The Challenge: Design, cook, and implement a dinner menu for a backyard wedding with 80 guests and a budget of $1000. Today we search for a vegetarian main dish.
So to refresh your memories, or fill in the important details for anyone new… I’ve been really excited about testing out Smitten Kitchen’s ratatouille as a possible vegetarian main dish for the wedding. It’s gorgeous and summery, which is totally what you want for the food at a summer wedding. But, equally important it looks like it would make a really substantial main dish for the vegetarians attending the wedding. I have absolutely no desire to be a vegetarian myself, it’s rabbit food if you ask me. But, I do feel like the group often gets the short end of the dining stick. Take a picnic for example, generally the vegetarians eat the side dishes right? No main dish. Now that can be ok if the sides are all super awesome. But, still no main dish… I don’t know, it just feels like something is missing. And for the wedding food I really want to offer a real main dish for my rabbit friends. Especially since the groom is one of the rabbits.
In testing this dish, I’ve definitely come to the conclusion that I am SO not a rabbit. I tried SK’s ratatouille, adapted it a bit of course, and it is absolutely divine. Smitten Kitchen = food brilliance! I served it over pasta with a liberal helping of goat cheese, and a nice drizzle of olive oil. It so so works. But, the entire time I was eating I kept thinking, “If I could just add a nice spicy sausage on the side of this it would be absolutely perfect.” See? Clearly not a vegetarian. However, I think many a vegetarian would very much enjoy this dish (without the sausage of course).
Unfortunately it totally doesn’t work for the wedding. (Big sad face right here guys!) While it is delicious and I highly recommend you make it for dinner tonight, ratatouille is not my veggie main dish answer. There are two big problems with it for the wedding. The first, I’m trying to come up with a menu that can all be served cold/room temp. The ratatouille tastes ok cool, but it really works best hot.
I have strong opinions about the temperature of food. It really bugs me when hot food is served barely warm or lukewarm at best. I’m of the opinion its best to pick something that doesn’t need to stay hot, then serve something that should be hot, cold. In my humble opinion many of the things designed to keep large quantities of food hot don’t work very well. The things that work well are expensive or tacky for a wedding (ie. crockpots. They work great but just don’t look right at a wedding.) Considering all this I feel like it’s probably best to pick dishes that don’t need to stay hot in the first place.
The second issue is that I was planning on serving the ratatouille as a stand alone dish, but it really needs to be served with a starch, pasta, rice, couscous, whatever, but, something. Once you add pasta to the dish, or rice it doesn’t quite work for the whole picnic thing we have going on. Not finger or fork alone food. Pasta makes it a sit at a table with a knife and fork. Plus pasta dinner doesn’t fit picnic.
I’m sharing my adaptation with you today, cause you totally need to make it for dinner, like seriously, tonight! But, it’s back to the drawing board for the wedding. This almost makes me want to revamp the entire menu and go back to the pulled pork! Except we still have the hot food issue then… Does anyone have any suggestions? Any fantastic ways to keep hot food hot that aren’t expensive? Brilliant picnic friendly vegetarian main dish? Let me know!
- 5 roma tomatoes
- 2 zucchini
- 2 yellow squash
- 1 eggplant
- 1-2 red bell peppers
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
- 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- sea salt and pepper to taste
- one lb. cooked pasta
- goat cheese
- 1. Preheat the oven to 400*. Prep the veggies: Dice the tomatoes. Using a mandolin or shape knife slice the zucchini, yellow squash, and eggplant into rounds about 1/16 inch thick. Cut the bell pepper into thin strips.
- 2. Assembly: Spread the tomato paste along the bottom of a medium sized baking dish. Place the diced tomatoes on top. On top of the tomatoes start layering the vegetable in a standing up position. It is easiest to start at one end of the pan. Start by standing up a row of eggplant against the side of the pan. Then lay a layer of yellow squash in a row, then zucchini, and then bell pepper. Leave a little bit of the previous layer visible each time you add a new layer. Repeat filling the entire pan. Season the top of the veggies with the garlic, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste.
- 3. Bake at 400*for 30-40 until the vegetable are tender but have not yet begun to mush.
- 4. Serve over hot pasta, drizzle with olive oil and top with goat cheese. Serve hot.