If you’re the sort who stresses out about throwing the perfect party, you won’t want to be caught off guard at this summer’s barbecue when your cousin Fred shows up with his gluten-free, lactose-intolerant, vegan girlfriend. Always ask about dietary restrictions, but don’t count on Fred to remember what his arm candy eats or doesn’t eat. Not knowing what to expect your best bet is to design a diverse menu. Don’t just automatically put cheese on everything, and provide plenty of DIY options with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Just because he’s a vegetarian doesn’t mean he likes tofu.
1. Barbecue Portobello Quesedillas. We found a tantalizing recipe at Eating Well that spices up this “meaty” veggie dish with chipotle chiles in adobe sauce.
2. Herbed Polenta Fries. Polenta is another gluten-free option. Cut your cooled sage and rosemary infused Parmigiano-Reggiano polenta into fry-sized sticks and bake under the broiler until golden or why not on the grill?
3. Holy Mackerel. The last thing you need putting a damper on your party is a debate about sustainable seafood and grocery store politics. A fast-growing species of fish caught with ocean-friendly practices, mackerel is an affordable alternative to more popular varieties identified by Greenpeace as “under pressure.” Mackerel was also named by Bon Appetit magazine as one of 25 trends to taste before 2012 is over. Among the more intriguing recipes we found was one for mackerel fillets grilled on the barbecue and served with a cucumber, fennel and celery “cole slaw” dressed with a Dijon honey mustard dressing.
4. Tomato, Squash, and Coconut Milk Bisque. This vegan soup via Honest Fare, roasts butternut or acorn squash and roma tomatoes deglazed in coconut milk, blended spiced with red pepper flakes and sweetened with agave syrup.
5. Vegetable Spring Rolls. Matchstick cut veggies wrapped with rice noodles and fresh herbs in softened rice sheets are served with a lemongrass and ginger peanut sauce. They’ll be fighting over these. (via www.twopeasandtheirpod.com)
6. Grilled Pizza. You control your own dough, sauce and toppings. Use feta or goat cheeses, grape tomatoes and fresh herbs and garlic for a gourmet-style traditional pie or get funky. The trick is to grill the dough on both sides before topping. We found detailed instructions at Rodale.com.
7. Kale-Apple Coleslaw with Poppy Seed Dressing. OK, so this is technically a side dish but what a welcome update on the old cabbage dish. Find a recipe at chow.com.
8. Spinach Quinoa Cakes. Mix 4 eggs with three ounces of chopped spinach, one leek, five ounces of goat cheese with salt and pepper and a half cup of cooked quinoa. Divide into greased muffin cups and bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 350 degrees.
9. The Other Veggie Burger. Just like tofu isn’t universally loved, those frozen veggie burgers boxed in the freezer section aren’t every vegetarian’s cup of tea. We found recipes for a Black Bean Chipolte Burger and Greek Spinach Veggie Burger at Better Homes and Gardens that will appeal to the carnivore crowd as well. (See also Tandoori Chicken Burger!)
10. Dessert. Grilled pineapple over cinnamon laced ice cream. Enough said.