Saturday, March 26, 2011

Have a Party. Make Vegan Food. People Will Love It.

I haven't been posting as much lately, but that is because my sister is visiting all the way from Germany and staying with us for a few weeks. It's her first trip to NY, and so in addition to running around and seeing the sights, we've also been eating out quite a lot, which has kept me out of the kitchen. Oh, I've cooked for her too, but it's been sort of a medley of VGT's greatest hits, like some standby Thai curries and noodles dishes, my spaghetti with mushroom bolognese, the "Two Moons Special" pizza, some quickie enchiladas, and things like that. The oldies but the goodies. I haven't really had any time to experiment and test out new recipes, but that's also partly because my omnivore sister arrived very open to sampling our vegan food, so I kind of wanted to make sure that everything I cooked for her would be a sure hit. I was too worried about testing something new, it turning out to be awful, and forever ruining her opinion of what vegans eat. I'm happy to say that she has mostly liked all the vegan food she's eaten here, that I've cooked and that we've eaten in restaurants around the city. There were a few misses - she wasn't crazy about the "meatballs" that came with her spaghetti at a certain vegan cafe, and she didn't want to eat the tempeh bacon I made for breakfast. I don't know how anyone can turn down tempeh bacon, but she has been enjoying our vegan cheese and said that she will look for some when she returns to Germany. She also loved a particularly sublime slice of chocolate cake we had at Cocoa V, but who wouldn't?

We invited a few friends over for a welcome party when she arrived, and the vegans were definitely outnumbered. I'm happy to say though that all the food was a hit, eaten with relish by my sister and our omni friends. I made a large batch of these spicy Sesame-Soy Meatballs, which were completely devoured and raved about, even by a certain omni friend who often balks at having to go to vegan events with his vegan girlfriend.

I also made a few platters of crostini with caponata, for which I'll print the recipe below. I found a pretty easy recipe for caponata online that was already vegan, so I didn't have to change a thing. I also love making things like this for parties, to remind people that many of the things they eat are already vegan. It takes the foreignness out of what people often think of as "strange" vegan food.

And of course, it's always good to have some assorted olives around for people to nibble on. I also served Faux Gras with crackers, fresh baguette, and cornichons on the side, and I also made a bunch of the Tempeh (crab-like) Cakes with Spicy Remoulade from Vegan Celebrations, which were also a huge hit, but I forgot to take a picture of those.

Caponata (recipe originally published in Gourmet September 2006 issue)
makes 3 - 4 cups

2 lb. small Italian eggplants (about 4)
2 tsp. fine sea salt
1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onion (1 medium)
4 medium celery ribs, cut crosswise into very thin
1/3 cup large green Sicilian olives (1 3/4 oz.), pitted and coarsely chopped
1 3/4 oz. Italian capers
2 Tbsp. sugar, or to taste
1/3 cup white-wine vinegar
1 (14- to 15-oz.) can whole tomatoes in juice, drained and chopped (1 cup)

1. Peel eggplants, leaving some strips of peel, then cut into 1-inch cubes and spread on half of a kitchen towel. Sprinkle eggplant with salt, then cover with other half of towel and weight with a baking sheet topped with 2 or 3 large cans for 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, heat 1/2 cup oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then cook onion, stirring, until pale golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Add celery and cook, stirring, until onion and celery are deep golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add olives, capers, and 2 tablespoons sugar and cook, stirring, 2 minutes, then stir in vinegar and tomatoes.

3. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, 20 minutes. If sauce is very acidic, add 1 to 2 teaspoons sugar (to taste). Transfer to a bowl and keep warm, covered.

4. Rinse eggplant in a colander under running water, then squeeze dry in small handfuls.

5. Heat remaining cup oil in cleaned skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then fry eggplant in 2 batches, turning occasionally with tongs, until tender and browned on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes per batch. Transfer as cooked to paper towels to drain, then transfer to a large shallow serving dish in an even layer. Spoon sauce on top, spreading evenly, and let stand, covered with a kitchen towel, at room temperature, at least 8 hours (for flavors to develop). Stir before serving.


  1. How could your food not be a hit? I am sure you are a great caterer!

  2. I'd love to come to one of your parties! I just hosted a party this weekend myself, with zero vegans in attendance. I didn't hear any complaints about the food, which is good! :) I did crockpot bbq meatballs on a whim and it turned out to be the favorite. Next time I'd like to make your meatballs, WOW they sound awesome! Question: what kind of sauce do I spy there in the photo with them?

  3. @Sarah - I served the meatballs with some sweet chili sauce (the bottled kind, I didn't make it)

  4. Awesome, thanks again! Can't wait to try them.

  5. True Dat :) But seriously, every time I take a vegan dish to a party, people are just beside themselves that it's "vegan".'Surprise! Vegan food is freaking incredible!'

  6. thanks for the recipes I am always nervous to throw vegan parties!

  7. No to tempeh bacon? That's just nuts!

  8. ...another good tempeh bacon recipe is in "The Vegan Table", by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau on page 29.

    I LOVE cooking for friends, & even the conventional eaters love the Vegan fare. I always try to have a diverse buffet and at least 3 completely different desserts. I really enjoy it, and so does everyone who attends!
    I found an intensely wonderful Cashew Cream Lasagne at that rocks! I played with it a bit, adding a few sauteed veggies, etc. One of my favorite desserts to make & serve is Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes with creamy chocolate frosting and a fresh raspberry on top - yum!