Our "vegetarian dinners" have a history of coming with some grilled chicken or sausage on the side. Hugh believes it keeps him full and the kids like it too so I go with it. Everything I make can go with a little chicken, is that a marketing line? Anyway, I'm trying to make my vegetarian dishes more filling so no one asks for meat or finishes the meal with a row of peppermint jojos because they're still hungry. Sometimes I skirt by with a filling entree salad, but then I have to make something different for my kids. This plate gives a little something for everyone and my little people will eat warm, sweet vegetables like these. Ok, not the fennel or onions, but they like squash and potatoes. You approach the oversized squash wedge with a fork and knife, like you would a piece of protein, and maybe it's in my head, but this looks nothing like the 'rabbit food' that so many vegetable centric dishes get categorized as. For those who've asked about feeding my kids, I also have great luck with baked falafel bowls, burrito bowls and a mild tofu yellow curry. Cleo (1) is an unbelievable mess with all of the above but she loves to eat so I put a full upper body bib on her and a plastic tarp under her seat and she figures it out.
The sauce here is sort of like a muhummara hummus blend - two creamy, delicious sauces that don't actually have any dairy. It is rich from the walnuts, thick from the beans and zesty and spiced like the classic muhummara spread. I am obsessed with it. We make the classic often but adding beans to it makes it more hearty. This makes a little more than you'll likely need for this meal, and we use it with eggs, or a sandwich spread or just to dip crackers. Think of cold weather vegetables here, but swap in what you have. Halved beets, large chunks of cauliflower, any sort of potato or winter squash. The point is just to have them larger in size and well seasoned so they make for a perfect meal with this delicious sauce and your grain of choice.
ROASTED VEGETABLE PLATE WITH RED PEPPER SPREAD // Serves 4
I will change up the basic dried herbs here based on whatever needs some turnover in my spice cabinet. It's just to add some life to the vegetables, it's not a big deal (I'm a very specific recipe writer, eh?). You could use lemon pepper or Italian herbs or I'll buy unsalted "everyday" type of blends from whatever store I am shopping, I love sweet or smoked paprika on anything. It won't make all too much of a difference either way as it's in relative small amounts.
1 medium butternut squash, about 1.5 lbs
2 medium sweet potatoes
1 large (or 2 small) fennel bulb
1 red onion
2-3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, ghee or warmed coconut oil
1/2 tsp. sea salt, to taste
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp. herbs de provence
handful of fresh thyme
fresh ground pepper
// red pepper spread //
2 garlic cloves
2 charred, cooled and seeded red bell peppers (or one jar, 7.5 oz. drained)
1/2 cup toasted walnut pieces, plus more for garnish
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. cumin
sprinkle of red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. sea salt, to taste
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup cooked and drained garbanzo beans
handful of fresh parsley, plus more for garnish
fresh mint, for garnish
quinoa, brown rice or grain of choice for serving
Preheat the oven to 425' with a rack in the upper third. You'll need a sharp knife for this: Cut the butternut squash into quarters (or eighths if it's a really squaty squash), the wedges should be about 2" thick. Remove the seeds. Cut the sweet potatoes in half lengthwise, or 4" chunks on a bias. Cut the fennel bulb and onion into roughly 3" pieces, leaving the root in tact so they stay together. We are looking for rustic, thick chunks here.
Spread the pieces on a large rimmed baking sheet and drizzle generously with olive oil. Sprinkle the salt, garlic powder, fresh and dried herbs, and pepper. Toss with your hands or use a brush to make sure all sides and edges are covered with oil and seasonings distributed. Roast for 40 minutes, flipping the vegetables halfway through.
While the vegetables roast, make the sauce. It can be made a week in advance though you want it room temp for serving. Into a food processor or blender, combine the garlic cloves, fresh charred or jarred bell peppers, walnut pieces, paprika, cumin, pepper flakes, sea salt and vinegar and turn the processor on to combine until smooth. Drizzle in the oil and add the beans and parsley and run to combine. Taste for seasonings, maybe more salt, more vinegar if you like it acidic or more pepper flakes for heat.
Serve on a large family style platter or with bowls of the grains and sauce on the side. Garnish with parsley, mint and toasted walnuts.