make me an old school vegan foody for one weekend
January 19, 2008 9:47 PM   Subscribe

I'm having vegans over for dinner. Vegans that know how to cook. Foodie vegans. Hip, cool, foodie vegans. Did I mention that I am not a vegan, vegetarian or hip?

I can cook a great porkloin, My seafood dishes come out delicious. I can even think of some great vegetarian pasta dishes, but the world of vegan cooking is very scary to me.

It seems that vegans build skills through the years in finding the perfect tofutti sour cream substitute, egg replacements non-dairy yummos.

So, how do I make a yummy meal for a wonderful couple that is a bit above serving them a plate or grilled vegetables and tofu. I'd like to give the impression that I am versatile in the kitchen, which I might be, I've just never tried before.

Extra credit for recipes that taste great, are easy, but look way beyond my ability.

Points taken away for obvious links to vegan food websites. I've done that google search already.

Make me a old school vegan foody for one weekend.
posted by brinkzilla to Food & Drink (32 answers total) 44 users marked this as a favorite

How about a risotto? It's creamy even without butter when you make it with something like pumpkin or squash puree, or almond butter. If you want to make it extra-good, make the vegetable stock yourself. Also, you can substitute orzo or some other small pasta for the rice, which makes it more interesting. I have not tried this recipe, but it's one example.
posted by Airhen at 10:12 PM on January 19, 2008 [2 favorites]

A few random dishes

Sliced potatoes cooked in dry white wine, toped with salt and cracked pepper.

Steamed broccoli with peanut sauce

Rice noodles + fancy sauteed (olive oil) mushrooms, carrot slivers and carefully selected stir fry sauce

Stuffed peppers using seasoned rice and veg

Any number of mexican dishes as long as you are careful

In the end it is not hard as long as you are mindful of what you are doing
posted by edgeways at 10:23 PM on January 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

The whole milk/cream/meat substitute thing is an iffy proposition. Some people take to them, other people can't stand them. I find soy-based dairy substitutes to be rather lame myself, and cook without them. I also prefer seitan over tofu, but don't fix it in a way that would come close to imitating meat.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:37 PM on January 19, 2008

Pad Thai? Substitute firm tofu for chicken and find some egg substitute, of course.
posted by casarkos at 11:14 PM on January 19, 2008

It sounds like you're generally comfortable cooking, so don't be scared -- this should be a snap. You will have a much easier time making something that is inherently vegan or vegan-friendly, rather than trying to modify a non-vegan recipe with a lot of tofutti/egg-replacer-type substitution.

If these people were coming to my house, I would serve veggie spring rolls as a starter; fill wrappers with cucumber, carrot, rice noodles, mint and cilantro, maybe some mango, tofu if you want to, peanut sauce for dipping. They're time-consuming, but not difficult, to put together, and you can do it a few hours ahead and store them under a damp paper towel in the fridge. If you are new to spring roll making, Vegan with a Vengeance includes a good mango summer roll recipe and instructions -- sadly, the recipe does not seem to be on their website.

Then I would serve a red or green curry over rice (way easy: red and green peppers, sweet potatoes, carrots, snow peas, onions, and extra-firm tofu in a sauce of coconut milk, curry paste, lime juice, garlic, ginger, and chile). If you want, you could split this into two pots and add meat to one of them and tofu to the other. I would do something like this grilled pineapple salad on the side.

For dessert, I would just make a couple of homemade sorbets, mango and maybe raspberry, with a nice presentation. Storebought sorbet would be fine too; almost all sorbet is vegan, but I'm sure you know to check the ingredients. If you have a Whole Foods or something similar nearby, you could pick up fresh vegan baked goods like cookies or pound cake to serve alongside. (If you don't have a vegan bakery option, gingersnaps are often vegan and might be a nice match with the mango).

Make sure that the wine or beer you serve is vegan too, and you will be good to go. No worries.
posted by Siobhan at 11:16 PM on January 19, 2008 [9 favorites]

Vegan food is great! I would guess your guests probably do not want to eat imitation meat stuff...and of course you don't want to offend them. Get the butter out of your kitchen from now until they're done with the whole meal, so you don't put anyone in danger. Don't forget to use a meat-free pan for cooking their food. Indian food is always nice for a vegan meal. [Then again you can make something light and fresh like hummus, tabouleh, and oven-warmed pita bread with nice fresh olives on the side.] Can you get yourself to the library to check out The Vegetarian Epicure cookbook or or buy it from a used book store (it's by Anna Thomas, 1972) or borrow it from someone? That is a good book, I love it. There is good stuff for vegans in it. I recommend making the cauliflower curry (throw in whole raw cashews/...substitute canola oil for ghee if they're elitists) on page 255, served with white basmati and use lemon halves scooped out filled with fresh berries on the side for everyone. Garlic Broth page 51, tweaked with carrots and celery. Also, I do know Molly Katzen has a great website out there but I don't know the web address...I prefer to open my Enchanted Broccoli Forest cookbook or the Moosewood Cookbook. Dessert is always nice, too...there are lots of vegan chocolate cake recipes on the internet. Find one that calls for white vinegar as one of the ingredients. Here's a random one with good reviews:
Top it with sifted powdered sugar or something else non-animal. Have fun at your dinner, and good luck!
posted by mamaraks at 11:23 PM on January 19, 2008

For winter, nothing like a nice rich tofu stew. Cook up zucchini, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, carrots, veggies of choice with frozen and defrosted tofu.

If you have time, make the no-knead bread dough, then bake smaller loaves in a bunch of tiny pots (rather than one large pot). Cut each loaf open, hollow out, and use as the bowl for the stew.

substitute canola oil for ghee if they're elitists

Or, you know, vegans. If this was someone looking to make a meal suitable for Muslims or Jews, would you say "substitute butter for bacon fat if they're stuck up jerks?" Ghee is made from animals. Vegans do not eat anything coming from animals. If he uses ghee, he might as well throw a ham hock in with those greens, pour chicken broth into the risotto and finish it off with some nice grated parmigiano, because I guarantee it would taste better.

This is particularly weird coming right on the tails of Get the butter out of your kitchen from now until they're done with the whole meal, so you don't put anyone in danger. Seriously you do not have to do this. Just let the vegans know it is butter and they will be safe. Don't think that you can't have any non-vegan things present. I was never offended by people eating meat in my presence when I was vegetarian, I'm sure your friends won't have aneurysms if you spread some on your toast.

And certainly don't use Canola oil instead of ghee. In my opinion, canola has a horrible, horrible flavor. You want something sweeter and more buttery. Light olive oil or sunflower oil make a better choice.
posted by Deathalicious at 12:04 AM on January 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

The Vegetarian Epicure is a good book, but it's not vegan, so be prepared to substitute in places. A dish that I've veganized from there to great success, believe it or not, is her Russian Vegetable Pie. I know, you're looking at that recipe and thinking "cabbage, onion and mushroom pie?!?" but trust me, it's crazy delicious. And making your own pie crust always looks good. Even if you fail a bit and it turns out unexpectedly rustic, you will impress. Use Tofutti vegan cream cheese and Earth Balance in lieu of their animal-derived counterparts, ditch the hard boiled eggs of course, amp up the spices (go heavy on the dill, add some caraway seeds if that's your thing) and Bob's yer uncle. Trust me, it's reeeeally good. You will be glad that you have guests to help, because otherwise you might be tempted to eat more than is good for you. I am a soulless meat-loving, animal murdering bastard and I make this for myself voluntarily.

And yeah, ghee is clarified butter, so don't cook with that.
posted by mumkin at 12:10 AM on January 20, 2008

I don't know why you wouldn't try a vegan pörkölt. A pörkölt is a kind of delicious Hungarian stew. Done right (and you can do it right), it'll knock your socks off. And it's so full of flavor that even with the two substitutions necessary (it's generally made with lard and pork shoulder), it'll still be great. I've never made a vegan version, but there is a kind of regional version (from the Székelyföld, a Hungarian-speaking part of Romania) which uses cabbage instead of meat, but I think this one below would work tremendously well. The important part of this recipe is to keep the heat high before and after you add vegetables.

Put a bunch of cooking fat (lard normally; I'd substitute Crisco for vegans) in a very large skillet - more than you'd think was healthy. Let it get REALLY hot. When it's REALLY hot, add two large diced onions, and don't turn down the heat. Add a reasonably large amount of salt and pepper. While that's cooking, chop up two large green bell peppers. The heat is to keep the onions from getting mushy. You want them caramelized and brown. Add the chopped peppers when you're finished. It's not bad for them to get a little brown. You want both the peppers and onions to lose most of their water. Add a couple of handfuls of carrots or parsnips chopped pretty finely. Those bagged carrots that are "grated" work pretty well as they are, too. Keep it cooking. Add a very finely chopped, peeled and cored Granny Smith apple. Sounds crazy, but trust me! Add about a tablespoon of caraway seeds. Cook it until the water is out of the peppers and onions.

Now *normally* you would let the fat drain out of the vegetables and remove them for the pot so you can brown the meat (which, if you make it with pork shoulder, requires about two pounds of meat before you cut off the extra fat and remove the bone that's sometimes there.) I would use that kind of firm tofu that one sometimes sees, but probably any tofu would work. Sp add maybe 1.25 pounds of tofu, more or less. Again, you're going to want to brown the tofu a bit and if it's really soft tofu, you'll want to get some of the water out, too. Once the tofu is browned and "meat-like," remove it from the pan. Deglaze it from the pan with some water or some wine/cooking sherry. I prefer the cooking sherry. What you're doing here is just "ungluing" the crusty stuff at the bottom of the pan. I add a cup or two of sherry and let it bubble down to about half a cup of sherry and gooky stuff. Then I add back the meat, begetable stuff and a *huge* amount of paprika - about half a cup of paprika - the sweet (édes) kind, if you can get it at a specialty food shop. It's important not to "burn" the paprika, so mix it in with everything before the temperature gets too hot. Add some "hot" (csípős) paprika - about a half teaspoon - if you have it.

I add a can of diced tomatoes (drain the water) - it doesn't matter if they're the kind that comes with some onions in it or not. Tomato paste can work too. Let it simmer at a low temperature with a lid on for a couple of hours. It should be very thick and rich, so check on it now and then, and if it's still to watery, leave the lid off for a while to reduce it somewhat. When it's done, it should just be tofu, thick sauce and vegetables. No hint of a watery part.

It's excellent served with sour cream . . . but skip this for the vegans. Serve with spätzle or noodles or something like that. I like to mop it up with a good peasanty bread - a lot of French or Italian breads will work fine.

I think this would be a great meal for vegans because it's a bit heavier than a lot of vegan cooking usually allows, plus it's wintertime and it's not something they would expect. This is spicy and hearty. You will *never* know there's an apple or caraway seeds in there (probably not carrots either.) It's got a mysterious, tasty flavor. Great reheated for leftovers. I spent a lot of time figuring out how to do this correctly, and was greatly assisted by a recipe I discovered in the back of the Ladislas Farago's "Strictly From Hungary."
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 12:35 AM on January 20, 2008 [20 favorites]

If you can find Tofutti sour-cream substitute in your area, then you can make mushroom stroganoff, which is nice for winter and really delicious. Take whatever stroganoff recipe you have around, substitute big luscious chunks of seared portabellos for the beef, and score huge foodie points by adding a few drops of white truffle oil.

Seconding the recommendation for the no-knead bread; I made it for the first time yesterday, and it's freakin' amazing and absolutely vegan, no to mention comes out all fancy-smancy and artisanal looking. You could serve a herbed oil to dip it in, too.

I know you said no links, but I can't resist... the Post-Punk Kitchen forums (they're the people behind "Vegan with a Vengeance") are chock-full of recipes that you might find interesting, including one for a baked seitan so good that my cow-chomping brother scarfed it down.
posted by Gianna at 1:15 AM on January 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

One of the best pieces of advice about cooking and vegans actually came from a vegan magazine article referring to cooking vegan food for non-vegans. It went something like this: Try sticking to things that are naturally vegan (or close enough to it).

The world of substitutes is just like anything else: up to the individual. Some vegans don't replace dairy. Others prefer almond or oat milk over soy. Some don't like tofu. It goes on and on. You can go the substitute route (and produce delicious results), but it might be safer sticking to something good and naturally vegan or close to it.

One of my favorite easy dishes is as follows:

-Chop some garlic.
-Boil some fresh broccoli (florets, but chopped stems are okay if they're not too tough).
-Prepare some couscous. Fluff with a fork and set aside.
-Sautee garlic
-Add garlic & broccoli to couscous.
-Add a 15 oz can of chick peas (drained) to every 2 servings of couscous.
-Drizzle olive oil over couscous. As much as you like.
-Add a dash of salt and/or lemon juice if you'd like.
(Not for the vegans, but I also like adding a bit of grated Parmesan cheese)


Sorry for the lack of specific instructions. I totally wing this since it's one of my favorite things to eat, and I've made it a hundred times. It only takes about 15 minutes to make total. Including prep.

You could make chili. The seriously easy method: substitute 1 package of veggie burger crumbles for every 1lb meat in your favorite chili recipe. That's it. Morningstar Farms or Boca make this product, and it's in the frozen food section. Or you could try adding beans to substitute for the meat instead. Or both. I've tried it all these ways and it's good.

Perhaps some sort of pasta dish using a vegan pesto or pistou (start with homemade garlic bread using Earth Balance spread, olive oil, or vegan margarine) . Vegan pesto is easy, just leave out the Parmesan cheese. Perhaps add a few extra nuts and optionally, add body to the sauce by adding some spinach leaves in with your basil.
posted by cmgonzalez at 1:25 AM on January 20, 2008 [3 favorites]

Oh, and to make the couscous dish a little fancier/more colorful, one thing I've added has been a bit of canned chopped tomato.
posted by cmgonzalez at 1:29 AM on January 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Risottos are easy to make vegan, a potato gratin (with, say, fennel and onions) made with a white sauce works very well, you can do an excellent swedish style potato salad (potatoes, capers, olives, leek, dill) with half egg-free mayonnaise, half tofutti sour cream, many, many thai and indian dishes are either vegan to begin with or can be made vegan with minimal effort.

If you're making an indian dish you can fill out the meal with naan and a variety of chutneys and maybe some mango pickle for extra fanciness. Maybe make some iced chai latte (with soya milk) or boil a bunch of tamarind and ginger together (3-4 tablespoons of tamarind, 4-5 inches of ginger), add sugar to taste, strain, cool, then squeeze in 4 limes and you have a nice tangy beverage.
posted by beerbajay at 2:18 AM on January 20, 2008

I cook the recipe Airhen refers to many times, and it's delicious. I use campbels vegetable stock because I'm lazy, and substitute squash with sweet potato and carrot because I can.

Tip. Bake the sweet potato/squash/carrot with onions, lots of olive oil and garlic in a heavy cast iron pan. Make the vegies nice and soft with yummy cancerous burnt bits.

Roast off the pine nuts in a different pan and set aside. Build the rice. When the veges come out of the oven remove from heavy pan and set aside, saute some greens (beans are good) and garlic in the roasting pan's oil- you may need to add more oil. Combine the rest of the ingrediants and you are a winner.

You can have fresh parmisan cheese, but they can have course ground toasted almonds.

Oh, stir in some freshly chopped basil just before serving.
posted by mattoxic at 3:47 AM on January 20, 2008

My standby cooking-for-friends meal just happens to be both vegan-friendly and seem harder than it is, so it might be a good bet:

I roast some garlic, some bell peppers, some eggplant and some winter squash, all in the oven. Boil some angel hair pasta to al dente. Toss with the roasted veggies, add olive oil liberally, and sprinkle with pine nuts. I usually top this with Parmesan cheese, so you may want to add salt and/or red pepper flakes to bring out the flavors. Presented correctly, this seems a lot fancier than some roasted veggies and pasta.

I serve this with some sort of soup - carrot ginger goes well. Add a salad, and you've got a good meal.
posted by lunasol at 5:29 AM on January 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

My advice: look for "normal" recipes that are vegan on their own, or that can be made vegan by omitting a non-essential ingredient or two (like, a topping of cheese). They're out there in abundance if you look for them; traditional recipes from most cuisines always have a few. Ratatouille, pasta, curries, stir-fry, etc.

More generally, though, there's a tendency for people to think they have to start over from the ground up when cooking vegan: i.e. find a few ingredients that vegans can eat and make something from that. The problem with that is, there's actually a ton of foods out there that are vegan, so this is a frustrating and counter-productive approach. It's way easier to approach cooking as you normally would, and when you encounter a portion of the recipe that's not vegan, ask yourself "is this essential to the recipe?" and if so, "how can I substitute this?" You'd be surprised what you come up with.
posted by AV at 7:37 AM on January 20, 2008

Semolina pasta with pesto sauce. Sliced fresh tomatoes with onions, olive oil and fresh parsley. Grapefruit crush (see the Everyday Food site for that one).

I once fed a vegan for almost a week. It was an unbelievable pain in the ass, mostly because he grilled me (no pun intended) on every damn thing I put in front of him, until I wanted to just hand him 10 bucks at every meal and tell him to go feed himself.

Here's how you deal with guests with restrictive dietary needs: Follow AV's advice on creating the recipes. If you make something they won't eat, this becomes their problem, not yours. The accepted method for dealing with unacceptable food at a dinner party is to push it around your plate a little bit, eat what you can and thank the host for a marvelous meal. Any comments on the acceptability of the food, beyond "it's wonderful" or "you went to so much trouble, thank you" (from the guest) and "I'm so glad you came" (from the host) are unacceptable. If they complain about the food, your efforts, your culinary skill (or lack of it), their foodie bona fides, or your morals at your non-vegan lifestyle, next time take them to a show.
posted by nax at 7:52 AM on January 20, 2008

wow, some wonderful responses! I'll just offer a menu suggestion.

Vegan Italian: foccacia bread (made with olive oil of course), meatless minestrone, green salad with oil and vinegar, stuffed tomatoes or eggplant (rice and garbanzo beans for stuffing) for main course. Many many variations of these recipes online! Also, put out bowl of vegan parm cheese on the side if anyone wants it.
posted by red_lotus at 8:52 AM on January 20, 2008

oh, and italian lemon ice is a great vegan dessert!
posted by red_lotus at 8:54 AM on January 20, 2008

I think you might find a foray into vegan cooking simpler if you find a good analog for the "main dish" you usually focus on with planning a meat meal. Avoid tofu. Many meat eaters view tofu as a meat analog and cook it like meat. Tofu required different handling and cooking skills. So just avoid it when it comes to your main dish. Instead try:

Chickpea cutlets
They will never be able to figure out what these are made from or what is in them. When you tell them they have chickpeas and gluten in them they will both say, "Really?? These are amah-zing!!" I served these last night with a raisin ketchup accompaniment. It was awesome.

For side dishes the world is your faux-oyster. It's not hard to make side dishes that are vegan. You can go simply with steamed vegetables with a peanut sauce or serve a baked acorn squash with apples. It really just depends on what flavors you want to pull to your table.

If you have your heart set on doing something pasta as a side, do something interesting like gnocchi. The cutlets above would be lovely next to gnocchi in a nice tomato based sauce or a pesto with a salad and nice crusty bread.

For dessert I would recommend Moo-less Chocolate Pie.
(Leave out the honey and replace with maple syrup)
They will not believe you when you tell them it has no dairy in it. This pie is the first tofu based pie that I have had that leaves me thinking that very thought.
posted by hecho de la basura at 9:21 AM on January 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Pad Thai? Substitute firm tofu for chicken and find some egg substitute, of course.

I do Pad Thai without the egg. No reason to substitute.

Likewise with the chili, beans and perhaps a bit of bulghir wheat is my preference.

One of the things I don't like about the soy meat substitutes (along with their cost) is that I've come to realize how overpowering meat flavors are in dishes. I had some corn chodwer over the holidays that was made with shrimp (yes, vegetarians don't eat shrimp, but family politics sometimes trumps my vegetarianism) and I just couldn't taste the corn under the shrimp flavor. The Bocca and Morningstar Farms products often feel overpowering, and the "milk" producs feel oversweet.

IMO some of the best vegan cuisine matches up flavors that would be just slammed to the sidelines by the overload of savory that comes with meat on the plate.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:50 AM on January 20, 2008

I didn't know people were going to be offended by the advice I submitted last night. Sorry. I didn't mean 'elitists' in a bad way...geez...perhaps I should have said 'purists' (relax, Deathalicious). At the same time I'm a fan of this website because not everybody thinks in a cookie-cutter way and you get loads of advice from all different types of people. Have a nice meal with your vegan friends.
posted by mamaraks at 9:54 AM on January 20, 2008

Tiny suggestion that works best when it's cold outside: split pea soup is very easy to make vegan. Take a couple or three tablespoons of good olive oil, throw in three-five cloves of garlic, a couple of chopped celery stalks, a grated carrot or two, teaspoon or so of (dry) basil, a couple of tablespoons of (dry) parsley - cook until veggies are softened. Add one cup split peas and about 6 cups of water, one teaspoon (for now) of salt, bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally (mainly when you're up anyway) for around 3 hours until...umm, everything has pretty much disintegrated the soup is thick. Adjust salt, warm whatever kind of bread you're eating with this, and you're done.
posted by dilettante at 9:59 AM on January 20, 2008 [6 favorites]

Pick an ethnic cuisine that has hundreds or thousands of years of experience in the development of delicious meat-free food. It's pretty much guaranteed to come out better than "American" foods that have been modified. If you figure out a few South Indian dishes (rice, dal, a couple vegetable curries, flat bread cooked on the stovetop) you're all set.
posted by rxrfrx at 11:49 AM on January 20, 2008

This recipe sounds a little weird but is absolutely AMAZING. I am not vegan, and this is my absolute favourite thing to eat.

Yam and Peanut stew

1 container of natural crunchy peanut butter
6-8 cups vegetable broth
3 large yams peeled and chopped into chunks
3 cups of peeled cut squash (I like Banana)
1 cup of chopped celery
1 medium shopped red onion
2 cups of frozen mixed veggies (peas, corn, beans and carrots)
dill, cumin, oregano, bay leaves, salt, garlic and onion salt
1/2 a head of crushed garlic
Ginger (crush one the size of a really big clove of garlic) or to taste
2 tablespoons of soya sauce
1 big ass container of chickpeas
If you want some spice add some chopped hot peppers
Cut the yams into chunks. If you are pressed for time, microwave for 5 minutes or so to soften them -- not to mushiness, just till they cut easily with a spoon.
Stir 1/2 c or so of hot broth into the peanut butter and mix well.
Add all the veggies the peanut sauce, and some more broth into a large soup pot. Add spices Bring to a near-boil, then simmer for at least half an hour. (You'll need an hour or more if you've not pre-softened the yams and squash.) If you want it thicker, add some water to cornstarch in a separate bowl and add to the stew. Start with 3 T cornstarch and 1/2 c water. Get all the lumps out,then add.

Serve it over top of quinoa an you will be humming as you eat.
posted by arcticwoman at 2:42 PM on January 20, 2008 [5 favorites]

I have just now noticed that the link I posted upthread for grilled pineapple salad is broken -- sorry! This is the right one, I swear.
posted by Siobhan at 11:20 AM on January 21, 2008

Problem is, Indian food - even Southern - is almost never vegan. You'd have to end up substituting items there as well.

Not sure where you're going with that. While a good raita will perk up a lot of dishes, there isn't an important dairy component in a lot of typical South Indian dishes (dal, dry vegetable curries, chapati). I'll admit that a dosa cooked in vegetable oil will certainly lose a special something... but it doesn't mean you have to make substitutions in a typical home-cooked meal.
posted by rxrfrx at 5:29 PM on January 21, 2008

Response by poster: There are some amazing ideas and recipes here. I look forward to trying these for my guests and for future dishes. Keep em coming! Thanks all.
posted by brinkzilla at 7:43 PM on January 21, 2008

Possibly too late for the OP, but I'll respond for posterity.

First off, I'm sure your friends will be happy to eat a home-cooked meal that they didn't have to make (and that is vegan). For me, the biggest thing I notice is that a lot of people are worried about serving a meal to someone who's vegan when a lot of the stuff they make is either already vegan or easily adapted. So don't freak out. Also, you could always ask them what kind of stuff they like to eat.

Risotto (as mentioned near the top) is definitely a good one - maybe a wild mushroom one or something. If you use pre-packaged stock, use a good quality vegetable stock - I like the Kitchen Basics brand roasted veg stock in the green box, personally. For risotto, you can dilute with some water.

Any kind of comfort food is good, at least as far as I'm concerned. You want to think in terms of stuff that has that elusive umami flavor - which for vegans would be stuff like tomato, mushrooms, nutritional yeast, soy sauce, etc., all of which have a lot of natural MSG. this recipe was a big hit here, even with the gf, who's not vegan. It's a little involved, though. Also a huge fan of this roasted cauliflower recipe (and this is coming from a long time cauliflower hater). You don't need as much oil as that recipe calls for.

Soups are another good option. I really like this "lentil and everything but the kitchen sink" soup from a recipe book my mom had, and also this African peanut soup recipe my friend's mom used to make at her health food store.


Lentil & Everything but the Kitchen Sink Soup

1 C lentils
1 clove garlic minced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1/2 C onion
1 Tbsp margarine (I just use oil)
1 C grated carrot
1 1/2 - 2 C coarsely chopped potato
6 C water (or add some veg stock to make up part of the water)
1 C tomato juice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp thyme
1/3 C rice
1 1/2 C frozen corn
1 Tbsp soy sauce

Place lentils in a bowl and cover with water.
In a large pot, saute garlic, celery, and onion in margarine until tender.
Stir in carrot and potatoes.
Drain water from lentils and add lentils to vegetables.
Add water, tomato juice, salt, thyme and brown rice. Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat, cover and simmer until letnils and potatoes are tender.
(about 30 minutes)
Add corn and soy sauce and cook 10-20 minutes more.

Makes 10 one cup servings.

African Peanut Soup

African Peanut soup:
2 C choopped onions
1 Tbsp peanut or vegetable oil
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp grated fresh ginger root (peeled) -- I usually use 2
1 C chopped carrots
2 C chopped sweet potatoes
4 C vegie stock

2 C tomato juice
1 C smooth peanut butter
1 Tbsp sugar (ooptional)
1 C chopped scallions or chives.

Saute the onions in the oil until just translucent. Stir in the cayenne
and the ginger. Add the carrots and saute a couple more miutes. Mix in
the potatoes and stock or water, bring the soup to a boil, and then simmer
for about 15 minutes until the vegetables are tender. In a blender or
food processor puree the vegetables with the cooking liquid and the tomato
juice. Return the puree to the soup pot. Stir in the peanut butter until
smooth. Taste the soup. Its sweetness will depend upon the sweetness of
the carrots and sweet potatoes. You can add the sugar if you want. Reheat
the soup gently so that you don't scorch the bottom. Use the chives or
scallions to top it off.

You mentioned vegetarian pasta dishes - you can omit the cheese, or substitute soy or almond milk in cream type sauces, and still end up with a pretty good pasta dish (you can even serve some cheese on the side for the non-vegans). Most dried pasta is vegan (though some contain ferrous lactate and don't specify whether it's from milk or not). Keep an eye out for certain types (linguine, fettucini) which sometimes have egg. I usually use DeCecco (does have ferrous lactate of unspecified origin) or Barilla.

I'm a big fan of a simple pasta dish with broccoli rabe (or broccolini), garlic, olive oil, and red pepper flakes, and maybe some Kalamata olives. Parboil the broccoli rabe, cut on the bias, sauté smashed / sliced olive oil and red pepper flakes in olive oil, add the broccoli rabe. Chop some olives, toss the broccoli rabe / garlic / oil mixture and olives (and sea salt) with the pasta. More or less based on a recipe from Chow (but with olives to replace the anchovies).

Lastly, if you're feeling adventurous, look up some vegan dessert recipes... most vegans I know have a sweet tooth and rarely get a chance to have a good dessert. Just make sure to either use evaporated cane juice instead of refined sugar, or check with your guests to see if they eat refined sugar. And if you use margarine in anything, make sure that it's entirely vegan (no dairy derived flavoring or whey)... Earth Balance is vegan and non-hydrogenated. You can make most baked stuff vegan by replacing milk with almond or soy milk, egg with Ener-g egg replacer (tip: add a tiny bit of extra baking powder in recipes that use it), butter with oil or vegan margarine (preferably non-hydrogenated).
posted by PandaMcBoof at 11:10 PM on January 21, 2008 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: not to late to add more, the get together is not until the 3rd!
posted by brinkzilla at 9:12 AM on January 23, 2008

If the people you're having over are friendly, I wouldn't stress about it too much. Even if you aren't used to cooking vegan, they'll probably be delighted that you made the effort. If you'll have more get-togethers in the future, you should probably get a vegan cookbook. I would recommend Vegan With A Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz -- the recipes in it are easy, and entirely vegan, but they are also tasty and not too "health food-y." Maybe you could make soup, which is pretty simple and delicious. There are also a lot of ways to be creative while making soup. Also, unless your vegan friends don't eat sugar, make cupcakes! My whole family is vegan, and we love them.
posted by comfortinsound at 3:29 PM on January 24, 2008

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