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Appetizer challenge: vegetarian, no cheese, no bread or pastry, no dips

So here's my challenge -- I need to round out an appetizer menu with something that fits the above description. This is to go with cocktails prior to a full dinner, so I really don't want anything heavy.

The current lineup includes:

- pickled carrots and cauliflower
- caramelized spiced nuts
- cheese puffs
- demi-tasse cups of roasted cauliflower soup (not vegetarian)

Some guests are vegetarian, others are lactose intolerant, so the above list is a 50/50 split as to who can eat what. I'd like one more finger food to add to the menu that both can eat. I don't want a dip (too fussy for a large party) and I don't want anything with bread or pastry (too heavy). There's already one cheesy app and I don't want the vegetarians to feel like everything I'm giving them is cheese based, plus I find too much cheese is too heavy.

I'm thinking stuffed cherry tomatoes would be light and pretty, but all my usual ideas involve cheese. Any other thoughts as to what I could stuff them with?

Help me Chowbi-Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope!

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  1. There was a vegan pate recipe in my most recent issue of Food and Wine - something like that might be nice piped into either cherry tomatoes or hollowed out cucumber slices (slice out rounds about 3/4" thick and use a melon baller to take out some of the center, making a little cup.

    5 Replies
    1. re: biondanonima

      Ooh, thanks for that. Your post just made me realize that I could pretty much take any dip and pipe it into the tomatoes or cucumber. Maybe a hummous or black bean dip would work.

      1. re: TorontoJo

        cumin scented baba ghanoush is great in cuke cups!

        1. re: TorontoJo

          For a superbowl party, I made a carmelized onion, lentil, and walnut pate type dip. I spread a small amount on a cucumber slice and garnished with some carmelized onions. It was vegan, and not very heavy.

          1. re: TorontoJo

            the dip in a cucumber cup was the first thing that popped into my mind as well! tzatziki or indian raita would be delish and refreshing.

            another option - a fried chickpea fritter, it is fried but that doesn't mean it has to be heavy, just a small take on the hummus idea.

          2. re: biondanonima

            I've had that vegan pate done in little purple plum tomatoes and it was very tasty.

            What about spicy sweet potato chips? You can make them or you can buy them at the nearest organic foods market...although they'd be better with a dip.

            I've had this before, requires some specialty products like vegan pepperoni and I recommend vegan pepper jack, not mozzarella, but they were pretty tasty. http://www.vegancoach.com/vegan-appet... Don't buy cheap vegan cheese or pepperoni.

            You said no bread so no crostini or bruschetta. Maybe Sun Dried Tomato and Olive Tapenade served on endive?
            * 1 4 ounce jar sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained (reserve the oil
            ) * 1 cup good pitted brine-cured black olives
            * 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
            * 3 cloves garlic
            * 1/2 cup capers
            * 1 1/2 tsp vegan Parmesan substitute (optional)
            * salt and pepper to taste

            Just food process and it is ready.

            Samosas are yummy but do have some bread. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FUA4g8... I've made Manjula's and they are so tasty. If you think Indian might be well received, check out her website. I've had very good luck with all her recipes.

            http://www.manjulaskitchen.com/2010/0... <<that one is my favorite, but it probably won't suit for an appetizer very well because it is very filling.

            Spring rolls would be a nice make-ahead perhaps?

            Avocado Caprese sounds light and tasty. http://www.happycow.net/recipes.php?i...

          3. Not a cherry tomato idea, but how about some olives?

            1 Reply
            1. re: karykat

              Good idea -- I'll add some to the veggie tray!

            2. A layered vegetable terrine cut into squares & handled with a toothpick. You can use roasted red peppers, portabella mushrooms, eggplant, etc.

              Another idea is to grill off your favorite veggies (I suggest the same veggies as above) and make veggie roll ups..You grill large red bells, peel and divide each one into six pieces...top with a grilled portabella slice, then a piece of eggplant, then whatever else you want to use. These are really good with fresh basil between the layers of veggies. Roll them up (short side) and tie with a piece of chive (wind it around a couple of times to hold it) or even some grilled scallion strips. Stick a toothpick in them and serve. They're pretty on a tray (try it with orange & yellow bells also) and you can grill the veggies a day ahead, just let them come to room temp before serving.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Cherylptw

                I'd add a balsamic drizzle to the veggies, or some other kind of acid component.

              2. What about broiled stuffed mushroom caps? You could use a basil or sundried tomato pesto without cheese to fill them, for a punch of flavor. If you use smallish mushrooms, they'd be bite-size and light.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                  this was going to be my suggestion as well. Chop up the stems, combine with just a teensy bit of bread crumbs and some pesto, bake, and away you go.

                2. If we can broil stuff, make a veggie and fruit kebab. Pineapple chunks, mushrooms, bell pepper, onion chunks or pearl onions, strung together on wooden skewers and slow roasted/broiled.

                  1. What about kale chips? I like this recipe. You can make them as is or add almost any combo of spices and/or lemon juice or soy sauce and they are delicious!

                    You can also stuff the tomatoes with a tabbouli or quinoa salad.
                    This is my favourite tabbouli recipe.

                    Also, would you do something with eggs or do your veg. guests not eat them?

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: toveggiegirl

                      I've heard so many good things about those kale chips. Must give them a try. :)

                      1. re: LauraGrace

                        Beware. They can be quite addictive and, before you know it, 4 servings turn into 1!

                      2. re: toveggiegirl

                        And one more thought, what about a vegan soup, like a pumpkin coconut milk soup?

                      3. Have you considered grilled or broiled artichokes?
                        Grilled or roasted asparagus (although will be pricey because it is very much out of season?)
                        Asian lettuce wraps with tofu instead of chicken
                        Spring rolls wrapped in rice paper instead of normal pastry
                        Mini crustless quiches/fritattas (you could bake in a large pan, cool, cut into bite-sized pieces and have on the end of a toothpick
                        Before I got too pedestrian, how formal is the occasion in question?

                        1. stuff cherry tomatoes with guacamole

                          My favourite light appy is slices of cucumber topped with lemon and dilled cream cheese and a slice of lox. Paper thin slice of red onion and a caper or two to top it off. Yum. And every lactose intolerant person I know can have goat cheese so you could try a goat cream cheese. Mix it with fresh dill and lemon zest.

                          1 Reply
                          1. Julia Child's stuffed tomatoes Provencal recipe does call for parmesan, but the rest of the stuffing is fresh herbs, bread crumbs, and shallots, so I don't think you'd miss the cheese. As an added bonus, the recipe is actually butter free so it's pretty light.

                            1. mini sweet potato latkes baked
                              deviled eggs
                              stuffed endive leaves with marsala sauteed mushrooms and a bit of lentils or bulghur
                              polenta rounds broiled and topped with ratatouille or a tapenade of sorts

                              1. I stumbled across this recipe a few weeks ago when I was in a similar predicament. Polenta pizza. Although it may not be as light as you need it to be, it's very adaptable to most diets because you choose the toppings.


                                And they're also mighty tasty too!

                                1. you've gotten a lot of terrific ideas here!
                                  - in addition to guac, you can also stuff cherry tomatoes with pesto, baba ghannouj, white bean dip, or quinoa salad
                                  - peppadews are great for stuffing as well
                                  - black bean dip would be terrific on polenta rounds
                                  - almond-stuffed dates
                                  - also second Emme's deviled egg suggestion
                                  - you could also serve spiced, roasted chickpeas or spiced mixed nuts in mini cups

                                  1. Wow, I leave for bed and find all these amazing responses waiting for me in the morning! I love you guys.

                                    To answer enbell's question, the dinner is pretty formal and large (20 people). So my goal is to keep the apps simple (for my own sanity), but elegant.

                                    I think I'm going to do cherry tomatoes with a bean dip of some sort (I've actually done them with guac and loved them, but guac doesn't feel right for a Thanksgiving dinner -- hmm, that was probably my bad for not mentioning that this was for a big Thanksgiving party!). I'm also going to add cucumber cups or broiled mushrooms with a sundried tomato and mushroom tapenade.

                                    And thanks for contributing to yet another appetizer thread. Believe me, I've read through what feels like dozens of the previous ones and really appreciate y'all jumping in to yet another.