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ISO Inspiration for Vegetarian Dinner Guests

I'm cooking for a vegetarian couple tomorrow evening and I've had such a crazy week that I'm just starting to think about the menu now. I can think of some simple/good salads and sides but I'm feeling a bit uninspired for the main course. I have a nice recipe for a polenta tart topped with goat's cheese and sliced zucchini that makes for a pretty presentation. Any other ideas? Thanks.

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  1. Some one mentioned chickpeas and smoked paprika, and I love chickpeas slowly fried so they get crispy on the outside.
    May be you could go easy on yourself and get together more of a meze style thing going. Get some nice pita for a tapanade, scordalia, steamed marinaded veggies, sauteed greens and/or a salad. Grilled sardines if they eat fish. Some nice cheeses.
    of course a lot of this stuff could be purchased.
    All with some chilled Prosecco.
    I love to get away from meat but the problem is that then you're left with mainly carby options.
    Oh, I've been looking at The Complete Book of Greek Cooking and they have recipes for Pumpkin Patties with Sesame Sauce and also Spinach Balls, which I have made before with a tomato cumin sauce. Tons of recipes like this must be out there on the internet. Patties like those two items are always a crowd pleaser for vegetarians.

    1. I thought Boy Meets Grill, of all shows, at some really inspiring veg options the other day. Here's the link to the episode: http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/show_... The portabello stacks looked especially good.
      I think make-your-own vegetarian pizzas could be really fun. We often put roasted corn on our pizzas, caramelized red onions, goat cheese, sage, etc., etc.

      1. If you have access to a bbq, I would just grill squash slices, tofu, veggies, etc. I like Ida Red's tapas idea too.

        Otherwise, a souffle is always nice if they're not vegan. Vegetarian lasagne or stuffed pasta. Root vegetable stew with good chewy bread. Vegetarian fajitas are always fun. Quick stir fry and brown rice (a la Fresh by Juice for Life).

        1. As a long-ago vegetarian, I always found that one of the nice things about eating/cooking that way was the balance of the meals felt different. It no longer felt necessary to have a main and sides, elements of the meal could be more evenly weighted. In that vein, and considering that it's summer and light, lively foods are desirable, how about serving three or four easy to make salads? Something like a lentil, shallot, parsley and goat cheese; green bean with mint and a lemon vinaigrette; snap peas and shelled peas, maybe tossed with sliced mushrooms, in light dressing of choice (if you're mixing your metaphors, a sesame oil/soy/rice vinegar thing would be good. If not, a champagne vinegar based vinaigrette), and roasted, quartered beets made into a salad of some sort. The possibilities are endless. It's a great vehicle for condiments: mustards, capers, chutneys, etc. Serve with bread, maybe cheese, end with a beautiful fruit tart.

          1. you could do a baked ricotta or ricotta pie- many options for filling. I recently did a wonderful one with asparagus, roasted red pepper, spinach, and mushroom.

            Also, gnudi or gnocchi would be nice- several options

            (I've been experimenting with ricotta ever since I posted about it once, thanks hounds!)

            1. I'm a vegetarian and love eating at friends' houses who like to cook. I especially enjoy it when they make a meat-heavy meal with a few veg sides, because I enjoy sampling small amts of those dishes for variety. Personally, I prefer this to, say, a big veggie lasagna.

              How about a tapas dinner? Maybe a tortilla espanola that you can make a bit ahead, since it's good at room temp? You could throw some artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes for real pizzaz. And there are so many other great veggie dishes, like gazpacho to highlight the wonderful tomatoes available now, spinach catalana, great cheeses and olives, stuffed piquillo peppers and the list goes on and on...

              Your polenta tart sounds delicious; would you mind posting the recipe?

              Or, if you just want another idea for a main: how about a pasta with sauteed tomatoes and eggplant, with maybe basil or mint. I used the following recipe on epicurious the other day for inspiration and it was wonderful:

              1 Reply
              1. re: diablita FL

                One of my sons is vegetarian and I love creating special meals at Xmas. I have done the tapas party and it was fantastic. Other guests can indulge themselves in meat or fish you might have but will absolutely adore the vegetarian tapas.
                Another theme that I have done during their visits is an Asian soup bar where you create your own soups.
                Every Xmas day meal is based on the meat of my other son's choice and then a special Xmas present to Veggie Boy of a new, delicious main casserole for him on the theme (I have done Italian, Greek, traditional turkey dinner and California Dreamin'
                During the week they are home we do have an all vegetarian night but the meat eater doesn't mind because I base the main dish on a dish we have all loved for years.
                I don't think it's a struggle to please all at the table. We have had such an influx of ethnic cuisine and restaurants witha vegetarian choice that many Americans are learning to broaden their palates. The universal accenptance of heart healthy meals have lead many non-vegetarians to adopt a meatless Monday.
                Veggie Boy arrives Tues. with his vegetarian girlfriend. I do have a vegetarian Sloppy Joe Mac and Cheese in the freezer but with the hot, hot weather, I am going to serve a fruit and vegetable plate that looks lovely and serves our purpose. Mac and cheese will be in the wings.

              2. About a month ago I made these amazing Eggplant rolls with Red Pepper Pesto... So food and made for an impressive presenation (see the picture! :))!



                1. I like the sound of your polenta tart, too. And, you know, you can't go wrong w/ pasta and whatever fresh and seasonal ingredients are avialable to ya!

                  1. I know that I recommended pasta in my post, but to be really honest I think vegetarians always get shafted at banquets and even at some restaurants because they are always offered pasta as though no one could be bothered to think much or think "out of the box" to accommodate their dietary needs. The non-pasta ideas would win out in my opinion.

                    1. I think the idea of a mezes or tapas type of meal is the way to go. Do the polenta tart with a fancy green salad (try dandelion greens with fresh figs, red onions and a balsamic vinagrette) as the main course. A puree of lentil soup or tomato bisque would be a nice starter. Follow up with a fresh fruit and cheese plate for dessert (or just the fresh fruit if they are vegan).

                      1. Thanks for all of your wonderful ideas (how I love this board). I was particularly inspired by the suggestions to de-emphasize the main course and serve a bunch of small plates and tastes instead. My husband and I have been reducing our meat/fish portions and replacing them with extra veg so I find our regular meals are transitioning in that direction anyway.

                        I made a lovely spinach coconut soup this evening so I think I'll start tomorrow's meal with some of those leftovers - I'll figure out the rest of the menu in the morning.

                        Here is the polenta goat cheese tart recipe (featured many years ago in Cooking Light, originally from Scott Cohen at the Stanhope Hotel in NYC) - serves 6:

                        Place 1 c. cornmeal, 3 tsps. olive oil, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/8 tsp. pepper and 2 cloves minced garlic in a saucepan. While whisking, gradually add in 2-1/2 c. water and 1 c. tomato juice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and then cook for 10 minutes, uncovered, stirring frequently. Spread the mixture on the bottom of a buttered/oiled 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom.

                        Next, place 1/3 c. cream cheese (can use non/low fat), 3-1/2 oz. of chevre and 1 egg white in a food processor and process until smooth. Spread this mixture over the polenta base. Then take 1 c. each of thinly sliced green and yellow zucchini and arrange in alternate layers over the cheese. Brush zucchini with olive oil, sprinkle with 1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves and 1 tbsp. grated parmesan. Bake at 400 for 15 minutes and then broil for 1 minute or until slightly browned. Enjoy!

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: peppermint pate

                          Thanks for the recipe! I love zucchini and goat cheese. I'm assuming that the liquid in the squash cooks up fast at that temp and doesn't make everything soggy, right?

                          I'm sure your dinner will be wonderful -- I always love reading your posts about the dining scene in TO and you have such a wonderful way of describing the food. The Rain post was interesting.

                          I'm actually flying up there today for a week (and a wedding) and can't wait to hit some of our old favorite spots (JKWB) and some new ones that I've read about.

                          Diablita FL (formerly DevFL)

                          1. re: diablita FL

                            Hi Diablita FL - I've never had any trouble with sogginess in this recipe - just make sure you slice the zucchini thinly and you should be fine. As for the compliments, alas, I think you're referring to "pinstripe princess", a wonderful poster on the Toronto board (and the one who did the recent post about Rain) - hopefully you like some of my posts too!! Enjoy your upcoming trip to Toronto.

                            1. re: peppermint pate

                              Oooh, I did confuse you and Pinstripe Principessa with that post. Sorry, but still do love your posts.

                        2. Just wanted to post a quick follow-up note to thank you again for your suggestions. We had a gorgeous and delicious (and vegetarian!!) feast in the backyard the other night. I started with a spinach coconut soup - easy recipe with steamed spinach, veggie broth, coconut milk, garlic, sauteed onions and cumin. I then made the polenta chevre tart (recipe posted above) - I hadn't made this in a while and while preparing it, I remembered that I like to increase the ratio of cheese topping to polenta - you can do this through any combination of using a larger pan, decreasing the amount of polenta and/or doubling the quantity on the cheese topping. I took RedRob's suggestion and made an arugula salad with fresh figs, toasted pine nuts and a shallot honey balsamic vinaigrette. And then we served a collection of "shades of green" grilled veggies - fennel brushed with rosemary oil, asparagus and young scallions.

                          For dessert, our friends brought over little ramekins of pannacotta with stewed rhubarb that they topped with bits of torn basil from their garden - a Jamie Oliver recipe that was apparently simple but quite spectacular. On the side, they had baked little orange polenta cookies - delicately flavoured and offering the perfect textural contrast to the dessert.

                          So thanks again for the inspiration - I'm excited to explore more vegetarian meals.

                          1. Really really love Giada Delarentis' butternut squash lasgna. Recipe is availble on foodtv.com. It's delicious and a make ahead item.