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Need Vegetarian App Ideas

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Hi fellow ChowHounds. I am throwing a cocktail party for my parents, to celebrate their 75th birthdays this summer. I have a list of appetizers that I plan on making, but feel I need a few more ideas, especially vegetarian, not my strong suit! It will be for around 20-25 people.

Part of the problem is that I'm planning the party from LA and it will be in Florida, in early August. So, I am trying to take advantage of the fresh seafood & produce of that region, not my own. I will be traveling there in two weeks, so I'd like to have most of my menu set by then, and will then have to shop & search for most of the ingredients. My parents live on the Atlantic side, but don't have as many gourmet shops and abundant ethnic ingredients as we do here in Southern California. So some ingredients, Asian, especially may be hard to find.

Here's what I have so far, and it's still preliminary:

Specialty cocktail

Chilled soup shooters: either Cream of Asparagus w/smoked oyster or Spicy avocado-Cucumber soup

Stationary:
Curried Cashews, or Rosemary Almonds, Warmed Green olives
Tropical Black Bean Salsa with chips
Foie Gras Pate on Brioche w/fig jam
Smoked salmon toasts or a cocktail shrimp plate

Passed:
White Bean & roasted Eggplant crostini w/smoked paprika oil
Wasabi-lime Crab in Cucumber cups
Beef filet on mini yorkshire puddings w/Horseradish cream
Mini cubano paninnis on rye bread
Warm New Potatoes with melted brie & baby Arugula

Other veggie apps I've thought of, but don't know if they will go:
Marinated fennel salad - sounds a bit like a cole slaw, and was used to top crabcakes
Tomato Tea Sandwiches
Tomato salad with Cheese crisps
Arugula Salad w/ or w/out Pancetta & hard boiled eggs - this looks very interesting, you make a parmesan frico (cheese crisp) let it harden while curled over a spoon handle, then fill the cup with an arugula salad, crisped pancetta & a quartered hard boiled egg. It's one bite and looks great.

Obviously I know there's some overlap of ingredients. I just want to have a few recipes on the side, in case I can't find a particular ingredient, like arugula, for instance.

I appreciate any and all thoughts & suggestions, I have already gotten so many ideas from researching this site for a while now. Just thought I'd give it one more shot before I left for the East Coast. Thanks so much in advance!!

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  1. You don't say where your parents are in Florida, but a really good grocery chain there is Publix. They have an ethnic aisle (skews Latin, but will have Asian), lots of organic, great, cheap store brand stuff and great produce. They're somewhere between a Whole Foods and a Trader Joe's. I doubt you'll have much trouble finding ethnic shops, either, unless your parents are in a really tiny community.

    As for apps, I love grain salads in the summer (couscous, quinoa, bulgur), and if you leave out the typical feta cubes, it could even be vegan. Load it up with veggies, herbs (mint is a nice surprise) and a great fresh dressing. Put a scoop in a leaf of some sort or hollowed out veggies. Individually stuffed cherry tomatoes with some sort of avocado filling piped in is colorful and fun. Veggie antipasto - mushrooms, baby artichokes, olives, mozzarella balls. A really popular vegan app in Philly right now is green bean "french fries".

    Good luck!

    5 Replies
    1. re: LisaPA

      Thanks, LisaPA, they do have a Publix right by them. Although I am used to hearing my mom rant and rave about what they usually don't have, I will certainly scour their ethnic aisle. And yes, they are in a rather small barrier island community. But we also have a Sam's club to visit.

      Thanks for the grain salad in lettuce cups idea. That one may work very well, and it's a bonus that it is make ahead & very little prep.

      1. re: Phurstluv

        Just had a fantastic little app last night you might like. It was grilled apricot halves, chilled and stuffed with an herbed goat cheese and a little drizzle of what may have been balsamic or pomegranate. Really delicious and refereshing.

        1. re: LisaPA

          Oh yes, I've made grilled apricots before wrapped in serrano ham. And stuffed ones with an herbed cheese on top, some honey & chopped pistachios. Both good, but figured apricots won't be in season or easy to find in FLA in August. And just a touch sweet for this menu, but maybe I can do something like that for the dessert tray, with plump, dried ones, so it won't be all storebought.

          Thanks LisaPA!

          1. re: Phurstluv

            Maybe you could use plums or small nectarines instead? Or those donut peaches - put the cheese in the "donut" dimple. :)

            1. re: LisaPA

              Good point, I will see what fruit is available at the FM when we get there. Thanks.

    2. I usually plan the foundation of an appetizer in advance--wonton wrappers baked in mini muffin tins, corn tortillas softened in hot oil and baked in regular muffin tins, endive leaves, prepared pizza crust.--in advance and then improvise a bit on the fillings based on what's available at the farmer's markets and the pantry. At my last party I made spicy potato pea samosa filling and folded it into quartered egg roll wrappers and baked in a mini muffin tin. I brushed 'em with a bit of olive oil with some tumeric blended in. Very pretty result. Based on quite a bit of experience, I'd planned to serve about 50 people but they were complete goners before 2/3 of the guests even arrived.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Layne Murphy

        Thanks, Layne, I'm prepping for a few days ahead, while the DH & kids are off sightseeing. So I'm with you on that score. And we will be scouring the closest farmers markets we can find.

        I really like the idea of the wonton wrappers, which I believe my mom can find at her store. I would love to have the spicy potato pea samosa recipe, or quantities if you have them, thanks again.

        1. re: Phurstluv

          I am lousy about measuring. I took a bunch of very coursely mashed potatoes and mixed with onions sauteed with thinly sliced Thai chiles which happened to be on hand. Added good curry powder and tumeric. I didn't cook frozen peas and added them to the mixture after keeping out of freezer for about 5 minutes so they stayed green. It's sort of when it looks and tastes right, it is. Too lazy to fold like real samosas I just put them into tiny bundles, and twisted the corners, ala beggars purse, with damp fingers. I popped them twist side DOWN into well greased mini muffin tins, brushed with olive oil/tumeric and baked 375 for about 18 minutes.

          1. re: Layne Murphy

            Great, thanks so much. These sound delicious and like they may work just fine.

          2. re: Phurstluv

            If you are looking for a recipe to give proportions for a potatoe/pea filling, you might want to use the attached recipe from Epicurious as a base: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...
            I've made the filling (to accompany the dosas in the recipe), but omitted the coconut, and substituted ground cumin for the cumin seeds. Was very tasty and should work as a filling for the app described by Layne.

            1. re: masha

              Thanks, masha, appreciate it.

        2. How about a slice of toasted french breach rubbed with garlic then topped with fresh mozzeralla , sliced or diced tomatoe with fresh basil drizzled with olive oil.

          I you have vegans, I just tried a dip from tastespotting.com where they make dips out of nuts. Soak almonds overnight with water above the nuts for 24 hours. Strain and keep the water, and put the nuts in a food processor or blender with some of the water, and add spices veggies, etc. lIke a onion dip,, or spinach with something else, roasted garlic, etc. It was good everyone like it.

          1 Reply
          1. re: paprkutr

            Thanks for the idea. I have a veg crostini on the menu already. And thankfully, I won't have to worry about cooking for vegans. These are all retired folk & locals in FLA.

          2. one of the most popular items I make when I entertain is crostini topped with goat cheese (I spread it) and beets. I steam the beets, cool them, slice them in thin circles, and to the crostini. a LITTLE salt and pepper....yum. Simple and pretty, too, especially if you can find different colored beets.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Jeserf

              Nice. I'll keep it in mind, esp. if I find baby beets at any of the farmer's markets.

              1. re: Jeserf

                I just did crostini with goat cheese and a fig jam that was very good, easy throw together too.

                1. re: lexpatti

                  Great. I'll keep that one in mind too, thanks.

              2. I know you have the 2 tomato options listed, but an easy and very popular one is caprese on a stick. I use a marinated mozzarella ball, piece of basil and a piece of sun-dried tomato on a decorative toothpick. Or you can use 1/2 of a cherry tomato instead of sun-dried. I like to use the marinated mozzarella and sun-dried tomatoes in oil because then it has flavor and doesn't need any dressing or balsamic vinegar. This can be prepared in advance too.

                7 Replies
                1. re: valerie

                  Yes, I've done those too. We're just trying to find something to do with tomatoes, they should be really good in FLA by the time I get there. But Mom says they cannot find heirlooms anywhere, sigh.

                  Might be hard to find the bocconcini also, but I will keep it in mind. Thanks!

                  1. re: Phurstluv

                    how about mini tomato pies? They are really popular in my coastal area regular size but I would think mini ones would be cute and delish!
                    BTW sams club has bocconcini and arugula

                    1. re: Phurstluv

                      I would also suggest a signature cocktail...the retirees around here are big on cocktail time!

                      1. re: LaLa

                        Thanks LaLa. Yes we are doing either Raspberry or Watermelon Mojitos, as long as we can find mint, my Mom says she can never find it at Publix. If not, maybe a limoncello - blueberry cooler. It just depends on what we can find when we get there.

                        Thanks re: info on the bocconcini & arugula @ Sams. Will also have to find pizza dough, won't have much time for baking from scratch.

                      2. re: Phurstluv

                        I don't know how you feel about giant box stores but Costco usually has a great bocconcini that can make around 100 of these skewers.

                        my go to veggi app though is thinly sliced radishes on buttered bread topped with some good salt. really really simple but they go very fast especially if the bread is good.

                        1. re: dessert diva

                          Thanks, that does sound delicious and simple , I will keep it in mind.

                          No, I don't mind big box stores, and we plan to visit Sam's Club when we get there, and I will be looking for the bocconcini then.

                        2. re: Phurstluv

                          We don't go to Sam's Club but buy the bocconcini at Costco.

                      3. I thought of another, easy, do in advance thing that I've had great results with-roasted grapes. Halve sweet grapes and brush with olive oil and sprinkle with Kosher salt. Sometimes I include thinly sliced shallots and/or garlic and aim to try chillies. Roast at about 425 for approx 45 minutes. Great topper for croustade w/ mascapone or sometimes I just serve in a little jar w/ a spreader. Have also added some lemon juice to the garlic version and roasted a fish w/ it.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Layne Murphy

                          Oh yum, thanks. I actually just roasted some last week! If we have extra crostinis, I think I will do that!

                          And my Mom is definitely interested in the spicy samosas, so we'll def. do those. One question - do you serve them hot or room temp? Thanks again for your great ideas!!

                          1. re: Phurstluv

                            Am sure they would have been great at room temperature but were inhaled hot.

                        2. Easy to make, no special ingredients, and always get wolfed down by my vegetarian friends - gougeres.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: mr99203

                            Yes, love gougeres, but looking for something a bit cooler to make, as we will be in Sunny & Hot Florida in August.

                            But thanks for the suggestion.

                          2. Call their Publix several weeks ahead of time. They should be able to order what you need, especially something like mint.

                            The main produce distributor I work with in NC lets me order however many clamshells of herbs i want, even if it is just one. Publix should have no problem taking care of your needs with some advance notice.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: meatn3

                              You would think. However, my Mom's had terrible service there, asking for special order stuff, and they rarely come through. They are the one full service grocery store on the beach, so they figure they have a captive audience, and don't go all out with service.

                              I will relay the message to my Mom, and see if she can get them to order some mint, thanks for the thought.

                              1. re: Phurstluv

                                See if there is a Fresh Market in the area - their produce is always beautiful.

                                1. re: meatn3

                                  Um, I know for a fact there isn't. They are in a small barrier island community, and like CA, FLA is a large, spread out state. But I will google them when I'm there to see if one is within an hour's drive.

                                  Thanks for the info.

                            2. We all loved these tomato tarts from Ina Garten. I used all-butter puff pastry, and boursin for my goat-cheese-averse husband. They were delicious. I didn't cut them in circles, but instead just did rectangles so there wouldn't be any wasted pastry. Very delicious and elegant.

                              http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/in...

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: bear

                                Thanks for the link, yes they do look good, keeping it in mind, in case I can't pass up some beautiful tomatoes.

                              2. Korean Potato Pancake

                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7208...

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: hannaone

                                  I really love Korean food, and am so lucky to live in LA. This crowd, however, is not very familiar with it, so I may save that one just for us. Thanks, hannaone.

                                2. Just wanted to update all of you who responded to my request. The party was a huge success. I used Layne Murphy's spicy wonton samosas, and they couldn't have been easier, tastier. Just perfect. If anyone needs the recipe, I fleshed it out & will copy it to you. I even froze them two days ahead and they baked up beautifully. Here's the menu:

                                  75th Birthday Soiree

                                  Limoncello Blueberry Coolers

                                  Curried Cashews
                                  Warm Green Olives

                                  Spicy Avocado & Cucumber Soup Shots
                                  Black Bean & Tropical Fruit Salsa with Chips
                                  Sauteed Shrimp Cocktail

                                  Wasabi Lime Crab in Cucumber Cups
                                  Foie Gras Pate on Brioche with Fig Preserves
                                  Leek & Gruyere Tart

                                  Assorted Cheese Platter
                                  Spicy Samosas
                                  Seared Flat Iron Steak on Mini Yorkshire Puddings with Horseradish Cream

                                  Assorted Petit Fours, Mini Eclairs, Cannolis,
                                  Chocolate covered Strawberries

                                  Thanks again for the assistance. I even found their Publix to be a pleasure to work with and shop in, found everything I needed.

                                  Can't wait to be cooking again in central Florida.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: Phurstluv

                                    Sounds like a FABULOUS menu! Would love the samosa recipe if your offer is still good....:)

                                    1. re: Phurstluv

                                      BRAVO, Phurstluv!!! What a stunning menu!!! Yes yes yes to 4Snisl for requesting the samosa recipe....pretty please, could you post it?

                                      1. re: Phurstluv

                                        Wow! Congrats! You pulled it off and I'm glad it was a smashing success! Good job!

                                      2. Again, thanks goes to Layne Murphy for these inspired little gems:

                                        Spicy Wonton Samosas
                                        Makes about 3 dozen

                                        2 or 3 large baking potatoes

                                        1/2 onion, minced
                                        1 serrano pepper, seeded & minced
                                        1 tsp. curry powder
                                        1 tsp. turmeric
                                        salt & pepper

                                        1 small package of frozen peas, thawed about 5 mins.

                                        1 package wonton wrappers
                                        olive oil

                                        Bake potatoes ahead of time. When cool enough to handle, scoop out flesh into a large bowl. Mash it coarsely. In a small saute pan, cook the onion until translucent, then add the pepper; cook for another 30 seconds. Add the curry & turmeric, and cook until fragrant. Remove from heat and add to the mashed potato.

                                        Mix in the peas, season potato mixture with salt and pepper.

                                        Preheat oven to 375. Take out a wonton wrapper and place about a teaspoon of the potato mixture in the middle. Using wet fingers, seal the wrapper by twisting. Place seam side down in mini muffin tin. When tin is full, brush wontons with olive oil and curry, turmeric or smoked paprika, about 1 tsp. Bake for 15 - 18 mins.

                                        Let cool about 5 mins before serving.

                                        Can be frozen. Place wontons seam side down in tin, and place in freezer for 20 mins, or until hardened. Place in ziploc. Bake for 18 - 20 mins.

                                        8 Replies
                                        1. re: Phurstluv

                                          Thanks for posting this. It looks great.

                                          1. re: Phurstluv

                                            oooh...goody goody ... you can BAKE them & they don't have to be fried!!! Thanks for posting...sheesh...I'm a little skeered that I'll eat ALL of them!

                                            1. re: Val

                                              They are addictive!! You might want to save some in the freezer!!

                                              1. re: Phurstluv

                                                "I love it when a plan comes together!"

                                                Wow.. sounds like you made a lovely party. Plus, the thread is a success also (as measured by how many cut-and-pastes of links and recipes I made!).

                                            2. re: Phurstluv

                                              Just wanted to say thanks to Layne Murpy for the inspiration of the Spicy Wonton Samosas and Phurstluv for reducing it to a recipe. I booked marked these a year ago and finally got around to making them last night. Turned out great. I made them as a side dish to accompany dinner just to see how they tasted and how hard they were to make, with the thought that I'd make more for a party as apps, assuming they turned out. And they did. My only regret was that I did not have any chutney on hand; next time I will.

                                              I did make a few minor modifications to Phurstluv's recipe based on the ingredients that I had on hand:
                                              Substituted Yukon gold potatoes, peeled, quartered & boiled.
                                              Substituted a large jalapeno pepper for the serrano.

                                              Note that when I tasted the filling I was a bit concerned with how spicy it was. But it mellowed out in the finished product, presumably because the wontons themselves are so mild.

                                              1. re: masha

                                                You're welcome, at least on my behalf. Yes these are terrific, thanks for resurfacing the thread.

                                                1. re: masha

                                                  I make these a lot for parties and sometimes just a freezer batch for myself if I get a craving for samosas. One of my favourite things to do is replace half of the baking potatoes with sweet potatoes. The sweetness is subtle and tastes great in the spicy filling, and the orange colour is really attractive. The same filling is great in phyllo pastry, too. You can make any shape you want with it.

                                                2. re: Phurstluv

                                                  This looks fantastic. I will be making this for a vegetarian friend this Friday.