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a real vegetarian challenge

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I need to cook dinner for 8-10 people, 2 of whom are vegetarian, but that's not the real challenge. Luckily, they are not vegan, but one of them is allergic to peanuts, lentils, chickpeas, peas, and soy products, though soy sauce and lecithin (whatever that is) is okay. This is a celebratory reunion dinner for old friends, so I'd like to make something special, but not too elaborate since it does need to feed a crowd, and possibly sit around while people straggle in.

I was originally going to make two Thai curries, one meat, one tofu, but is there any other protein product I can put in the vegetable one? Any other menu possibilities? I don't mind making two versions of the same dish. I have and like Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, so if there's something in there that's been especially successful (and doesn't have peanuts, soy, chickpeas, etc.), that would be especially helpful.

Much thanks!

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  1. I love Madison's recipe for winter squash galette. It's wonderful, and people love it. The fresh sage is a must for this recipe to be really special.

    When I'm in a rush I don't make the yeasted dough. I just take her basic pie crust (the one that's just flour, salt, butter, water), bake it, and pour the filling for the galette right in. I've even been known to just make the filling and serve it as an alternative to mashed potatoes. It's colorful, easy to eat on a plate while standing/walking around at a party, etc. The squash makes it a sweetish veggie dish, which might go well with Thai curries.

    Rough ingredient list so you know if it's something you want to look up: winter squash of any kind, onions, sage, salt, pepper, cheese (pecorino or parmesan), olive oil, garlic.

    2 Replies
    1. re: nooodles

      If they can eat white beans, a green chili might be nice. I made one the other day with veggie broth, tomatillos (i roasted them a little while first), vidalia onions, potatoes, cilantro, hot green peppers, white beans and spinach. stewed tomatillos, onions, and potatoes together, threw most of it into the blender with the spinach and cilantro after all of the major cooking was done to keep it bright and then added the beans that were fried up with garlic and cumin just before serving. If they can't eat white beans, maybe sub zucchini and throw it in at the end? I served it with jack cheese, sour cream and avocado and it was pretty tasty. Could serve with cornbread, too...?

      1. re: melon

        Mmm, that sounds really good! Will try it regardless of whether I make it for the group.

    2. We used to make main dishes to tote to dairy pot luck dinners on Fri. nights.
      We like Mollie Katzen's Persian Eggplant: It contains sauteed eggplant, onions, garlic in a sauce (bechamelish?) that is chopping intensive, but then goes onto a base of bulghur in a 9x 13 baking pan. Veggie mix can be made ahead. I think it is in The Enchanted Brocolli Forest book.
      Another favorite is her Zucchini Tomato-Cheese Casserole (I'm not sure of the exact name) from the Moosewood Restaurant Cookbook. I overheard two women raving about it in a bookstore, and promptly bought the book. Very tasty and tolerant of waiting around to be served.

      1 Reply
      1. re: p.j.

        Just remembered the name of the second dish:
        Zucchini-Feta Cheese Casserole. Zesty. Feta cheese, ricotta and tomato paste with basil, thyme, etc.

        No last minute cooking, etc. When I am hosting a large group, I like to get the food, usually a casserole, into the oven, wash all the prep equipment and then sit down and enjoy my guests. I find last-minute cooking while my friends/guests are present very stressful...i.e. maked fried food like potato pancakes at the last moment.
        Give yourself a break and enjoy the reunion time with your friends!

      2. Tofu is a soy product.

        I'd do a vegetarian chili using mushrooms and beans that she is not allergic/averse to.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Anne in SF

          Right, that's why I have to change my plans to use tofu.
          Would seitan be gross in curry? I think that's made of wheat.

        2. How about spanikopita (spinach pie)? You could make it as an appetizer(individual triangles) or as a main course(pansize), depending on what else you make. I'll even tell you my secret ingredient: cilantro mixed in with the spinach. Recipe available if you want it, although it isn't in exact measurements.

          1. Tell the one who eats nothing to either carry him/her own food or recommend somewhere that can cater one or two dishes specifically for him or her. Problem over!

            1 Reply
            1. re: nikki

              yeah, git em. that would make them feel really welcome. you sound like a lovely friend.

            2. Fried or Baked Wheat-Gluten Balls

              1 pound gluten flour (about 3-3/4 cups)
              Vegetable oil for deep frying and/or greasing baking dish

              Makes 40 fried balls or 80 smaller baked ones.

              Put the flour in a large bowl. Slowly add about 1-1/2 cups (or a bit
              more) water and bring the flour together to make an unsticky ball of
              medium firmness. Knead for 10 to 12 minutes until the dough is smooth.
              Leave the dough in a bowl, covered with some aluminum foil, for 1 hour.
              Knead the dough briefly again. Form a ball and put the dough back in the
              bowl. Now cover the ball of dough with cold water from the faucet and
              leave overnight.

              Begin to wash the dough: Treat the dough like a piece of sponge and
              squeeze it under the water. Keep doing this until the water turns
              exceedingly milky from the starch. Throw this starchy water away and
              cover the dough with fresh cold water. You will be throwing away several
              batches of water as each turns milky until you are left with just gluten,
              at which point the water remains almost clear. Place this ball of gluten
              on a tilted board and let it drain for 15 minutes.


              FOR FRYING THE BALLS

              Set up a platter lined with paper towels. Pour oil into a wok for deep
              frying and heat over a lowish flame. You should aim for a temperature
              around 325 F.

              Break the dough into 1-inch balls, working each in your hand so it is as
              round as possible.

              Drop four balls into the wok at a slight distance from each other. Baste
              the balls gently but constantly with the hot oil as you fry them. The
              frying should take at least 4 minutes. The balls should expand to at
              least twice their size and turn a reddish color on the outside. If they
              brown too fast, they will not expand properly. Adjust the heat if that

              Remove the balls with a slotted spoon and leave to drain on the platter.
              The balls will collapse as they cool.


              FOR BAKING THE BALLS

              Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease a cookie sheet lightly with oil. Break the
              dough into 1/2-inch balls and lay as many as will fit on the cookie sheet,
              about 2-1/2 inches apart. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until they are
              quite puffed up and lightly browned.


              When fried or baked gluten balls have cooled, they should be packed in
              plastic bags or containers and either refrigerated or frozen. They should
              last in the refrigerator for at least 3 days. To defrost frozen balls,
              just throw them into boiling water or stock and cook for a few minutes.

              Baked balls are particularly suited to light stews and soups. Fried balls
              are better in heartier stews and in stir-fried dishes.


              2 Replies
              1. re: goody

                OMG, can this recipe be a bigger pain in the ass? ;p If you're really interesting in cooking gluten, you can buy them at the fried or baked stage in Asian markets as mien jing or kao fu. There are also cans of the fried gluten in a sweet/savory sauce (with or without peanuts) that is served with plain congee for Chinese breakfasts if you want to try it before doing all that work.

                Or you can go buy some TVP (texturized vegetable protein) from Whole Foods or other such store. Not sure if all TVP is made from soy or what but they do have ingredient lists on the bulk bins.

                1. re: jennyantepenultimate

                  I often add a can of mock meats made of gluten (switch varities often) to a stir fry of any of the Chinese green vegetables. Does wonders. Need to be careful as some of them do include peanuts.

              2. I think a curry is a hard way to feed a non-tofu eating vegetarian who also can't consume some common pulses.

                What about serving a mixture of Mediterranean salads and spreads instead. The protein for the vegetarian could come from feta or the cracked bulgur in tabolleh? You could make some, purchase the others, and serve a main course like grilled leg or lamb or a baked whole fish.

                1. I may be missing something but wouldn't eggplant parmesan work? And you could also do chicken parmesan for the non-veggies? Changes to Italian theme though. Or would a lasagna, a vegetable lasagna work?

                  Is the person allergic to quinoa? There's another complete protein grain...

                  1. Contrary to popular belief, humans don't need tons of protein, and vegetarians are used to eating meals that are primarily carbohydrate. If you want to make a curry, I would just do vegetables. Seitan might also work if you must include a protein.

                    1. How about paneer as the tofu substitute? You can find it in indian grocery stores, or make your own.

                      I know subbing in tofu in place of paneer works, so it probably works the other way.

                      Another thing that came to mind is a Malfatti , a swiss chard or spinach and parm gnocci, basically. A comforting yet elegant food to feed a crowd.

                      1. I recently had a dinner party for a large group at my house, and several vegetarians were there. I did a tofu nabe which was a huge hit, and easy to assemble, and best of all, clean up was a snap.

                        See the link below for some ideas on doing a nabe party.

                        Happy Eating!

                        Link: http://metropolis.japantoday.com/toky...

                        1. Hard-boiled eggs with potato and methi is great.

                          Also, saag paneer (fresh Indian cheese).

                          Neither is on the bad list.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: lucia

                            What is methi?
                            I've been reluctant about cooking Indian b/c as much as I like Indian food, the only thing I've cooked regularly and successfully is cauliflower with tomato and cilantro. I'm a reasonably competent cook, but don't want to try something completely new at a special occasion.

                            1. re: AppleSister

                              Methi is a middle eastern/south asia herb. You can purchase it dried at most middle eastern groceries -- it needs to be soaked in water and then squeezed out before using. You can get fresh at the larger indian markets, but it is a pain to use becuz it tends to be very muddy and only the (small) leaves are edible so you have pick them off the stem. Some indian stores (like Patel Bros.) also carry it frozen (easy to use while having a 'fresher' taste than the dried stuff). Hope this helps!

                              1. re: AppleSister

                                I believe methi is fenugreek.

                                1. re: Limster

                                  Yes, it is fenugreek. You can also find it dried in Persian (Iranian) grocery stores.