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Vegetarian entree ideas for formal wedding

I am getting married this fall and am working with my caterer to plan a formal sit down meal for 130 people. My fiance and I are vegetarians. We will be having vegetarian and fish mains. We are having a hard time coming up with a GREAT vegetarian main. Our caterer, while extremely creative when it came to the apps, the salad and the fish, has not suggested anything for the vegetarian option that makes me very excited. However, the caterer is one of the best in the city where I am getting married, and I am confident that they can execute almost anything (that can be made in quantity, etc).

Just wondering if anyone has any great ideas... So far, I have just been collecting ideas from my favorite vegetarian restaurants (Greens in San Francisco, Candle 79 in NYC). We do not want to serve a pasta dish. Any ideas or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks!

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  1. Have you been to 101 cookbooks? http://www.101cookbooks.com/index.html It is a healthy veg site and the recipes are very good.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Sal Vanilla

      "Lasagna" made with sliced eggplant rather than pasta.

      Wild mushroom, asparagus, and/or onion polenta.

      Oshizushi, or pressed sushi, can be made in advance and kept room temperature depending on the ingredients. It can be beautiful and a nice plate sauce really sets it off. It can be sliced any way that is chosen to give it more of an entree appearance.

    2. When and where are you having the wedding? I think with more creative (e.g. non-pasta) dishes you have to consider what is going to be in season and relatively local at the time of the wedding since you could end up with something bland and flavorless otherwise. I'd also recommend staying away from tofu since I know a lot of people who don't really care for it and/or need to avoid soy products.

      1 Reply
      1. re: queencru

        Thanks for the replies so far. The wedding is in September in DC. We are trying to keep everything local and in season, so thanks for bring up that point. I know some people do not like tofu, but I am wondering if it would be ok to serve it within a dish (as opposed to the centerpiece).

      2. Hi,

        I'll offer a suggestion for mushroom and farro pie (individual small ones). You can find a recipe on www.gourmet.com. My wife and I made it for Thanksgiving last year and it was awesome, not to mention filling and elegant.

        I dig what you're doing...

        Good luck,

        1. I would have to say, to be on the safe side, do not use tofu or any soy based product at all. Two years ago, my cousin had a vegetarian wedding, and for reasons that are still unclear to me, there was some major backlash from some of the more conservative attendees of the wedding. One of the problems they cited was "weird ingredients", despite the fact that there were none. The mere existence of tofu might have put them over the edge.

          1 Reply
          1. re: hilltowner

            I'd have to agree, especially since the other choice is fish and there are so many non-seafood people out there. It should probably be something fairly mainstream that people who don't like fish will enjoy.

          2. Eggplant rollatini with broccolirabe (spelling??)

            Spaghetti squash in a roasted portabello

            A vegetable rissoto

            Asparagus and fontina crepes...or some other crepe

            2 Replies
              1. re: CoryKatherine

                Risotto is a poor choice for a catered event, where servings will not be finished individually at the last moment.

            1. When you write "Vegetarian" are you Vegan or Ovolactovegetarian? Does this affect your choices for your guests?
              What do you like? You specify "no pasta" but don't say what you'd rather serve.

              Guests? How many of them are also vegetarian? The menu selection is very different if your guests are mainly meat-eaters than if they're adventurous vegetarians.

              As a former caterer, it is most helpful to get a very complete picture (read: honest) of the hosts' wishes as well as an overall picture of their guests.
              EX: at a formal christening party we catered, the mother and MIL forgot to mention that many of the invited guests were football teammates of the baby's father and expected to chow down at the reception. Our tea sandwiches and dainty finger food did not cut it for this group. We could have made other suggestions, but with incomplete information, did not do the best job possible.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Sherri

                We are vegetarians, who eat dairy. We do not eat meat for environmental and ethical reasons. It is really important to us that our wedding is in line with our beliefs. My parents were uncomfortable with a 100% veg meal, so agreed to serve a local, sustainable fish. (As a side note - it is quite common for there to be a fish and a veg option at Jewish weddings. I am pretty sure any guest who does not know us well will assume the meal is Kosher-style).

                Some of our guests are vegetarian, but the majority are now. However, almost everyone could be classified as sophisticated eaters. Since we love to cook and go out to eat, most of our friends have that in common. I am not worried about anyone thinking the food is to gourmet, or that tofu is weird.

              2. Morrell mushrooms are in, Morrell Rissotto!

                1. maybe look to foods that are vegetarian to begin with, curries etc.

                  I recently had a wonderful vegetarian main at a restaurant, where it was risotto cakes, with roasted vegetables and a rose sauce. It was divine.

                  As opposed to risotto having to be finished very close to serving, this could be a make ahead option (as long as you eat dairy)

                  1. Congratulations! I know you said no pasta but a friend once made a delicious, light goat cheese lasagna with some vegetable (red peppers, roasted tomato?) & same friend has made delicious veg. enchiladas too (though I'm not suggesting latter for wedding).

                    How about trying Greek (think veg. moussaka), Middle Eastern, or contemporary Indian restaurants for inspiration? For example, I've enjoyed goat cheese nan & awesome baked/roasted cauliflower in upscale Indian restaurants in Silicon Valley. Don't know why people automatically presume tofu when they think of vegetarian. LOL.

                    1. A Portobello Stack is one of my most elegant and popular vegetarian entrees. It required a good amount of prep, but heating and serving it is a snap (it can even be held at temperature for a little while, so it's a great option for catering larger sitdown events). It looks great on the plate and it's hearty enough to satisfy most meat-eaters.

                      The layers can vary, but I start with a 3-1/2 to 4-inch portobello mushroom which I smoke with applewood chips (or marinate and grill). Turn that gill-side up, spread with a little bit of herbed goat cheese, and top with a slice of eggplant that's been breaded with panko and fried. Top that with a tomato concasse, then some sauteed spinach, roasted yellow pepper, asparagus tips, etc. Somewhere in the middle or on top, put some fresh mozzarella cheese. To serve, bake until the cheese melts and serve in a puddle of tomato-basil sauce, madeira mushroom sauce or whatever vegetarian sauce floats your boat.

                      When choosing which layers to use, I pay attention to differences in color and texture. Serve with something whole-grainy (I've done a wheatberry or barley risotto that non-vegetarians seem to love, and which also holds up for large crowds).

                      1. Those suggesting risotto have no idea of what it would take to make more than 4 or 5 risotto at a time! It's just not a 'make in quantity' dish.

                        My 'go to' vegetarian dish is similar to the Portobellow Stack Mentioned above. I grill two mushrooms and place vegetable "things" in between them (one gills up the other gills down like burger buns). What kind of "things" depends on the event. I've done a Southwestern Succotash with black beans and hominy and peppers, Asian style stir fry, eggplant parmesan, etc. For your fall event in DC I might suggest shredded winter squash or yams sauteed with diced apples & pears in a bit of orange juice, spiced with cinnamon, cloves and alspice.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: KiltedCook

                          I was chef for many years, including a couple of vegetarian and macrobiotic places. We typically made risottos for about ten orders, more for weekends, keeping the topping separate (usually wild mushrooms). It takes a gentle hand. nyclibrarian, if interested, could ask the caterer's opinion.

                          Oshizushi, BTW, can be really quite elegant.

                        2. As a lifelong veggie, I suggest staying away from anything with mushroom or eggplant. Their textures are way too similar to meat for many vegetarians.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: invinotheresverde

                            Huh ? That kind of a weird reasoning! I never confused the texture of eggplants (or mushrooms) to any meat I ever ate.

                            1. re: Maximilien

                              I agree... most vegetarians aren't vegetarians because they don't like the texture of meat. In fact I think a lot of them try to duplicate the texture of meat (with veggie burgers, etc). I was going to ask if there were any veggies out there who actually avoided vegetables that reminded them of meat??

                              1. re: CoryKatherine

                                I've never met a vegetarian that confused eggplant or mushrooms with meat. Sure they probably exist, but...

                                Some vegetarians miss meat's taste, texture and it's ease of preparation - hence the duplicates.(A company - Match- here in St. Louis makes some really good ones, and several moderate/high end restaurants use them. http://www.matchmeats.com/


                                I think the "meaty" label is used more by non-vegetarians trying to describe the texture, although it's often used by vegetarians..

                                1. re: CoryKatherine

                                  Me, my sister, my husband, my mother, my cousin, my uncle...

                                2. re: Maximilien

                                  Portobellos, texturewise, are almost exactly like meat. Same with eggplant when it's rubbery.

                                  I have lots of veggie friends who dislike eggplant/mushrooms for that reason.

                                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                                    Have they tried Indian/Mid Eastern food? I love, love eggplant. Definitely not "meaty" :)

                                    1. re: ceekskat

                                      Of course. It's only when eggplant is rubbery that it's meat-like. Ugh, gross.

                              2. Congratulations on the upcoming wedding! My husband and I are vegetarian. When dining out, we really love it when the only veggie option on a menu does not end up being some kind of pasta. The "veggie plate" at a local restaurant surprised us with the careful thought that seemed to have gone into it and the beautiful execution. It consisted of a timbale of spiced/curried quinoa, topped with sauteed greens and served over a wild mushroom ragout (tomato based). The quinoa was likely spiced with garam masala and onions. It's texture was spot on - cooked but crunchy. The greens were silky soft. I wish I remembered what the flavor elements in the ragout were. I am trying to recall this dish from well over a couple of years ago!
                                You may also want to look at cookbooks from your favorite vegetarian chefs. Good luck!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: sweetTooth

                                  this is really off topic, but I was ecstatic when a date took me to a gorgeous restaurant..... with no vegetarian options..... but I asked and they brought out the most delicious "american" vegetarian dish I've ever had..... delicately spiced summer squash, a potato tarte, roasted asparagus with lemon and roasted garlic.... it just goes on and on

                                2. September in DC can be pretty warm, and folks are still enjoying the last of the tomatoes and red peppers. There are some lovely terrines that could be served on a puddle of coulis, either in slices or individual molds. SweetTooth's quinoa timbale sounds delicious, appropriately elegant, and should satisfy all your guests.

                                  1. At the end of summer, you're going to have a wealth of fresh produce available. You could make the most of it with something like Thomas Keller's Confit Byaldi. It was the ratatouille in "Ratatouille"! It's vegan, it tastes great, and it's homey, but can be presented very attractively.


                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: alanbarnes

                                      A belated image of an attractive presentation of an individual portion.

                                    2. There is a very haute cuisine place in our town which is exclusively vegetarian. They are always winning all sorts of awards and constantly named among the top 20 restos, here is their web site, http://neo-vevents.com/, perhaps you can get some inspiration from their menu. The restaurant is Dragonfly Neo-V.

                                      1. I would do a handmade giant ravioli (4-5 to a plate) with a sage-butter sauce. For the ravioli filling, maybe something nutty and cheesy e.g pistachio and goats cheese + fresh herbs? (not sure abt that, just made it up - but you get the idea...

                                        1. Pumpkin and watercress Gnocchi with Purple and Green Basil
                                          (great menu there too


                                          To please both the veggies and the non-fishy meaties, how about a Meatloaf (veggie style of course) such as http://healthycooking.suite101.com/ar... or http://www.tastymeatloafrecipes.com/v... or http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Vegetari...

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Emme

                                            A savory roulade makes an elegant presentation.

                                            Here's a definition: "a SOUFFLÉ-type mixture that's spread on a jelly roll pan, baked until firm but still moist, then spread with a savory or sweet filling and rolled up in jelly-roll fashion. "

                                          2. Best wishes on the upcoming nuptials, but you've got me wondering whether you need to shake your caterer to make sure s/he is awake! There are only about two gazillion possibilities for a vegetarian main course. A few that pop to mind:

                                            Any kind of stuffed vegetables ranging from stuffed peppers, stuffed cabbage, stuffed artichokes, stuffed eggplant, stuffed zucchini, stuffed tomatoes, stuffed onions, and any other veggies that can be hollowed out or that is hollow to begin with. The stuffings can be based on bread (great for artichokes), rice, or bulgur and served with a sauce. I can't think of any of these that aren't drop dead delicious, even for non-vegetarians. Oh and don't forget stuffed baked potatoes or veggie tamales.

                                            Layered vegetarian versions of such things as lasagna, moussaka, or even stacked enchiladas. Every once in a while I make a vegetarian moussaka to go with roast lamb (sorry) using lots of pine nuts and currants in the filling that is very near to a ratatouille, then topped with the standard bechamel sauce made with olive oil instead of butter. Tons of variations on these themes.

                                            Stewed or creamed veggies that can be served atop rice, noodles, toast, inside a hollowed bread, over toast, atop other roast vegetables.

                                            Flour based items topped or filled; of these pancakes, waffles, crepes, ravioli, and pasta shells come to mind. Crepes filled with tender asparagus spears and topped with a rich creamy sauce that may or may not include more veggies in it can be delicious. Lots of things to do with Belgian waffles. I have to toss tempura vegetables in here. I'll take a huge platter of tempura veggies any time the chef knows how to make a really great batter! And don't forget all of the ethnic breads (Indian, Greek, Turkish, French, Italian) that make great mains when stuffed or topped.

                                            Salads... Let me count the ways. No! YOU count them! There are just too many for me.

                                            Should your persuasion of vegetarianism include eggs and cheese, then your options just increased by about a magnitude or two! If you haven't already signed a contract with this caterer, you might do well to talk to a few more. These things should come rolling off any caterer's tongue who is worth his/her salt! And I agree with the no risotto voices. First off, it's a side dish, and then really good risotto cannot be made ahead of time.

                                            1. I appreciate all the feedback!

                                              As someone who is really into food, I thought that menu planning would be fun! In thinking about why this has been so difficult for me, I realize that there are multiple reasons:

                                              1) I have attended many catered events where the vegetarian dish is a sad pasta or vegetable plate. I really want the entree at my wedding to be special. I also want it to be filling. I hate it when I am handed a plate of grilled vegetables (with no protein) and then am hungry an hour later.
                                              2) Many of the go-to vegetarian entrees just don't seem that formal or elegant to me (enchiladas, lasagna, etc). I want something more elegent and creative, rather then comforty classic.
                                              3) The fact that it is a seated, plated meal seems to make this a bit harder. Presentation is going to be extremely important.

                                              Thanks for all of the wonderful suggestions. I am especially interested in harken banks, alanbarnes and sweetTooth's suggestions. Going to report back to the caterer.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: nyclibrarian

                                                Yay! I am happy to have been of some help. Your point about presentation reminds me of a Thanksgiving issue of Vegetarian Times. It had a beautiful entree featured on the cover. I never made it, so have no idea about how it tasted. But, it was gorgeous to look at - an individual puff pastry horn of plenty, stuffed with a lovely roasted dice of vegetables. No recognizable protein that I can remember, but I am sure you could add a beautiful bean (not cooked to falling apart), or even a cubed marinated/baked tofu, or use a veg and dried fruit studded quinoa salad instead of the roasted veggies.

                                                Edit: Found the Veg Times recipe! Here you go:

                                                P.S. Hmm I think it's going to have to be quinoa for dinner tonight! ;-)

                                                1. re: nyclibrarian

                                                  I posted a picture above of an individually-plated Confit Byaldi that shows how attractively it can be plated with careful assembly. If you want it to be more protein-intensive, though, you'd have to add something like lentlls or a white bean puree, which would raise a new set of presentation challenges.

                                                  For something that's heartier and doesn't require a Keller-level staff to present beautifully, RosemaryHoney's suggestion sounds pretty amazing.

                                                  1. re: nyclibrarian

                                                    Hello! I found your question about vegetarian wedding entrees while I was doing a search for a vegetarian entree for my own upcoming wedding. We had the tasting at our venue last night and I was terribly disappointed with the vegetarian option. I am a vegetarian as are many of my friends and family members, and we are all foodies as well. So it's important to me that it's good. I had to laugh at your "no pasta" comment because that's exactly the same stipulation that I have. I'm so sick of pasta as the only option on the menu for vegetarians. I was just wondering what you ended up serving and how it went over?

                                                  2. I'm a little late to the discussion, but our wedding had a vegetarian main that got rave reviews and looked really elegant on the plate. It was a parmesan polenta cake served in a red pepper coulis with mushroom-thyme ragout served over the top. The cakes remained warm on the inside and crispy on the outside, and the flavors were just right. I imagine this idea could be easily adapted for local produce, as well.

                                                    1. I've done a sort of "salmon" en croute dish, but without the salmon, if you can imagine such a thing. Basically it's grilled or sauteed mushroom (portobellos are good here), layered with sauteed spinach (garlic?), onion, goat cheese (if you're doing cheese), and whatever else is good and in season (zucchini and/or roasted red pepper are nice). I've also done it with some quinoa pilaf inside (or rice would work too). Wrap in puff pastry, brush with beaten egg and bake until puffed and brown. It's delicious, beautiful and very easy to serve. It can be accompanied by any of the sides that are going with the rest of the dishes, so doesn't require a whole re-jigging of the dinner plate.

                                                      1. I see you have some follow up comments that you were taking to the caterer, but I thought I might add perhaps think about a tamales with vegetable filing? You might be able to make it look rather nice if partially unwrapped. I was at a restaurant in Charlottesvile, Va that has that as one of their main vegetarian dishes, with a little bit of black beans and avacado salad. It really looked pretty on the plate the way they did it. I imagine tamales would hold well for a reception, as well.

                                                        Good luck! Report back on how it went.

                                                          1. Have your caterer look at some of the recipes of the restaurant L'Arpège in Paris, 3 stars Michelin and mostly vegetarian


                                                            1. I saw beautiful globe shaped zucchini at the Wed farmers market. They would be perfect for stuffing with veggie risotto, with the little lids on.

                                                              1. We had a low-key buffet-style vegan,gluten-free wedding in Seattle in Sept. If I try to list the dishes served I'm sure I'll forget something so will have to search for the list. We used a vegetarian caterer and used a mostly vegan, gf bakery so that made it easier.

                                                                1. I'm the banquet chef at one of DC's nicest hotels. Can I ask where the big day is taking place? We might just cross paths in the near future. Either way, I'd still like to help.
                                                                  We do many weddings for the 100-200 person range. Some things that we do:
                                                                  - Coconut rice with curried vegetables and terriyaki tofu (this is also vegan)
                                                                  - Vegetable lasagna with Sheep's milk feta and roasted tomato sauce (served in individual dishes, placed on a larger plate with a little mache salad and some wild mushrooms)
                                                                  - Grilled vegetables in phyllo with medditerranean cous cous and aged balsamic
                                                                  - Fried polenta cakes with grilled vegetables and a roasted red pepper sauce

                                                                  There are some others, but I like these the best. One thing that I can tell you for sure, is that you can't please everyone. People will tell you to stay away from tofu, mushrooms, eggplant, pasta, etc... But come on, you should just pick something that will make you happy, it is your day. I can also tell you that a risotto can definitely be done for a crowd, we do it well for a hundred plus people all of the time, so if your caterer is comfortable with it, it shouldn't be a problem. The only thing about something like that is to try and stay on schedule with your dinner. If you tell the caterer or whoever, that dinner is at 8, if you are serving fish and risotto, it is in your best interest to try and stay on track for 8 o'clock. If you decide to delay until 8:30 at the last minute, your fish is already cooked and becoming less delicious with every minute that passes. I hope I was of some help, maybe we will run into each other.