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Life After Lasagna: Veggie Suggestions for Easy, Make-Ahead Dishes for a Crowd?

I've made a lot of different lasagnas in my life, and somehow, even my brain keeps defaulting to it, and I can't think of what else to make that's relatively simple to serve for a sit-down dinner for 8-10 people. I've made vegetarian pastistio and moussaka. I like them, but they're both really heavy, and I can't get too motivated for them, either.

Got any vegetarian (or adaptable) no-brainers?

Cheese is fine. It just needs to be something I'm not fussing with -- something I can cook in advance and warm up for dinner. I'll also serve soup, salad, maybe some home-made breads and spreads, and dessert. I just need a centerpiece!

Help!

Fred

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  1. http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recip...

    Jacques Pepin's cheese souffle is delicious and easy. No egg separating or white beating. He says you can prepare it hours or even a day ahead up to the point of baking. I've made it several times and it is not as airy as a typical souffle, which suits me as it seems more substantial that way, and is really delicious. We love it.

    Glad you asked this, I know what you mean about getting a few ideas stuck in your head and needing something fresh. I'm looking forward to the responses.

    1. Why not make the soup the centerpiece? Make something really hearty, like a vegetarian minestrone. Or make a vegetarian stew instead of soup.
      Or make the salad the centerpiece by doing a composed version with beans, feta, olives, artichoke hearts, roasted peppers.... A nice frittata would be a good option.

      1. I make spanakopita fairly often. It looks impressive, people who haven't ever worked with filo think you're a master chef and it tastes good. It can be made in advance and reheated, though the pastry loses some of its crispness. I eat leftovers for breakfast.

        Don't know if vegetarian chile is too casual, but there's a great recipe in the revised Joy of Cooking (1997) for Wild Caribbean Chile. It has wonderful flavors including orange zest, lots of cumin and chili and different beans.

        I love soups in winter. There's an excellent butternut squash soup in Cook's Illustrated which is the best I know for pure squash flavor. I made it for a big dinner, together with a non-vegetarian soup but this one was cleaned out. You can find the recipe online, I believe, but you have to register on the site - registration is free.

        If your guests are interested in ethnic foods, look up Indian vegetarian recipes. Channa masala which is curried chickpeas, is a big favorite in our non-vegetarian household. There are also tasty dals made with lentils, rajma (kidney beans) as well as a big variety of vegetable and cheese dishes.

        1. Why not a vegetarian curry - Indian or Thai? You could make a couple of different accompaniments, too (spring rolls, soup, rice/noodle dish). I find when I make a curry and then let it sit, the flavours meld wonderfully!

          1. I have posted my recipe for vegetarian moussaka on this board before. It's fabulous - I actually prefer it to the meat version (and I'm no vegetarian). Either search for it here or let me know and I'll post it again.

            1. funny how things work out sometimes...you're not looking for lasagna but I am...i am making a veggie lasagna for this weekend - i am a vegetarian and tired of the ol' usuals...but am open if anyone has great suggestions...

              as for suggestions for you...

              start out with a acorn squash cut in half with honey butter
              move onto a salad, something a little heartier, like artichokes or asparagus dressed with greens, nuts and cheese - then onto a delicious warm soup - roasted red pepper and tomato with cheesy herbed baguette!

              1. Baked Ricotta- very good!

                  1. Ravioli, stuffed with butternut squash or mushrooms or cheese? Our local organic restaurant makes a three-cheese ravioli with roasted eggplant.(I'm not suggesting making them yourself - but if you had a good market nearby you could pick some up, then all you have to do is cook them and add some sort of sauce or broth).

                    The Fig's Table cookbook has a recipe for a mushroom puree that my parents loved. Todd English (Fig's chef) uses it to make a portobello pizza with mushroom puree and fontina cheese - which sounds yummy - but if that seems too casual, perhaps you could also serve it over polenta? Someone has transcribed it here: http://www.astray.com/recipes/?show=F...

                    Or you could serve roasted butternut squash halves with some sort of stuffing - like wild rice, cranberries and pecans, something like that.

                    Now I'm making myself hungry!

                    1. I made green pea ravioli last week from epicurious - it was awesome!

                      http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...

                      You can see a couple of pictures of it here:
                      http://definitelynotmartha.blogspot.c...

                      I also second previous suggestions for curry - either Indian or Thai. Very yummy.

                      Another veg staple for me is stuffed peppers - I usually mix rice and veggie ground round with some salsa and veggies, top with cheese (provided cheese is okay) and bake for about 1/2 hour. This is really yummy.

                      1. Thanks for all the input. I was looking for something I could do in advance and serve to 8-10 people out of one pan -- something hearty without being heavy, a sort of a casserole cousin to lasagna without being lasagna itself. The Jacques Pepin cheese souffle sounds wonderful and not too hard, but maybe a little rich. Cheryl H, if you're out there, do you have a spanakopita recipe you like that's especially easy? My few dealings with filo pastry have not gone well! Anyone got any good ideas for a vegetarian shepherd's pie?

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: fmogul

                          You could make a classic shephard's pie and replace the ground lamb with St. Ive's Veggie Ground Round. Maybe add some extra mushrooms in the veggie ground round to keep it moist and meaty tasting.

                          1. re: fmogul

                            I'll get the spanakopita recipe posted tonight. I have a couple of recipes I've tried which work well. Filo is mostly a matter of working slowly and not getting too fussed over tearing some bits IMO. Other than that, the rest is really easy.

                            1. re: fmogul

                              If eggs are allowed, what about a strata? There is a good one from Gourmet with spinach and brie. Or you could try broccoli and roasted red peppers. Do-ahead, one dish, filling and satisfying without being heavy.

                            2. How about sweet potato and and black bean burritos? There's a super recipe in one of the Moosewood cookbooks....

                              1. For T'giving this year I crafted a vegetable pot pie for my vegetarian guests. I used a chicken pot pie recipe and left out the chicken, used parsnips, carrots, potatoes and peas. I spiced up the crust with a little curry powder sprinkled on while I rolled it. It was so good the omnivores loved it too!

                                1. If you go with a soup main (or a soup starter) you could do a "heavy" salad as the starter (or main):

                                  Cabrales cheese souffle with asian pear salad
                                  http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...

                                  I was going to do a variation on this as a starter for a recent dinner party but decided it would have been too heavy with my main. But the directions say you can make the souffles two hours ahead, so it might work for you. Except for dressing the salad it's all make ahead.

                                  In the same vein - adding cheese and nuts or cheese toasts with the salad would also make it "heavier".

                                  When I have to do large, casual vegetarian dinners my go-to menu is black bean soup, salad (mixed greens with mango and goat cheese) and some nice bread to go with the soup, or bread bowls. Except for dressing the salad, everything can be prepped in advance.

                                  1. Frittatas are great. I Really like the Lidia Bastianic version with bread, ricotta and basil.

                                    The Debrah Madison book "Vegatarin Cooking for Everyone" has a lot of good ideas too. I do find her recipies kind of confusing to follow however.

                                    1. I loved epicurious' Quinoa w/ Moroccan Squash Winter and Carrot Stew. Perfect for vegetarian guests. I ate it the same night I made it but had leftovers for lunch. I thought the leftovers tasted better because all the flavors had time to marry.

                                      http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...

                                      1. My mom makes a great rice dish from Martha Rose Shulman's Feast and FĂȘtes - she calls it "vegetable tian". It's cooked brown rice mixed with grated zucchini, egg and parmigiano, then topped with bread crumbs and baked until set and crispy.

                                        Super easy, pretty and deelish.

                                        1. We just enjoyed a "polenta pie" in my house the other night and my meat-loving husband asked if there was any more! He loved it and so did the rest of us. We used this recipe
                                          http://www.mediatinker.com/blog/archi...

                                          but improvised with the veggies.....I think we used onion, some cooked spinach we already had, mushrooms, lots of garlic, and tomatoes. Very easy to do ahead.

                                          1. What about stuffed cabbage, substitute some veggie crumbles for the usual meat in the filling. There have been some recent threads on stuffed cabbage if you do a search.

                                            I've really enjoyed stuffed eggplant halves, filled with meat or meat substitute, rice, chopped tomatoes etc, covered with a little tomato sauce and melted cheese.

                                            1. Quinoa Casserole - Cook quinoa (about 1/4 cup per person, ration of quinoa to water is 1 part quinoa to 2 parts water, cook covered for 15 minutes. If desired, cook in broth or herbed water). In a large pot, saute some chopped onion (or garlic) with some olive oil, add vegetables (about 1/2 cup of veggies per person - broccoli, zucchini, yellow squash, cauliflower, spinach, whatever you like) and saute for a moment, add 1/2 cup of water and cover pot, steam for about 5 minutes. Add quinoa and mix well. If desired, add grated cheese to mixture. Personally, I like to add a little Tabasco Green. Put in a casserole dish and sprinkle with cheese (if lacto) or cover with tin foil (if vegan). Cook at 350F for about 20 - 30 minutes.

                                              Spanikopita is a great suggestion. If you can't find / don't like working with phyllo, you can substitute flake pastry. With the flake pastry, you don't have to cook immediately.

                                              Stuffed peppers always look nice. I'd do them on the horizontal so that they take up more of the plate (visual thing).