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Need ideas for spring meatless entree for a crowd

I am responsible for providing an entrée for about 20 people for a Friday supper next week. Feeling totally cluefree about what to make and I'm seeking wisdom here.

Other parameters: Mostly prep ahead of time and cook/assemble quickly onsite. No chicken or red meat but eggs, beans, dairy, everything else OK. Not wanting to break the bank on pricey ingredients. Somewhat seasonal and suitable for a warm evening. Not too soupy as someone else is providing a soup course.

Nicoise salady type platters? In the past I've done gypsy stew (moosewood) and vegetable-heavy lasagna but I'm not feeling the hot cheesy vibe this time.

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  1. what do you think about a spring savory tart, with or without crust, involving lots of greens and maybe some pureed caramelized onions, herbs, eggs, and feta or goat cheese? Can be served at room temp or reheated briefly on site.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Madrid

      Quiche is sounding good. I could bake early AM and then serve at room temp or briefly reheat.

    2. Puttanesca, or a vegetable Korma (or maybe veggie Thai curry) would be my initial thoughts. Is seafood available/allowed/affordable?


      3 Replies
      1. re: Robin Joy

        Would you make the thai curry in advance or try to slow cook? I make it often but generally right before serving.

        Seafood allowed but I am budget conscious.

        1. re: tcamp

          No veg curry is really a slow cook dish. Cook up to 24 hrs. prior, & a quick re-heat.

          1. re: tcamp

            Seafood + budget + crowd >, dare I suggest it, tuna noodle casserole? A recent thread on chowhound showed a lot of people full of nostalgia for this old friend. I've noticed that when I serve an old cliche', I hear snickers and then I quickly find empty dishes.

        2. Maybe a farro casserole? You can stir in chopped kale or another cooked green at the last minute.

          3 Replies
            1. re: tcamp

              I made an Italian version with lots of chunky mirepoix, canned tomatoes, dried herbs and added a bag of Trader Joe's greens when it was still hot and brought it to a function and it was a hit!

              1. re: tcamp

                Baked farro risotto with some stewed whitebeans made from dried and grilled (or roasted) veggies.

            2. Moroccan tagine with chickpeas ( I make one involving butternut squash, chopped tomatoes, and chopped fresh cilantro and parsley; but there are lots of types to choose from) Serving on a big platter with tagine in center and rice around the edge is dramatic. Add currents and tumeric to to the rice for a great look.

              Trick is to not to make the tagine spicy, just nicely flavored with cinnamon and cumin)... Then offer a bowl of harissa on the side for those who like it hot.

              1 Reply
              1. re: AdinaA

                I've had couscous with apricots and prunes that was luscious.

                I am planning to make this week a green salad with roasted parsnips, dates, blue cheese crumbles, and a lemon vinaigrette. I may add some pumpkin seeds, something like that ...

              2. Pasta w/peas. Delish at room temp. I've done this for after ballgames etc. and it went over very well. Use lots of shredded parm or pecorino

                  1. How about a farro Tabbouleh? I make Tabbouleh style salads all the time, but instead of Bulghur I use the Farro, or Kamut, or Barley or Chickpeas. It's quite good that way.

                    I also have a recipe for an Orzo/Black Bean salad that I am constantly asked to bring everywhere. I've doctored it up over the years from the original (I don't remember where I saw it originally).

                    Basically, it's Whole Wheat Orzo, black beans, sliced black olives, diced tomato, monterey jack cheese cubes, a large handful of chopped parsley, another large handful of chopped cilantro. The dressing is what makes it, I think. It's just a vinaigrette made with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, lime juice, salt, some ground cumin, and a few squirts of Tabasco. I leave out the olives or the cliantro if I know people won't eat it, and sometimes I'll change the orzo for Rotini pasta. One time, I turned it into a potato salad and people enjoyed that as well.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: mwk

                      tabbouleh with feta cheese is fantastic. feta is my cheese of choice for tabbouleh :-)

                    2. How about a savory bread pudding?

                      1. I would make a couple of vegetable and cheese quiches.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: jpc8015

                          I've always relied upon bacon or ham to add intense flavor to my quiche. How do I up the flavor with "just" vegetables? More intense cheese? I live in fear of bland food.

                          1. re: tcamp

                            One I buy often is artichoke and tomato. Use a good gruyere, too, and herbs. Or use plenty of carmelized onion or shallots with other veggies.

                            I default to a lasagna with Barilla no boil noodles with chopped spinach in my cheese mixture (which usually has browned sausage in it, too).

                            Some folks use extra firm, drained tofu as a sub for pasta elbows in faux mac and cheese and I know one poster, Biondanomina has a version she makes.

                            1. re: tcamp

                              if you like greens (spinach, chard, etc) turn it into a Greek/Italian spring pie. Like a Greek spanakopita, but you can do it with regular pie crust rather than phyllo or not have crust at all. Google torta pasqualina....some of the Italian recipes have whole eggs baked inside.

                              Add some fresh herbs like mint, oregano, chives, dill, some pureed caramelized onions, a really nice feta combined or not with ricotta....lots of black pepper...very far from bland.

                              If you don't like greens.....you won't like this!

                              1. re: tcamp

                                tcamp, perhaps try using smoked paprika in your quiche. It has a very bacon-y taste. We are big fans but never used in a quiche so don't know what amount would be appropriate. Just a thought.

                                1. re: tcamp

                                  Seafood quiche. You can put shrimp in raw and it won't take a lot of them. 8oz. per quiche would be ample. "Krab" (surimi) would also work.

                                  I'd do a cheesy vegetable and/or seafood lasagna, canneloni, or crepes. YOU might not feel a "cheesy vibe" but you need to think about your audience. I'd rather contribute something I know will sate those who eat it, than a less substantial entree that has people politely complimenting it, but stopping off for pizza on the way home.

                                  1. re: tcamp

                                    Smoke some portobellos, cut them up and use where you would have had the bacon or ham.
                                    I like the "more intense cheese" idea.

                                2. Farro risotto (simple and it reheats wonderfully)
                                  Leek & onion tart
                                  Wild mushroom ragout over polenta (both components made ahead and can reheat & plate together on site)
                                  Penne pesto
                                  Greek pasta salad
                                  Ramp & potato frittatas

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                    I could eat a bowl of farro risotto right now!

                                  2. Eggplant something

                                    1. well you're on a great quest.
                                      of course the typicals enter my thoughts like mac&cheese or lasagna or eggplant/zucchini Parmesan or I love a huge flavorful tuna pasta salad with all the vegs you like most and cheese chunks just running through it. it's a cold salad though, very filling but prob not what you're thinking of. would a looooong sub sandwich work packed with lots of grilled vegetables and fresh vegs and sliced cheese?

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: iL Divo

                                        The sub is an interesting idea, if not for this event then for others. How would you handle the do ahead portion? Fill the sandwich in advance? Prep ingredients and fill at the last minute? Press or no?

                                        1. re: tcamp

                                          I would press it overnight. And use hard cheese like parm slices instead of soft like fresh mozzarella. Maybe add some sliced hard boiled eggs in it as the protein, or go with drained, oil packed tuna, and use a garlicky dressing.

                                          1. re: tcamp

                                            we've done these for picnics or parties etc.
                                            they work out great. no to the pressing, not a real fan.
                                            I prepare everything in advance except I don't dress the sub until we're there, where the olive/vinegar/herb/spice dressing I make, like used at the now defunct Andy's in Inglewood Cal.
                                            then there and dressed, I skewer the sections/portions then cut. you can order a bun long enough through a bakery or buy few/several smaller ones, up to you. we take a 2x6 board to set it on at the park or wherever we're going.

                                            1. re: tcamp

                                              I like vegetarian muffulettas - fun and easy to assemble and people seem to love them.

                                          2. Farro with asparagus, peas, mushrooms, and parmesan or goat cheese.

                                            1. You could do individual veggie pot pies. It does seem like a lot of work to roll out that many crusts though, so you could do several standard size pies and cut them dessert-pie style. I make a great one from the Southern Vegetarian cookbook--let me know if you want the recipe.

                                              BBQ eggplant or tofu. Put on sandwiches (or not) with some cole slaw and a slice of melted cheese.--again from Southern Vegetarian--again, let me know if you want recipes.

                                              Pav bhaji, a spicy (you can adjust the heat) vegetable sandwich from India. This is the recipe I use: http://www.manjulaskitchen.com/2009/0...

                                              Dabeli, also a street food from India. I'm making this one tonight so I cannot vouch for how good it is, but if it helps I have never made a less-than-excellent meal from Manjula's recipes. http://www.manjulaskitchen.com/2014/0...

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: frumgirl1

                                                I love Manjula. Those potato patties look yummy.

                                              2. Veggie tagine is a good one - probably features in this house more often than a meat based one. Squash and chickpeas always features, plus other root veg based on whatever looks good and seasonal in the supermarket. Cumin seeds are a major flavouring, together with chopped coriander and parsley at the end.

                                                We're usually just cooking for the two of us so include the harissa in the tagine, but offering it separately is a good idea for a crowd with, probably, mixed tastes. For us, plain couscous accompanies.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Harters

                                                  I have never actually made tagine. I will look into it as using seasonal veggies plus herbs and spices on hand is exactly the way I like to cook.

                                                2. An embarrassment of riches. Thanks, all.

                                                  1. Try grilling your vegetables. This time of year I would take some asparagus, red onion, zucchini, and poblano peppers and grill them until they are a bit charred and nearly cooked through. You will need to take the skins off the poblanos.

                                                    I normally just use Jack or Cheddar cheese for this. I think Swiss would be good to though, a nice Gruyere would be great.

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: jpc8015

                                                      Take those charred/ BBq veggies and let ppl make soft tacos:) corn & flour tortillas, the veggies, salsa, sour cream or plain yogurt, cheese if wanted, and a citrus coleslaw.

                                                      1. re: mariars

                                                        I would add veg refried beans (just "cheat" and buy them) or spiced black beans.
                                                        All the toppings can be prepped ahead and people can customize their own.

                                                        1. re: Ttrockwood

                                                          Beans are a good add too!!
                                                          I'm envisioning zucchini, mixed color peppers, and onion tacos!! Mmmm

                                                        2. re: mariars

                                                          Great idea! Sliced portabellas in it would be great and make it substantial.

                                                      2. Think of it simply as a stew - which is exactly all it is.

                                                        1. Pasta with fresh pesto makes for a great crowd pleaser and easy to prep.

                                                          1. You should ask this on the Vegetarian & Vegan board.

                                                            4 Replies
                                                            1. re: greygarious

                                                              Funny...I was just thinking the opposite!

                                                              The Vegetarian board might be too restrictive?
                                                              Thinking "this thread should be given a link on the Chow main page".

                                                              Warmer weather is ~finally~ here (??? yay!) and I think many people who cook and eat will be looking for veg-heavy/meat-light dishes. I know I have "starred" this thread and will be checking it as BBQ season heats up here in the Midwest (USA).

                                                              1. re: pedalfaster

                                                                The V&V board is not just for anorexic supermodels who eat a leaf of mache and a grape tomato for lunch. CH
                                                                established it because there was a constant demand for meatless meals, but it seems that other than full-time V/Vs, people ignore it.

                                                                1. re: greygarious

                                                                  "it seems that other than full-time V/Vs, people ignore it."

                                                                  I know. And I think it's sad.

                                                                  A vegetable-based meat-free dish is a nice addition to any menu.

                                                                2. re: pedalfaster

                                                                  "will be checking it as BBQ season heats up here in the Midwest USA"

                                                                  I love love love the Midwest. mighty nice folks there

                                                              2. i'd suggest a quinoa-and-brown-rice salad with cranberries, herbs, onion, celery, carrots, any other veg you adore, topped with either grilled or baked tempeh or feta. serve warm or room temp/chilled as you prefer and depending on the toppings. top with toasted nuts (i like pecans or almonds). one of my favorites. the original recipe called for turkey which is also great (tastes like a summery version of thanksgiving!) but it's easy to take it veggie and can all be prepped ahead.

                                                                1. Am I the only one who reads the title of this thread as "Need ideas for spring mattress for a crowd"?


                                                                  1. Roasted ratatouille? Can be made ahead and tastes good at room temperature. http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/ro...

                                                                    Or ratatouille nicoise - toss roasted ratatouille with capers and Nicoise olives. Serve on a bed of couscous or greens with really good bread.

                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                    1. re: MrsPatmore

                                                                      Good one! Maybe add in some white beans or chickpeas. The hot ratatouille over greens would wilt them a bit which is great, and yes definately bread to help scoop up the goodness....! Gonna have to make this myself soon

                                                                      1. re: Ttrockwood

                                                                        I'm going to have to make this now, as I've been thinking about it ever since I first posted this morning. And I have a huge amount of fresh rosemary to use up

                                                                        1. re: Ttrockwood

                                                                          Yes! I love adding chickpeas to ratatouille, makes it like a rich stew.

                                                                      2. In the springtime I am very fond of combining fresh asparagus with feta because the feta is salty and the asparagus is sweet, a nice contrast. I do this in a quiche, which would be easy for a crowd if you use bought pie crusts, but you could improvise all kinds of possibilities. I use shredded Swiss cheese and part feta, the ratio depending on your personal taste.

                                                                        1. A friend did an asparagus and shrimp risotto that won over ever the most die hard meat eaters at our last gathering. I don't know your on site facilities but it could be prepped ahead of time and assembled on site.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. Pasta primavera? It has some cream in it but it isn't smothered in cheese.

                                                                            1. After far too much thinking, I ended up making 4 quiches - 2 spinach feta and 2 broccoli cheddar. I also made roasted vegetable quinoa with a lemon dressing. Everything is cooked and ready to go - the quinoa, veggies and dressing just need to be combined.

                                                                              Lots of other good ideas in this thread for future events, thanks everyone.