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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!