I often cook Friday night vegetarian dinner ideas on the barbecue grill, but you can even make them in a toaster oven.
It’s very important to set the temperature right when you toast meat-free dishes.
Let’s start with a simple Friday night vegetarian dinner.
Date balls are very popular in many countries.
In the UK and Australia, for instance, they are traditionally served on New Year’s Eve, or after Easter lunch.
Many other cultures have versions, including the Turkish milk bread balls, and Bolognese sauce made with meatballs, an Italian meatball soup, dumplings made with ham and potato, and even rum balls.
There’s a cookie called date cake that’s popular in North America, but you could try my version or make these.
- 2-4 dates
- Orange blossom water or lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons shredded coconut
- 1 tablespoon ground cardamom
- Chilli powder
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Salt to taste
Mix all the ingredients, then roll them into balls and put them in a dish of cold water. They will soften a bit during this.
Lift out of the water, dry them with a tea towel or paper towel, then form into large balls.
The one thing you may want to add is a little nutmeg. Or if you’re in a hurry, add some cayenne or black pepper.
Gnocchi with pumpkin and spinach
You can’t go wrong with a good Italian dish, and gnocchi is an amazing veggie-packed meal, but once you’ve used all the recipes, you may wonder what to do next.
I’ve recently discovered that using them to make dumplings is easy and a really delicious way to use them.
- 1 medium or large onion
- 1 medium or large carrot
- 1 medium or large potato
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 or 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup dry plain red lentils
- 1 cup dry basmati or brown rice
- 3 tablespoons freshly chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 or 3 fresh bay leaves
- 2 or 3 fresh basil leaves, cut into very thin slivers
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 bay leaf
- ¾ cup unseasoned ditalini or regular small pasta
- 1 pound packed frozen spinach, defrosted
- 1 pound or 2 large butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
Cook the onion, carrot and potato in boiling salted water until the vegetables are soft. Drain the vegetables and return to the pan.
Add the garlic and cook for a minute. Add the oil and cook for another minute or two. Add the lentils, rice, fresh herbs, salt, and pepper.
Stir in the cooked vegetables and meat.
While the vegetables and meat cook, cook the eggs as directed in the recipes and drain when done.
Gently heat the remaining olive oil over moderate heat, add the sage and basil, and cook, stirring for two minutes. Add the butternut squash and cook for two minutes, stirring.
Pour the cooked vegetables and meat into a bowl and add the eggs and parsley. Mix.
Form the mixture into rough balls and roll them out on a lightly floured surface to about ½” thick. Roll them in the herbs and season generously with salt and pepper.
Tip: Not everyone likes using this technique, but I do. You can put in a little oil and the herbs first, then drop the dumplings on top.
I’m not sure about using nuts. I know some people do, but I don’t. Just use it in place of the basil or the rosemary.
Boil the pasta and then mix it in with the dumplings until you get a uniform mix.
It’s a delicious meal, and it’s one you can make in your freezer until the next time you feel like making it.
And don’t forget to prepare ahead and make it the night before for a fast breakfast. I have used this for all sorts of things, including Chicken Pot Pie, Paella and the traditional Spanish panzerotti.
Homemade roasted peppers
Roasted vegetables have been around for a long time, but there are a lot of variations of the classic baked pepper.
Many readers of the blog have asked me to create a great roast veggie, so I went through my recipe archives, read the best I could find, and I think I’ve come up with the ideal recipe for you.
The first thing you’ll need is good quality, medium to large, Spanish olive jar.
You can use an olive oil jar with a tight lid or a wooden one.
The jar needs to be quite shallow to fit in the dish and have a good tight lid.
The lid should also be quite tight. The olive jar should ideally be labelled.
If you haven’t got one, I’d suggest you get one. It makes a really pretty presentation on the table and will last for years.
A good quality olive jar will last a long time and be useful on a wide range of occasions.
Choose some really fresh organic red peppers.
Go to your local farmers market and have a look for any that have been in the greenhouse for a couple of days or just a day.
If you can’t find any, go to a supermarket and pick up a couple of small, store-bought peppers.
Place the red peppers in a single layer in the olive jar and cover them with just enough olive oil to completely cover the peppers.
Pour some coarse salt and lots of black pepper on top.
Place the jar in the oven.
Now, because the pepper jar is quite shallow, you’ll need to put a couple of heavy-duty trivets under it to allow them to rest on the plate while the oven heats.
Every oven is different, but I’d suggest you set the temperature to around 240 degrees F (about 115 degrees C).
Once the oven is heated, place the pepper jar on the trivets and leave it for about 20 minutes.
Check the oil in the olive jar regularly to make sure the peppers are cooked through.
Note: Sometimes I use the extra virgin olive oil, but I usually reserve that for the marinade for fish.
I usually roast several peppers at a time, allowing the olive oil in the olive jar to begin to drip.
You want a good golden-brown crust on the peppers. That helps to crisp them up.
The total cooking time should be about 25 minutes.
I leave the lid off for the first few minutes and then I add the lid for the rest of the time, as it helps to evenly cook the peppers.
Remove the lid and place the peppers on a serving plate. Drizzle over a bit of extra virgin olive oil.
If you have the time and it’s allowed, try to eat these as soon as they’re finished. They’re particularly tasty warm.
Depending on how long they’ve been in the oven, the peppers may seem a little soft.
If that’s the case, refrigerate the peppers until they’re a bit cooler. Then it’s fine to eat them.
Sometimes I add a little garlic and lemon juice to the peppers for extra flavour, but you don’t need to do this step.
I prefer roasted peppers with skin on. If that’s not for you, try to eat the skin as well. It’s often quite salty so I don’t do it often.