Have you taken a look at Molly Stevens' mind-boggling roast matrix? It's a thing of a beauty. An obsessive planner's dream. It determines your ideal roast by keeping in mind an armful of variables, from whether the hunk o' meat has to be prepped in advance to whether it makes for good leftovers.
It even includes a very viable, very impressive vegetarian option: Alon Shaya's incredible, edible Whole-Roasted Cauliflower. But, as a vegetarian who's watched that whole head of cauliflower bobbing around in its wine-water bath several times, what are my other options? (That is not to say that the cauliflower is not magnificent—it is.)
If you don't want to have the centerpiece be meat—you or your guests don't eat it, or you're scared of roasting in a dinky rental oven, or you'd rather eat smaller amounts of a greater number of dishes—look towards this vegetarian, can-be-vegan feast. What the menu lacks in a marquee centerpiece it makes up in variety, spice, and sheer vegetable count. And there's enough substance in here to keep any adamant meat-eaters satisfied, too.
(And if this particular menu doesn't appeal to you, you can always use our Holiday Menu Genie to craft another that's more suited to your tastes and constraints.)
A few notes, for starters:
- Most of the recipes in this menu serve four (except for the cauliflower, which serves two). If you're serving six or eight guests, it's wise to double the recipes (and triple the cauliflower). All will keep well for lunches throughout the week.
- Some of these recipes are not vegan as written, but all can be easily adapted.
- Use canned chickpeas in the Chickpeas and Spinach to make your life easier.
- In addition to the ingredients for all of the recipes, you'll also want to get bread (for serving with the squash dip and soaking up the olive oil) and wine and/or beer (or ask your guests to bring those!).
Plus polenta or pasta for serving underneath the bourguignon.
Two days before your party:
- Roast the squash for the hummus. In a separate pan in the oven, roast a handful of pumpkin seeds that have been tossed with a little oil, and some salt and pepper (watch these carefully so they don't burn). Meanwhile, on the stove, poach the garlic and peppers that it'll get blended with. You can finish the dip now—blend the squash, the garlic and peppers and their oil, lemon juice, and tahini—or, if you're out of time, do this process tomorrow.
- When that squash is finished, raise the heat to 375° F and roast the kabocha squash and hazelnuts for the kale salad. While that cooks, get your pomegranate prep out of the way.
- Start the halvah. You can follow the recipe through step 5 (basically, all the hard parts!), then smooth it into the pan and refrigerate it overnight.
- If you've got more time to work with, might as well cut the cauliflower florets now. (Otherwise, this can wait.)
The day before your party:
- Bake the cake, start to finish. While the dates soak (about an hour), you can finish the halvah. Melt the chocolate and toast the almond slices for the top coat, then pour and sprinkle over the hardened almond butter layer. Put the pan back in the refrigerator to harden.
- Cook the mushroom bourguignon, which will be more deeply flavorful the next day, but swap the beef broth for vegetable. If you're making a vegan meal, leave out the butter and replace it with additional olive oil.
- Make the breadcrumb mixture for the chickpeas and spinach (fry bread with spices, then grind with a mortar and pestle or food processor).
- Will you be serving polenta that needs to soak overnight? Now's the time!
- Blend the squash dip if you didn't yesterday. (Since it needs to be refrigerated for at least 3 hours before you serve it, you might as well get it out of the way today!)
A few hours before the party:
- Take the olives and the squash dip (hey, remember those?) out of the fridge so that they'll be at room temperature for party time.
- Same with the halvah. Leave it at room temperature until it's soft enough to slice, then cut it into chunks, put it on a platter, and set back in the fridge until you're ready to serve dessert.
The finishing touches:
- Rewarm the mushroom bourguignon in a big pot over low heat. Cook whatever you'll be serving it over: polenta, pasta, farro, or boiled and buttered potatoes, for example.
- About 30 minutes before you want to eat, finish the chickpeas and spinach. Cover with foil and keep warm in a low temperature oven.
- While the bourguignon and chickpeas are on the stove, roast the cauliflower in the oven.
- Assemble the salad—the kale leaves are hearty enough to withstand dressing for at least an hour before you'll be sitting down.
- Slice lots of bread—either big loaves or slimmer baguettes. Cut more than you think you'll eat.
- Garnish the squash dip with yogurt (skip it for a vegan meal), cilantro, and the pumpkin seeds you toasted a couple days back.
- Dust the cake with confectioners' sugar and cut it into wedges. (Veronica says: "This cake isn't a beauty queen so should be plated in the kitchen!")
What do you serve when you need to impress but meat's not an option? Tell us in the comments.