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Vegan for the Holidays

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Vegetarians in Paradise
Ask Aunt Nettie

We're delighted to share our Aunt Nettie with you. She's agreed to answer any questions you might ask about vegetarian food, its preparation, and even clean-up tips. But we have to prepare you. She just might want to come right over to your house and help you fix dinner.

To send any questions to Ask Aunt Nettie, .

Dear Aunt Nettie,

I'm having some friends over for dinner along with a chef my friends are bringing. He's considered a gourmet chef, so I'm a little nervous about it. I think I've got a nice menu ready, but I need an appetizer that's kind of punchy--know what I mean?


Howdy there Sylvia,

'Course, darlin', I surely do understand yer meaning. Yer wantin' somethin' that really gits them taste buds all settin' up an takin' notice. Well, I kin almost picture yer chef nearly junpin' outa his chair when he gits a taste o' this very different an' very easy spread. You just let them onions do their impressin' and they surely will do that. You wait 'n' see.

The spread is purfect on most anythin' but I like it best on crispy crackers, toasted pita wedges, or toasted baguette slices. Put it in a purty bowl and serve it with them cute l'il spreadin' knives, if ya got 'em. You'll see some eyes lightin' up real soon, an' I jes knows yer friends are gonna want the recipe.

Yer ever lovin' Aunt Nettie

Deliciously caramelized onions possess an alluring natural sweetness that's hard to resist. This unique recipe makes a richly flavored spread to enjoy on toast or bagels for breakfast, or an appetizer spread for toasted pita wedges or crackers. Nice thing is you don't have to spend oodles of time in the kitchen to make this tasty spread. It's one of those simple preps you easily can start, stop, and assemble when it's convenient.


Yield: about 1 1/2 cups (360 ml)


    2 medium onions, sliced 3/8-inch thick
    1 medium carrot, sliced thin

    1/4 cup (60 ml) plus 2 tablespoons raw hazelnuts

    1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

    2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
    1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon salt
    Pinch cayenne (optional)

    Dash paprika
    1 to 2 tablespoons minced fresh herbs like parsley, chives, or mint

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (Gas Mark 5) and have ready a lightly oiled baking sheet.
  2. Place the onion and carrot slices on the baking sheet and roast them for 20 minutes.
  3. While the onions are roasting, grind the hazelnuts to a fine powdery meal in batches in the food processor, a small electric coffee grinder, or mini chopper and set them aside.
  4. Remove the onions from the oven and sprinkle the balsamic vinegar over them. Toss them well with a spatula and roast them for 10 minutes longer.
  5. Transfer the roasted onions to the food processor and add the hazelnuts, chives, salt, and cayenne, if using, and process until the mixture is almost pureed. Tiny visible bits of carrots and chives give the spread an appealing appearance.
  6. Spoon into an attractive serving bowl and sprinkle with paprika and a pinch of fresh herbs.

Suggestion: Another way to enjoy this extraordinary buttery spread is to turn it into an open-faced cheese melt. Spread a generous portion of the "butter" on slices of whole-grain bread. Top with sliced tomatoes and arrange slices of vegan cheese over the top. Place the open-faced sandwiches on a baking sheet and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the cheese melts. Cut into quarters and serve as finger food, or serve with a knife and fork and enjoy for breakfast or lunch.

If You Haven't Met Aunt Nettie. . .

Our Aunt Nettie has a head like a hard disk. It's filled with gigabytes of information about food and cooking. And she's just itchin' to share her learnin' with city folk who live in mortal fear of the stovetop.

Aunt Nettie grew up on the farm. She did not eat out of a can or reach into the freezer. There was no microwave to pop her food into. Everything she made was from scratch. All the food she ate was natural, without pesticides. It was grown right there on the family farm, and she had to cook to survive. At eighty-three years young she still leaps and bounds around the kitchen and can shake, rattle, and roll those pots and pans with the best of them.

Nowadays, Aunt Nettie just shakes her head and complains, "Nobody cooks anymore. They have no idea about puttin' a meal together." She's on a mission. She wants to help those younguns eat better so they can grow up healthy like her own eight kids.

Click here for past Ask Aunt Nettie Columns

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