Cooking for Company
July 30, 2015 10:19 AM   Subscribe

Looking for recipes and meal ideas for hosting (usually a couple of people) for dinner on weeknights with a bit of a wow factor. Prep around or under 1 hour, vegetarian, reasonable clean up time are all helpful!

Currently my go-to recipes while hosting are this Curry from Serious Eats, and this Spicy Mac and Cheese from Pioneer Woman.

But what happens when I want to invite someone over for a third time? I have 2 young children, so kid-friendly is an added bonus, but they are pretty good eaters so it's not too hard to please them. I'm looking for food that scales well for 4-6 adults, plus the kids. I usually have about an hour after work before guests arrive, but don't mind prepping in advance or chatting over the stock pot if needed.

Again, we have a vegetarian household, but I willing to tweak recipes if needed. Dairy, eggs, and all that are okay!
posted by deadcrow to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
I am going to diverge from my usual habit of recommending a specific Moosewood cookbook in a cooking AskMe - to recommend two other Moosewood cookbooks.

Moosewood Restaurant Celebrates is all special-occasion fare. The emphasis is on holidays - i.e., there's a menu for "Thanksgiving", a menu for "Easter", a menu for "Diwali", a menu for "Father's Day," what have you - but the food in each menu isn't necessarily "holiday-ish" and can easily be adapted for "normal" occasions. It's, like, menus with a little oomph. Some of the items can be a little dauntingly elaborate, but some are simple, and all are about the right serving size.

Sundays At Moosewood is all different international cuisines, which in and of itself can be festive ("holy crap, you made an entire Thai meal from scratch?"). Each cuisine's recipe section also has pointers for building a dinners' menu out of the recipes therein, and there's a section at the back which has interesting ideas for building mix-and-match menus out of two or three different cuisines ("try matching a Caribbean soup with a West African rice dish", "Italy and Provence go well together", etc.).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:30 AM on July 30, 2015

Enchilada Casserole. Basically you take enchilada fillings and layer them with tortillas like a lasagna. My vegetarian recipe: saute up some kale and Trader Joe's Soy Chorizo on the stove, maybe with some crushed garlic. Mix that up with canned chopped chilies and shredded cheese. Lay down a layer of enchilada sauce in your baking dish, then a layer of tortillas. Spread refried beans (microwaved) across the tortillas, then add the fillings, then another layer of tortillas and sauce. Repeat till all your filling is used up, then cover the top with a thick layer of cheese. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Now here's where the "wow factor" comes in. When your guests are about to arrive, remove the foil and stick it under the broiler for like 5-10 minutes until the cheese forms a delicious crust.

I served it with Budget Bytes' cilantro lime rice.
posted by capricorn at 10:34 AM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Jackfruit carnitas

I know it sounds weird. And yes, Mexican Coke is an ingredient, that's weird too. One more weird thing: it looks like pulled pork when you're done. So if you're a vegetarian who doesn't like their non-meat food to look like meat, then this won't work for you. But this stuff has some definite 'wow' factor. And it is delicious!
posted by carsonb at 10:35 AM on July 30, 2015

Best answer: I will admit to having no idea whether a child would eat this, but my 'kinda fancy, veg*n, will feed 4-6 people' go-to is chickpea picatta. Serve over mashed potatoes with some sauteed kale or an arugula salad on the side.

Another PPK gem is roasted butternut alfredo -- you can skip the roasting and just use canned squash or pumpkin puree to save time. Blend up the first set of ingredients, saute the onions and garlic, deglaze with wine or broth, add the sauce, let it simmer a little to thicken up, et voila.
posted by divined by radio at 10:39 AM on July 30, 2015 [4 favorites]

Stuffed mushrooms:
take big mushrooms (crimini, portabello), remove stems and scrape out insides with a spoon. Mince up the stems and scrapings and toss them in a bowl with chopped up artichoke hearts (a jar or 2), (also hearts of palm if you're feeling fancy or they're on sale), shredded mozzarella cheese, minced up green onion and garlic, a dash of red pepper flakes, and enough Italian bread crumbs to bind it all together. Stuff mushrooms and bake at 350 until they smell really good (usually they will start to whistle a little bit, odd but true) top with more mozzarella and bake til it melts. Top liberally with pasta sauce (shh...i use prego. It works)
posted by sexyrobot at 10:40 AM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

(You might want to sautee the green onion, garlic, and mushroom trimmings in a little olive oil to get the juices going)
posted by sexyrobot at 10:43 AM on July 30, 2015

We like Spaghetti with Vegetables.
posted by SemiSalt at 10:44 AM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

This one is yummy and you can prep the fillings the day before (see comments):

I would make my own polenta the night before but the recipe uses an instant version:

Halloumi kebabs are the bomb: - I'd serve with a hearty rice salad or similar.
posted by warriorqueen at 10:48 AM on July 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

Vegetarian spinach lasagna is popular with kids and adults and quite scalable. There are so many recipes and variations, but we always made a simple one the night before with a ton of spinach and ricotta and good canned tomatoes and the noodles in layers, stuck it in the fridge, and popped it in the oven the next day. Pair it with a crunchy leafy green salad, with blondie bars and ice cream for dessert. Everybody happy!
posted by mochapickle at 10:51 AM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

You want a jazzed up yorkshire pudding. Make the following changes to this recipe:

1. Any kind of non-skim milk will do

2. Bake in a single dish - I use a different version of this Le Creuset oval dish, but a 9" cake pan will do.

3. After you have heated the dish, removed it from the oven, added the butter and added the batter, scatter on top of the batter any of the following, leaving about a 1.5" gap between the fillings and the edge:

1. Chopped asparagus
2. Chopped raw or sauteed onion
3. Grated parmesan
4. Goat cheese
5. Fresh herbs
6. Other cheese
7. Chopped mushrooms

You could also try spinach or other vegetables, I imagine. You can mix spices into the batter as well.

This is most impressive when it's hot, but I make one, chill it and take slices in my lunch.

It looks beautiful coming out of the oven.
posted by Frowner at 10:53 AM on July 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

(For more people, double the recipe - for 4-6 adults plus kids, I think two puddings would do easily. And leftovers keep very well.)
posted by Frowner at 10:57 AM on July 30, 2015

Bryanna Clark Grogan has reliable recipes, many quite simple (Amazon page). 20 Minutes To Dinner (if you can find it) and The (Almost) No-fat Cookbook are especially good for quick meals.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 11:21 AM on July 30, 2015

While I wouldn't necessarily call soup "fancy", I've served this recipe for African Peanut Soup to guests numerous times and haven't met anyone yet who doesn't like it. I think since it has a different taste profile than usual (tomato-y and peanut-y), that gives it a bit of a "wow" factor.
posted by msbubbaclees at 11:39 AM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've recommended dduk guk in AskMe before as my go-to "I want Korean food but I'm laaazy" meal. This is a keep all the ingredients in your freezer/pantry option if you have any access to Korean grocery stores (actually Japanese and Chinese grocery stores might carry the oval rice cakes too). You can do a good veggie broth in lieu of a beef or anchovy one (avoid veggies like celery or carrot that evoke a more European style cuisine and use seaweed, mushrooms and daikon radish instead; I'm usually so lazy I just go for the soup powder at the Korean grocery store), throw in some dried shitake mushrooms with the rice cakes, add frozen mandu if available (I'm not vegetarian but Korean groceries carry frozen veggie dumplings too), add egg (I usually beat it before hand and then swirl it in a la egg drop soup) and then voila. You can crumble or add strips of seaweed on top too.
posted by spamandkimchi at 11:41 AM on July 30, 2015

I love to host dinners for friends, and while I eat meat there's generally a vegetarian in a group of 6 people so I make stuff we all think is delicious! Things that have worked before:

-I adapted the general idea of this recipe - tossing chicken and vegetables in a flavorful oil, roasting, and serving with a smoky yogurt sauce - to just roast a ton of vegetables and chickpeas (cherry tomatoes, carrot, sweet potato all work well). I served it with quinoa and a separate roast chicken for the meat eaters, but you can do any other grain/starch and a big salad.

-these takeout style sesame noodles are a huge crowd pleaser. i live by a huge korean market, so i also make yaki soba, mapo tofu, etc by just adapting the recipe on the package. i usually serve any asian food with panfried frozen veggie potstickers/gyoza/dumplings/mandoo/whatever and dumpling sauce, which is a mixture of:

soy sauce
sesame oil
chili garlic paste
just a little bit of something fermented if you have it - hoisin, black bean paste
sesame seeds
green onions
posted by Juliet Banana at 11:43 AM on July 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

Ina Garten Baked Risotto
Sub your favorite flavorful vegetarian broth.
Sub out the peas if you want for your favorite other cooked vegetables: asparagus, spinach, butternut squash, tomatoes and basil, mushroom, fresh corn off the cob with some diced peppers, so many ideas. I love to add lemon zest at the end too. The added butter is so good. The comments on the recipe link are useful.
posted by RoadScholar at 11:45 AM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

This broccoli and wild rice casserole is GREAT. This butternut squash salad, along with some good bread and some chickpea burgers would be great. Also: soup (I have a great butternut squash soup or a potato leek soup - let me know if you want the recipe to either!). I made this breakfast slab pie for people at work, and everyone inhaled it. It's pretty good. Or this baked feta+tomatoes dish.

Also, surf through the vegetarian category on Smitten Kitchen - her recipes are generally fantastic....and that's where I got most of the ones listed here!
posted by guster4lovers at 5:44 PM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: After the pantry cooking thread I tried the West African Peanut Soup kapers suggested. It was so good I ate the leftover for lunch and then made it again when I ran out. It was amazing, and quite easy. It was much better than "peanut soup" sounded like it would be.

It's similar to the one msbubbaclees links above, but with tomato paste instead of canned tomatoes, and with ginger. I like to make it thick like a curry and eat it with rice.
posted by ctmf at 6:11 PM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Caponata is easy, fast, and delicious. Like, tastes like you've been simmering it for hours delicious. Also, this chili with lentils is great and it makes a ton. Add a one or two chipotles in adobo sauce for more heat and depth of flavor.

Kimchi fried rice is pretty easy, especially because you can make the rice the day before.

My partner and I eat these salads as meals, and they'd be easy to scale up: beet and goat cheese, pesto pasta salad, green bean salad (substituting walnuts for almonds to add bulk).

Finally, these are more like side dishes, but they're really good: potato salad with arugula and dill and broccoli and cheddar casserole with leeks.
posted by neushoorn at 12:53 AM on July 31, 2015

Quiche. It's more or less foolproof, looks like a million dollars, and lets you use up odds and ends. Particularly in summer, pair it with a nice salad with a dressing that leans a bit acidic and you've got a nice light dinner that is delicious. Along the same lines, frittata.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:47 PM on July 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Great work, team! We had the Roasted Butternut Squash Alfredo this week and are doing a peanut soup next week. Everything else looks great, too. I'm eager to cook my way through this thread!
posted by deadcrow at 6:20 PM on August 6, 2015

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