Saturday, July 9, 2011

4th of July entertaining

On the 4th of July, we had some very dear friends, over for lunch and for once everyone was vegetarian. I wanted to plan a menu which I could cook for 10 people given the constraint on the size of pots and pans in a Manhattan kitchen and one that didn't require too much of a la minute cooking.

So, the final menu was a roasted cauliflower with curry oil,  lemon pappardelle with roasted potatoes, peas and pesto, chickpea and butternut squash stew (not very summery, but good for company) and  couscous.

The desserts were to die for - Ina Garten's chocolate orange mousse  - an excellent dessert for company, deliciously rich and luxurious (the orange flavor came from the generous addition of cointreau) and a dark carrot cake with walnuts, golden raisins and coconut, soaked with a citrus syrup of orange juice and lemon juice, without the quintessential cream cheese frosting.
You can check out the recipe for the mousse here :

Roasted cauliflower with curry oil
Roasted cauliflower with curry oil
 2 medium sized cauliflowers, cut into florets (large ones cut into two or three)
A few good glugs of extra virgin olive oil (enough to coat all the florets - don't be alarmed with the amount of oil - you are catering for 10 people)
3-4 teaspoon of kosher salt
30 sprigs of thyme, finely minced
6 cloves of garlic, finely minced
3 tablespoons curry powder

1.  Preheat the oven to 425 F.

2. Mix the cauliflower florets with the olive oil, salt, minced thyme, minced garlic and curry powder so that all the florets are evenly coated with the oil, spice and herb mixture.

3. Arrange them on a foil lined baking in a single layer. You will need two large baking sheets.

4. Roast for 20 minutes and toss the florets once so that they brown evenly. Roast for another 20 minutes till the cauliflower is light brown at the edges and cooked but not overcooked. I like my roasted vegetables are little al dente. If you want them to be soft, cook for a longer time.

5. Serve warm. You could make this in advance and keep it warm in a 200 F oven for a couple of hours.

Serves 10

 Chickpea and Butternut squash stew

Chickpea and Butternut Squash Stew

Two 14 oz cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cups butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
10 small new potatoes, cleaned and cut into two
4 oz cremini mushrooms cut into quarters
2 sticks of celery cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 cups chopped white onions
4 large cloves of garlic, finely minced
One 2 inch piece of cinnamon
10 strands of saffron
2 teaspoons of cumin powder (freshly ground is best)
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon dried chili flakes
3 + 1 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
4 + 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoon finely chopped flat leaf parsley (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Preheat a baking sheet for roasting the potatoes.

2. Toss the chopped potatoes with 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon kosher salt and black pepper. Arrange them in a single layer cut side down on the pre-heated baking sheet.

3. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes till the cut side is light brown. Remove and set aside.

4. In a large dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for a minute. Add the minced garlic and continue to saute for 8 to 10 minutes till the onions are light brown. Add the saffron, butternut squash, mushrooms, turmeric and 1 teaspoon salt and saute for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the celery, drained chickpeas,crushed tomatoes, cumin powder, chili flakes and another teaspoon salt and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and add the roasted potatoes and another teaspoon salt. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes till the butternut squash is soft but still holds its shape. Taste for seasoning and add sugar depending on the tartness of the tomatoes. You may need less or more than 1 tablespoon sugar.

5. Serve garnished with chopped parsley on a bed of couscous. Cook couscous as per the directions on the box. Typically it is 1 cup of couscous to 1 cup of water and generous pat of butter.

Serves at least 10

Lemon pappardelle with roasted potatoes, peas and pesto

Lemon pappardelle with roasted potatoes, peas and pesto
 2 1/2  bags of lemon pappardelle ( I used the one from Trader Joes - each one has 4 servings)
1 1/2 cups basil pesto ( I used store bought since it was a large quantity)
4 oz green peas, defrosted
5 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
a couple of glugs of extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Preheat a large baking sheet or two small baking sheets. This will prevent the potatoes from sticking to the sheet. Toss the potatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper and arrange them in a single layer on the baking sheet. Check after 15 minutes - if the potatoes are brown on one side, flip to the other side and cook for another 8 to 10 minutes. The potatoes should be soft inside and crisp on the outside. Once done, remove and set aside. The potatoes can be roasted in advance, but put them back for 10 minutes in a 225 F oven before tossing them into the pasta.

2. Place the peas and pesto in a large serving bowl and keep them at room temperature for an hour before serving the pasta.

3. Boil the pasta as per the packet instructions. Drain and add to the the peas and pesto mixture. Toss well to ensure the pesto coats all the strands. Add the potatoes and toss once. Serve immediately.

Serves 10.


  1. It looks like you missed the step in the chickpea and butternut squash recipe - when do the cumin, turmeric and chilli flakes go in? I realized this at the end and added it before the 30 min cooking step.

    1. Thanks - have updated the recipe - the turmeric is added first followed by the chili and cumin in the next step.