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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Dinner for the Omnivorous, Vegetarian, and Vegan Masses: Couscous

Mr FS and I just returned from a very pleasant visit to Alabama. We went to an awards ceremony, saw a play, and visited a big student project. We also served dinner to a bunch of Miss Em's friends. We did this last time we visited and I think it is a tradition.

We wanted to use some lamb gifted to us by one of Miss Em's friends. So we decided on couscous. This turned out to be a good choice because dinner was on Friday during Lent (oops! not an observer) and a few guests had given up meat and one had given up all animal products. Since we were running around and cooking in a strange and ill-equipped kitchen, we wanted to make a dinner that could pretty much be assembled quickly.

The Lamb: I braised some lamb shoulder at home and froze some meat and drippings.
The Veggie Stew: I brought frozen roasted onions. I flung these into a pan nonchalantly. Then I added a bag of the mixed veggies on sale at Publix. I stirred this around for a bit (wishing the wok had a lid; it did not) then added a large can of tomatoes and some drained chickpeas. I threw in some raisins and dried apricots.

I borrowed some cinnamon, cumin, and honey from the host kitchen and sprinkled them in.

Mr FS did the couscous (couscous plus water).

Can you find the single screw up? According to the vegan, honey counts as an animal product. He ate the stew anyway, but I did feel bad.

Except for the lamb--a priceless gift--this was an inexpensive dinner. There were at least 9 people there. How wonderful to provide a FREE FOOD OPPORTUNITY for starving college students.

Any ideas for the next visit?

Couscous is very expensive where we live, so we buy it from Amazon. You may have better sources. It is so cheap in Canada and France. Why????


Duchesse said...

Yes, couscous is cheap. We add butter; of course one would leave out if cooking for a vegan- but if I'm being honest, I'd rather not. This is one dietary path I acknowledge but would do almost anything to not cook for personally.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Duchesse--Yeah-dietary restrictions can be annoying, but I love being able to treat all these kids. Most people did partake of the lamb.

Revanche said...

I do find cooking for vegans quite challenging - whenever we do potluck that's the most difficult to accommodate and I'm always racking my brains to make sure I've not put a foot wrong.

Have you a simple recipe for braising the lamb? I'm trying to adapt as many recipes to make them time and bad-hand friendly as possible.

Ella said...

I am so used to accomodate both vegetarians, vegans and meat-eaters that I don't even think about it anymore.
But sometimes I wish everybody was a vegetarian like me! :-)

Duchesse said...

Yes, everyone eating the same sure makes life easier! I'm happy to eat a vegetarian menu; a vegan menu is less attractive, and I can't really find a reason to do so other than being polite.

Funny about Money said...

Oh, yum! How do I get to your kitchen?

I guess I'm too much of a sensualist to have enough patience with people who deliberately choose to be picky about food. In public...if you want to refuse to eat selected everything, that's nice but don't inflict it on friends. Rowrbazl!

But I do have an easy recipe with ingredients at the ready to serve for vegan diners: Pack some fresh herbs, garlic, and olive oil into the crevices of halved Roma tomatoes; roast at about 400 degrees for an hour; toss the resulting tasty sauce with pasta; serve with a nice green salad. Give them sliced oranges marinated in Grand Marnier or brandy for dessert.

It's a sad substitute for lamb, though. ;-)

Frugal Scholar said...

@Revanche--I just braised the lamb shoulder with onions--very boring. If I hadn't been gifted the meat, I would have used a leg, which provides more meat and leftovers for soup. For vegans, a vegetarian stew atop couscous works very well--just leave out the bit of honey, which is optional in any case. A Thai coconut curry with tofu would also work.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Ella--We probably would have done vegetarian, except that one of the guests gave us lamb (a present--from a farm where he worked).

Frugal Scholar said...

@Funny--You know you are welcome any time. You can even bring your doggie. Come for Jazzfest.

Shelley said...

Just returned from six weeks in Australia, so very behind on reading and commenting. I love cooking for big groups and this meal sounds fantastic. Simon had a vegetarian girlfriend for a while and Bill's gripe was always that vegetarians don't cook meat for us carnivores, why should we put ourselves out for them? (grumpy old man). Cooking for vegans - amongst other food selectors - could be a real challenge, though I must admit I almost never use honey except for breakfast toast, which is very unimaginative of me. I think you did a great job!