As I mentioned last week, my weekend was full of dinner parties. Each one was an elaborate affair and therefore deserving of its own post, so I will start with Friday night. We invited three of Becca’s friends over, bringing our dinner table up to six people. We also had a vegetarian in attendance, which was a new challenge for us in terms of menu-planning. However, as is always the case at our dinner parties, we ended up with a towering mountain of food supported by several bottles of wine.

To start, Nick made a beautiful salad with spinach, pears, walnuts, dried cranberries, and feta tossed with just some olive oil and salt. Becca made an unbelievable pumpkin lasagna. Instead of the traditional tomato sauce used in lasagna, Becca used a mixture of pumpkin, cream, sage, and a few other ingredients. I made one of my standard sides: roasted brussel sprouts with mushrooms. I have made this recipe many times and it is delicious every time I make it. The recipe suggests chanterelles and/or oyster mushrooms, but I have used all kinds of mushrooms and it always turns out well. The recipe also asks you to fry shallot rings to add a little crunch to the dish. This is a great addition, but sometimes if I am feeling lazy I’ll just saute them instead. It’s a pretty flexible recipe, so tailor it to your own flavor preferences.

Our wonderful guests did not come empty-handed, either. One brought steamed spinach and another brought challah, still warm from the oven. Our friend Jyoti (of the wonderful food blog Hom Nom) supplied dessert with five different flavors of home-made ice cream: two kinds of peppermint, gingerbread, spiced apple, and the great mystery flavor: bacon.

After all this amazing food and several bottles of sparkling wine, I would not have even noticed that the meal was vegetarian (minus the bacon ice cream, of course). Even though we were all stuffed to the gills, we rallied from our stupors in time to decorate our Christmas tree.

Recipes for the lasagna and brussel sprouts after the jump!

Pumpkin Lasanga


  • 1/2 pound sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 can (15 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half cream
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage leaves
  • Dash pepper
  • 9 no-cook lasagna noodles
  • 1 cup reduced-fat ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese


  • In a small skillet, saute the mushrooms, onion and 1/4 teaspoon salt in oil until tender; set aside. In a small bowl, combine the pumpkin, cream, sage, pepper and remaining salt.
  • Spread 1/2 cup pumpkin sauce in an 11-in. x 7-in. baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with three noodles (noodles will overlap slightly). Spread 1/2 cup pumpkin sauce to edges of noodles. Top with half of mushroom mixture, 1/2 cup ricotta, 1/2 cup mozzarella and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Repeat layers. Top with remaining noodles and sauce.
  • Cover and bake at 375° for 45 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese. Bake 10-15 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.
  • Yield: 6 servings.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Mushrooms

For brussels sprouts

  • 3 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt

For shallots

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 lb large shallots (about 6), cut crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick slices and separated into rings (2 1/2 cups)

For mushrooms

  • 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 lb mixed fresh wild mushrooms such as chanterelle and oyster, trimmed, quartered if large
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup water

Roast brussels sprouts:
Put oven rack in upper third of oven and preheat oven to 450°F.

Toss Brussels sprouts with oil, garlic, salt, and pepper, then spread out in 1 layer in 2 large shallow baking pans (17 by 12 inches). Roast, stirring occasionally and switching position of pans halfway through roasting, until tender and browned, 25 to 35 minutes.

Fry shallots while brussels sprouts roast:
Heat oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat until temperature measures 250°F (see cooks’ note, below), then fry shallots in 3 batches, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes per batch (watch closely, as shallots can burn easily). Quickly transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain, spreading in a single layer. (Shallots will crisp as they cool.) Pour off oil from skillet (do not clean).

Sauté mushrooms and assemble dish:
Heat 5 tablespoons butter in skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté mushrooms, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and tender, about 7 minutes.

Add wine, thyme, salt, and pepper and boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced to a glaze, about 2 minutes. Add water (1/2 cup) and remaining tablespoon butter and simmer, swirling skillet, until butter is melted. Transfer to a serving dish and stir in Brussels sprouts. Sprinkle with some of shallots and serve with remaining shallots on the side.