I have a terrible habit of projecting my pity onto lone, elderly diners. I go through a quick checklist in my head, building a completely unfounded story about why each person is eating alone. No wedding ring? Have they never experienced love and partnership? Did they lose their spouse to illness? You get the point – not such uplifting stuff.
But for some reason, I feel differently when I pass a woman my age sitting down to a meal with a glass of wine and a book. It communicates a message of independence: I’m not afraid to hang out with myself – in fact, I’m having a great time. Taking myself to dinner, or even a movie, is something I’m just not ready for yet. But sometimes…sometimes there are blizzards and the city and all of its transportation shuts down…and you’re left with you, yourself and your studio.
Enter this past weekend and winter storm Jonas. I am pleased to report that I survived – and thrived! A Saturday morning blizzard adventure, an in-home workout and a quick trek to a nearby bar to meet friends was more than enough to keep me happy. Lucky for you, I kept myself busy the rest of the day by hunting for recipe inspiration online. I’ve been in a bit of a lunch slump lately; being on a (mini) diet has translated to eating a lot of plain quinoa and vegetables at lunch, and I needed something to liven up my Tupperware.
While this recipe may sound complicated, it really just amounts to a spread and/or sauce and a bunch of roasted veggies, so feel free to improvise. On Sunday, while on a break from my dairy and gluten diet, I prepared the pesto for my friends with warm noodles, goat cheese and roasted cherry tomatoes. So – it’s super translatable to many dishes. Do with it what you will, but I suggest my roasted vegetable combo for earthy winter flavors and a healthy vegan meal. My recipe will make about four large vegetable stacks, which you can serve as a side-dish or over grains for a meal. Leftover pesto? Freeze it for a last minute weeknight pasta!
Ingredients for Rosemary Pesto:
1/2 cup of rosemary, removed from the stem (save the stems for presentation purposes, leaving a bit of rosemary at the top)
1/2 cup of raw almonds
2 tbsp of fresh lemon juice
1 peeled garlic clove
1/4 cup of olive oil
sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
Vegetables for Roasting:
3 medium sized beets, stems and leaves chopped off
4 large portobello caps (cleaned)
1 large eggplant, stem sliced off
Fresh lemon juice (save the other half of your lemon from the pesto)
olive oil, sea salt, ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a blender or food processor, combine all of the pesto ingredients and blend until smooth. If the mixture seems a bit dry, add warm water a teaspoon or two at a time between blends. Taste. I felt the rosemary was very strong, but went will with other items. If it’s too earthy for you, you could blend in a touch of agave to lighten it. Set aside.
Prep your vegetables by slicing the eggplant into large discs, about 1 inch or less in thickness. Using one or two foil lined baking sheets, spread the eggplant rounds and the portobello caps evenly. Drizzle the mushrooms and eggplant with olive oil (less than half a cup) and squeeze half of a fresh lemon over the pans. Use your fingers to mix the rounds and ensure everything is somewhat coated.
Top with sea salt and ground pepper, then roast for 20-30 minutes, keeping an eye on both trays and flipping the eggplant rounds once throughout the process.
Meanwhile, place your beets in a large pot of water, ensuring that they are fully covered by water.
Bring the water to a boil then cover the pot, turning down the heat and cracking the lid so the water doesn’t overflow. Simmer your beets until you can easily poke into them with a knife – just tender – and remove from heat. Let cool, then using kitchen gloves, peel the skins over a trash can and slice off both ends of the beet. Slice them into rounds.
Using the pesto as a light spread on each level, layer the beet rounds and eggplants, using a single portobello cap per stack, and sticking a sprig of rosemary in as a final touch! Serve warm.