Recently, we had the privilege of having a group of some of my most favorite humans over for dinner. I love cooking for a group - regardless of the size - and there is something really satisfying about pulling off a dinner for more than just Michael and I (and having it turn out!). Perhaps it's my inner June Cleaver. Perhaps it's that I'm a super Type-A stage manager and feel awesome when things go smoothly. Perhaps it's just that I really love good food and sharing plant-based yumminess with people I like.
Yes. Let's go with that one!
I've been on such a seasonal veggie kick recently (read: brussels sprouts, squash, dark leafy greens, sweet potatoes). Conveniently, these all tend to be easy to make in batch-form. Dinner party food: check!
Warming, hearty, and a little spicy, I settled on a menu of three things:
- Coconut Curry Lentils in Squash Medallions
- Brussels Sprouts (obviously -- I would eat these three meals a day if I thought I could get away with it)
- Curry Tahini Quinoa
I tossed the cooked quinoa in a mixture of tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, curry powder, and apple cider vinegar. It was seriously good. (Actually, probably perfect for a weekday lunch mix-up! It took no time at all to throw together.)
Here are the sprouts (delicious and simple, as always) based on this recipe.
The coconut curry lentils had three main steps:
pre-cooking the squash. This made it a little easier to cut out the centers and ensured they wouldn't be underdone by the time I served them. I sliced up a [massive] spaghetti squash from the farmers market into 8 round slabs. (When I got down to the bulb at the bottom with the seeds, I pulled those out and set aside for roasting later.) I then baked the slices for about 30 minutes, just to soften enough to be able to cut out the middle of each. (You could also use an acorn squash or butternut squash instead: they have less 'meat' throughout, and more of a cavity in the center. Pull the seeds out and slice into rounds. You won't need to cut out the centers: nature will have already done it for you!) Cool them for about 10 minutes before handling.
preparing the lentils. While the squash pre-baked, I made up my lentil filling using a batch of pre-cooked lentils I'd made the day before. You can use canned or dried ones; just leave yourself about 35 additional minutes to prep from scratch if you so choose! Soaking them overnight reduces cooking time significantly. I tossed in onions, garlic, carrots, spices, and a little water, adding coconut milk towards the end. These set nicely, making them a substantial enough filling to settle into their little squash seats for baking.
sauce. sauce. sauce. I may have found my new favorite condiment. Cardamom coconut milk reduction. Whoa. I heated 1 part coconut oil to three parts coconut milk in a small saucepan, along with a sprinkle of cardamom. To reduce means to let the excess liquid evaporate, so in stirring vigorously while it heated, the extra water in the coconut milk disappeared, leaving a seriously fragrant, syrupy sauce. SO GOOD.
Once I had removed the centers of the squash, I filled each with a scoop of lentils, and popped them back in the oven for another half hour (this coincided perfectly with the brussels sprouts' bake time). The sauce went on just before serving. Here's how they turned out:
Who knew plants could make such a solid main dish? (If you're reading this, you probably do.) They are a great blend of sweet and savory, 'standard fare' and 'exotic', and texturally really interesting. (I love how squash becomes kind of melt-y as it bakes.) The lentils add some nice density, and the creamy sauce balances it all out awesomely. This is definitely the kind of meal you walk away from feeling done: it covers all of the big ingredient components and is certainly nutrient-dense (two factors that hugely contribute to the body's ability to register fullness). Everyone seemed to like them!
I could envision making these for a holiday gathering for sure, especially this time of year. Thanksgiving vegetables are so awesome (and who needs turkey with this kind of hearty goodness?)
What's your favorite thing to make for dinner parties?
- 1 large spaghetti squash, cut into even round slices (seeds removed)
- 2 tbsp coconut oil, divided
- 3 cups cooked lentils
- 2 medium yellow onions, cubed
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large carrot, thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup water
- 4 tbsp couscous seasoning (a blend of nutmeg, cumin, coriander, allspice, ginger, cayenne pepper, cinnamon)
- 2 tbsp curry powder
- 1 tbsp + 1 tsp cardamom
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 cup coconut milk + 5 tbsp coconut milk
- 1. Preheat oven to 400F.
- 2. Lay squash slices on foil-lined tray and bake for 30 minutes until softened.
- 3. In the meantime, heat 1 tbsp coconut oil over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, and carrots; sauté 3-4 minutes until softened.
- 4. Add water, spices, and lentils; stir to combine and heat about 5 minutes until warmed through.
- 5. Stir in 1/2 cup coconut milk and heat another 3 minutes.
- 6. Remove squash from oven and let sit 10 minutes before handling.
- 7. Cut out a circle from the center of each (leaving a border of squash flesh about 0.5"). Leave squash on the baking tray. Reserve centers for another day (perhaps tomorrow's lunch!)
- 8. Spoon lentil mixture evenly into each squash medallion.
- 9. Turn the oven down to 350F and return the tray to the oven. Bake for 30 minutes or until lentils appear to have 'set'.
- 10. With about 5 minutes left on the timer, heat remaining coconut oil, coconut milk, and cardamom over medium heat. Stir constantly until it becomes syrupy. Remove from heat.
- 11. Remove squash from oven and drizzle a little sauce over each. Serve!