I recently had the pleasure of hosting a vegan dinner party for new friends. As I don’t normally cook this way, it was a challenge to come up with a menu that didn’t consist of any animal products—no meat, dairy, eggs, cheese, honey, etc. After a little research, I decided to do a Moroccan meal. This flavorful cuisine utilizes lots of vegetables, legumes, spices and herbs so I thought it would be suitable for an entire vegan menu.
This is part one of a two part blog. This blog will cover the appetizers and cocktails and part two will cover the table setting and dinner menu.
I always like to serve a welcoming cocktail that sets the theme for the coming meal. In this case, I wanted to create a cocktail that would combine some of the classic flavors of the Middle East, including citrus, spices and the unique perfumey flavor of orange blossom water (available at Indian and Middle Eastern stores or online). After a little research and some mandatory taste testing, I came up with this recipe.
Feel free to experiment with this recipe. Substitute cloves or cardamom for the star anise or try switching the orange liqueur to limoncello. Instead of using sparkling water, you could use unsweetened iced tea. And if you’re looking for a non-alcholic version, use orange juice instead of orange liqueur.
I found a very unusual hummus recipe that included saffron, cumin, cloves and cinnamon. I was a little afraid to try it because it called for honey and it was hard for me to imagine a sweet hummus. However I was pleasantly surprised to find the flavors worked so well together and will definitely make it again. It was both both savory and sweet and the combination of spices gave it a rather complex flavor profile. Here’s the recipe. (Note: I substituted agave syrup for the honey to keep it vegan.)
I also made a Moroccan dish called “taktouka” which is primarily made with tomatoes and green peppers. I substituted pasilla peppers for the green bell peppers which gave it some mild heat. I served the taktouka and hummus with a basket of pita bread. Here’s the link with the recipe.
I rounded out the appetizer tray with some store bought chili spiced peanuts and a dish of olive tapenade. I used a silk scarf with a colorful paisley pattern to line my serving tray. The blue and white hand painted vase was a gift from a former student from Turkey (from my previous career as an international student advisor). I filled it with some greenery from my backyard and added a candle on the other side of the tray. While my living room is not exactly a tent camp in the middle of the Sahara, I tried to represent in some small way the warmth and hospitality of a Middle Eastern gathering.
Next week’s blog will feature the dinner menu and table setting. Stay tuned!.