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Seeking home buffet dinner menu advice

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In April, I am helping to plan (and cook) a dinner for about 11-12 people that will be served buffet style. One of the challenges is that about half of us are vegetarian. We'll be serving a poached salmon and a chicken dish for the meat eating part of the crew. My challenge is to have some good side dishes so that we veggies also feel sated. And of course they should go with the salmon.

My plan was to serve beet gnocchi with rosemary butter as a starter and then later to offer a vegetarian pasta carbonara with fresh spring peas, a green bean dish, and a white bean and fennel salad.

I have a couple of concerns, namely that a pasta carbonara will be too difficult to keep moist and non-sticky while it is sitting on the buffet. And also that on top of the geet gnocchi, there will be too much cheesy richness.

Any thoughts and suggestions? Or any ideas about other side dishes that would be good? I saw something about a turnip/pear mash on Chowhound a bit earlier that sounded good.

Thanks!

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  1. I guess I am confused. But since the group size is only 10-11, why make two meat/non-vegan main dishes and no vegan ones?

    Maybe I am sorta a grouchy veggie type who hates to get shuttled off with , "well, you can eat the side dishes" or "you mean you don't eat fish either?" Many vegetarians do not eat fish. And being offered only side dishes while "real" folks get the main dish, makes me feel less then included. But that is just MHO

    2 Replies
    1. re: Quine

      Quine, you ARE a bit grouchy but no offense taken :-)

      I should have clarified that this is a family affair - (My mom's birthday) and we all know each other really well. It just so happens that there ARE no vegans in the group and believe me, if there were, I would be taking that into account!

      Because it is my mom's birthday and she loves salmon, we wanted to have something especially for her while also having dishes that would serve both as mains for the (ovo-lacto) vegetarians in the group and side dishes for the salmon eaters.

      So, now that I have made myself more clear - any suggestions?

      1. re: Cattus

        Ah well, when you put it that way, a family party where the food tastes and norms are known ahead, your constrictions make a whole bunch of sense. * Soft smile*

        I do agree with pepper_mil, in that I would like to see more sping flavors and freshness. I did do a dinner party for a small group in the Spring; for my best friend's birthday. She is a Ova-lacto vegetarian. I followed a color theme in each dish. In her case, she was crazy over pink. I served a raspberry vingrette, had beet pasta ravoli, strawberry ribbon cake, etc. She was delighted.

        Perhaps, since is a special party for your Mother, you might follow a theme for her as well. Pick her favorite color and see if you can use that in each dish, or maybe, do update/fancified versions of her childhood/comfort foods.

        For me, items that speak Spring are fresh peas, baby greens, new vegetables, and simple preparations.

    2. The Brussels sprouts with capers posted on Chowhound sounds as if it would add a welcome touch of piquancy. Otherwise it does sound a bit uniformly rich.

      1. What about quiche? Easy to make and easy to make w/ good veggies.

        Might also suggest something like spanokopita.

        Eggplant parmesan or veggie fritters

        Strata

        1. The menu sounds very nice but is a bit wintery for April, especially if you get rid of the veggie carbonara with peas (recommended) and add the turnip/pear mash. BTW, unless you have a group of confirmed turnip lovers, turnips on a buffet seldom disappear. I would add roasted asparagus, which is simple to do and elegant. A really good bread would go a long way to make the non meat eaters feel satisfied. Maybe a rice pilaf with lots of vegetables, if you want something elegant and light that would go with the salmon. For a family dinner I love doing some kind of elaborate mashed potato though - definitely not light, but comforting and fun.

          1. all the veggie dishes sound so wintery! root veggies like beets and turnips are heavy and for cold weather. things that would accompany salmon and chicken:

            pencil thin asparagus with cantaloupe and mint

            artichoke hearts with lemon aioli

            couscous salad with lots of fresh herbs, golden raisins, chick peas and almonds

            chilled sesame noodles with julienned cucumbers, carrots and radish

            mini tarts of whipped feta with garlic and leeks

            corn basil egg roulade (on epi, and very good room temp)

            if you want pasta, maybe angel hair with lots of lemon, basil chiffonade and fresh peas, with grape tomatoes for color

            2 Replies
            1. re: hotoynoodle

              To all,

              Thank you so much for all your helpful suggestions. Much appreciated! As a way of lightening or springing up the menu, I've decided to drop the beet gnocchi and add an asparagus dish. At first, I was worried that this would clash with the wines. But I don't think that matters so much.

              BTW: The brussels sprouts with fried capers sounds delicious and if I don't make it for this event, I want to try it soon.

              1. re: Cattus

                I make this dish for group parties or BBQ's, and I love to add asparagus instead of the eggplant.

                It's Ina Garten's Roasted Veggies and Orzo, you can find it at www.foodtv.com.

                It can be a meal of itself for the vegetarians, and a wonderful addition to your menu.

                BTW, it gets raves. I cut the oil in half in the dressing.