Meatless Monday – The Big Ten
The 10 Best Vegan Appetizers for Fall
By Meg Claire
Fall moves fast these days, doesn’t it? I think it’s because we always seem to have friends and family over on the weekends. After a crisp day of apple or pumpkin picking, you’re ready to kick back with a hearty beer or a glass of wine. It’s nice to have a few little bites set out – just to whet the appetite before supper. These are my picks for the simplest, most delicious apps to compliment the fall palate.
1. Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Bake 2 cups of rinsed and dried fresh pumpkin seeds at 300 degrees until dry throughout, about 50 minutes. Remove the seeds and increase oven temperature to 350 degrees. Toss the seeds with 2 tablespoons of Earth Balance or olive oil, 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar, ½ teaspoon kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon. Return the seeds to the baking sheet and toast until golden brown, about 10 minutes.
It’s fun to squeeze the soy beans out of the pods in your mouth. Just buy a bag of frozen edamame and boil according to package instructions. Rinse with cold water until lukewarm. Dry (mostly) and toss with a pinch or two of kosher salt.
3. Bread and Oil
Comforting, familiar, and even heavenly when you use the best freshly-baked local bread and Italian extra virgin olive oil you can find. In New Jersey, the best bakery is Calandra’s and you’re lucky if you can get your mitts on a loaf of their Semolina Batard. Occasionally I add a few drops of truffle oil to a small dish of olive oil just to give the bread a woodsy, fall flavor.
Couldn’t be easier. Just set them out with an empty bowl to collect the shells.
5. Olives with Orange Zest and Rosemary
Very elegant with grissini breadsticks. Hit up the olive bar at your local grocery. Stock up on young, green olives (sometimes called Picholine). Shave some orange zest on ‘em and toss with a few short stubs of fresh rosemary. Drizzle a little olive oil on them if they look dry.
6. Marinated Mushrooms
I always get compliments on these little gems. Jarred marinated mushrooms can veer into slimy territories, and it’s just as easy to make your own. Bring to a boil the following: ½ cup olive oil, 1/3 cup red wine vinegar, 1 ½ teaspoons salt, ½ teaspoon dried basil, 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme, 10 peppercorns, 1 bay leaf, 1 garlic clove (peeled and halved). Simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in 10oz. of cleaned mushrooms (halved, if they’re huge) and toss to coat. Simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes or until fork-tender. Let cool on the counter, then cover and refrigerate. They keep for about a week, and the leftover marinade makes a luscious dressing for green salads.
7. Cherry Tomatoes and Tofu
This surprising combination will go fast! Halve a pint of cherry tomatoes. Toss with 1/4lb. of cubed, extra firm tofu, a few dashes of soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, red wine vinegar, sliced scallions and a pinch of sugar.
8. Garlic Bread
Another comforting crowd pleaser. Take a loaf of Italian bread and half it horizontally. Combine 2-3 cloves of minced garlic with 2 tablespoons of Earth Balance or olive oil. Brush the insides of the bread, wrap in foil and bake for about 8 minutes at 400 degrees.
9. Beet Salad
This humble beet salad will add a little brightness to your savory spread. Peel beets and grate them into a bowl. Toss with toasted pine nuts or shelled pistachios, a few tablespoons of freshly-squeezed orange juice, a few scrapes of orange zest, a handful of parsley leaves, a little olive oil, salt and pepper.
This is something I picked up from my Italian in-laws. Just cut a head of cored fennel into thick batons and serve raw. It serves as a light licorice-flavored palate cleanser, as well as a natural digestive aid.
What fail safe “little bites” do you put out when you’ve got company?