Got recipes for informal dinner gatherings?
February 6, 2012 5:59 PM   Subscribe

Seeking yummy vegetarian entrees that don't need to be eaten immediately after cooking.

I'm having a lot of informal gatherings at my house -- folks showing up in a three-hour window around the dinner hour.

Since people aren't all sitting down at the same time, a lot of recipes won't work. (Anything that says "serve immediately" -- i.e. french onion soup or spaghetti -- is out.) So far I've tried quiche, corn chowder, tortilla soup, and bean/barley soup, and have been thinking about trying tamales, lasagna, and tom kha soup.

This is where you come in: I'm looking for inspiration. Do you know a great veggie soup recipe? Or ideas for other veggie entrees that can survive a couple hours on the hob? I don't mind if the cooking process takes a long time.

Thanks, Mefi!

p.s. Cookbook recommendations, veg or non-veg, would be cool too. I am just beginning my exploration of this world of cooking. So far I've been getting a big kick out of A New Way To Cook and Wild Fermentation.
posted by feets to Food & Drink (25 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
I make a mean veggie crock-pot chili with beans, tomatoes, green pepper, corn, onion, and some chili powder -- basically whatever I have on hand. It can simmer in the crock pot from 6-12 hours and it's tasty either way, freezes/reheats well, the whole shebang. Crock pot recipes would probably work good for you.
posted by jabes at 6:04 PM on February 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

posted by cjorgensen at 6:05 PM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Enchiladas are one of our favorite "rolling company" foods. Potato, spinach, onion, mushroom, some home-made sauce... roll 'em up and toss them in the oven with a cover. Cook then reduce the heat to pretty darned warm. The potato and spinach won't overcook and get disgusting. You can pull it out of the oven, serve a few, re-cover and stick it back into the oven.

Soups can be dicey because a lot of veggie soups tend to start to fall apart quickly. (Carrots, potatoes, etc., just go to mush.) Hearty tomato soups, carrot paste soups, and the like hold really well. Carrots cooked low and slow until they're sweet and a paste, throw in some finely grated ginger right near the end, add vegetable broth to get the consistency you like, spice and you can eat out of the pot all evening.
posted by introp at 6:07 PM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Falafel! Oven falafel stays delicious for a couple of hours in a low oven (200 F or so). I use a variation of this recipe, but I often put preserved lemons in.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:09 PM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've been doing a lot of winter squash soups lately--I make it all the time for a quick lunch with last night's leftovers.

Roast the squash as you normally would (this can be done earlier in the day, or the day before), then blend with vegetable broth, heat, and season to taste. You can adjust seasonings to suit other things you're serving--curry powder and some yogurt to dollop on top if you're serving Indian food, chiles and cumin if you're serving Mexican, just salt and pepper and a dot of butter if you're serving something more all-American. The world's pretty much your oyster. If I am feeling fancy I will sautee some onions with whatever spices I'm adding, and blend those in with the squash when I add the broth (I use a stick blender, but you can do it in batches in a regular blender and then return it to the soup pot).

It does well at a simmer or can be put in a warm crock pot for serving.
posted by padraigin at 6:14 PM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Vegetarian Spring Rolls. (Sorry, I don't have a recipe for you, but I spotted a bunch of them when I googled just now.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:27 PM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

How To Cook Everything Vegetarian!! Get it!

I like to make chilis, beans and rice, curries, and pasta bakes for staggered dinners. The first three are easy enough to find (especially in Bittman's book) but pasta bakes are something I throw together based on what I've got in the fridge/pantry. Undercook some pasta (not too undercooked; maybe a minute or two under the recommended time), add whatever sauce you have (I often use leftover tomato sauce), pretty much any veg you like (especially broccoli, spinach, onion, eggplant), some melty cheese (fontina or fresh mozzarella), throw it all in a casserole dish and cover it with foil. Bake it til it's nice and bubbly. It holds really well.
posted by cooker girl at 6:38 PM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Vegetable curry or dal of any kind, and a frozen paratha (from any Indian or Middle Eastern store) can be done in a moment on the fly, making it very special.

Quick Vegetarian Pleasures and its sequel might be good to you.
posted by Riverine at 6:39 PM on February 6, 2012

I will link you to my comment here where I gave recipes for my two favourite vegetarian soups/stews. Both of them can be left simmering on the stove for hours with no problems (in fact, they get better). The pumpkin one in particular is one that people in my circle of friends frequently have going during a party for people to help themselves to over time.

As someone pointed out in the thread, you can substitute dried beans for tinned (a pound/500 grams of dried beans is about apparently equal to four cans) but you'll need to soak them and cook them before adding to the soup.
posted by lollusc at 6:42 PM on February 6, 2012

Caponata? Ratatouille?
posted by Orinda at 7:00 PM on February 6, 2012

Mac and Cheese.
posted by monospace at 7:45 PM on February 6, 2012

you should check out the raw food cookbook "raw food real world" by Sarma Melngailis. All unique veg recipes many entree styles which can refrigerate easily, i love it - some of the more costly hard to find ingrediants can be substituted for more common shop versions.

Anyhow What about cold avocado soup with coriander and chipotle cream or arancini balls? spinach and cheese filo pastries?
posted by Under the Sea at 7:59 PM on February 6, 2012

Asian noodle salads are often eaten at room temperature. You could make a big bowl and have guests serve themselves.
posted by Gilbert at 8:09 PM on February 6, 2012

Dips. Olive tapenade, hummous, baba ganoush, carrot dip, beetroot dip, the delectable toum are all perfect for this kind of thing.
posted by smoke at 8:45 PM on February 6, 2012

I love The Vegetarian Epicure. It's a classic - my parents had it and now I own a copy. I think lots of the recipes in there would be great.

A spicy lentil would be awesome. Serve warm or cold on spinach and grape tomatoes with feta.

Roasted chickpeas are a great munchy snack just to have around.
posted by k8lin at 1:57 AM on February 7, 2012

Cook's illustrated has an awesome (and slightly labor intensive) mushroom lasagna.
posted by mgogol at 6:42 AM on February 7, 2012

Samosas are not usually served as entrees. They also don't keep very well at all, once they've been fried.
posted by bardophile at 7:36 AM on February 7, 2012

Someone else mentioned dal, which holds really well. In a similar lentil-y vein, I have a fantastic recipe for red lentil soup (adapted ever-so-slightly from a recipe I found on Orangette ). The only thing I wouldn't add in advance is the Manchego cheese; you could have a little dish of that for diners to add as they like. Vegetarian except for stock; see note:

Red Lentil Soup with Lemon

4 T olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, pressed or grated on a Microplane
2 T tomato paste
1 T cumin
1 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste; I like heat)
2 carrots, diced
2 cups red lentils
2 quarts chicken stock (I use Better Than Bouillon to make mine if I don't have homemade; obviously you'll want to use vegetable stock instead)
2 cups water
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper
Juice of one lemon
Manchego cheese (shaved with a vegetable peeler), for topping (optional but highly recommended)

1. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large soup pot. Saute onions until golden, about five minutes. Add garlic and saute one more minute, then add tomato paste, and spices. Cook for a few minutes until spices smell great. Add lentils, carrots, stock and water. Bring to the boil then lower to a simmer. Cook for about a half hour, during which time red lentils will fall apart and become a comforting gunge of orange delight. When lentils are cooked, taste and adjust seasoning. Puree partially (I use an immersion blender for this), then allow soup to remain on low heat. Add lemon juice and cilantro. Stir occasionally so lentils don't cook to the sides of the pot (depending on how long you intend to hold it). Ladle into big greedy bowlfuls with Manchego on top.

This soup has the distinction of being tasty with just about any beer or wine you throw at it: lager, cider, pinot noir, sauvignon blanc, even Prosecco have all been successful in our house. Good bread on the side is necessary, IMO.
posted by little mouth at 7:52 AM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Cold or room-temperature salads work well as a vegetarian main, especially with a bunch of crusty bread as accompaniment. Last week we made a nice salad of roasted sweet potatoes, boiled broccoli, and pickled onions in a vinaigrette and topped with chunks of goat cheese.

Sandwich and salad would work well too. How about a sandwich of sauteed greens and goat cheese with a simple green salad on the side and brownies for dessert? You'd have to assemble the sandwiches and dress the salads on the fly, but it wouldn't take a minute.
posted by halfguard at 8:13 AM on February 7, 2012

Oops! I forget to mention that we tossed about a cup of quinoa into the sweet potato salad as well to up the heartiness quotient.
posted by halfguard at 8:14 AM on February 7, 2012

I make a delicious slow-cooker black-eyed pea soup, basically this non-vegetarian recipe plus I add a pound or so of kale. Oh, and a couple of tablespoons of soy sauce. The recipe has sausage and chicken broth, but it should be good with veggie broth and veggie sausage or a spicy chewy umami ingredient of your choice.
posted by mskyle at 9:57 AM on February 7, 2012

I second hearty vegetable/grain salads as being good warm or room temperature.

The one that I've been making lately consists of about 1 cup each puy lentiles and israeli cous cous (uncooked), a pound of green beans pan fried and glazed with balsamic, 2 boxes of frozen artichokes with sauteed onions simmered in vegetable stock and lime juice, toasted almonds, and hard salty cheese (feta, cotija, ricotta salata, etc)

I toss all of those together in a large bowl and adjust the salt/pepper/balsamic/lime juice until it's seasoned to my liking. You can switch the vegetables, change the nuts, swap rice for couscous, etc. You could also add chickpeas or another bean for extra protein/hardiness.

And you can change the dressing: use sesame oil/rice vinegar/soy sauce/chile sauce for a more asian dressing (i'd take out the cheese and add edamame and a touch of miso in that scenario). Add cilantro and chipotles, or cilantro and curry powder, or mint and yogurt. Whatever you like, really.
posted by (Over) Thinking at 11:12 AM on February 7, 2012

Also, this middle eastern spread from The Kitchn looks good

And on a totally different note, the Cook's Illustrated baked ziti is excellent, and quite good room temperature, or you could hold it in a 200 degree oven, covered for quite a while.
posted by (Over) Thinking at 11:19 AM on February 7, 2012

The cookbook Plenty is amazing.

I'd go with various lentil, quinoa, rice, or barley salads or cold sesame noodles. You could serve a chilled soup like gazpacho. Also, roasted vegetable sandwiches.

You should also invest in a slow-cooker so that you can also serve hot soups or stews.
posted by melissasaurus at 12:27 PM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

So many yummy answers! Thank you, everyone, there are some great ideas in here. I loved that other thread that you linked to too, lollusc, and melissasaurus, that cookbook looks great and I already put it on hold at the library.
posted by feets at 12:01 AM on February 8, 2012

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