Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Friday Night Dinner Project

And now for some lighter fare...

One of my most beloved cookbooks is Bonnie Stern's Friday Night Dinners - Menus To Welcome The Weekend With Ease, Warmth and Flair.  If you are not familiar with Bonnie Stern, she is one of Canada's culinary treasures (along with Ricardo LarrivĂ©e).  Her recipes are beautiful, not overwhelming to cook, and taste truly delicious.  I love to cook for my family, however since my son was born I have not been cooking nearly as much as in the past - at least not in a grand way.  Now I am back at it.  Sort of.  I have made many recipes from this book and I love it dearly - however, I have not made every recipe in the book, but that is about to change.

The beauty of Friday Night Dinners, is that it is designed not by course, but by menu.  The book contains 25 wonderful dinner menus, each centered around a different theme.  Over the coming months, I am going to be making every single recipe from this book.  Every.  Single.  One.  But not in the order they appear.  I will post my exploits to the blog as I work through the book.  My hope is that I can share my thoughts as I work my through the book, and that some of you may be inspired to purchase it and create these wonderful meals for your own family and friends.

I will not be posting the recipes to my blog because....copyright.  When possible, I will link to Bonnie Stern's website for the recipe, but I would encourage you to purchase your own copy of Friday Night Dinners.  You will not regret it!

Vegetarian Dinner

The menu we made this weekend was the Vegetarian Dinner.  We made it first because my husband thought it would be his "least favourite."  It was delicious.  He loved it.

First up are the Melting Cheese and Corn Quesadillas, (get the recipe herefeaturing smoked mozzarella cheese.  These were quick, easy, and delicious.

I grilled them using my Cuisinart Griddler.  I was not able to include the chipotles because I could not find them to purchase, so instead I added a small amount of Cumin and Chili to the cheese mixture.  Bonnie Stern warns you not to overfill these prior to cooking - sound advice!  You do not need to put much filling in these, once the cheese melts it spreads out quite nicely.   Once grilled, these were served with a small dab of plain yogurt.  Wonderful.

The Melting Cheese and Corn Quesadillas were followed by Curried Lentil Samosas (recipe here).  This was the first time I made samosas and as it turns out, they are not hard to make at all.  The wonderful thing about this samosa recipe (which contains sweet potato, currants, and green lentils) is that it has a rich flavour but is not hot (as in spicy).  This is also a vegan recipe.

You will notice some of the edges of the phyllo are a little brown.  The recipe recommends cutting them in strips of three, which I did.  But after looking at the instructions on the Phyllo box and my experience in folding these up - if I made this recipe again I would cut the phyllo into strips of four and then fold them.  These can be made ahead and frozen (and then cooked).  What takes the most time is the filling and folding.  I think it would be worth making a large batch of these and freezing them.  Then just popping them out to cook before a party or gathering.  The cookbook also suggests that you can make extra large sized samosas and serve them as a main course.  This would also be lovely.  Despite my slightly burnt edges, these were excellent.

Next up are the two mains - Vegetarian Lasagna Casserole and New Wave Caesar Salad.  
The Vegetarian Lasagna Casserole calls for Asian eggplants, zuchinni, carrots, butternut squash, and mushrooms.  My husband hates mushrooms so I omitted them and added some extra squash.  Now you know who runs our house.  Neither of us are big fans of eggplant or zuchinni so we were not expecting mush of this recipe.  We were wrong.
Here are the vegetables chopped up and looking incredibly colourful and healthy.  (Note: You need one cup of each - I wasn't sure how much to buy but now I know - it is approximately one decent sized Asian eggplant, one small zucchini, one large carrot, and not an entire butternut squash).
The recipe also calls for grated Fontina and Parmesan cheeses.  Not cheap - but yummy.
And here it is - the vegetables, the delicious cheese sauce, and the pasta all brewing up on the stove.  I still was not convinced that it would taste good.  My husband was definitely not convinced it would taste good.

Here is a slice of the cooked Vegetarian Lasagna Casserole along with the New Wave Caesar Salad.  It was amazing.  The lasagna and the salad.  Even my husband thoroughly enjoyed it.  Because I have unused vegetables and Fontina cheese I am going to make a second lasagna this week to freeze.  It was that good.  As for the salad, the homemade dressing is absolutely has a sweet undertone that is absolutely divine.

Finally, dessert.  Lemon Tiramisu.  Confession: I had never eaten tiramisu until I made this.  It is incredibly sweet (small portion sizes are more than enough!) and scrumptious.  In order to make this I had to purchase Limoncello, a lemon liqueur.  This added significantly to the cost of the recipe as I could only find it in a large bottle at the LCBO (it cost just over $20.00).  I found the Savoidardi ladyfingers at Longo's.  I bought two bags. I guess this means I will just have to make another batch...

Soooooo good.
It made a large batch.  I am going to freeze some for my son's birthday party (more on that later).

And there you have it.  The vegetarian menu.

More to come...

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