Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Vegan Entertaining: Mango Avocado Salsa, Glazed Ratatouille, Muhummara

As I’ve openly admitted in a previous post, one of the perks of moving to a new home is the excuse to party. For me the excitement lies in cooking for guests of course, but hosting others is what I love best. Last weekend, I was very much looking forward to having all of our friends over, subtly stuffing them with vegan delights both savory and sweet and embracing the inevitable house guest shock that nothing on the table contains butter, dairy or eggs. A parade of recipe requests is another pleasant result that is as reassuring as it is encouraging for the vegan chef whose lasso consists of these small culinary triumphs in order to rope others into the meatless life – I swear my intent is not as vindictive as that may have sounded. Conversion is never the goal, but awareness is and enthusiasm is a plus.

When I started menu planning for the event, there was a definite issue with numbers and ease of preparation. While I’m used to the feeling of being in over my head in order to indulge in some hostess fantasy involving complicated and interesting eats enjoyed by even the most cautious of eaters, this was not one of those times I was willing to go crazy folding samosa over samosa. There were too many people to feed and I was going for too much variety to spend half a day on just one item. I stuck with some familiar fare along with some mildly adventurous options. Everything was easy to prepare, with the exception of the apple tart whose challenge was only the perfect crust. I’m not a dough guru yet. Looking over my carte du jour, I started to feel a little plain – salsa, hummus, baguette, chips, etc…but I had to get over my desire to have an eccentric spread for the very first large gathering at the house. After all, I did want these people to return for future bashes.

So the menu was as follows and I’ll include some recipes here for the most popular hits. One certain winner was the Mango Avocado Salsa whose sweet flavor and smooth texture was skipped by hardly anyone. Another was the Heart Healthiest Chocolate Chip Cookies, whose recipe I took from Vegetarian Times.

A pleasant surprise was the reaction to Muhummara, a Turkish red pepper and walnut spread. That one has definitely made it to the party staple list. Some items that need improvement include the Vegan Goat Cheese Spread taken from Bryanna Clark Grogan’s blog –it wasn’t disgusting, but it did not taste like goat cheese nor did it have even a mildly similar texture. Isa Moskowitz’s Vegan Cornbread recipe from the PPK was good, but needs some enhancements – some reviewers suggested a pinch of brown sugar or jalapenos for a much needed flare. On the whole, these were still well-received.

Housewarming Noshes

 Chips & Salsa – Black Bean Salsa, Mango Avocado Salsa
 Potato Chips & Vegan Goat Cheese Spread
 Pita & Tasty Trio of Dips– Hummus, Muhummara, Black Olive Parsley Tapenade
 Roasted Vegetables – Rosemary Red Potatoes & Asparagus, Glazed Ratatouille

 Fresh Fruit Platter – Papaya, Kumquats, Blueberries, Strawberries, Cantaloupe
 Heart Healthiest Chocolate Chip Cookies
 Cornbread – Plain, Blueberry
 French Apple Tart

Mango Avocado Salsa
Makes: 4-5 cups
Prep Time: 15 minutes


3 Mangoes, ripe but still firm to the squeeze
2 Avocados, ripe but firm to the squeeze
1 Jalapeno*, seeded and minced
½ Large red onion, finely diced (about ¾ c.)
1/3 c. Cilantro, chopped
2 T. Lime juice, freshly squeezed
1 tsp. + Olive oil
1 tsp. Salt

* Adjust the jalapeno amount to your personal spice preference. If you have a mild jalapeno, use at least one. If you have a very hot jalapeno, you may want to start with ½ and adjust from there.


To cut mango – with a large knife, cut flesh and peel from around core by slicing 4-5 large chunks from the sides. Slice each chunk into ¾ to 1 inch wide pieces. Slice knife between flesh and peel to remove peel (similar to cutting up cantaloupe). Dice sections and place in large mixing bowl.

To cut avocado – cut in half around seed and pull apart. Remove seed and peel. Dice and place in mixing bowl with mango along with jalapeno, red onion and cilantro.

Whisk lime juice, olive oil and salt together in small bowl. Pour over salsa and stir to coat well. Taste and adjust salt and/or lime juice level. If salsa is too tart, add additional olive oil.

Glazed Ratatouille
Makes: 6-8 servings
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes


For the Vegetables
1 Large eggplant
4 Summer squash (green and yellow)
1 Sweet white or yellow onion
3 T. Olive oil, divided
2 tsp Salt, divided
1 tsp Freshly ground black pepper, divided

For the Glaze
1 14 oz can Diced tomatoes or 2 c. fresh tomatoes, chopped
½ c. Water
3 T. Balsamic vinegar
½ tsp Salt
½ tsp Sugar
Pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 450˚F.

Remove and discard eggplant stem and cut into large cubes (1 ½” inches). Place eggplant in a colander and sprinkle 1 tsp salt over cubes. Let sweat for 15-20 minutes while you prepare the remaining vegetables.

Remove squash stems and slice into ½” inch thick pieces. Slice onion and combine with squash in large bowl. Coat with 1 ½ T. olive oil, 1 tsp salt and ½ tsp black pepper. Spread vegetables over baking sheet and roast in oven until brown and tender, about 20 minutes. Remove and set aside in serving dish or platter.

Returning to eggplant, squeeze out any remaining moisture using paper towels. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and coat with 1 ½ T. olive oil and ½ tsp black pepper. Spread eggplant over baking sheet and roast in oven until browned, 25-30 minutes. Remove and set aside in dish on top or mixed in with the squash-onion mixture.

While vegetables are roasting, make the glaze. Bring first 4 ingredients to a boil in a small sauce pan. Reduce heat to medium-high, leave mixture at a medium boil until reduced by half, about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low and add sugar. Let simmer another 3-5 minutes until sauce is thick. Season with pepper to taste and additional salt if necessary. Pour glaze over vegetables without stirring in completely.

Makes about 1 cup
Prep time: 25 minutes


1 Large red bell pepper
¾ c. Walnuts
1 clove garlic
½ T. Pomegranate molasses
1 tsp. Lemon juice
½ tsp Salt
½ tsp Cayenne or crushed red pepper*
* Adjust to your spice level – start with ¼ tsp and add more to taste.


Place oven on high broil setting. Broil whole red pepper, turning occasionally, until skin is blackened and blistered on all sides, about 15 minutes. Remove and set aside in a paper bag. Let sit until cool enough to handle, 5-10 minutes. Remove skin, stem and seeds.Place pepper and remaining ingredients in food processor and pulse until walnuts are well-ground but still a bit chunky. Season with additional salt and pepper if necessary.


  1. You forgot the picture of the booze :)

  2. Yum! We made the mango avocado salsa last night, and it was delicious!