Cooking for the Parents

For Hanukkah this year, Sky and I "got" my parents a home-cooked four-course dinner, which we finally did this month. When we did this last year, we made an uber-rich main dish (potato, mushroom and brie gratin), which was wonderful, but I wanted to try something different this time. I strongly believe vegetarian cooking can be delicious without relying on cheese (I love cheese, don't get me wrong, but I've found it can be a crutch when preparing vegetable-focused dishes). The first three courses kept with that theme, highlighting the flavor of the vegetables. I've already made the sweet potato dish again, it was so tasty-silken, honey-infused sweet potatoes with cumin-spiced chickpeas and tomatoes, and a bright lemon yogurt.

I won't rewrite the recipes for the first two dishes, since I followed them verbatim from Bon Appetit (I've included links.) But I did include the sweet potato recipe, which was from the cookbook Ottolenghi.

I'm not including the recipe for the chocolate cake we made, since it was very off in terms of timing (the batter was barely set when the cake was supposed to be done.) It turned out delicious once it was finally done, but I don't want to put the recipe out there until I figure out what happened.

Course #1: Beets Two Ways with Watercress
My parents love beets, so this seemed like the perfect salad to start. Plus the sliced raw beets were so pretty! I used this recipe from Bon Appetit.
 Roasted beets
 Raw beets

Course #2: Winter Greens and Mushrooms
It's always crazy to watch a giant pile of greens cook down. This was a very hearty, earthy dish, and I loved the different flavors of the different types of greens. My parents don't love spicy food so I didn't include the red pepper flakes this recipe from Bon Appetit calls for, but I think it would have been a good addition. A sprinkle of fresh lemon juice on top at the end also would be a welcome touch, I suspect.
So many greens!

Course #3: Honeyed Sweet Potatoes with Chickpeas and Spinach
As I mentioned above, this came from the Ottolenghi cookbook (I made a few adjustments). The dish covered every level of flavor and texure, from the honeyed sweet potatoes and earthy chickpeas to the sprinkling of cilantro on top and spoonful of lemon and mint yogurt.

1 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium white onion, chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
14 oz can diced tomatoes (don't drain)
1 tsp white sugar
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 bag baby spinach
Handful of cilantro leaves
1 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into one-inch thick pieces
3 cups water
3.5 tbsp margarine
4 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 clove garlic, minced
Zest and juice from one lemon
3 tbsp olive oil
1 sprig mint (about five leaves), chopped
Kosher salt and pepper, for seasoning
- In a medium pot, cover the chickpeas with water. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce the heat, simmering the chickpeas for about 30 minutes. When they're done, drain and set the chickpeas aside.
- In a large pot, combine the sweet potatoes, water, margarine, honey and half teaspoon of kosher salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat, simmering for about 45 minutes. When the potatoes are done, turn off the heat and cover the pot until you're ready to serve.
- When the sweet potatoes are close to being done, heat the olive oil in a medium pan over medium heat. Cook the onions until they start to brown, about eight minutes.
- Stir in the tomato paste. After one minute, add in the tomatoes, sugar and ground cumin. Season with a little kosher salt and pepper.
- Add the spinach and chickpeas. Cook for another five minutes, until all the spinach is wilted and coated in the tomato sauce.
- Just before serving, whisk together the yogurt, lemon zest and juice, olive oil and mint in a small bowl.
- To serve, using a slotted spoon place the sweet potatoes on top of the chickpea mixture. Garnish with cilantro and as much yogurt sauce as you like.

Course #4: Chocolate Cake with Cream
I used a recipe from A La Mere de Famille, and although it eventually turned out well, the cooking times were way, way off for some reason. I loved the addition of heavy cream at the end, it made the cake taste so decadent!

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