I am sure you found yourself in a situation in which you really want to have people over for a little dinner gathering, spend days thinking and planning things out, and then nothing goes as planned.
It just happens, doesn’t it?
But then you have to make dinner for 10 people, who are not Veg friendly at all. You state that you’re not gonna cook any meat, and it feels like the world is about to collapse.
Sometimes, I think that some people just *have* to have meat on the table just for the sake of having it, even when you put the unhealthiest, tastiest meatless junk in front of them (and I’m sure you all know there is a fair amount of unhealthy, tasty junk out there – pizza anyone?).
So you just start feeling disheartened, knowing that you’ll never be able to please anyone. Then your mom, who lives right next door, takes the lead and whips up polenta with sausage and mushrooms and everyone is happy. And you feel like a total failure.
These times, I understand the real difference between being alone and feeling lonely.
When this scenario presented itself before me, my thoughts ran back to Los Angeles, where açai bowls and juice bars are actually a thing and where nobody seemed to feel that not eating meat was such a big deal. I thought about the recent debate against the owners of Cafe Gratitude and I was like ’so cool that you can actually complain about a place like that, when its only existence would be considered a gift from the Heavens in my personal Italian book’.
The truth is that, sometimes, there is no contest with Sausage The Almighty. It’ll just have its way with everyone, and that I must accept.
So, sometimes, I just lose hope.
There was no new post last week because I just plain haven’t felt like cooking. I made myself some big bowls of raw salads because, aside being really busy, I just couldn’t be bothered with anything else.
But then I thought that it wasn’t a contest between me and a piece of pork. All I could do was keep doing what I believe in.
Instead of complaining about how I miss LA, and about how miserable my dinners without vegetarian friends are, I could react by showing them what was true to me, and what I really believe in.
So this is what I made for my dinner party, to accompany some of my mom’s cooking.
I made these recipes out of a batch of lupini beans I had soaked and prepared a week earlier. Lupini beans are probably the most Italian legume you will ever find, and I am on a quest to bring it back to its ancient glory: this humble, round, gold bean boasts a crazy high protein content with very little net carbs. A portion of dried lupini beans, which would be 50 grams, has 17 grams of protein and 15 g of fiber, with as little as 5 grams net carbs. It’s pretty much chicken breast with fiber added. It is crazy. Because of my PCOS I have to stick to a low/moderate carb regime, and these guys are literally gold.
They have always been considered poor, peasant food, mostly sold at fairs and festivals. Here in Italy they are very cheap. Your best bet is to find them already cooked and preserved in brine, as preparing lupini beans is quite the hassle: after soaking for 24 hours, they need to cook for 3, and then be soaked again for 5 days (yes, you read that right), changing the water 2 times per day. Buying them ready to use is definitely preferred, and they can be used for recipes as you would use chickpeas, or eaten as is as a snack. You just squeeze them out of their skin and eat / use them!
Lupini taste quite similar to chickpeas, but their consistency tends to be a little more on the grainy side. So, if you cannot find lupini, just use chickpeas for these recipes instead.
ALSO I should mention: Me, Zaira and Betty Liu will be hosting a retreat / workshop in July here in the Italian countryside / coast! We will be making pasta, dining and brunching al fresco amongst fruit orchards and olive trees, watching dreamy sunsets along the beautiful coast and harvest vegetables. If you want to join us, drop me an email! While I make a dedicated post about it, click here for more info.
Oh, but I did not tell you how my dinner party ended.
Alas, in the (greasy, treacly) end, I am sorry to say that Sausage the Almighty won over anything else, though it was a very, very close call (the hummus was gone in a flash).
But it is nice to confirm once again to yourself that there is nothing you can do but what feels right to you.
And that in itself is always, always a win.
FULLY LOADED LUPINI BEANS HUMMUS
With Toasted Seeds, Fresh Herbs and Spices
For the Roasted Garlic:
Unpeeled cloves from 1 small head garlic
8 tablespoons olive oil
For the Hummus:
Half the roasted garlic
350 g cooked lupini beans, peeled and rinsed (use chickpeas if you cannot find lupini)
3 to 4 tablespoons tahini
Juice of half a small lemon, more to taste
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Water, to thin
For the Pesto:
1/4 of the roasted garlic
2 cups roughly chopped carrot tops (approximately from 6 – 8 carrots)
1 loosely packed cup basil
1/4 cup nuts (walnuts and / or pistachios)
1 tablespoons sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast or grated Pecorino cheese
1/4 cup garlic oil
Smoked paprika, roasted sunflower and sesame seeds, Freshly chopped basil and mint, plain yogurt, Carrot Top Pesto
To make the garlic oil, add the cloves and oil to a small baking dish and roast at 390 F˚ / 200 C˚ until the cloves are soft, about 20 minutes. Let cool.
To make the hummus, squeeze the meat from half the garlic cloves into a food processor. Add the lupini (or chickpeas if you do not have lupini), tahini, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and process to a paste. It will probably be very thick, so add one tablespoon water at a time to reach the desired consistency. Taste, and adjust lemon juice and spices, adding more if you like. Scoop out into a bowl and clean the food processor.
To make the pesto, Squeeze the other half of the roasted garlic into the food processor. Add all the ingredients except the oil, and pulse to a paste. Gradually add the oil, until the pesto turns creamy. Add a little more if you prefer it runnier. Transfer to a clean glass jar.
To assemble, add the pesto on top of the hummus, along with toppings of choice. Serve with raw veggies or toasted whole wheat bread or pita.
LUPINI BEAN FALAFEL
With Tahini, Yogurt & Carrot Top Pesto Dip
For the Falafels:
300 g cooked lupini beans, peeled and rinsed (alternatively, use chickpeas)
3 shallots, finely chopped
80 g frozen peas
1/4 of the roasted garlic, squeezed out of its skin
1 packed cup basil and parsley
1/4 cup nuts (preferably walnuts or pistachios)
4 tablespoons seeds (I used sunflower, ground flax and chia)
4 tablespoons lupini bean flour (or sub chickpea flour, or even pea flour)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Olive oil, for cooking
For the Dip:
3 tablespoons natural yogurt (unsweetened soy or plant yogurt for vegan)
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon Carrot Top Pesto (see above)
1 teaspoon garlic oil
Lemon juice to taste
To make the falafels, just mix all the ingredients together and process to a paste in a food processor. Form into small balls – mine were approximately 1 inch wide.
Preheat the oven to 400 F˚ / 200 C˚.
Line a baking tray with baking paper and oil it well with olive oil. Add the falafels, and shake the tray so that they roll around and get evenly coated in oil.
Bake until the outside is crispy, about 20 – 25 minutes. Roll them around halfway through so that they brown evenly.
In the meantime, whip up the sauce by just mixing all ingredients together.
Serve warm with crispy lettuce cups, and plenty of other vegetables (I love shaved carrots with these!), or use as you would normally use falafels.
LUPINI & SHALLOT BABA GHANOUJ
With Olive, Mint & Pistachio ‘Caviar’
(Inspired by With Food + Love’s ‘Caramelized + Roasted Eggplant Hummus with Parsley’ recipe)
For the Baba Ghanouj:
2 medium/large eggplants, weighing about 10.5 oz / 300 g each
3 large shallots
1 head garlic
Olive oil, to roast the veggies
1/2 cup cooked lupini beans, peeled and rinsed (alternatively, use chickpeas)
2 tablespoons tahini
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
1/2 cup (loosely packed) parsley and basil (and mint if you like), chopped
1/2 teaspoon pepper
For the ‘Caviar’:
1/2 cup cured olives, your favorite kind (use black for a better visual effect)
1/4 cup pistachios, plus more to garnish
A small handful mint leaves
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons garlic oil
Pinch salt, as needed, depending on the olives you are using
To make the baba ghanoush, preheat the oven to 400 F˚ / 200 C˚.
Cut the eggplant and shallots in half. Detach the cloves from the garlic head, but leave the skin on.
Line a baking tray with baking paper and oil it well with olive oil. Add the eggplants and shallots cut-side down, scatter the garlic cloves around, drizzle a little more olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper (sprinkle a little salt and pepper on the cut side of the eggplants before placing them on the tray). Roast until the eggplants and garlic are tender, about 10-15 minutes. Turn the veggies and cook for 5 more minutes, until completely cooked. Depending on the size of the eggplants, the shallots and garlic might be ready before the eggplants, so check often and remove them from the tray if they look like they are browning too much.
Once ready, let cook a little and peel the skin from the eggplant. Add the eggplant meat to a food processor along with the shallots, and squeeze in the garlic cloves, which will now have turned soft. Add the lupini (or chickpeas), tahini, lemon juice, herbs, pepper and about 1/2 teaspoon salt. Process until a smooth paste forms. Taste and adjust salt, pepper, lemon juice and tahini to your liking.
While the vegetables cook or cool, prepare the caviar: pit the olives if they are not already pitted, and chop them as finely as you can together with the pistachios and mint. You can use the side of your knife’s blade to smother the mixture on the cutting board and obtain an even smoother paste. Transfer to a small bowl, and mix in the garlic oil and salt if needed.
Plate the baba ghanoush, make a swirl with a spoon and finish with more garlic oil, mint and basil leaves, and chipped pistachios. As a cute finishing touch, I added some orange thyme flowers.
Serve on toasted bread to make bruschetta / crostini, or as a dip with veggies and toasted pita.