When planning a menu for a Halloween dinner, choose festive dishes that are creative, but not too childish. Have an oozing, baked brie waiting for guests to arrive. Serve the brie with crisp pretzels shaped to look like fingers and toes. A molded shrimp cocktail that resembles a scary cerebrum will jump start conversation. For the main course, offer a gooey slime soup and crisp pumpkin polenta salad. Although most of the dishes are vegetarian, the menu is filling, balanced, and delicious.
Get these tantalizing recipes when you read more.
3/4 of a 7- to 8-ounce jar oil-packed dried tomatoes
1/2 of a medium onion, sliced and separated into rings
4 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1/4 cup slivered fresh basil leaves
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 15-ounce rounds of Brie, with rind
1 tablespoon finely snipped fresh parsley or dried parsley, crushed
French bread slices cut 1/2-inch thick
- Drain oil from tomatoes; reserve 3 tablespoons. Coarsely chop enough tomatoes for 1/2 cup.
- In a large skillet, cook onion in 2 tablespoons reserved oil until tender. Stir in garlic; cook and stir for 1 minute.
- Add chopped tomatoes and basil; cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in pepper.
- Line a baking sheet with foil; place Brie on foil. Brush with remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Sprinkle with parsley. Spread tomato mixture over tops. Cover and chill for 30 minutes or up to 5 hours.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake Brie on center oven shelf for 12 to 15 minutes or just until edges melt. Transfer Brie to a serving plate. Serve with bread slices.
Red or green food coloring (optional, for fingers)
24 blanched almonds, halved lengthwise
2 cups warm water (110 degrees), plus 3 quarts, plus 1 tablespoon
1 tablespoon sugar
1 package active dry yeast (1/4 ounce)
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1 tablespoon coarse salt
2 tablespoons baking soda
1 large egg
Fried rosemary (optional, for toes)
- Place a small amount of food coloring, if using, in a shallow bowl, and, using a paintbrush, color the rounded side of each split almond; set aside to dry.
- Pour 2 cups water into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough-hook attachment. Add sugar; stir to dissolve. Sprinkle with yeast, and let stand until yeast begins to bubble, about 5 minutes.
- Beat in 1 cup flour into yeast on low speed until combined. Beat in coarse salt; add 3 1/2 cups flour, and beat until combined. Continue beating until dough pulls away from bowl, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add 1/2 cup flour. Beat 1 minute more. If dough is sticky, add up to 1 cup more flour.
- Transfer to a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth, 1 minute.
- Coat a large bowl with cooking spray. Transfer dough to bowl, turning dough to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap; let rest in a warm spot to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Bring 3 quarts water to a boil in a 6-quart straight-sided saucepan over high heat; reduce to a simmer.
- Add baking soda. Lightly coat two baking sheets with cooking spray. Divide dough into quarters.
- Work with one quarter at a time, and cover remaining dough with plastic wrap. Divide first quarter into 12 pieces. On a lightly floured work surface, roll each piece back and forth with your palm forming a long finger shape, about 3 to 4 inches. Pinch dough in two places to form knuckles. Or, to make toes, roll each piece so that it is slightly shorter and fatter, about 2 inches. Pinch in 1 place to form the knuckle. When 12 fingers or toes are formed, transfer to simmering water. Poach for 1 minute.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer fingers to the prepared baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough, blanching each set of 12 fingers or toes before making more.
- Beat egg with 1 tablespoon water. Brush pretzel fingers and toes with the egg wash.
- Using a sharp knife, lightly score each knuckle about three times. Sprinkle with sea salt and rosemary, if using.
- Position almond nails, pushing them into dough to attach. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool on wire rack. Fingers and toes are best eaten the same day; or store, covered, up to 2 days at room temperature.
Makes 4 dozen.
3 pounds frozen cooked medium shrimp (with tails), thawed and drained well
1/4 cup roasted red sweet peppers, cut into 1/4-inch thick strips
1 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 teaspoons finely shredded lemon peel
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon honey
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- In a 1-1/2-quart glass bowl (3-inches high, 7 1/2-inches in diameter), begin arranging shrimp, tails toward the center, in a circle to make 1 flat layer in the bottom of the bowl. (Only the round backs of the shrimp should be visible from the outside of the bowl.) Repeat layers until bowl is full, pressing down every couple layers.
- As bowl fills up, tuck strips of the roasted red pepper in and around shrimp forming "blood vessels". (It helps to peer through the sides of glass bowl to adjust as necessary.) When bowl is full, press down firmly with a plate that fits inside the bowl. Set aside.
- In a small saucepan combine chicken broth and unflavored gelatin; let stand 5 minutes. Cook and stir over medium heat until gelatin has dissolved.
- Whisk in lemon peel, lemon juice, tomato paste, honey, garlic, salt, ginger, and cayenne pepper until combined. Pour mixture over shrimp in bowl.
- Cover and chill at least 5 hours or overnight.
- To unmold, set bowl in a sink filled with warm water for several seconds. Invert a large plate with sides over bowl. Invert plate and bowl together and remove bowl to unmold. Cover and chill until needed (up to 24 hours).
4 cups frozen peas
3 cups boiling water, from the kettle
Chicken or vegetable stock concentrate or a stock cube
1 ball mozzarella, diced (approximately 10 ounces)
- Cook the frozen peas and scallion in the boiling water with the stock concentrate, to taste, or stock cube until tender and cooked through. Drain and discard the scallion, and put the peas into a blender.*
- Add the diced mozzarella to the peas in the blender. Liquidize the soup until smooth.
*When blending hot liquids: Remove liquid from the heat and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes. Transfer liquid to a blender or food processor and fill it no more than halfway. If using a blender, release one corner of the lid. This prevents the vacuum effect that creates heat explosions. Place a towel over the top of the machine, pulse a few times then process on high speed until smooth.
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal (not coarse)
7 1/2 cups water
2 3/4 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 cup raw green (hulled) pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1 tablespoon fresh pomegranate juice* or cranberry juice cocktail
2 teaspoons Sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon minced shallot
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small cheese pumpkin or butternut squash (2 lb), peeled, quartered lengthwise, and seeded
1 (6-oz) piece Parmigiano-Reggiano
8 oz arugula, trimmed
- Prepare polenta: Bring cornmeal, water, and 2 1/4 teaspoons salt to a boil in a 4-quart heavy saucepan, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until polenta is creamy and tender, about 50 minutes. Remove from heat, then stir in 11/2 tablespoons butter and cool slightly.
- Spoon polenta onto center of a lightly buttered large baking sheet, then spread evenly into a 10- by 7-inch rectangle (about 1/2 inch thick). Cover with plastic wrap, then poke several holes in wrap with a small sharp knife and chill 2 hours.
- Candy pumpkin seeds: Melt remaining tablespoon butter in a heavy saucepan over moderate heat. Stir in sugar, cumin, cinnamon, paprika, cayenne, and 1/4 teaspoon salt, then cook, without stirring, until caramelized. Add pumpkin seeds and cook, stirring occasionally, until seeds are puffed and golden. Transfer to a plate to cool. When seeds have hardened, break up any clumps with your fingers.
- Make vinaigrette: Whisk together pomegranate juice, vinegar, and shallot and let stand 5 minutes. Whisk in 3 tablespoons oil, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste.
- Roast pumpkin:
Preheat oven to 450°F. Cut pumpkin quarters crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Toss with 1 tablespoon oil and salt and pepper to taste in a shallow baking pan and arrange slices in 1 layer.
- Roast in middle of oven until just tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven, then cover with foil to keep warm.
- Fry polenta while pumpkin roasts:
Trim polenta into a 9- by 6-inch rectangle. Cut polenta into 6 (3-inch) squares, then halve each square diagonally. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet until hot but not smoking, then cook polenta in 2 batches, turning once, until golden brown, about 8 minutes (if necessary, use remaining tablespoon oil for second batch). Transfer as cooked to a plate and keep warm, covered.
- Assemble salad: Shave 12 strips from cheese with a vegetable peeler.
- Whisk vinaigrette, then toss arugula in a large bowl with enough vinaigrette to lightly coat. Place several pieces of pumpkin and 1 piece of polenta on each of 6 plates.
- Top with arugula, more pumpkin, and remaining polenta. Sprinkle with candied pumpkin seeds and top with parmesan shavings, then drizzle with remaining vinaigrette.
Make ahead: Polenta, spread on baking sheet and not yet fried, can be chilled up to 1 day. Candied pumpkin seeds can be prepared 3 days ahead and kept in an airtight container at room temperature.
*To juice a pomegranate, firmly roll it on a work surface until it feels softer, then cut a small hole in skin and squeeze.