Category Archives: Mediterranean

Vegetarian Tapas for Four

My husband and I love to have friends over for dinner, and we recently invited two friends over who presented us with a serving conundrum. The man is a vegetarian, though he’s alright with eating seafood, but the woman eats only chicken, and isn’t interested in any other meats or seafood. We’ve had dinner with them many times before and always stuck to serving a safe vegetarian dish. But, I was starting to get bored. I turned to my shelf of cookbooks for inspiration and for the week leading up to the dinner, skimmed through countless recipes for meatless main courses, salads and appetizers. I couldn’t decide which recipe to pick. But finally, inspiration struck. Why not cook a series of small dishes instead? My husband liked the sound of that.

I decided to make five dishes in total, and space them out over a number of hours. The thing I hate the most about hosting a dinner party is getting stuck in the kitchen while everyone else gets to talk and drink, so I resolved to pick recipes that were easy and could mostly be prepared in advance. Here’s what I ended up serving:

1. Sun-dried Tomato Hummus with Pita Bread
2. Camembert with Caramel Sauce
3. Vegetarian Stuffed Baguette
4. Vegetarian Thin Crust Pizza
5. Chocolate Brownies with Cookie Dough Ice Cream

1. Sun-dried Tomato Hummus with Pita Bread

Hummus is a great vegetarian dish because it’s packed with protein from the chickpeas, and it can be whipped up very quickly in the food processor. Adding a 1/2 cup of sun-dried tomatoes to the recipe adds a nice tangy flavour, and gives it a good kick of colour instead of the usual brown. I used the hummus recipe in The Cocktail Chef, by Dinah Koo & Janice Poon, but I ended up needing to add a lot more liquid (water, lemon juice and olive oil) to the mix. Any other hummus recipe would do just fine. Serve with toasted pita bread triangles brushed lightly with butter.

2. Camembert with Caramel Sauce

This recipe, from the cookbook Caramel, by Trish Deseine, is almost too good to be true. It’s simple to prepare, but best of all, it’s makes a stunning presentation. It’s also gluten-free. I will definitely be making this recipe again… and again.

The trickiest part is getting the caramel to the right consistency. In a small sauce pan mix together a 1/2 cup minus 1 Tbsp granulated sugar and 2 Tbsp water. Stir them together, then bring the mixture to a simmer and watch it closely until it turns a light golden brown. If you have a candy thermometer try and achieve the soft ball stage (116 °C or 240 °F).

In the meantime, place a round of camembert in the centre of a serving dish and dress up the top and sides with a healthy mix of nuts and dried fruits. I used a combination of almonds, cashews, peanuts, dried cranberries and dried bluberries. The first time I made the caramel I completely burnt it since I wasn’t watching closely. Be warned, once it starts to change colour, it changes very fast. Once the caramel reaches the desired colour and consistency pour it gracefully over the arranged cheese. Let it cool for at least a few minutes before serving. The caramelized suger will be extremely hot at first.

Tips: Place the cheese either on parchment paper on a plate or on a wooden cutting board. That will make it easier to cut through tough caramel chunks, if necessary. Brie is a good substitute for camembert if you can’t find it at the store.

3. Vegetarian Stuffed Baguette

I had the most fun making this appetizer. I created my own recipe based on one in The Cocktail Chef that I’d made before. Again, this recipe is simple to make, yet it possess a certain wow factor that makes it a great choice for easy entertaining.

5 ounces roughly chopped fresh basil
1 finely chopped shallot
2 or 3 tablespoons minced garlic (as desired)
1 package Yves Veggie Ground (or substitute with any type of ground meat)
1 30-inch baguette (or 2 smaller baguettes)
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup ground parmesan cheese
1 cup roughly chopped mushrooms
1/2 cup tomato sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Slice the ends off the baguette and then slice lengthwise, without breaking the bread into two halves. Hollow out the baguette by removing the soft inner bread by hand. Reserve the bread chunks. If you’re using a very long baguette (like I did) you may want to cut it in half to make it easier to manage.

Sauté the Yves Veggie Ground (or other ground meat) in a frying pan with the minced garlic and chopped shallots until cooked. Transfer mixture to large bowl and add remaining ingredients. Using a food processor, pluse the bread chunks into fresh bread crumbs and add 1/2 the amount to the mixture. Mix all ingredients together in the bowl.

Spoon the mixture into the hollowed out baguette carefully, so as not to crack the spine of the bread. Fill the baguette as much as possible. Once the baguettes are stuffed wrap them in tin foil and bake them in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 375°F.

To serve, slice the baguettes into 1 inch rounds and enjoy!

4. Vegetarian Thin Crust Pizza

To make this easy on myself I pre-chopped all the pizza toppings earlier in the day and made the pizza crust a few days before. By the time we were ready for the pizza the sun had long ago set and all of us had consumed our fair share of wine. I thought it would be fun to switch things up a bit, so instead of preparing the pizza myself (like I normally would), I got the crust ready on the pizza stone and let my guests arrange the toppings themselves. It was pretty fun, and of course, it’s hard to go wrong with pizza. For toppings we had some Yves Veggie Ground, basil, mushrooms, artichokes, sundried tomatoes, garlic, and cheddar and mozarella cheese.

5. Chocolate Brownies with Cookie Dough Ice Cream

No meal is complete without some type of dessert. I had some Triple Chocolate Ghirardelli Brownie Mix in the cupboard already so I decided not to reinvent the wheel. Chocolate brownies are always well received. They’re even better when slightly warmed and topped with a few scoops of cookie dough ice cream.

All in all, the vegetarian tapas were a success. Everything tasted great and I was satisfied that I hadn’t spent too much time working away in the kitchen. With these five easy recipes I had a lot more time to sip wine and enjoy a night of great conversation with friends. That’s what entertaining is all about!