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Wait, you eat meat?
Yup! I’m not a vegetarian by any means. I love a juicy bacon cheeseburger, a tender steak, and a well fried chicken breast just as much as the next gal. However, meat can be expensive. Especially when you are talking about quality, ethically raised, good tasting meat that is worth the investment.
For many at home cooks, the thought of spending $70 on an entree alone to feed 4 people one meal is stressful enough. Then throw in the fear of the recipe not working out, and nobody needs that kind of pressure. Cooking should be fun. Adventurous? Yes, of course. But also non-threatening.
They don’t eat what? ROMAINE calm!
It can be hard though to invite co-workers, friends, or family members over for a dinner party and not want to splurge in order to impress and show of your culinary skills. Lately, I’ve noticed that when I invite people over for dinner parties, more and more of them are vegetarian, vegan, counting calories, or the ever dreaded “gluten-free”. Given all those dietary restrictions, and my ever present needs to save my calories for dessert, it can be truly challenging find a healthy, vegetarian, affordable, and aesthetically impressive dish to serve.
(Side Note: In our house, unless you have a diagnosis of Celiac’s disease, Chrones, or some other gluten illness, we are serving you gluten. I don’t believe in contributing to your malnutrition in order to assist your weight loss.
“People who are sensitive to gluten may feel better, but a larger portion will derive no significant benefit from the practice. They’ll simply waste their money, because these products are expensive,” says Dr. Leffler, who is also an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Source: Going gluten-free just because? Here’s what you need to know)
So whether you are vegetarian for ethical reason, health reasons, or budget reasons, this savory, one pot recipe is not only a small fraction of the price of its inspirational veal dish, its also quite impressive once plated.
Want another eye-pleasing (and palate-pleasing) vegetarian main dish? Take a look at my CAULIFLOWER SWEDISH “MEAT”BALLS WITH MUSHROOM GRAVY. Follow the simple *Chef’s Note* to make these 100% meat free .
I like them fat, and I don’t carrot all!
When you are shopping for your carrots, whether at your local grocery store, or even better, your neighborhood farmers market, try to find pudgy carrots and don’t taper too much. You want them to be as fat as possible so that they cook at the same time and stay meaty. Do the best you can, and if fat ones aren’t available, just cut the skinny end into much longer portions. You can also remove them from the pot early in order to keep them from turning to mush.
Mash it up.
I like to serve this over a nice sized helping of Mashed Cauliflower. Its easy to make, and given I use frozen cauliflower, its great for option when I haven’t had a chance to get fresh produce. I always have a couple bags in the freezer for quick side dishes.
Follow the microwave instructions on the bag, cooking them for the maximum recommended time. When they’re steamed and soft, use an immersion blender like this to blend with butter, fat free half and half, salt, and some garlic powder. Add in chives, or whatever spices you usually use for your mashed potatoes. You are going to love it!
*Just remember, the Cauli-Mash won’t be vegan if prepared the way I recommend above. If you have a vegan eater over, just use unsweetened almond milk and vegan butter. But go easy on the almond milk because it can pool on the side if you add too much. Er on the side of less milk and more vegan butter.)
Vegetarian/Vegan (& low budget) Osso Bucco, a meal to impress!
(Makes 4 servings)
- 1 cup (20g) dried mushrooms, wild blend or porcinis
- 1 1/4 cup boiling water
- 8-10 oz bag of pearl onions
- 1.5 lbs (3-5) preferably fat, carrots, peeled
- 2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
- 3/4 tsp salt, divided
- 2 cloves garlic, rough chopped
- 8 oz whole cremini mushrooms, halved
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp coriander
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg
- 1 roma tomato, diced w/juices reserved
- 1/2 cup vegetable broth
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 3/4 cup reserved dried mushroom water
- 1 cup dry red wine, I used a cheap shiraz from whole foods
- 1/4 cup finely minced Italian (flat-leaf) parlsey
Preheat the oven to 375°.
- Rinse dried mushrooms under cold water. Then add to a bowl with 1 1/4 cups boiling water. Let sit.
- Chop the carrots so they cook at the same time; shorter on fat end, longer on skinny end.
- Mix together the turmeric and next 4 ingredients (through nutmeg) in a small bowl and set aside.
- Bring 1 inch of water to boil in a large Dutch oven or oven-safe pot. Add the pearl onions and cook for 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon (or as I did, a fish spatula) fish out the onions into a small bowl. Allow to cool until they are able to be handled. Trim the ends minimally, and peel, all while keeping them whole. Set aside.
- Strain the dried mushrooms, reserving 3/4 cup of the water they’ve been soaking in.
- Heat the olive oil in the Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the carrots and season with 1/2 salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Brown well on each side. This should take roughly 8-10 mins.
- Add in the pearl onions, fresh mushrooms, garlic and previously combined spice mix. Stir to coat.
- Pour in the wine and simmer for about 7 mins. Add in the re-constituted dried mushrooms, reserved mushroom liquid, tomato, tomato paste and broth. Bring to a boil.
- Move the Dutch oven to the preheated oven and braise the carrots for 25 mins. Remove from oven and turn carrots. Return to the oven and cook 8-10 mins more, or until carrots are soft. Remove the carrots and onions to a plate.
- Place Dutch oven onto stove top over medium high heat and simmer the liquid and mushrooms until thick, about 3-5 mins. Season the sauce with remaining 1/4 tsp of salt, turn off heat, and return the carrots and onions back to the sauce. Coat.
- Sprinkle with minced parsley and serve over cauliflower mash.
Looking for a Vegan dessert to impress your guests? Check out my (Accidentally) Vegan Cardamom Crème Sandwiches.