Sunday, July 7, 2013

Three Courses of French Vegetarian Goodness

Three Courses of French Vegetarian Goodness:

Braised Baby Artichokes over Brown Rice with Tomato Coulis & Goat Cheese Stuffed Roasted Tomato
Now, anyone familiar with French food will probably be wondering how I could pull off a decent, multi-course French dinner given my status as vegetarian and subsequent lack of desire to prepare, let alone eat, a meaty dish.  

But, happily for me, one of my more productive means of procrastination is perusing online cooking and recipe sites for recipes that sound particularly interesting, challenging, or which meet some other criteria I've deemed of the utmost importance (most recently, I've been pursing BBQ'd meat substitutes). 

On one of my many sojourns through the wonderful world of online cooking resources, I came across a set of recipes on Food and Wine magazine's website, intriguingly titled: "French Provincial Vegetarian."  I clicked the link excitedly and found myself anything but disappointed.  

In fact, I was quite happy to be staring at a French Vegetarian menu developed by Chef Alain Coumont.  

The menu included:

As usual, I made some alterations to the original recipes (links found above, next to the bulleted menu items) but given my unfamiliarity with French cooking a I was less comfortable than usual with making too many spur-of-the-moment changes.  

Chilled Zucchini Soup
My major cooking intervention came in the form of adding greater quantities of spices than the recipes called for, and occasionally adding an extra clove of garlic or bit more chopped onion or basil.  This was all in the service of producing a more robust flavor and I would recommend that anyone embarking upon these recipes start off with recommended amounts and slowly adapt things to their taste.  

The other major changes I made were to reduce serving sizes and I opted to use canned whole artichokes (HEB brand) rather than preparing fresh artichokes for the artichoke dish.  This eliminated the need to pare the artichokes and then soak them in lemon-water (although I drizzled lemon on the canned artichokes prior to cooking).  This adaptation necessitated that I add the artichokes later in the cooking process than originally called for in order to prevent them from becoming overdone. 

NOTE: Every recipe I made could be made Gluten Free if you are following a GF diet.  It would require using certified GF ingredients but no other alteration to the recipes.

Although I don't typically tackle multiple dishes when I make dinner (I usually opt for a one course, one-food meal), I found Coumont's recipes to be relatively easy to make (balking popular conceptions of the complexity of French cooking), if still time consuming.  

I was able to make two of the recipes, the chilled zucchini soup and tomato coulis, the day before the dinner and enjoyed the fact that I was able to tackle things across two days rather than slaving away in the kitchen nonstop for a full day.

Mocha Pots, fresh out of oven
Overall, my experiment in vegetarian French cooking was a success.  The artichokes with tomato coulis and brown rice combo. was a hit, and the oven-baked tomatoes stuffed with goat cheese are absolutely heavenly.  

The chilled zucchini soup was good, but less of a pleaser than the other dishes.  It is a nice, light first course, but I feel it needs something like a nice crusty, toasted bread paired with it to be really successful.  

The Mocha Pots for dessert also turned out well.  I made them fresh after dinner so they could be consumed while still warm and I put a healthy dollop of reduced fat whipped cream on top before serving.  All in all, a great night of foodie decadence of the Provencal French Vegetarian variety. 

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