I don't want to starve my vegan friend
May 20, 2010 3:55 AM   Subscribe

Help me accommodate the lone vegan guest at my party.

I'm having a party, and one of my guests is vegan. The party is from 3pm til late so there will be cakes, cheese straws and tea served at 3, and then a ham, quiches, breads, cheese etc served later on.

I don't want him to starve or subsist solely on salad and fruit salad, but I also don't want to prepare vast amounts of extra food for just one person.

Please share your recipe ideas/links that would fit in with the other food I am serving.
posted by ellieBOA to Food & Drink (23 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Cakes and cookies are super simple to do vegan: take a normal recipe and replace soy milk for milk, margarine for butter, and depending upon the amount of eggs either leave them out or use egg replacer (or applesauce or whatever, search the web).

If you're making the cheese straws, you can leave out the cheese and eggs and replace it with maybe some garlic and olive oil for a similar snack. Otherwise, some good bread with olive oil and tomatoes and cucumber is great. Hummus or baba ganoush if you want something heavier. Alternatively, crackers if you're not going to be eating much.

You can make a sort of vegan quiche, provided it's heavy on the vegetables, by using the same crust (margarine, not butter) and making a medium-thick sauce from a roux (add a bit of garlic powder, maybe some onion powder, tumeric if you want it yellow, some nutritional yeast if you want it savory, salt, pepper). Pour this over the vegetables and bake. The sauce won't get much thicker (so get it right in the pan), but it'll get good color on the top.

Maybe buy some herb-flavored vegan cheese spread. Or tartex.
posted by beerbajay at 4:05 AM on May 20, 2010

If I were you I would just go for making some stuff for general consumption that happens to be vegan. It's not that hard. Here are some tips...

Make the pastry for the cheese straws using vegan margarine, and before you add the cheese split it into two batches; put cheese in one, put vegan tasties in the other (minced sun-dried tomatoes, olives, mustard.. whatever you fancy).

Hummus is great. You can get some olive tapenade too. Veggie sticks as well as pitta go well with dips; you can also make dippy things by cutting pita bread into slices, then baking in the oven with cumin seeds.

I'd avoid vegan versions of quiches. IMO they never turn out as good as they should. Bean salads are a winner, though, as are rice salads: this recipe for Bombay rice salad is an utter delight and one I think I've linked on Mefi about 10 times now. But it is good, and vegan. Having bowls of peanuts and so on lying around for general snacking is also a good idea.

Here's a word of advice - as an ex-vegan - it's much nicer to be told "this this and this are OK for you to eat" than to be presented with a plate of your own food. Having a separate table for vegan friendly stuff - that others can pick at too - works well as it stops people dipping yoghurty spoons in the hummus without the need for labelling. However, if the vegan tasties are just as nice as the omnivorous ones, you need to make much more than just one portion, as the omnivores will eat it without thinking.
posted by handee at 4:20 AM on May 20, 2010 [7 favorites]

It can be really quite difficult to find dairy-free margarine, the most readily available one I know (in the UK) is Vitalite. I'll MeMail you an egg-free chocolate cake recipe if I can find it....
posted by Lebannen at 4:29 AM on May 20, 2010

Best answer: First, I suggest you be upfront with your vegan guest. Tell him that you are not used to the vegan diet, but you'd like to be accommodating, and ask what his suggestions are! He may have some food issues that you're unaware of, or may even offer to bring a dish with him.

Next. Make sure that there is (vegan) soy milk for the tea. Not all soy milks are vegan, so ask your friend for his preferred brand, or check what you're getting at the store. (Silk is the most common brand in my city, and it is vegan.)

+ This vegan coffee cake is very easy.
+ Nthing hummus and baba ganoush. Add vegetables and flat bread, and your other guests will eat it too.
+ Chips (make sure they are vegan!) and salsa.
+ Pasta is very easy to make in small quantities, and you can add chopped kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes, garlic, basil, and olive oil. Be prepared, though, because other guests may ask for some too.
+ High quality dark vegan chocolate. Not all dark chocolate is vegan, so read the labels. (If you have a Whole Foods or Trader Joe's nearby, it will be easier to find vegan chocolate, and the staff may be a little more knowledgeable and able to help you.) Break it into squares and set it out with fruits.
posted by shamash at 4:31 AM on May 20, 2010

I like shamash's suggestion of just asking your guest. It'd be a shame if you made a vegan cake with special ingredients (and added expense), only to discover that this person hates cake.
posted by futureisunwritten at 4:35 AM on May 20, 2010

On the dairy-free marge, pretty much all the major supermarkets will sell it, or at least that's always been the case when I've been home. Very much agree on the Levantine delights like houmous; there's also foul medammas, tabouleh etc. which are gurt lush are nice and summery. Shortcrust pastry works well done vegan and could be used for pasties and pies.
posted by Abiezer at 4:41 AM on May 20, 2010

Forgot link for an example of dairy-free marge.
posted by Abiezer at 4:44 AM on May 20, 2010

As a former Vegan, I venture to say that most Vegans are accustomed to a world that does not accommodate them. Raw fruits, nuts, and veggies are fine. In fact, that's what Vegans love to eat!

Don't let one person's preference bend you out of shape.
posted by at the crossroads at 4:48 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

I like Shamash's suggestions. Also, as someone with several food allergies, I hate inconveniencing the host and would much prefer that they don't alter the menu for me (I will make do with what I can eat, or bring something for myself and to share, or eat before I arrive), and I would assume most people with restricted diets feel the same way.
posted by emd3737 at 5:06 AM on May 20, 2010

Coming up on summer, Gazpacho is a good vegan option. It has teh bonus of being raw and served chilled so you can make that ahead of time. I've served Bobby Flay's White Gazpacho to a large group and it's is very nice. Basically grapes, almonds, olive oil, garlic, and breadcrumbs. It will look like a cream-based soup, but it's all good vegan-y stuff. You can give it a festive/gourmet touch by finishing each serving with a fragrant oil or liqueur. Flay uses walnut oil and verjus.

Also recommend chile and brown sugar spiced walnuts, assorted berries in season, and broken chunks of varietal dark chocolate (like Valrhona or Scharffenberger you can get in bulk at places like whole foods). You can serve this along with various local cheeses on the same tray which would satisfy the non-vegans and would be easy for the vegans to avoid.
posted by cross_impact at 5:20 AM on May 20, 2010

Best answer: Since it sounds like you're basically doing finger food the whole time, there are plenty of vegan options that don't require you to get all sorts of dairy-free whatevers. Just be sure that all of your breads and crackers are vegan, which is pretty easy if you're getting quality fresh bread with few ingredients.

A few ideas:
-Olives are wonderful and your non-vegan guests will share them with your ham and cheeses.
-Roasted vegetables in olive oil are beloved by many. Go for eggplant, fennel, carrots, onions, garlic, peppers, and whatever looks good in the store.
-Definitely pick up some quality vegan dark chocolate.
-You could roast some nuts with a little oil and a variety of flavorings. Make sweet nuts with sugar and cinnamon, savory nuts with paprika and garlic.
-Instead of just offering butter with your bread, also offer a flavored oil or two (they're not hard to make yourself.)
-A yummy twist on fruit salad involves adding cucumber and mint.

I also have to say that some of the best chocolate cake recipes out there are vegan, and quite simple to make. Instead of frosting, a dusting of powdered sugar will do, maybe with some coconut flakes stirred into melted chocolate if you must be fancy. It certainly won't put out your non-vegan guests.
posted by Mizu at 5:22 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Finger-food things that serve well for everyone, including vegan pal:

Gazpacho (I'd serve this in small plastic square glasses, like italians do at finger-food parties. Everyone gets a taste, those who like it grab two!)

Eggplants stuffed with mushrooms and roasted in the oven, kinda like this, skip the cheese, slice each eggplant into six parts and voila, finger food.

English cucumber sandwiches are classic.

There are lots of sandwiches one can do like: Sun-dried tomato paste, fresh tomatoes and black pepper on olive ciabatta bread (make many, everyone loves this). Nthing the olive tapenade, hummus and eggplant hummus above. Maybe pick up some falafels nearby and mix a few sauces to dip those in as well.
posted by dabitch at 5:48 AM on May 20, 2010

I don't just feel sorry for the vegan -- I feel sorry for everyone at the party if they're only eating meat, cheese, bread, and cake for several hours. It's not your job to make lots of recipes just for the one person. But for everyone's sake, I'd add some fruits and vegetables, per the above suggestions. That sounds more interesting and nutritious anyway, even if the vegan were not to show up.
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:09 AM on May 20, 2010

You could get or make a pizza without cheese (include lots of veggies, olives for salt, sauteed onions for texture and sweetness, etc.).

If your vegan is super-strict, you might have want to make sure there's no milk in the dough or butter or parmesan sprinkled on. Also, some places make "honey wheat" dough; officially, vegans don't eat honey. Just stick with he regular crust.
posted by amtho at 6:20 AM on May 20, 2010

Best answer: Hummus is easy to make and is vegan. It can also be used as a dip/spead for some of your breads and veggies.
posted by mmascolino at 6:23 AM on May 20, 2010

Best answer: I'd suggest rye bread, vegan cream cheese, and cucumber slices for miniature party sandwiches. Absolutely ask your friend what his preferred brand of vegan cheese/cream cheese/milk is. Some vegan substitutes are high enough quality that we carnivores would have no trouble with them, some are tragedies that make iceberg lettuce look like a gourmet alternative.

Candied almonds, pita chips with hummus dip, and any fresh (farmer's market or local produce preferably) berries would also be quite a hit at the party. If you shoot for things that will be widely liked and also qualify as vegan, you're going to have more success and less pressure. While you'd need to make sure the heavy cream was vegan-friendly in that white gazpacho recipe cross_impact posted, something of that quality would overshadow meat-based party offerings quickly.
posted by Saydur at 7:21 AM on May 20, 2010

Best answer: i was vegan for 10 years. the magic of vegan food - everyone can eat it and lots of folks love it - as long as it's not processy junk or "mock meat" - hummus with crackers and veggies (have cheese too), olives, a lot of middle eastern spreads are awesome (baba, tabouli, veggie stuffed grape leaves). yummy salads work to (i agree with the folks above who said that everyone will want some green, along with the ham and cheese). if you want to keep the ham theme, make a lentil stew - everyone can enjoy it and you have have extra non-vegan stuff to toss in for folks who want it. in terms of sweet, it's true, a lot of chocolate cakes are vegan. 101cookbooks.com has awesome desserts, many of which are vegan, all of which are wicked yum (actually, lots of really good veggie and vegan recipies that everyone could enjoy).

and, don't sweat it. i always expected that i couldn't eat everything. but it's true that everyone can eat vegan stuff, a ton of which is wicked yum.
posted by anya32 at 7:49 AM on May 20, 2010

n-thing that you shouldn't be surprised if this person does not eat anything you make.
posted by xammerboy at 7:58 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

As others have said, go for "accidently" vegan rather than a bunch of substitutes -- hummus & veggies/crackers, chips and salsa, bean salads, fruit, potatoes dressed with olive oil and herbs, etc. -- things that don't scream "I am vegan!" and that would appeal to everyone. I like the idea of gazpacho and assorted olives and seem like they'd fit in well with what else you're making.

Honestly, though, don't make too big of a deal about it -- it's really cool and thoughtful you want to accomodate him, but vegans are pretty used to navigating these situations. Somehow, unless you take us to steakhouse where the only vegan thing is the iceberg lettuce, we manage to eat.

(But please make sure that he does get enough of the food that's vegan. I've had that happen when omnivores chow down on all the tasty vegan food and leave me with nothing.)
posted by darksong at 8:39 AM on May 20, 2010

Earth Balance is an excellent vegan substitute for butter. As a non-vegan w/ a vegan girlfriend, I find it just as delicious.
posted by yeti at 8:40 AM on May 20, 2010

Bruschetta should be easy enough to do, with vegan crackers and no cheese, and it'll fit in with the later course.
posted by knile at 2:11 PM on May 20, 2010

Best answer: One of my favorite vegan cookbooks, The Veganomicon, has a ton of good recipes for dips that would appeal to anyone. Dips are awesome because they can be made in advance and stored in the fridge until go time. Serve with fresh veggies, bagel chips and the other things people listed above. If you need me to, I can give you recipes for plain hummus or olive tapenade, but you can usually pick up those things at a local fresh or natural market. These are different, interesting and tasty. Anyway, here goes:

Curried Carrot Dip

1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1/4 cup roasted sunflower seeds (salted are okay, just add less salt)
2 teaspoons grapeseed or other vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Boil the carrots for 7 to 10 minutes, until soft. Drain and let cook just until they are no longer steaming.

Place the sunflower seeds in a blender or food processor and process into crumbs. Add all remaining ingredients and blend until smooth, scraping down the sides of the processor as you go.

Taste for salt and adjust the spices and lemon. Transfer to a covered container and refrigerate until ready to use (at least 30 minutes).

Sun-dried Tomato Dip

2 cups sun-dried tomatoes (dry ones, not the kind packed in oil)
2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup slivered or sliced almonds
1/2 cup cooked white beans, drained (navy beans are good)
2 cloves garlic, chopped coarsely
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
Several pinches of freshly ground black pepper

Place the tomatoes in a bowl and pour 2 cups of boiling water over them. Cover with a plate and let soak for about 15 minutes.

In a blender or food processor, grind the almonds to a powder. Use a slotted spoon or tongs to remove the tomatoes from the water (don't discard the water) and add them to the almonds. Add the remaining ingredients and puree, adding up to 1/4 cup of the tomato water and scraping down the sides often until smooth. Cover and chill for at least an hour.

Sweet Basil Pesto Tapenade

3 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves
1 cup walnut pieces or halves
2-4 cloves garlic (roasted garlic is great here)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup walnut oil (or just use more olive oil)
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon grated fresh lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
Black pepper

Chop the basil, walnuts and garlic in a food processor until chunky. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides of the processor bowl frequently. Add the oil, maple syrup, and lemon zest, and process until thick and creamy. Season with salt and pepper. Store in a glass jar with a thin layer of olive oil on the surface and keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Mediterranean-style Cashew Cucumber Dip

1 pound seedless cucumber, peel and grated (about 1 2/3 cup, loosely packed)
1 cup raw cashews (5 ounces)
2 large cloves garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Pinch of ground white pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill (optional)

Squeeze handfuls of grated cucumber over a medium-size bowl to remove as much juice as possible. You can do this also by wrapping grated cucumber in a cheesecloth or heavy-duty paper towel. Set aside the juice and place the squeezed cucumber in a large bowl.

Combine the cashews, lemon juice, half the grated cucumber, garlic, olive oil, oregano, salt, and pepper in a food processor. Blend until creamy, scraping the sides of the processor bowl frequently. Add 1 to 3 tablespoons of reserved cucumber juice to the sauce. The final consistency should resemble not-too-thick hummus. Scrape into a medium-size bowl and stir in the remaining grated cucumber and chopped dill. Cover and chill until ready to use.

Asparagus Spinach Dip

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound asparagus, rough ends removed, cut into 2-inch lengths
1 pound spinach (about 2 bunches), washed well, stems removed, chopped coarsely
1/3 cup water
1 cup raw cashews
3 tablespoons capers, with bring
Salt to taste
Several pinches of freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (from 1/2 lemon)

Preheat a large pan over medium heat. Saute the garlic in the oil for about a minute, until fragrant, stirring to keep it from burning. Add the asparagus and water, cover, and bring to a boil. Let boil for about 5 minutes, until the asparagus is bright green. Lower the heat to medium. Add the spinach in batches, letting the leaves wilt so that there's room in the pan for more. Cover the pan to make the wilting go faster, it should take about 3 minutes. Once all the spinach has been added, cook uncovered for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the cashews, capers, salt and pepper in a food processor or blender and blend until the cashews are small, coarse crumbs. Scrape down the sides to make sure you get everything.

When the spinach is done cooking, add to the food processor and puree until relatively smooth. Try to get as much of the garlic from the pan as possible, and any remaining water. Add the lemon juice, adjust salt and pepper if necessary, and transfer to a container. Cover and chill for at least an hour.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 4:05 PM on May 20, 2010 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Brilliant answers, thanks everyone.
posted by ellieBOA at 12:48 AM on May 21, 2010

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