Eastern European Inspired Solstice Feast (with vegan/vegetarian options)

Since New York is currently covered in snow and I am stuck in my northeastern hideaway until tomorrow when the roads are cleared it seems like a perfect time to tell you about our solstice dinner (one day late) last week where I was inspired by seasonal produce (yes, there still is local seasonal produce here in the northeast, though I’m not sure after this blizzard how much will be left!) to create a mid-week, start-of-winter feast in honor of the solstice and a friend from Canada.

Appetizers with Stephane Reynard's 365 Winter Book

On the menu was cabbage soup; roasted acorn squash, Jerusalem artichokes and celery room with sage; kielbasa; shaved fennel salad with blue cheese, dried cranberries and walnuts; and a spinach and goat cheese frittata and baguette with olive tapanade for appetizers. I drew additional inspiration from a cookbook by Stephane Reynard I picked up in France at La Cocoette, the Parisian book store dedicated to cookbooks, which was actually 4 cook books in one- one for each season and a recipe for each day! So I flipped through the “Winter” cookbook, which covers December through February, in search of inspiration. That’s how I decided to make the cabbage soup and the shaved fennel salad, which was inspired by a classic endive salad with blue cheese in the book, but as the co-op was out of endives, I improvised.

Soup, salad, kielbasa and roast vegetables

Easy (Vegan if you want) Cabbage Soup

Cabbage soup

I felt a little guilty serving my guests cabbage at first, but I was quick to find out that cabbage counted as among their favorite foods! I think this humble vegetable gets a bad reputation. It’s delicious, affordable and good for you.

1 medium head green cabbage (my cabbage from my farm share was so big I just used half)

2 medium carrots

1 stalk of celery

1 medium onion

2 cloves of garlic

2 potatoes (optional, I actually didn’t have potatoes so I did with out)

6 cups chicken or vegetable stock

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

1. Chop the onion, garlic, celery, potatoes, cabbage and carrots.

2. In a large soup pot heat up olive oil over medium high heat and add onions and garlic. Cook until onions are translucent, stirring frequently.

3. Add celery, potatoes and carrots and cook another 3 to 5 minutes, until then begin to soften. Add cabbage, salt and pepper. Cook for another 3 – 5 minutes.

4. Add stock and bring to a simmer. Simmer gently until carrots, celery and potatoes are tender and cabbage has become slightly translucent.

5. Add more salt and pepper to taste.

This soup is hearty enough it can even be a meal!

Shaved Fennel Salad with Dried Cranberries and Blue Cheese with Lemon Shallot Vinaigrette

Fennel Salad

1 large fennel bulb (or 2 small)

Half head of green or red leaf lettuce

1  red pepper

Wedge of blue cheese (any kind you like will do)

1/2 cup of dried cranberries

1/4 cup walnuts, chopped

Remove green fronds and outer layers of the fennel bulb. Using the grater on the food processor finely grate the fennel. If you don’t have a food processor chop it into small strips.

Wash and chiffonade lettuce.

Wash and chop pepper.

Toss vegetables together in salad bowl and then crumble in blue cheese and add walnuts and cranberries. Toss with Lemon Shallot vinaigrette, below.

Lemon Shallot Vinaigrette

2/3 cup olive oil

1/4 cup vinegar (I used red wine vinegar, apple cider could also work)

Juice of 1 lemon

1 shallot, finely chopped (I chopped mine in the food processor, easy!)

2 cloves of garlic, pressed

Salt and pepper (to taste)

2 tsp Herbs de Provence

1 tsp Dijon mustard

Place all ingredients in jar and shake. This makes far more than you need for a single salad. Dress salad and serve.

With this meal I made traditional kielbasa (well, I didn’t make, I heated up) but if you are rocking it vegetarian or vegan style you can use Tofurky or Field Roast sausages OR you can make your own vegan sausages with this version of the Post Punk Kitchen’s cranberry and fennel vegan sausage. The key ingredients are wheat gluten and beans. Easy! Delicious! And cheaper than pre-made vegetarian sausages (and less preservatives too).

Preparing a squash for roasting

In terms of roasting vegetables, beats would also work quite well, but pretty much any vegetable you roast will be delicious. Happy winter! Stay warm out there!

About 2cooksinthekitchen

Two cooks, one from Bushwick and a passionate meat-eater, one from Sunset Park and a former vegan, and both NYC transplants, set out to share original recipes that can be made dairy free and vegan deserts; showcase culinary resources in the outer boroughs (and sometimes Manhattan) where one can find unique, specific and fairly priced ingredients; and participate wholeheartedly in the many cultures of cooking and eating that make up New York City.
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