassed to ask b/c im notoriously anti-recipe, but about how many stalks are needed – 2 bunches for 6 servings?

  • Alex May 14, 2009  

    @ helpful ES’ers: Thanks everyone. I am older and stuffed full of veggie goodness.
    I’m sure BS will be filling you in.

  • Alex May 14, 2009  

    PS the other Alex was not me, I promise.

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