Saturday, March 19, 2011

How to Throw a Vegan Party that Everyone Will Like

On Friday I had the history department over for a reception to celebrate the impending birth of our department chair's second child. I decided that, rather than making it a pot-luck, I would make everything. I think this made some of the meat-dependent grad students a little wary, so I wanted to make sure that I could deliver a menu that would not disappoint. I think the trick is to keep the menu clean and simple by sticking to dishes that are more or less naturally veggie. It took some careful planning (i.e. a comprehensive chart of what had to be made and when) but the whole thing went off very well indeed. Here is what I did:

Since the reception was on Friday after a long week of work, and right after back-to-back departmental and grad faculty meetings, I wanted to make some food that offered protein and carbs to nourish and energize. To that end, I served Kung Pao Sliders from the Jan/Feb 2011 issue of Vegetarian Times. I made my own buns (50g of dough makes the perfect slider bun) and grated the zucchini and carrot for the slaw rather than julienning them as per the recipe. These were far and away the most popular item, with 36 of the 40 I made eaten. I also served white and whole wheat pita (sub 50% of the white flour for whole wheat) with hummus. I also included a veggie tray with the hummus (broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots).

In keeping with the Asian flavours of the sliders I also offered Spicy Fried Shitake Mushrooms. I tossed 1 lb of cleaned and stemmed shitake mushrooms with a large minced clove of garlic, 1 tsp minced ginger, a generous tsp of hot chili powder, 1 tsp black mustard seeds, 1/2 tsp tumeric, and some salt. I then fried the shrooms in a hot wok in some oil (adding more as needed), and when soft I poured in about 1/2 cup of coconut milk and heated through.

The other food was inspired by Italian flavours and dishes. I started with focaccia, which I cut into small squares and served with marinated veggies: I roasted 6 peppers (2 red, 2 yellow, 2 orange) and de-seeded, skinned, and thickly sliced them. I then tossed them with some olive oil, salt, 4 thinly sliced garlic cloves, some chopped fresh basil leaves, and salt and pepper and let marinate overnight in the fridge (let come back to room temperature before serving). I also thickly sliced 1 lb of washed and trimmed white mushrooms. I then sauteed 1 large minced clove of garlic in 1/4 cup of olive oil, added 1 tbsp minced fresh rosemary, and then 1 cup white white. I brought that to a boil, added the shrooms and let simmer for 1 min. I let them marinate in the fridge over night, then drained and served at room temperature. I also served Zucchini Pancakes with Tomato-Onion Relish. These were also very popular. Maybe not Italian per se, but the sage in the pancake and the tomato relish went well with everything else.

Of course we also had to have dessert. First up were Apple Turnovers. I used 1/2 block of puff pastry and rolled it into a 10 x 12 inch rectangle. I then cut out 2 inch squares, then filled them with a version of the filling here (1 tbsp margarine, 2 apples, 1 tbsp brandy, and white sugar instead of brown). I baked them as per this recipe, but for only 15 mins at each temperature. Next were Schnecken (filled with a strawberry/raspberry filling), as well as good old fashioned chocolate cupcakes.

Many apologies for not having a picture of the entire spread. Guests were arriving, I was making still firing food, and things just got too busy.

Guests: 20 adults, 8 kids
1. Make ahead and freeze: pita (I made a double recipe of white and a double of whole wheat. It was too much and I could have done a single of each); slider buns, schnecken (unfilled, as per the recipe linked above); puff pastry dough (make sure to put the dough in the fridge no later than the day before the party).
2. The night before: marinated veggies (I did a 1.5 recipe of the shrooms); schnecken filling; turnover filling; bake the tofu for the sliders; make and pan (and refrigerate) the focaccia; make tomato-onion relish; make hummus.
3. The day of: (several hours before) thaw previously baked and frozen goods; thaw and bake schnecken; bake focaccia; make and bake turnovers; make and bake cupcakes; make slaw for sliders; cut up veggies for veggie tray; mix wet and dry ingredients for pancakes in separate bowls; remove marinated veggies and hummus from fridge to get to room temperature; toss shitake shrooms in garlic, ginger, and spices.
4. 30 mins before (or so): Heat tofu in the oven in a covered dish at 250 degrees; make Fried Spicy Shitake mushrooms and keep warm; heat tomato-0nion relish; cut pita; warm pan for cooking the pancakes.
5. As guests arrive: assemble half of the sliders (keep tofu warm in the oven); start cooking some of the pancakes. Keep the pan warm and replenish the plate as needed. Make more sliders as needed.