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Cooking for the in-laws--need help

Hi everyone,

Hoping you can give me some good ideas here. I need to make a vegetarian meal Friday night for my mother and father in law. FIL does not like squash, and both of them are rather health-conscious. Any ideas? I like to make fancy stuff when we have them over because they appreciate that sort of thing.

I wanted to make ratatouille, but then remember FIL's squash aversion.

I thought about homemade ravioli, and that's still not out of the question, but I wanted some other ideas.

Any thoughts?

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  1. Oh, and another thing--I want to make some kind of fabulous ice cream for dessert. FIL loves ice cream. Nothing weird--he doesn't like weird--just fabulous.

    1. Hors d'oeuvres: Cilantro corncakes with chipotle-yogurt sauce; sauteed morels on crostini with goat cheese
      Main: Vegetable paella
      Sides: Asparagus flan; stuffed tomatoes with sherry vinegared rice
      Dessert: Dulce de leche ice cream

      If you want to take a little easier on yourself, I might sub roasted elotes for the corncakes and serve a simple torta of either potatoes, cheese or even leftover pasta drizzled with excellent olive oil and peppadews instead of the stuffed tomatoes. Typically I find pasta a rather pedestrian main.

      2 Replies
      1. re: JungMann

        This is great! Do you have a recipe for the cilantro corncakes, or should I just find a good corncake recipe and include cilantro?

        1. re: IndyGirl

          Take a basic corn cake recipe, though make sure you leave in some whole kernels for textural variety, and add some diced red onion, perhaps a little jalapeno or diced red bell, cayenne, ancho (or aleppo) powder and chopped cilantro. The cilantro flavor will weaken with heat, so garnish with extra cilantro punctuate the flavor. I like heat, so I would top with the chipotle sauce, but an avocado cream would be lovely as well.

      2. Stuff tomatoes with spinach,onions, bread crumbs, mushrooms, a little cheese, and herbs of choice, bake.
        Stuff portebellos with chopped veggies, herbs, and some cheese, bakd.
        Make a pasta primavera.
        Mushroom pate, fritta, quiche
        Grill portebellos like a steak and put a mango salsa over them.
        Slice cauliflower into "steaks" rub with herbs and olive oil and roast.
        Grill fruit kebabs and veggie kebabs.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Janet

          I'm slowly becoming a vegetarian and I am almost always stumped for tasty ideas. Thanks.

        2. Mushroom ragout over polenta (either soft or cutouts fried a bit)

          Vegetarian tempura (too oily?)

          A cold plate with a beefsteak tomato stuffed with orzo salad, deviled eggs with wasabi, watermelon chunks and feta wrapped up in proscuitto on a toothpick, a baby fricco folded like a taco shell and filled with guacamole

          3 Replies
          1. re: nemo

            I am picturing soy-based "proscuitto" and it is not pretty ;)

            1. re: julesrules

              Hahaha! The other ideas were good, though :)

              1. re: julesrules

                OMG did I really say that! I just saw a picture of that on another site and the image was in my brain.

            2. OK. So far, I am definitely making the following:

              Cilantro corn cakes with chipotle cream sauce (or some variation on that--I'll make something up that day)
              (they are light eaters, so only one per person)

              maybe a second SMALL light appetizer--they are light eaters in general

              Vegetable paella (Mark Bittman, maybe? He has a mushroom one that looks good)--does anyone have a tried and true vegetarian paella recipe?

              maybe a side of roasted/broiled tomatoes stuffed with couscous, green onions, feta? or chives instead of green onions--I have fresh ones in my garden..

              Dulce de leche ice cream

              How does all of this sound to you guys?

              10 Replies
              1. re: IndyGirl

                That sounds good, but a little starch-heavy (corn, rice, cous cous). For the side dish with the paella, what about somthing a little lighter -- sauteed vegetables, a salad?

                  1. re: IndyGirl

                    instead of the tomatoes stuffed with couscous, what if I just broiled/roasted baby tomatoes with a little feta sprinkled on top?

                    What about roasted asparagus? obviously not that interesting, but good :)

                    I like the idea of a salad, too---a little composed one, maybe.

                1. re: IndyGirl

                  Sounds perfect. What time should we be there?


                  1. re: IndyGirl

                    The menu sounds good, if you make the paella, would you please post. TIA.

                    1. re: paprkutr

                      It will be this one, unless I screw it up :)

                      Tomato paella


                      1. re: IndyGirl

                        I am characteristically wary of most Bittman recipes, but that does look good. Especially with the addition of booze! My only difference, though, is I like the added crunch of peppers or haricots verts. If you have some bells left over from the corncakes, you might consider throwing them into the paella as well. Mushrooms also do well in the paella.

                        1. re: JungMann

                          Reports online seem to be resoundingly positive, so I guess I feel safe trying it. I've never made paella--not proper paella, so I plan tohave everything prepped by about noon on Friday so I can spend the afternoon being very careful not to mess anything up in that paella.

                          Your note on texture is well taken. I'll think about that some.

                          1. re: IndyGirl

                            I couldn't understand why I couldn't recreate my grandmother's paella until I learned the secret to perfect paella: don't touch it! You will be tempted to stir it, but resist and you will end up with toothsome rice and a crusty soccarat.

                    2. re: IndyGirl

                      Do you know for sure that they like cilantro -- a lot of people don't.

                    3. Here's a link to a NY Times recipe I tried last week, Baked Stuffed Tomatoes with Goat Cheese Fondue - GREAT response and very easy.


                      That's pretty long, isn't it. If it doesn't work I can reply again with the recipe/

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: ajcraig

                        I just can't access it! I'm not a member.

                        1. re: IndyGirl

                          No problemo!

                          Baked Stuffed Tomatoes With Goat Cheese Fondue
                          Time: 20 minutes
                          2 to 3 large firm tomatoes, or 4 to 6 small firm ones
                          Kosher salt
                          3 tablespoons mascarpone
                          3 tablespoons goat cheese, at room temperature
                          1 tablespoon unsalted butter
                          1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
                          2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
                          2 anchovies, finely chopped
                          1/4 cup panko or other coarse bread crumbs
                          Freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
                          1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. If necessary, slice a very thin layer off bottoms of tomatoes so they will stand upright. Core tomatoes, and carve them out, stopping about about 3/4 inch from bottom and sides. (Do not remove too much, or tomato will collapse when baked.) Season inside of each tomato with salt. In a small bowl, stir together mascarpone and goat cheese.
                          2. To prepare topping, melt butter with oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and anchovies, and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Stir in bread crumbs, and sauté 2 minutes more. Season with pepper.
                          3. Fill each hollow with mascarpone mixture. Top generously with bread crumbs. Transfer tomatoes to a baking sheet, and bake until they are slightly blistered and the tops are golden, about 10 minutes.
                          Yield: 2 to 3 servings.

                          I know it says 2-3 servings, but if they are light eaters then you could use 4-6 smaller tomatoes. And don't leave out the anchovies - they make the whole thing, not fishy at all. You could probably make the filling ahead of time as well.

                          I just removed the juice, pulp and seeds from tomatoes, didn't "carve them " and not sure how that would be done in the first place.

                          Mine did get a bit soft and squshy, so be careful when transfering to plates. I also think they took longer than 10 min, but that may be my oven.


                      2. OK. Here's my final version, pending commentary of chowhounders!

                        ⎯ HORS D'OEUVRES ⎯
                        Cilantro corncakes with chipotle-yogurt sauce
                        Sauteed morels on crostini with goat cheese

                        Homemade cheddar-parmesan crackers? (with apple butter?) (not sure about this one, but I really want to try this recipe: http://www.leitesculinaria.com/recipe...


                        ⎯ MAIN ⎯
                        Tomato paella
(http://wednesdaychef.typepad.com/the_...; also see MB's video here: http://video.on.nytimes.com/?fr_story...


                        ⎯ SIDES ⎯
                        Stuffed artichokes (from alice waters/Chez panisse)

                        ⎯ DESSERT ⎯
                        Dulce de leche ice cream

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: IndyGirl

                          Sounds like a great dinner party! The cheddar-parmesan crackers sound like an added bonus and would be a great place for you to throw in some of your garden-fresh chives.

                          Your parents-in-law must love you tons if you're putting in as much work as this for a Friday dinner! I hope you don't plan to add to your work by making the dulce de leche from scratch!

                          1. re: JungMann

                            Oh, I plan to make it myself. I'm not going to all this work to have the central ingredient of my homemade dessert be storebought! :) I've seen the stuff on CH and it looks pretty simple. I will probably do it on the stovetop--I don't trust myself not to explode cans of sweetened condensed milk when I've got all these other projects going on.

                            1. re: IndyGirl

                              The process is indeed pretty simple, but it requires about 2 hours of constant stirring. You don't want it to scorch while you're attending to one of your other tasty projects! I understand your tenacity, though. I haven't tried the condensed milk method (for fear of shrapnel) and suffer thru the scratch method by setting a TV in viewing range. Doing that and watching "Semi-Homemade" is the height of irony.

                              1. re: JungMann

                                *chortles* Indeed, it is the very definition of irony!

                                I've got a plan, of which components I will prep or fully make today. The cracker dough and dulce de leche will be made today, as will the chipotle-yogurt sauce. The artichokes will also be prepped today, as will the corn cake batter. I have to be super detailed and picky when I do this kind of thing or I'm frazzled and sorry later when something burns...

                                1. re: IndyGirl

                                  You might as well make the crostini today, as well. It'll be one less thing to slide into the oven tomorrow.

                                  1. re: JungMann

                                    How do you store crostini? I never feel like they taste as good the next day. Do you just put it in a covered container on the counter?

                                2. re: JungMann

                                  I know I will be tempted to stir it...I wish I could make a practice batch tonight, but we'd never eat it all and I don't want to have two full batches of paella on hand. So I guess I will take my chances on Friday! I've done a lot of reading already, so I hope that gives me some modicum of instinct.

                                  1. re: IndyGirl

                                    From my own learning experiences, I will just advise not to go over on the liquid. Trust the recipe, don't fiddle with it and you should be fine.

                                    As for crostini, I was under the impression that they are often made with stale bread, which is why they are heavily seasoned. When I make them before parties, I just leave them in the oven overnight.

                                    1. re: JungMann

                                      OK--great. thank you! I will just leave it in the oven overnight then. I don't actually have any stale baguette or anything, so I'll just bake them tonight so they actually WILL be stale!

                          2. One suggestion: Vodka helps a lot:)

                            Are they vegetarians, or is that your idea? Do they eat seafood or fish? You can make things without squash that have substance, including risottos, things with Portabello mushrooms, etc. But I need to know the answer to my two questions before I can be remotely helpful.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: RGC1982

                              They are both mostly vegetarian and prefer to eat vegetarian fare. I am completely vegetarian. I don't have a problem cooking meat or fish, but since I don't EAT meat or fish, I don't have the same quality-control experience with those things that I do with things that are vegetarian.

                              I will have lots of red wine. :)

                              1. re: IndyGirl

                                OOPS! Forgot about the vegetarian thing, sorry. In that case, skip the anchovies. They'll never know the difference. :}

                                1. re: ajcraig

                                  I am a very loose vegetarian. I'm really a pesce-lacto-ovotarian. I don't eat most fish but I have to admit that I could never give up the flavor of anchovies. NEVER.

                            2. Just curious. What is it about squash that he doesn't like? The flavor? The texture? Both? If it's the texture of cooked squash, perhaps you can surprise him with something like a pureed squash soup. My mother (who is not a vegetarian) won over her new in-laws by serving them a dinner of Eggplant Parmesan. They were initially appalled at the idea of a meal without meat. But sure enough, they were soon asking for seconds, and they still mention it all these [cough, cough] years later. I guess my point is it might be fun to try to help him past his food aversion if there's a way to do it.

                              And one more suggestion. While this might not count as the most health-conscious dining, ya gotta love a good cheese fondue. Be sure to include plenty of things like apple slices for dipping, not just hunks of bread.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: weem

                                He gets ideas in his head about what he does and doesn't like...usually, a good preparation will win him over. I'm just not in the mood to take the chance for tomorrow night's meal. He is not above making comments if he doesn't like something, and I'm putting in a lot of work and want to avoid any potential weirdness. Strangely enough, he is quite an adventurous eater. I think the squash thing is a holdover from childhood. (He also hates lima beans...LOL)

                              2. In case anyone cares, I now have the dulce de leche made, as well as the chipotle yogurt sauce. My wrist is exhausted from that dulce de leche stirring!

                                Next are the artichokes...

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: IndyGirl

                                  You go girl! For future reference, try using your elbow and shoulder more when stirring and especially when whipping with a whisk. Work those biceps and triceps! It'll make you feel buff AND virtuous...at least from one side :)

                                2. I just wanted to update this post and thank EVERYONE for their excellent advice. The food went over spectacularly, and I am right now enjoying leftover tomato paella that turned out beautifully.

                                  I'm attaching pictures of a few things--the corn cakes, artichokes and ice cream did not get photographed, but I did get the tomato paella, the homemade cheese crackers and he morels on crostini. I'm not much of a photographer--forgive me!