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Advice needed on dinner menu w/vegetarians

So we're having 6 friends over for dinner in a couple of weeks. 2 of our friends are vegetarian. In the past, I've generally prepared a separate main course for them. However, I'm wondering whether you other 'hounds have found that it's better to just create a fully vegetarian menu for the entire dinner so that everyone is eating the same thing?

Here's what I'm thinking so far for a (mostly) vegetarian menu:

hors d'oeuvres:
- gougeres
- shrimp sauteed in butter/white wine/garlic/shallots (these are wonderful w/the gougeres)
- ??? (need something vegetarian to complement the gougeres)

soup course:
- roasted tomato soup garnished w/parmesan crisps

salad course:
- mixed greens served with a wedge of a puff pastry wrapped brie stuffed with roasted peaches and walnuts

main course:
- butternut squash ravioli with rapini and pine nuts in a brown butter sauce
- ??? (do I need to serve something else with the ravioli?)

dessert:
- bittersweet chocolate mousse

Any suggestions for the gaps? Does this sound like a well-balanced menu in terms of flavors and textures? Will the rapini work well with the ravioli and the brown butter, or should I go with a different sauce?

I would love other ideas for the menu, as well, and am totally open to suggestions -- particularly around the main course.

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  1. Doesn't appear to be many gaps in your menu, dear....you've a very nice menu planned. Were I making butternut squash ravioli, I think I'd make a sauce with a mix of butter and evoo, some fresh sage, a little fresh marjoram, and yes, the pine nuts would work well, too. You could even make a separate sauce for the meat-eaters by adding a little pancetta to the same sauce mix. Serve with parmesan cheese.

    Enjoy your dinner...sounds lovely.

    1. Your dinner does sound quite delicious. To complement the gougeres for the vegetarians, I'd suggest the same savory flavorings complementing sliced zucchini and one minced hot pepper, minus seeds and core.

      The main course sounds very nice - but I do notice everything else is very creamy/buttery/cheesy (not that that's a bad thing) and you might want something with a "sharper," less unctuous taste for contrast, particularly since you're ending with mousse. Perhaps a tagliatelle or other long pasta tossed with roasted vegetables - red and yellow peppers, sliced, shiitake and/or crimini mushrooms, zucchini, sweet onion, garlic, and a few kalamata olives and capers and chopped Italian parsley and fresh basil mixed through toward the end. The rapini would be very nice on the side of this.

      1 Reply
      1. re: rcallner

        The ravioli sound brilliant, and the bitter greens will cut nicely through the cream. Or, you could do the ravioli with the butter/sage sauce suggested above, and have the rapini with pine nuts as an accompaniment.

        I would try to include some sort of pulse in the menu for protein. For example, white navy beans, cooked in the same manner as the shrimp, would be a great vegetarian version of the first course.

        Instead of the peaches in the cheese pastry, I would just mix sliced pears or apples in with the greens. More seasonal, refreshingly crunchy, great with brie, and less work.

      2. Hi TorontoJ! You have made a great start, and I am going to copy some of your ideas in the future. But one thing I do when I have my (married) two good friends over is try my very best to adapt the entree to what I am serving her husband and myself. I understand it makes her feel more comfortable and not like such a "to-do" is being made over her.

        For example, last weekend, I had NY strips for the entree meat, and then grilled portabellas for her (nice "steaky"-type substitute). The time before that, I made Coq au Vin and took out all the non-chicken touched ingredients/sauce/broth and had marinated/cooked tofu in the place of the chicken.

        I hope this helps. I can't wait to read this thread. I always want to come up with good ideas for veggie entrees for my friend.

        1. Your menu sounds wonderful. I'm a vegetarian and would love to enjoy a dinner like the one you have planned.

          For the apps, you could cook sliced mushrooms with the same butter/white wine/garlic/shallot combination. I often make camarones al ajillo for my husband and hongos al ajillo for myself.

          For the salad course, why don't you include a piece of prosciutto in the puff pastry? (if that would go well with peaches; it's been so long I forget the flavor of prosciutto)

          1. I was thinking along the same lines for the app as an above poster.. perhaps stuffed mushrooms. Another idea would be marinated, skewered tomatoes and mozzarella balls with basil. Or, endive leaves stuffed w/ herbed cheese.

            For the main, you could add a side of brussel sprouts sauteed with chopped onions, a little wine, and seasonings. If you don't do mushrooms as an app, perhaps some caramelized onions and wild mushrooms stirfried, depending upon your recipe for your sauce for the ravioli, sometimes parsley and a little bit of crushed walnuts and wine... but if your ravioli has a white wine butter sage sauce, you don't want competitive flavors. Or, if you don't do a mozzarella/tomato app, try grilled or broiled seasoned tomatoes as a side... I think their juiciness would be a nice contrast to the ravioli.

            For dessert, I think a tiramisu might be nice as well, or perhaps a flourless chocolate cake. For some reason after the texture of ravioli and it's filling, I don't know that I'd want a similar texture in dessert, but I may be of the minority here. I could easily see a little hazelnut or mocha gelato w/ biscotti as well.