A meal strategy that works for everyone

11:19 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016 Food & Dining
Connie Post
Surprise your guests with Carrot-Topped Pesto served with Roasted Carrots. CONNIE POST/STAFF

One of the challenges for many home cooks during the holidays is finding something that makes everyone happy.

There are so many eating styles — vegetarian, pesco vegetarian, vegan, paleo and gluten-free, just to name a few.

Anna Thomas, whose 1973 groundbreaking cookbook, “The Vegetarian Epicure,” helped fuel the vegetarian movement, has a new book out this year about how to cook and entertain for a diverse group of eaters.

“Vegan, Vegetarian, Omnivore: Dinner for Everyone at the Table” includes daily and holiday menus based on a simple idea:

“Start with the foods that everyone eats, design a meal that works, then expand it, make it flexible — add butter or eggs or cheese in ways that pair well,” Thomas writes in her new book’s intro. “Add fish or meat, perhaps as supporting players.”

One of the easiest ways to build a meal is to start with vegetables, which is a good thing to do anyway. Three in every four Americans follow a diet low in vegetables, according to a recent report by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion: https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/table-of-contents/

I tried Thomas’ recipe for Carrot-Top Pesto from her Christmas Eve menu. It starts with the leafy tops that most people discard. I tried the pesto with a mixture of orange and white baby-size whole carrots, which I coated in olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground pepper, then roasted at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 25 minutes or until tender and slightly shriveled. While the carrots were roasting, I made the pesto and had plenty of time for cleaning up the kitchen. The pesto is scrumptious, and I froze the leftovers, which I plan to serve sometime with a simple garlic spaghetti (see my recipe below).


Makes about 2 cups

4 ounces trimmed carrot tops (from 1 or 2 bunches), big stems trimmed off

2 cloves garlic

¼ cup (1 ounce) walnuts

1 ounce fresh basil leaves, chopped (½ cup)

½ ounce fresh mint leaves, chopped (½ cup), plus more to taste

¾ teaspoon sea salt

½ cup extra-virgin olive, plus more to taste

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Pull the fronds of the carrot tops off the stems and discard the stems. Carrot tops have a firm, chewy texture, but the stems are tough. Wash and spin-dry the greens.

Pulse the garlic and walnuts briefly in a food processor, then add the various greens and the salt and pulse again, scraping down the sides of the container as needed, until the greens are finely chopped. Add the olive oil and lemon juice and process the pesto until it is smooth.

From the book: “Vegan, Vegetarian, Omnivore: Dinner for Everyone at the Table” by Anna Thomas; 496 pages, $35. Published by W.W. Norton & Co., 2016.

What you get: This collection of nearly 200 recipes focuses on using fresh, raw foods and covers omnivore, vegetarian, vegan, nut-free, gluten-free and raw eating preferences.

In her own words: “Sit down at that table with the people you love and have dinner together. Cook for them, eat with them, raise a glass. The world will be a better place.” — Anna Thomas

Recipe by Connie Post

8 ounces dried spaghetti
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 roughly chopped garlic cloves
1/4 cup sliced mushrooms (or more)
Leftover Carrot-Top Pesto (or 1/2 cup chopped parsley)
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated parmesan cheese to taste

Cook and drain spaghetti according to directions on package. Saute garlic and mushrooms in olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. You want the garlic pieces to start to turn color, but don’t overcook. Add the drained spaghetti into the skillet and toss. Then add the leftover Carrot-Top Pesto or chopped parsley and toss. Serve with salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese.

Next week: Eggnog Pancakes