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Jan 26, 2014 10:31 AM

Odd Dinner Guest Mix

I'm having 3 friends over for dinner next weekend, but am stumped as to what to serve.

One will eat anything and is gladly my guinea pig when I experiment with new dishes. The second is a vegetarian. The third tends to avoid red meat, and will not touch anything on the bone.

The best idea I've come up with so far is chicken fajitas. Vegetarian can eat veggies and cheese fajitas.

Any better suggestions?

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  1. Not exactly inventive, but eggplant parmesan or vegetarian lasagna? You can also make a lasagna using slices of polenta rather than pasta. I might combine the eggplant and polenta layers, adding a layer of smothered tricolor peppers.

    ETA: In case you don't know, there's a Vegan & Vegetarian Board on Chowhound where you might find some inspiration.

    24 Replies
    1. re: greygarious

      Hmmm. Maybe some sort of mushroom lasagna. That would be good!

      1. re: Davedigger

        Honestly, if there are only 4 of you and one is a vegetarian, I would make the meal vegetarian and not do a thing where everyone else eats meat and the other one eats everything but the meat, even if you don't think the person would mind. This mushroom lasagna from Ina Garten is outstanding and no one will miss the meat one bit:

        1. re: Nyleve

          Yeah, I agree on just making it a vegetarian meal. If you give thoughts on type of cuisine, how much prep time you want to put into it, it would be easier to recommend some dishes from the long, long, long list of vegetarian dinner entree options.

          1. re: Nyleve

            Voice of dissent: as an omnivore, I really appreciate having a meat component available. And yes, I do notice when there's no meat, and I while I wouldn't necessarily say that I mind not having meat, I would prefer having some available even as a separate small dish. When I throw dinner parties I do try to be very accommodating, but at the end of the day I don't think it's fair force everyone at the table to cater to the preferences of a single guest. Depends on your guests, of course, but I do get frustrated when people say that no one will miss the meat, because that's really not true.

            Also, that Ina Garten recipe looks good but do be aware that parmesan cheese is not vegetarian.

            1. re: caseyjo

              You are not really an omnivore. If you need meat at every meal you are a carnivore.
              I am surprised to hear this; if you came to my house I suppose I would want to provide some kind of meat.

              Also, most vegetarians I know eat all kinds of cheese though vegans do not.

              1. re: magiesmom

                I certainly don't want to suggest that some people require meat at every meal! However, I do feel best eating meat once a day (usually at dinner), so if there's no meat available I do enjoy at least a heads up so I can have some at lunch.

                Omnivore means eating all things, including vegetables, fruits, and meats. Carnivores eat only meat. So humans are not carnivores, regardless of what they eat for dinner ;-)

                Parmesan is not vegetarian because the rennet used to make it is derived from animal products. It's similar to serving a vegetarian jello. Some vegetarians take this very seriously, some less so, but I would definitely make sure beforehand before serving it!

                1. re: caseyjo

                  That's hilarious about the rennet. My vegetarian won't touch jello, but eats cheese like it's going out of style!

                  1. re: Davedigger

                    I think you may have the definition of hilarious confused with some other word.

                    Not all rennet is animal based. There are microbial-based rennets not derived from animals, as well as a number of fresh cheeses that do not use rennet at all.


                  2. re: caseyjo

                    I would never consider announcing my dinner menu to my guests ahead of time unless I feel the could be a problematic component. A lack of meat would never occur to me as being problematic. I often decide to serve a meal that lacks meat - even to dinner guests who aren't vegetarian - i don't think it has ever been an issue (or, at least, no one has mentioned it to me). A hearty meatless main - and the mushroom lasagna is one - would not require anything else, besides the usual accompaniments.

                    And yes, I understand about Parmesan and rennet and all that. I would hope that a vegetarian who won't eat that type of cheese would let me know that this is a restriction for them. I usually do ask if there are any things they don't eat. If I am not informed, I would assume something like Parmesan is ok.

                    1. re: Nyleve

                      I too ask if there's something people don't eat. Dinner Friday night included a guest that doesn't eat beef or pork. No problem working with that.

                      1. re: escondido123

                        When we have friends over for pizza, we leave off the meat/salami/prosciutto/whatever for our vegetarian friend on part of the pizza we make, and the shrooms off of part of the pizza for our friend who doesn't like them.

                        Everybody gets to eat plenty of pizza the way they prefer. No water off my back.

                      2. re: Nyleve

                        Of course none of your guests are ungrateful or impolite enough to mention it to you. But rest assured they're now aware and have their meat at lunchtime when they'll be joining you for supper.

                        1. re: MidwesternerTT

                          Ill make sure there a package of hot dogs in the freezer for anyone who gets visibly wobbly without their meat fix.

                          1. re: Nyleve

                            Grin - With fat content of 86-90%, hot dogs don't qualify as meat in my books. Bacon on the other hand with only 70%..

                        2. re: Nyleve

                          I always let people know what is on the menu when I am having people come to dinner. I have never received one complaint of hunger or dissatisfaction regarding serving a meatless meal at my table. My vegetarian friends all consume small amounts of dairy and eggs.

                    2. re: caseyjo

                      Of course Parmesan cheese is vegetarian, it's just not vegan. There are numerous vegetarian dishes that appeal to omnivores. To say that you need meat at every dinner seems odd to me. Even in my very meat and potatoes household growing up, we had the occasional and delicious meatless meal.

                      1. re: pikawicca

                        Parmesan cheese is made from enzymes from the stomach of a cow. Cow's stomachs are not vegetarian last time I checked. Most cheese is not made from animal rennet, but parmesan definitely is.

                        Here's more info:

                        I mean, I'm definitely not a vegetarian, but I do think that it's not fair to feed vegetarians stuff like calf rennet and gelatin and chicken broth, because those are made directly from animals. Sorry, I'm really not trying to be a jerk, but I just think it's not cool to say that some animal products "don't count" because they totally do.

                        1. re: caseyjo

                          I live in a world largely consisting of vegetarians. Though none of them eat chicken broth, they all eat cheese.

                          1. re: caseyjo

                            I agree. Some vegetarians don't care, but many is.

                            Honestly, if you're thinking about using parm in a recipe for a vegetarian, maybe just call up the friend and ask them their feelings on it.

                            If you can find something like pecorino con caglio vegetale, that's a hard cheese that is NOT made with animal rennet.

                            1. re: caseyjo

                              Learn something new every day. I didn't know about the Parm/rennet thing. I will keep this in mind.

                          2. re: caseyjo

                            Many vegetarians consume dairy and eggs. Vegans do not.

                        2. re: Davedigger

                          I would definitely second a mushroom lasagna. I made one for my holiday party this year which was the absolute hit of the entire gathering - vegetarians and meat-eaters alike loved it and it was the one dish where there were no leftovers - much to my dismay!

                          I made it especially rich by using porcini mushroom lasagna sheets I bought in Venice, and mixing dried porcinis with fresh mixed mushrooms in the layers. I used a bechamel white sauce instead of lots of cheese and it was seriously labor intensive but well worth it all.

                          I also got a lot of love for my fried eggplant meatballs. You can make a batch of eggplant meatballs along with some meat-based ones, serve them with sauce, and that way have something for the carnivores who aren't happy unless there is something meaty on the plate! They're good for an antipasti, or actually more an authentic style Italian secondi after a pasta dish.

                      2. Maybe vegetarian lasagna? It is a little pedestrian but it will cover all your restrictions and it is darn tasty to boot. And the veggie possibilities are limitless.

                        1. The chicken fajitas are a great idea. Would shrimp fajitas be okay with friend #3?

                          You could consider polenta with a choice of toppings -- chicken cacciatore, seafood (shrimp and grits inspired), braised greens, mushrooms, cheese.

                          1 Reply
                          1. Not to dismiss your difficulty, but wait till you're trying to serve a mix of guests who are vegan, gluten-free, and meat & potatoes! But actually, anything veggie will do, it sounds like, and fajitas are definitely yummy! (Thank goodness for the easy guests.) Depending where you are, with this cold weather, I might do a nice veggie chili. Or a big stir-fry, with or without tofu (which I love to bake first). Moosewood cookbooks have a few really terrific stuffed squash recipes. A good hearty soup (potato/parsnip, butternut squash) with a side salad & maybe bread. All of these are things that allow you to do most of the prep in advance, so you can hang with your friends once they get there.
                            If you want to do a starter, there's always hummus or tzatziki & crudités/ pita chips or the like, or I've been doing these prosciutto palmiers (, which you could easily do with just cheese.
                            Have a great time!

                            1. I would do a chicken cacciatore with a mushroom sauce over polenta. Use boneless skinless thighs, and save some of the sauce with only mushrooms for your veggie person. Serve with a salad or green veggie. Good luck.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: CasaCarloni

                                Not that it was mentioned but does the avoids red meat/nothing on the bone person do dark chicken meat? They sound like a skinless boneless breast type...

                                1. re: CasaCarloni

                                  I think this is a poor solution for the vegetarian.

                                  Why not make a nice minestrone soup, crusty bread, salad.