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Critique my vegetarian menu

I'm having some friends over for a dinner party soon, and when I started thinking of what to make... I thought a fully vegetarian meal might be something different and interesting, since meat is always the star with vegetables playing the supporting role. But I'd prefer to have a menu where they don't miss the meat.

So. What I have come up with thus far (keeping in mind that it's still cold on this side):

Starter:
- Miso-Marinated Portobello Carpaccio
- Roast Tomato tartlets

Main:
- Vegetarian Chilli with Polenta (or cornbread?)
- Very full vegetable tart
- Baby spinach salad with dates and almonds
- Cucumber and avocado salad
- Glazed roasted baby carrots
- Fried leeks

Dessert:
- Banana upside-down cake
- Homemade vanilla ice cream with fudge ripple and meringue

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  1. Sounds delicious to me, as a "meat at every meal" eater. If you don't know whether they are polenta fans (I'm not), make the cornbread.

    But how large a group are you serving? And will it be buffet or seated service (either family style platters or plated).The main seems like too many choices if the group is small and it's a seated dinner. I'd serve just the spinach salad, along with the chili, cornbread and tart.

    Maybe consider something other than the tartlets as an appetizer, if your main vegetable tart uses a similar crust.

    9 Replies
    1. re: MidwesternerTT

      Thanks! That was what I was hoping for :)

      It should be 6-8 people, seated, family style.

      Yeah, I always go overboard... This is the list that was revised downwards :)

      tbh, I don't think any of them have ever had polenta before... or cornbread... so either will be a gamble.

      I did think of getting rid of one of the salads too, so will take your suggestion there. The sides are just meant to be for some variety, but I could skip them - and did plan to skip them if I ran out of time.

      The other starter I had considered was either focaccia or savoury choux pastry with pepperonata and marinated feta. Could switch out the tomato tartlets with that.

      1. re: haiku.

        Never had polenta or cornbread? I think I had my first cornbread at about 1 week of age :)

          1. re: hotoynoodle

            And not Italian (polenta)? Sorry, I often forget how American-centric CH is.

              1. re: hotoynoodle

                Sure, but I had heard of "haiku" in the middle of Kentucky when I was 15, and that was many moons ago...

                1. re: pine time

                  i'm from brooklyn. i don't recall my family ever making cornbread!

                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                    My Long Island one either. I think I was in college before I tasted a corn muffin or cornbread. Like those, but not polenta or grits unless they are extremely doctored up.

                    The average 21st century American home cook has a huge choice of ingredients and recipes that the mothers of baby boomers like me never heard of. About as exotic as my German immigrant mother got was spaghetti and meatballs with sauce made with a packet of Spatini seasoning. And that was only when my father went to sea. I never tasted
                    Parmesan until I was in college. Younger generations are exposed to way more foods than we were.

                    1. re: greygarious

                      i'm italian-american, so parmesan was a staple for us, lol, but yes, the variety of food is amazing now. (also can be saddening, but that's a different thread.)

    2. I agree that you don't need two apps, two salads, and two desserts, unless you are setting the party up as a buffet, and that two tarts is one too many.

      I'd drop the fried leeks and do mujadarra rather than vegetarian chili. It's got a meatier flavor, and a flavor profile that differs more from a vegetable tart than vegetarian chili does. An alternate filling for the vegetable tart would be Stir-Fried Roasted Eggplant (from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone), but only if you drop the chili, since SFRE is tomatoey.

      1. I agree with the others that two tarts is one too many. Maybe replace the appetizer tart with a salad of some type served in a crispy parmesan (frico) bowl? That way you have a "crust" of sorts, without serving two tarts. This would also allow you to eliminate the salads you're planning to serve with the main.

        I like the idea of a vegetarian chili (or other vegetarian soup) with a tart for the main, but I really don't think you need much in the way of side dishes with such a hearty main - maybe one simple vegetable side, but really no more.

        1 Reply
        1. re: biondanonima

          I really like the frico salad idea. Maybe mesclun, onion, and date with balsamic vinaigrette.

          Also, consider rustic bread/rolls with good butter to supplement the meal for any of the meat-eaters who might need something more to feel sated. Not everyone likes olive oil with their bread.

        2. Are your friends vegetarian football linemen?

          Cuz, that's A LOT of food.

          But otherwise, it's great.

          1. i might move some of this around and yes, still edit.

            the tomato tartlets and cuke/avocado will be nice light starters to wake the palate, but if the chili also has tomato? i'd skip that tarlet as an app.

            agree that you don't need another tart with the main, just let the chili be the star.

            the miso seems incongruous with the other flavors. is this also a vegan dinner? could you do the portobello carpaccio with basil oil and finish with crumbled goat cheese?

            am not a fan of leafy salads for buffets. they take up lots of plate real estate and often need to be fork and knife food. what about stuffing small peppers or zucchini boats with sauteed spinach, dates, almonds and finishing with citrus zest? this can be room temp too.

            i'd roast the carrots and leeks to have both colors on the platter and finish with frizzled fried leek shreds as a garnish.

            i'd also offer some fresh fruit for dessert.

            have fun!

            1. The glazed roasted carrots stood out to me as the "do not belong" in this menu. You otherwise have a fairly seasonal and summery menu so that would be the one I would do without.

              1. I believe the very full vegetable tart and the spinach salad with dates and almonds are both Ottolenghi recipes and both have had outstanding reviews from other 'hounds, so I wouldn't mess with those. I've made the tart and it's outstanding.

                To me, this seems to be two potential menus for the main...one with vegetarian chili, cornbread, cukes and avocado salad and the other the very full vegetable tart, spinach salad and another dish that maintains that mediterranean/middle-eastern vibe...I like greygarious' suggestion of mujadarra. I lean toward the latter just because to me the flavors seem more unusual, but that's all relative to what your guests are used to.

                Regardless, sounds like a lovely evening!

                1. Is the Portobello Carpaccio basically raw, thinly sliced mushrooms? If it's still cold, you could probably skip that one. The tartlets on their own are pretty hearty for an app.

                  1. This sounds delicious! But, I think you should try to figure out a way to have a stronger vegetarian protein presence. Here are a few suggestions that might complement the meal, and enhance your guests feelings of complete meal-ness.

                    (My husband eats vegetarian and often complains at restaurants that his meal was just a pile of vegetables. And then at home, he eats some toast with peanut butter)

                    - deviled eggs with fresh herbs (how cute would devilled quail eggs be?!!)
                    - blini sized chickpea crepes topped with your fried leeks
                    - can you work peanut butter into your banana upside down cake? Or a peanut brittle topping
                    - heirloom beans in the chili
                    - maybe instead of the tart, do a vegetable flan. In spring, I make a pea and mint one that gets rave reviews.
                    - white bean puree layer in tomato tartlets
                    - add edamame to the cucumber/avocado salad.

                    I think all of this would be overkill, obviously.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: relizabeth

                      The very full tart recipe OP is considering has egg/cream custard and two kinds of cheese, so protein not an issue in the tart.

                      Agree with others that this is too much and at odds, and like mebby's suggestion above to choose one of two menus from the contents of OP's list.

                    2. I agree with previous replies that the menu is a lot for 6-8people.
                      I am veg and therefore only cook veg for guests and LOVE that you're doing this!
                      For the apps maybe swap the mushroom to a basalmic? The miso flavor seems disconnected. The tartlets sound great.
                      For the main i recommend to serve the corn bread or do a grilled polenta on the side, everyone loves chili garnishes so small dishes of shredded cheese, sliced green onion, avocado, and jalapenos/spicy pepper would be fun.
                      I would skip the large tart all together, and serve the fresh salad, and combine the carrots and leeks, add another veg and roast all together as a mixed roasted veg side.
                      As long as the veg chili has a lot of beans/lentils no one will miss the meat!

                      The desserts sound amazing, the cake with a side of vanilla ice cream i am sure would be sufficient.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Ttrockwood

                        Yes! I've never done banana upside down cake, just apple, pear, and pineapple.

                        Haiku, would you share that recipe, if you could, please? I'm imagining a sort of bananas foster type thing on top of vanilla scented cake?

                        1. re: Violatp

                          I've successfully subbed various other fruits for pineapple in a standard upside-down cake recipe. Rhubarb is one of my favorites, though it requires more sweetening. Banana and pineapple share a sweetness level.

                      2. I think this is a fine menu especially if you are Serving buffet style. That way people are not limited and if they don't like something they are bound to like something else. You seem to be ambitious so this would be fun for you and you can have leftovers as well as anyone else.I would like to have a box or two please :)

                        1. I'd add some different textures - I don't see much crunch, and it's pretty low in starch, besides the tart crust. I'd definitely add some bread - most likely cornbread to go with the chili, although some crispy chewy baguettes would add both starch and crunch.