Crowd-Pleasers

Most people who read this blog probably already know this, but H and I first met while playing softball (on opposing teams) in our law school intramural league. For the past several years, we have continued to play together in the summer in an adult recreational league of greater Boston.  Dorn’s has become a staple of our summer schedule and a centerpiece of our social life as a couple.

dorns
Dorn’s 2012

derby
H and me decked out in red

Since H is the captain and I am the captain’s wife, we hosted our team’s post-season barbecue at our home way out in the burbs this year.

I should first say that I really love hosting parties.  H and I have lived in our house for just under 2 years and we have now had 5 great get-togethers in it (2 holiday parties, 2 barbecues, and a Superbowl party).  But holy hell is it a lot of work.

This isn’t really anyone’s fault but my own.  You see, it really wouldn’t be that big of a faux pas to just buy a bunch of pre-made platters and stuff to serve to a crowd (and frankly I’d probably end up spending about the same amount of money).  But no, I have this compulsion to make everything myself.

So as soon as H and I set a date for this year’s Dorn’s barbecue, I started planning a menu.  Our team consists solely of wings-loving omnivores and me, plus one vegetarian (who unfortunately wasn’t going to make it).  I decided to do my traditional taco bar, with meat, yes, but also with the option of Ancho Lentils from Post Punk Kitchen (click for recipe).  This way I can have a taco (never mind that these lentils are a total crowd-pleaser, delicious to everyone, regardless of dietary preference).  Plus hamburgers and hot dogs (which I wouldn’t have to look at…grilling is H’s job).  Everything else I served, I decided, would be vegan.

I don’t have a picture of the Ancho Lentils from my taco bar, but here’s an old one of the same recipe that I ate on a sandwich with dijon mustard.  Yes, they are versatile!
MayFood-LunchPost005

I was all freaked out because I realized we were going to have between 20 and 25 people and I’ve never made food for that many before.  So I pulled a bunch of recipes and then doubled or tripled them to make enough.  Let’s just say I overestimated.

But no matter.  For appetizers, I decided to make Olive-Rosemary Tapenade from this PureWow recipe (minus the anchovy) that had caught my eye a few months ago.  The recipe requires some intensive chopping (especially when using non-pitted olives…ugh).  I did most of it on Wednesday night and waited until Friday night (the night before the barbecue) to mix in the chopped parsley and orange zest.

Here are the prepped ingredients, packed up and ready to go on Wednesday night.
Olive Tapenade Prep
Kalamata and castelvetrano olives, red bell pepper, jalapeno, and garlic

Oh, and when I was chopping the red pepper, I found this devilish little piece inside…
Devil Tail
H: “That picture just proves that vegetables are evil.”

Here is the finished product, served with crostini that I made according to this method by Chloe Coscarelli:
Tapenade with crostiniI also made the Summer Orchard Bruschetta from Happy. Healthy. Life. (click for recipe):
Summer Orchard Bruschetta 1Also served with crostini:
Bruschetta with crostini
I love, love, LOVE this bruschetta and am going to make it again and again!

Appetizers not pictured: hummus platter (Cedar’s original with carrots and celery); Utz honey barbecue chips; tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole (thankfully I didn’t make these by hand…I used Whole Foods medium chunky salsa and Trader Joe’s spicy guacamole autentico [which is incredible btw]).  Oh, and loaded tater tots (which weren’t vegan, so I guess ALMOST everything else I made was vegan).

So that there would be stuff to drink besides beer, I made Stoli Dolis (2 pineapples, cored and cut into rings, with vodka poured over them, which sat for 5-6 days and was WAY too strong…in the future I would soak the pineapple at least 2 weeks before serving) and Strawberry-Mint Water:

Strawberry Mint Water

I got the idea back in May, when H and I went to a wedding on Nantucket.  In the hotel lobby, they had a water cooler with strawberries floating in it and it was so incredibly delicious.  My own version did not disappoint either.

Drink Station

For dishes to serve on the side of the entrees, I did my favorite Vegan Caesar Salad with Avocado and Chickpeas from Post Punk Kitchen (click for recipe).  I didn’t take a picture of the trough of salad that I served at this barbecue, but here is a pic from when I made the recipe once before:
Picture 016

I also made Creamy Avocado Potato Salad from Post Punk Kitchen (click for recipe).  I like that blog, a little.

First of all, look at these stunning avocados:
Avocados

Next, here is a picture of the “dressing” all creamy and beautiful in the food processor:
Potato Salad Dressing

Finally, I forgot to take a picture of the finished product.  But it looked like fingerling potatoes with green stuff on them.

Also on the side, and not pictured (I suck) was a pesto pasta salad, which was just cooked elbow macaroni tossed with Classic Pesto from Vegan With a Vengeance and chopped cherry tomatoes.  And the corn and black bean salad that I talked about in my last post.  Oh, and corn on the cob.  I was going to also serve collard greens but there was too much food and so I didn’t.

Finally, dessert!  I served a fruit salad in a watermelon bowl, which I didn’t photograph because the watermelon shell looked kinda wonky, plus it was dark by the time we got to dessert.  The fruit salad contained watermelon (obviously), pineapple, strawberries, blueberries, and kiwi.  I was able to prep the fruit salad ingredients well in advance of the party.  Here are the latter three ingredients packed up in a very large container:
Fruit Salad prep

Because our team’s color is red, I wanted to make an appropriately colored dessert.  I chose Vanilla Cupcakes with Strawberry Buttercream Frosting from Made Just Right by Earth Balance (click for recipe).  These came out great! I mean, they’re pink, but strawberries are red, so it works, right?  [One note: I noticed while making this that the recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of baking powder and I was like…no.  That is most definitely a typo.  So I used 2 tsp. and the cupcakes turned out great, so if you make this recipe do NOT use 2 tbsp.!]

Cupcake Platter 2

They looked so pretty on my cupcake platter!

Cupcake Platter 1

Bonus: M (an honorary Dorn) came up to visit and hang out at the barbecue.

Obligatory
Obligatory sisters shot

And late Sunday afternoon, after two softball games and lots of house cleanup, I used leftover watermelon (which I had frozen) and leftover Summer Orchard Bruschetta (which was already getting soggy) to make this incredible concoction for the three of us to enjoy.Watermelon Frosty 1

Watermelon Frosties for all!

All in all, the party was a ton of fun, everyone was completely stuffed and happy, and no one seemed to even notice or care that the usual cheese platter/mayo-heavy potato and pasta salad/creamy veggie dip were missing.  I think the key to this lies in choosing recipes that utilize “normal” things that everyone loves (like avocado and chickpeas).  I call these “crowd-pleasers.”

The other thing is not to broadcast that everything is vegan.  I know some would disagree with me, but I really do believe that it’s important to let the food speak for itself.  Most people think that it must be very difficult to be vegan.  Frankly, I used to be one of them.  That was before I learned how to be creative and think outside the box and really understand and appreciate all of the things that can be done with plant foods.

Obviously, if people ask me questions, I am happy to answer.  But actually, at this barbecue, the only dish I got questions about was the Caesar Salad, (i.e., “How is the dressing vegan?” Answer: “It’s made with tahini.”  I didn’t mention the nooch though.)  Usually it’d be the cupcakes (“How did you make the frosting?” “How can you bake cake without eggs?”), but not this time.

Well. Hopefully this post was long enough.

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4 thoughts on “Crowd-Pleasers

  1. Ashley! LOVED this article! I am officially depressed that I missed this cookout. Everything sounds AMAZING. I seriously am showing up for dinner one night because pretty much every item you listed sounds like something I would be obsessed with. Maybe you should email some of these to the Draft to take into consideration…

  2. Pingback: Vegan MoFo Orange Week – Fun with Fruit | A.Cook in the Making

  3. Pingback: A Wintry Mix | A.Cook in the Making

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