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Saturday, August 4, 2012

A Vegan Dinner Party

Last night I hosted a small dinner party for my two friends, Liz and Alex, who have been wanting to taste my food for quite some time. None of us are vegan, but Alex is also a vegetarian. The menu turned out to be vegan unintentionally, but it was definitely a well-embraced accident. Unfortunately, I did not have time to take pictures of the dishes because I was too focused on cooking, but I will still share the menu and recipes!

Savory Summer Veggies with Chick Peas
Pasta Salad with Roasted Broccoli and Oven-dried Tomatoes
Mixed Green Salad

Mixed Berry Clafoutis

The veggie and chick pea dish was a little different from the recipe I posted here, and I have to say, I really enjoyed the changes. I omitted the tomatoes and added eggplant, peeled and cubed, and homemade marinara sauce. The marinara sauce made the dish even more savory than the original, and the eggplant soaked up a lot of the sauce, making them super tender. It was a nice contrast between the slight crunch of the zucchini and firmness of the chick peas. If you want to make this version, add as much marinara sauce as you like to keep the dish moist, you don't want to add too much that it becomes a stew.

I made the pasta salad the day before. First I started with the oven-dried tomatoes. I halved grape tomatoes, slightly salted them, and then let them sit on paper towel (halved side down), so they could dry out a little. Then I placed them on a baking sheet and popped them in the oven at 300 degrees for about 30-60 minutes. The time varies so much because some of the tomatoes were rather small and dried much faster than others. You just have to keep an eye on them, but you will appreciate it in the long run because they are so sweet! You'll want to remove them from the oven before they get too brown and become crunchy. I roasted the broccoli next, and all I did was chop some raw flowerets into bite-size pieces, place them on a baking sheet, lightly spray with Pam, and cooked in a 425 degree oven for about 10-15minutes. Again, you just have to keep an eye on them because you want them to start to brown, but not burn. I combined the vegetables with whole-grain penne, tossed with a little olive oil, vinegar, and italian seasoning before I put it in my fridge. The next day, I added a little more olive oil (pasta absorbs condiments when left sitting for hours, especially in a fridge) and a few squeezes of lemon juice to add some brightness.

The salad was a mixture of spinach, spring mix, and romaine lettuce. I also added sliced red onion, mushrooms, radishes, cucumbers, and tomato.

The dessert caused me great distress because the original recipe that I got from Skinny Taste was not vegan. I decided to experiment and make it vegan when I saw that instead of using sugar or honey as a sweetener, the recipe called for agave nectar. So, I said to myself, "Well then why not just substitute the eggs and milk and have everything I make vegan?" And that's just want I did. I used unsweetened, plain almond milk and flax eggs instead. I'm not sure if the recipe is impossible to transpose into a vegan version, but the outcome was definitely not what I intended to make. A clafoutis is French dessert that is basically a shallow cake, baked with fruit. Mine was definitely not a cake. I'm not sure if the flax was not enough of a binder, or if the almond milk was too thin, but dessert turned out to be more of a custard/creamy, crustless tart. I was definitely a whoopsie on my part, but it was still delicious! Liz went back for seconds and Alex went back for thirds. Alex also jumped at the chance to take the rest home, so even though it wasn't a true clafoutis, I still made a tasty vegan dessert. A simultaneous fail and win. But hey, I'm only human!

Overall, the night was a great success. Liz could not stop raving about the juicy tomatoes that were in the salad (they were from my local produce stand that the best tomatoes during summer), and Alex loved the oven-dried tomatoes and the eggplant in the veggie dish. I love cooking, but sharing the food I make with people I love is a great feeling. Especially when they leave the table with full bellies!

Hosting a dinner party is a great way to enjoy good food and good laughs with great friends.

Something to think about: What would you serve at a dinner party?

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