11.30.2019

Vegans for Dinner

This post title reminds me of an old joke from the 70’s when vegetarianism was growing in popularity.
   A friend to his roommate: “We’re having vegetarians for dinner tonight.”
   The roommate’s response: “Aren’t they tough and stringy?”

All jokes aside, I know a lot of people who are thrown into a panic when they learn their dinner guests are vegetarian or vegan.

The funny thing is that most people eat vegetarian meals often without noticing it. Pasta dishes are the easiest to point out: spaghetti with pesto, cacio e pepe, marinara, or alla Norma. All vegetarian. And that is the tip of the iceberg.

We then branch out and look at frittatas, cheese soufflés, green corn tamales, eggplant rollatini, and all variety of risotti. I could go on and on... just check out the vegetarian options in my list of All the Recipes.

Sure, it gets a little harder when you eliminate dairy to make it vegan. I used to panic over that, myself. Until I realized the same thing. We eat vegan quite often.

Ratatouille. Moroccan chickpea salad. Sweet potato and chickpea curry. Thai cauliflower stir fry. Think of lentils and pulses — so much variety there!

Now some unsolicited advice: imagine you are having a dinner party and one person coming is vegan. I beg of you - do not make them a separate, special dish to accommodate them. That is what restaurants do.

No - they are in your home and you, as the host, should make everyone the same exact meal. Do not make your vegan friend feel awkward by making them feel singled out or lesser. And let's be honest - it wouldn't hurt anyone to eat a vegan meal now and then.

You can always serve something vegan and offer a variety of toppings that might include dairy or meat products for the others (think grated cheese, crumbled bacon, etc).

For me, cooking is as much a gift to my friends as it is a way for me to be creative. I imagine that it is the same for you - if you invite friends into your home, you don’t simply want to feed them, you want them to feel they are as special to you as you are to them.

This is a go-to for us when entertaining vegetarians/vegans, as well as for ourselves in summer when garden vegetables are abundant, the weather is hot, and we are too tired to cook much. When we serve this grilled veggie pasta, we put out bowls of torn fresh basil leaves, pepper flakes, and grated cheese. We also make sure to get vegan cheese for our guests. Each gets to choose her/his topping and everyone is happy.

~ David

Grilled Veggie Pasta
Not only is this a great dish for vegetarians/vegans, it is also really easy to leave out certain things if someone is allergic or simply doesn’t like something. The most frequent culprits are eggplant and mushrooms! Below is a basic guide for what I use, but feel free to add new things or make changes that will make it your own.

1 small zucchini
1 small yellow (summer) squash
1 small eggplant
1 large or two small bell peppers
6-8 mushrooms (I like shiitakes)
2 large shallots
2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
salt
freshly ground black pepper 

6 sprigs of fresh oregano, leaves stripped
12-16 ounces short pasta; I like campanelle
fresh basil leaves
chile flakes
grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, regular or vegan


Prepare the vegetables. Halve the zucchini and yellow squash lengthwise and then cut into 1/2-inch thick slices. Place then in a large mixing bowl. Peel the eggplant (the skin burns very easily on the grill), and cut into pieces similar in size to the squashes. Add the eggplant to the mixing bowl with the squashes. Halve the pepper(s) and remove the core, seeds and ribs. Cut into 1-inch pieces, then add to the other veggies. Remove the stems from the mushrooms and cut the caps into quarters, and add to the bowl. Peel and cut the shallots into 1/2-inch chunks and, with the tomatoes, add to the veggie mixture.

Pour the olive oil and vinegar over the vegetables and season with salt, pepper and leaves of oregano. Toss well and set aside to marinate.

Light the grill and set a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. When the water boils, add salt and the pasta.

While the pasta is cooking, place a grill pan over the heat (coals or gas). When hot, add the vegetables and, with a spatula, spread them into a single layer. Let them cook for a bit, then toss often as they continue to grill. Some pieces will char a bit, but don’t worry - the final flavor will be wonderful!

When the veggies are done to your liking, return them to the bowl. If the pasta isn’t ready yet, cover the vegetables with foil to keep them warm. When the pasta is done, add it to the veggies and toss well to mix. Add a bit of the pasta water if you want more of a sauce.

Divide among 4 bowls and serve with bowls of torn basil leaves, chile flakes, and grated cheese.

Serves 4.

43 comments:

  1. This sounds like a lovely dish. And, as you suggested, I'm sure I would enjoy it even though I'm not vegan.

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    1. Thanks, Jeff! Definitely not vegan here, either, but I love a good veg dish every now and then!

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  2. Thank you for this light, healthy and delicious recipe, David! With a month ahead of us of rich meals and pre Christmas parties, it’ll be a refreshing but special dish ❤️xxx

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    1. Thanks, Jane! Yes, as we plow head first into the holidays, a little restraint might be a good thing! xox

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  3. You please everyone David. It looks so delicious.

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  4. Dear David, actually this looks exactly like the dish I cook for our 'vegetarian days' starting in late summer - nothing beats grilled seasonal veggies, loads of fresh basil and freshly grated parmesan (including the vegan variety, of course) - I am grateful that the vegan 'alternatives' for dairy products etc. are so widely available around here.
    Healthy and delicious, perfect fot offsetting all those December treats ;)

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    1. Thanks, Andrea! We are so lucky that we get good veggies in season most of the year in the desert - making dishes like this year-round for us!

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  5. I love vegetarian and looks delicious but my daugther love vegan !!Im sure she would love this!!

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  6. A beautiful offering, David, rather similar to one which is a firm favourite in this house ! As I do not believe in diets, which one never heard about when I first began sharing food with friends, I am immensely glad none of mine follow any :) ! Rather than cook ;their way for the whole table I would be more likely to serve normally but with an ability to offer a full meal with options for the loner . . kudos to you !! You are absolutely right that we serve vegetarian dishes without thinking anyways in a normal menu . . and enjoy them to bits . . . actually I go Italian or Greek . . .

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    1. Being one with a pretty severe allergy, I hate being single out at the table... it just puts too much focus on me and makes me uncomfortable, always bringing me to the attention of the entire table. [awkward] In addition to my mother having taught me this way, maybe the above mentioned awkwardness is why I do it for others. Mind you - and I will say the same to Sherry - people who come to dinner on fad diets can sit up, shut up, and eat up. And, for Pete’s sake, if you are going through a seasonal cleanse, please say “no” when you are invited to dine at someone’s home. But allergies and serious dietary restrictions, I say “Bring ‘em on!” I love a good challenge!

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  7. I agree, we eat vegetarian and vegan a lot, but just don't "classify" those dishes as such. Pasta and vegetables is such a great meal anyway, who cares how you categorize it! :)

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    1. Exactly, Christina! To me, there is almost nothing more exquisite than pasta with a beautiful pomarola... Was it vegan/vegetarian? Who cares?

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  8. This recipe looks delicious, David! Doesn't look tough or stringy at all. We aim to eat less meat, and this recipe is inspiration. Love the smell and taste of grilled veg, and like the idea of veg based meals with extras on the side for mixed guests. Beautiful pics, and best wishes! :D

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    1. The grilling really dies add such great flavor, Ngeun! Thanks for your kind comment and I hope all is well with you and your family. :)

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  9. yes it's actually fairly easy to make something vegan or vego isn't it? i just hate it when people make a huge fuss about being one, and make sure that everybody knows about it! i remember a vego friend saying that when she was living in the south of france, a new friend made her a dish with lamb or beef and she refused to eat it but now she says she wished she had just eaten the darn dish! and what about those people who won't eat gluten even tho they're not coeliacs? grrrrr. sorry what a rant today from me...

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    1. We have so many of the Sam bugaboos, Sherry! I cannot put up with the regularly shifting fad diets, or those who are carb free for no good reason. I was once told a guest had Celiac disease so I made risotto. Perfetto. She wouldn’t eat it because it had “gluten.” (!) I said, there’s no gluten in rice - this is fine. “But it has carbs...” Which is when I hit the roof. She didn’t have Celiac disease - she was just trying to lose weight by avoiding carbs. Grrr. And people like that do a real disservice to those who do have the disease, because no one believes them! Rant finished.

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    2. oh i agree so much david. a relative insisted on gluten free bread (not a coeliac) then ate not one bite!! i think good manners says - just eat the darn thing unless it's gonna kill you!:-)

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    3. Oh, that would have sent me over the edge! Harrumph.

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  10. So true David ! We try so much to label everything and everybody instead enjoying the abundance of different everything !!! I can't even remember the last time we had meat and we are not vegetarians nor vegans. We eat good, healthy tasty food, for Heavens sake ! Thank you for the beauty as usual and I hope you'll get better soon :-) Bye for now :-)

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    1. So true Davorka — let’s all try to remember to focus on being together with friends and family — especially at this time of year!

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  11. David, as the snow and sleet bangs against the window, reading your recipe makes me long for summer and it's garden bounty. Your Grilled Veggie Pasta sounds fantastic and one we'd enjoy. Don't you just love cooking with campanelle?

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    1. It’s really one if our favorite pasta forms, Ron - it holds sauces so well! We are so lucky that the impending winter doesn’t stop us desert folk from good veggies and grilling!

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  12. Vegan, gluten-free? It has all gotten so complicated.Seems like growing up in the 50s and 60s, everyone seemed to eat just about everything!I eat bucket-loads of Greek yogurt so I would have a hard time being vegan, but you're right about not singling out someone who has different dietary habits when hosting people at your home!

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    1. Thanks, Fran. Being a good host means a lot to me, and I’m so glad others are with me! I don’t think I could go vegan, or even vegetarian - variety makes life fun!

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  13. It's so true how many meals we all eat without noticing they're vegan/vegetarian, or even gluten-free. No matter the diet, this recipe would be a hit with everyone, and it's a welcome lighter meal after the holiday. :-) ~Valentina

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  14. This looks terrific -- and is actually the sort of dish we eat often. Cooking for vegans is pretty easy -- until to come to dessert. No Butter? Eggs? Cream? Eeek! :-)

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    1. So true, John. So very true. I have only a few vegan desserts I like... so many times it’s down to fresh fruit!

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  15. David, what a lovely dish! And I so agree with what you said about not making the vegan guest feel singled out by making a separate meal for them. I like the idea of having some separate toppings others might like to add to their own non-vegan plates.

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    1. Jean - I am sure you found yourself in the position of having a special single portion of the dinner set aside for you! Separate toppings make all the difference!

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  16. We won't be grilling any time soon (as there is too much snow to open the shed where the grill is kept!) but it is exactly the kind of meal I love!

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    1. Maybe you need to rethink your grill placement, Susan! 😊

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  17. David, this pasta looks absolutely delicious! Love all the grilled veggies. They're so much tastier than meat anyway!

    I can't help but giggle at the tough and stringy vegetarians! We've certainly come a long way since then.

    While I am a meat eater, it's usually my least favorite thing on the table. Give me all the carby sides and veggies! It's so true that many of the things we love to eat are naturally vegetarian or vegan if we swap a few ingredients. I really appreciate your advice on not making separate dishes. There's a real pleasure in a meal being shared by all and no need to make anyone feel excluded.

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    1. I’m glad my little OLD joke gave you a giggle, Kelly! And I think we all could use a veg/vegan meal now and then!

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  18. Cooking Italian does make it pretty easy to go vegan, or at least vegetarian. Almost a no brainer as so many dishes were meatless out of necessity back in the day. I'm not vegan myself, but if I had to put myself in a box, I'd call myself "flexitarian". Can go days without meat and not miss it. But I'm not sure I could go without it forever, as a conscious decision. Pork is just too tasty...

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  19. I agree, when I am making a meal for those with special eating needs like vegan or gluten free, I try to make a meal that everyone can eat. I too make so many recipes that are vegan.
    Your recipe looks delicious

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    1. Thanks, Judee - and, as you are gluten free (or someone isn your life is), you know this from personal experience!

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  20. Great job on the challenge David!. I once said, "If I have eggs and cheese, I can do anything" to point out how much easier vegetarian is. But I always considered these challenges an exercise in creativity. Alas, what if you need to do vegan with something like autoimmune protocol so you also lose grains, legumes, all nightshades and sugar. Facing this, I have given up on everyone being able to eat everything.

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Thank you for taking the time to leave me a note - I really appreciate hearing from you and welcome any ideas you may have for future posts, too. Happy Cooking!

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