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Vegetarian meal for a crowd?

I am hosting my book club on a weeknight (which is, of course, also a work night). Do you have any ideas for a vegetarian meal that can mostly be made ahead of time? My book club ladies are an international group ... I'd love to serve something a bit sophisticated, but I can't come up with anything beyond a big pan of lasagne or a vat of lentil soup! Any ideas?

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  1. A great salad, Penne alla Vodka, fruit for desert.

    1. mushroom bourguignon from smitten kitchen, great the second day, over egg noodles with a salad or some bitter greens. voila!

      3 Replies
      1. re: magiesmom

        I should have said that we'll be eating on trays in the living room. My dining room table won't seat all 12 of us. Mushroom bourguignon sounds perfect, except that all that fabulous sauce could be tres messy a la laps :) Too risky?

          1. re: kristen3

            use soup plates, instead of dinner plates :)

        1. What about a tapas/antipasto style layout?

          -glasses of gazpacho (I've done that at parties before, and it's manageable with no table)

          - marinated mushrooms

          - marinated antipasto vegetables

          - roasted eggplant

          - spiced olives

          - roasted chickpeas,

          - caprese salad

          - crostini

          - marinated feta

          - spiced almonds

          Most of these can be made ahead of time.

          1 Reply
          1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

            I don't think gazpacho is a good choice for winter. I like all these things but don't think they will feel like a meal. How about adding a frittata with seasonal vegetables and potatoes, good at room temp or hot.

          2. Vegetarian soft tacos? Corn tortillas, roasted sweet potatoes, black beans, guac, roasted peppers, green and red sauces, cheese, sour cream, pepitos, lettuce, tomatoes, it's limitless....

            1 Reply
            1. re: sandylc

              That's a good idea. I could include meat options for the non-vegetarians, and everybody chooses their fillings...

            2. Indian curries can be as thick or as juicy as you like. Thick served with naan, juicy served with rice. I particularly like the cauliflower/potato/chickpea/spinach combination. There are lots of recipes that don't call for coconut milk, if that's an issue. It is for me, and I omit it. I also omit tomato, chunks and/or juice. Bowls or soup plates are great for serving. Curry can be made the day before and reheated, adding more liquid if necessary. Rice on the evening of.

              I'm not a dessert person, let alone an Indian dessert person, but I would think mango or coconut gelato or sorbet would be lovely with maybe a ginger cookie on the side.

              4 Replies
              1. re: nemo

                This is perfect, but my only worry is that one of the book club members is Indian... I'd hate to dabble in a new cuisine and then serve it to an expert :(

                I have a tried and true recipe for chicken curry, but I've never made one that's vegetable-based. Can you share your recipe for the cauliflower/potato/chickpea/spinach combo? I might be brave enough to try it!

                1. re: kristen3

                  Oh, boy, Indian club member! Forget the veggie curry for that night, but maybe try it on your own and tweak. Although you can find lots of authentic recipes on line, we make a bastardized version.

                  Cooked and cubed potatoes
                  Cooked chickpeas

                  Saute chopped cauliflower (in florets or a rough chop) in oil of choice until a little browned and crisp-tender. If using garlic, add crushed fresh garlic as the cauliflower is getting done and a little more oil if necessary. Add potatoes, chickpeas, and a package of frozen chopped spinach, thawed, with its liquid. I use lots of curry powder and extra cumin, a little salt. Add water or chicken stock as needed to keep from burning. We like it fairly dry, but add more liquid if you want to serve over rice.

                  The potatoes do not freeze well, but made without them, it freezes nicely, so we make a big batch using the whole cauliflower, pack leftovers for lunches down the road. Freeze rice separately. Microwaves great.

                  You could probably use the spice profile from your chicken curry and coconut milk if you use it. We love the coconut curry for an occasional treat, but for everyday, we find it too rich.

                  When and if you have time, I don't need the entire recipe for your T&T chicken curry, but I'd love to see the spice list.

                  Please report back on the party because this is one thread I want to bookmark. Such a novel theme and a wealth of suggestions.

                  1. re: nemo

                    This is the spice list for the chicken curry (a recipe I wrote down as I followed an Indian friend around the kitchen as he cooked!):

                    ¾ tsp cloves
                    1 spoonful black pepper corns
                    1 cinnamon stick
                    1 spoonful coriander seeds
                    1 spoonful cumin seeds
                    Roast dry spices till brownish with aroma, but not burnt.
                    Let them cool, then grind to powder.

                    You marinate the chicken in lemon juice and plain yogurt. Then, when cooking the chicken, you add onions, ginger, and turnmeric. The sauce is built with the powdered spices, tomato sauce (plain), fenugreek, and then sour cream at the end for a few minutes.

                    Before serving, add coriander leaves without stems.

                    1. re: kristen3

                      Thank you, Kristen, for taking the time. We have all the spices and will try your mixture and the onions, ginger, turmeric, and sour cream (probably yoghurt) next go-round with the veggie mix. Definitely this week. Thank you.

              2. I don't think this would count as sophisticated but I recently had a baked potato (sweet and white) bar for a group of 16. I prepared all the toppings ahead of time and kept them in bowls, and baked the potatoes ahead of time and reheated them in the oven. The vegetarian chili, sour cream, green onions, and shredded cheese were actually the most popular toppings. Also had chopped regular onions, bacon bits and turkey bacon bits, and several other toppings that I can't remember right now.

                3 Replies
                  1. re: calmossimo

                    The Indian curry idea idea sounded perfect, but I'm too intimidated to make Indian food for an Indian lady :( I love the potato bar and tapas ideas, but I'm trying to come up with something that can be almost entirely made the night before... I'll only have an hour from the time I get home from work to when they arrive. Sorry to be so picky!

                    Maybe a big pan of vegetable lasagna, with a bechemel base instead of marinara? I think that could be elegant enough, with a big salad and some crusty bread?

                    1. re: calmossimo

                      The Indian curry idea idea sounded perfect, but I'm too intimidated to make Indian food for an Indian lady :( I love the potato bar and tapas ideas, but I'm trying to come up with something that can be almost entirely made the night before... I'll only have an hour from the time I get home from work to when they arrive. Sorry to be so picky!

                      Maybe a big pan of vegetable lasagna, with a bechemel base instead of marinara? I think that could be elegant enough, with a big salad and some crusty bread?

                    2. You might also want to post this on the vegetarian/vegan board: http://chowhound.chow.com/boards/89

                      1 Reply
                      1. Asian works well.

                        White rice; vegetable fried rice; braised eggplant dish (spicy or not); braised tofu dish (spicy or not); a seitan dish (if you have a market that carries it); mixed Asian vegetable dish, etc., etc.

                        All of the above can be made ahead of time & reheated except for the mixed vegetables, which can be tossed together in a wok or skillet in a few minutes.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Bacardi1

                          I second asian.its easy to adapt to a crowd and flavorus are big enough to please meat eaters

                        2. Pitas can be filled with any combinations of salad, falafel, hummus, raw or pickled vegetables, baba ghanoush, yogurt +

                          Here's a local SF menu for inspiration: http://libafalafel.com/?page_id=21

                          2 Replies
                            1. re: Cynsa

                              This would also fit our book club selection well... we read The Dove Keepers, which takes place in ancient Israel.

                              I'm always hesitant to get too theme-y with the food, because it's a hard precedent to get away from. Once one book club host matches the food to the book, everybody else probably feels some pressure to follow suit. But this is a great idea, and I'll use it soon, if not for the book club :)

                            2. Diana Henry's bulgar & spinach pilaf with harissa roast tomatoes and labneh is wonderful and most of it can be prepped in advance. Serve with a green salad and nice bread.

                              http://www.eattherightstuff.com/blog/...