You may want to serve some good bread with this, and if your friends are like mine, be sure to have some good wine as well!
You can freeze this, and then you'll have a wonderful appetizer whenever you need one. And it's a lovely alternative to fat-laden nibbles like cheese. If you do freeze it, be sure to taste for seasonings before you serve it. It should be served at room temperature.
1 large eggplant, halved lengthwise
1 T. olive oil
1 medium red or green bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
1 small onion, minced
3 cloves (or more, if you're brave!) garlic, minced
1 large tomato, diced
3 T. fresh lemon juice
2 T. minced chives
1 T. fresh basil, minced
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush eggplant with 1 tsp. of the olive oil and bake the halves, cut side down, on a greased cookie sheet for about an hour or until perfectly tender. Cool and scoop out the meat, discarding the skin. Chop finely.
Heat 2 tsp. of the oil in a skillet and saute the pepper, onion, and garlic until soft. Stir in the eggplant, tomato, lemon juice, chives, and basil. Cook another minute or so to heat the mixture through and to dry up some of the juices.
8 or 10 oz. spinach leaves
1 11-oz. can mandarin oranges, drained well
1 C. sliced fresh mushrooms
a few thin rings of red onion
3/4 C. toasted slivered almonds
Tear spinach into bite-sized pieces (or use baby spinach) and place them in a salad bowl. Add mushrooms, onions, and orange sections. Pour lemon-poppyseed dressing over and toss. Sprinkle with the toasted almonds. (Toast almonds in a heavy skillet without any oil added. Stir or shake over medium heat until they begin to brown. When they're the shade you like, remove immediately from the skillet, or they'll burn, even after the heat is turned off.)
I usually double this recipe so I can use it on other salads.
6 T. olive oil
2 T. lemon juice
3/4 tsp. poppyseeds
1/2 salt, or to taste.
Combine ingredients and shake well.
This is a rich, flavorful soup. I use Knorr's vegetable broth cubes often, but if you have other kinds of veggie broth--homemade or pre-packaged--or mushroom broth, those would work beautifully. I don't honestly have definite measurements for some of the ingredients here, so you'll have to try a little of, say, soy sauce and then taste. I used an old recipe of mine as a base for this and then added some extra touches.
12 oz. portabellos
1 large onion (about a cup, chopped)
1 large clove garlic, minced
4 T. butter (or half butter, half olive oil
4 T. flour
4 cups vegetable broth
1/4 tsp. thyme
1 cup milk
about 2 oz. cream cheese (more wouldn't hurt)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
sprinkle of nutmeg
Chop or slice the portabellos. If you slice them, you may have to cut each slice into halves or thirds to make them bite-sized. Heat the butter and oil; add onions and portabellos. Saute until the onions are soft. Blend in the flour. Add the broth and thyme, cooking and stirring until slightly thickened. Turn the heat way down. Add dry sherry and soy sauce. You'll probably need at least 1/4 cup of sherry and 2 T. of soy sauce, but you may need more. Add milk and cream cheese. I used a wire whisk because the cream cheese wanted to stay in lumps. Add seasonings, taste, and serve.