Having people over for dinner is one of my favorite things. It's an excuse to try out new recipes and more often than not, a good bottle of wine (or two). For someone who loves cooking for others so much, you'd think I'd be a lot better at it. The issue is when it comes to the menu planning….I want to make everything. Something simple and easy? Nawh. Let's do falafel sliders, herby lentil salad, crispy squash "fries" and homemade dessert to boot. Oh, and let's go for a hike on the same day – because I feel like it. To Anguel's credit, he often tries to reign in my ambitious menu plans, but once my mind gets set on something, it's pretty hard to convince me otherwise. Safe to say there's definitely been a handful of times dinner runs a bit behind schedule. I try to seem chill about it on the outside, but on the inside…well, pour me a glass of wine, will you?
Thankfully, I've learned my lesson. Because as much as I like to wing it – entertaining is a whole lot easier when you plan ahead. Like that time I tried to make experimental gluten free pancakes on the fly. It was perfect proof that even a simple pancake dinner, if left unplanned, can take a whole heck of a lot longer than anticipated. And no, pancake dinner was not a typo. Sometimes we do breakfast for dinner, because we keep is classy like that. The epic pancake fail – which my brother and his girlfriend had the pleasure of watching / eating – was all the proof I needed. The next time around, I vowed to do better.
And this vegan grazing platter delivers. It features crisp bursts of flavor from the quick pickled carrots and marinated mushrooms – paired with a bright olive and sundried tomato tapenade. And roasted garlic hummus, because yum. It's unique enough to feel like a special treat, but requires very little preparation (read: no cooking) on the day of. And, because grazing platters are some of the most flexible dishes out there, you can tailor them to fit your needs. If the crowd is hungry, pile up the dips and veggies high on individual serving boards. And be extra generous with the bread – a variety of your favorite loaves and crackers would be the way to go. It's a fun and casual way to serve dinner. And, minimal clean up! If you're feeling like a bit more greens, make a simple salad to serve on the side. Or, if the group is just feeling a bit peckish, make a single board for the whole group to nibble on as an appetizer.
And this dish isn't just for group events. When Anguel and I have a busy week ahead, we'll whip up this recipe so we have multiple meals and snacks on hand for the week. With these jars of delicious prepared veggies and dip on hand, making lunch or dinner at home can be done in just a few minutes. If you're in a rush or don't feel like spending much time in the kitchen, that's a life saver.
Preparing this dish is very simple. Don't get put off by the multiple components or seemingly long recipe. I've written up a separate recipe for each component (four total), because I find it easier to follow that way. Basically here's how it goes down. Make the Marinated Mushrooms and Quick Pickled Carrots first. They need to chill out in the fridge overnight to develop their flavors. Then, move on to the dips, because they can be made in advance or on the day of.
As the recipe name probably hinted, there's very little actual cooking involved. My marinated mushroom recipe includes quickly cooking off the shallots, mushrooms and white wine vinegar. I know some prepare marinated mushrooms without cooking them at all. Personally, I think the extra effort pays off in the flavor and texture department. The shallots and vinegar aren't as harsh either. And, well, I’ve yet to meet a raw mushroom that I fancied more than a cooked one! The only other cooking involved is roasting the garlic for the hummus. Roasted garlic has a sweeter, less sharp flavor, which I prefer in hummus (among most things!). But, if you'd rather put raw garlic in your hummus, by all means, go ahead. I'll never say no to garlic hummus.
When it comes time to serve, assemble the accompaniments on either individual serving boards or a single large platter. I also like to add some fresh vegetables for an extra pop of color. If you really want to go all out, you can layer up some of the bread slices with dip and toppings. But in our experience, people have the most fun making their own – loading up on their own unique combination of dips and toppings. And, that way, it means even less work for you!