One of the hardest things for the vegetarian cook is coming up with food to serve other people. A hearty main course that is both filling and impressive, that is the vegetarian holy grail. Well, there's a cookbook for that: Party Food for Vegetarians, by Celia Brooks Brown. Master a few of Brown's delicious and gorgeous recipes, and you'll never have to wonder what to serve your guests again. Even the carnivores won't complain. Here's one of my favorite recipes from her, and a great dinner-party standby.
Potato, garlic, & smoked mozzarella strudel
Adapted from Party Food for Vegetarians, serves 6-8
1 lb potatoes (she uses Russet, and peels them, I say try a finer-skinned variety, like red or yukon gold, and leave the peel on for more textural interest)
3 small garlic cloves
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt, freshly ground pepper
9 oz smoked mozzarella, or other smoked cheese, cut into 1/2 in. cubes (I like to use two cheeses, like a mix of smoked fresh mozzarella and smoked Swiss)
3-4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley (the flat-leaf one)
13 oz. ready-rolled puff pastry (a huge convenience that adds a little ooh and ah to any dish)
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon milk, for glazing
Boil the potatoes until soft, mash. Press or grate the garlic and mix into a paste with sea salt (she says to use a mortar and pestle on the garlic, but I don't have one). Add garlic mix, parsley, and chopped mozzarella to potatoes. Grind in pepper to taste. Place mixture in refrigerator until it has cooled (otherwise you mix melting the puff pastry).
Lay the puff pastry on a cookie sheet. Place the potato mixture on one side of the sheet, leaving a border at the side, top, and bottom, and empty pastry on the other side. Press it with your hands to form a compact log. Fold the empty side of the puff pastry over the top of the potato mixture, and press the pastry together at all edges (you'll have a fat part with pastry seams on three sides). Roll the stuffed part over the side seam, so the seam is underneath. Pinch the top and bottom seams and fold under the log, generating a stuffed tube.
Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes. Make diagonal slashes on the top of the log, about 3/4 in. apart. Brush top of pastry with egg/milk mix. Bake in 425 degree oven for 30-40 minutes, until deep golden and crispy all over. Let cool, then slice along slashes to serve.