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Food that isn't what it seems, need creative ideas

Klary Nov 6, 2013 01:36 AM

For a themed dinner party (a huge one, I have to feed about 50 people) I'm looking for ideas for food that isn't what it seems.
Like: noodles that are not pasta but zucchini ribbons, meatballs that look like meatballs but are actually vegetarian (maybe lentils, or faux meat), cauliflower rice, ...
It should not get too gimmicky, and it should be something that is doable in very large batches.


  1. iL Divo Nov 6, 2013 02:28 AM

    I'm drawing a blank other than stuffing into cupcake papers and baking in cupcake molds > 'stuffing/dressing' and frosting with whipped/mashed potatoes-could be done in quantity without terribly much effort.

    2 Replies
    1. re: iL Divo
      youareabunny Nov 6, 2013 04:33 AM

      I was thinking similar except in cake form.

      Casserole of meat, sauce, vegetables then covered in mashed potato frosting.

      1. re: iL Divo
        The Chowhound Team Nov 12, 2013 09:24 AM

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      2. b
        Bashful3 Nov 6, 2013 05:47 AM

        As a vegetable, spaghetti squash is the definition
        of food that isn't what it seems. Could be made ahead of
        time as a vegetable for a large group.

        1. MidwesternerTT Nov 6, 2013 06:09 AM

          Dessert "taco" using ice cream. Shell is pie crust, shaped (folded) baked in foil accordians, or sweetened taco shells fried. Chocolate ice cream thru cookie press or ricer to form "ground beef". Vanilla ice cream as "sour cream". Strawberry syrup as "salsa", green colored coconut as "lettuce". Chopped cherries as "tomatoes".

          Example recipe and image here

          1. MidwesternerTT Nov 6, 2013 06:12 AM

            Individual Meatloaf/hamburger patty "layer cakes" that look like carrot cake.


            1 Reply
            1. re: MidwesternerTT
              NonnieMuss Nov 12, 2013 07:46 AM

              Or meatloaf cupcakes with mashed potato frosting. Gross, I know, but comfort food is comfort food.

            2. MidwesternerTT Nov 6, 2013 06:28 AM

              You might also look at links found when you search for "Trompe L'Oiel food"

              The video from Gourmet has great ideas - mozzarella/yellow tomato "hardboiled eggs", scallops (I think you could use mock-crab if costs are a concern) prepared as "scrambled eggs".

              2 Replies
              1. re: MidwesternerTT
                greygarious Nov 6, 2013 11:45 AM

                It's spelled "trompe l'oeil", means "fools the eye". You omitted the link to the video.

                I make "fauxtato salad" by soaking and slightly overcooking large dry lima beans. The canned version of this bean is butter beans, not the smaller green ones. You want most of the skins to split, mimicking the texture of cut-up boiled potatoes. Sub for spuds in any potato salad recipe. I defy anyone to taste a difference. It's much closer to the real thing than the typical cauliflower-instead-of-spud creations.

                1. re: greygarious
                  MidwesternerTT Nov 6, 2013 06:24 PM

                  Apologies for the typo swap of the "e" and "i". I intentionally did not provide the video link, since it's not a link to a recipe.

              2. chowser Nov 6, 2013 08:42 AM

                Along w/ the meatloaf cake, you could do a cake that looks like a hamburger, with pb frosting for bun, choc frosting for patty, almond slivers for sesame seeds, gummy candy or colored frosting for lettuce, tomatoes, etc. It reverses both courses.

                1. m
                  miss louella Nov 6, 2013 08:54 AM

                  I once did cheese straws with colored salt on top so they looked like sugar cookies. The idea was cute, but I wouldn't do it again because it basically ruined the first bite for every single person. I still can't get the looks of revulsion out of my head. After they knew what they were getting, they enjoyed them, but the first bite was nothing but disappointment.

                  1. firecooked Nov 6, 2013 09:02 AM

                    Faux caviar.. http://austingastronome.blogspot.com/...

                    Cookies colored / shaped as dog biscuits.

                    1. s
                      schrutefarms Nov 6, 2013 09:07 AM

                      Roast a spaghetti squash (slice a raw one lengthwise, lay flat and roast until you can easily pierce the skin), then dig out all the spaghetti-like strands with a large fork, and toss with anything you would put in pasta. Also, a dessert soup would be nice--like, a watermelon gazpacho or honeydew soup. Also, as an app, make cinnamon sugar (flour) tortilla chips, and a fruit salsa, (any citrus/juicy fruits, along with chopped mint, made to look like pico de gallo).

                      1. s
                        Siegal Nov 6, 2013 10:02 AM

                        You can google a recipe for "vegetarian chopped liver" it's made with eggplant but looks like chopped liver. It's pretty good.

                        1. m
                          mike0989 Nov 6, 2013 10:15 AM

                          Squid can also double as 'pasta'. Pound flat, roll up, and freeze a bit. You can then slice it into thins strips of 'pasta'. I've also made avocado balls stuffed with crab. Pretty simple but don't know that I'd do it for a crowd of 50.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: mike0989
                            Chowbird Nov 6, 2013 11:04 AM

                            I wouldn't want to tackle *anything* for 50 people that involved pounding!

                            You can also Google "illusion food" to find a bunch of recipes that were popular in the Middle Ages.

                            1. re: Chowbird
                              mike0989 Nov 6, 2013 01:24 PM

                              Oh it's not too bad. I use a cast iron skillet which makes quick work of it.

                          2. s
                            seamunky Nov 6, 2013 10:33 AM

                            Nasi goreng or any other fried rice made with cauliflower rice

                            Seared tofu scallops in sweet chili sauce

                            Thai yellow curry - various fruits or coconut jelly (nata de coco) in a mango puree drizzled with coconut cream. Can serve with sweet sticky rice or a sweet flatbread. Garnish with thai basil.

                            1. a
                              Alan408 Nov 6, 2013 11:23 AM

                              I would like to try cauliflower with crab boil. Supposed to be similar to cocktail shrimp.

                              Cook cauliflower in mix of crab boil (Zatarans or Old Bay) lemons garlic and onions.

                              1. Ttrockwood Nov 6, 2013 07:44 PM

                                Don't laugh too hard at the source, but the cheese in this recipe is key-
                                Cauliflower crust pizza. You can bake the crusts ahead of time, add toppings and reheat just before serving

                                Whole roasted carrots served like a hot dog:

                                Banana soft serve "ice cream"- no cream, only ingredient is frozen bananas (also amazing if you add some peanut butter in there!):

                                1. mbfant Nov 7, 2013 04:37 AM

                                  I am blanking on specifics, but food that is not what it seems was a specialty of the ancient Romans, and there are many good present-day cookbooks with doable ancient recipes.

                                  1. c
                                    CDouglas Nov 7, 2013 06:56 AM

                                    I once had "faux deviled eggs" that were peeled and halved new potatoes with a yolk-sized hole scooped from slightly off-center which was then filled with a spicy, yellow potato salad. They were good but rather filling.

                                    1. s
                                      SigneGT Nov 7, 2013 07:12 AM

                                      Parmesan cheese cookies maybe. Or savoury cookies in general.

                                      Also i don't know if you know what Ebelskiver (or æbleskiver) is. It's a traditional danish or scandinavian dish. Usually sweet, a little ball of dough eaten with jam and powdered sugar.

                                      I saw a famous danish chef reinterpret it in a savoury version with bacon and onion filling, vinegar powder and a beetroot "jam".

                                      So making a traditional dessert savoury or as mentioned before with the tacos, a tradional main course into a dessert is always an idea :)

                                      1. Klary Nov 12, 2013 03:42 AM

                                        Thanks all for the great ideas. Looks like the theme for the whole dinner is going in a completely different direction (I'm working on this with a group of people, so it's not really my decision).
                                        But I hope to be able to use them somewhere else some day!

                                        1. s
                                          susan1353 Nov 12, 2013 08:06 AM

                                          Mock apple pie made from Ritz crackers.

                                          1. w
                                            WNYamateur Nov 12, 2013 09:25 AM

                                            Fake fries: make polenta from white cornmeal, cool in a thin layer in a shallow pan. When fully cooled, cut into "fries" & deep-fry.

                                            1. b
                                              barefootgirl Nov 12, 2013 09:42 AM

                                              A restaurant I used to frequent in Detroit made a dessert pizza. Sweet biscuit crust, raspberry puree for "sauce," and shredded cheesecake for "cheese." (I imagine they froze a block of cheesecake and then shredded it.)

                                              1. Novelli Nov 12, 2013 10:11 AM

                                                Spicy Thai red curry ice cream with salty chicken cracklins on top. "dessert for an app?" LOL

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