Tanya McQuoid, Jennifer Coolidge’s character on HBO’s “The White Lotus,” is by no means a role model. But amid her frequent displays of cluelessness are succinct, if not odd, moments of wisdom.
Consider: “Finger food is always a must.”
That should be your guiding philosophy this Super Bowl weekend, whether you are a football novice (Kansas City is playing Philadelphia) or the reigning champion of your fantasy league (Birds by 6), or in it only for the commercials (will we ever free ourselves from the M&M’s spokescandies discourse?) and for Rihanna (I wish she’d sing “Needed Me”).
Cauliflower is a prime finger-food candidate. The often-maligned vegetable, asked far too many times to be so many things it is not, shines when simply tossed with Buffalo sauce and served with a ranch-style yogurt dip. Or go in a cheesy direction with crispy, crunchy cauliflower popcorn, which is vegan, thanks to nutritional yeast.
You’ll make spinach dip with artichoke, with garlic, dill and yogurt, with lots of onion and a tinge of turmeric. You don’t need me to tell you to do that. But perhaps you need more help in the large-format department. Dinner can’t be only finger foods.*
For your guests, complete the spread with Melissa Clark’s latest casserole wonder, this retro-fabulous vegetarian tamale pie. If you like bean chili and cornbread, you’ll love everything going on here.
As with most vegetable chilies, the base is extremely economical: a few cans of black or pinto beans, a big can of plum tomatoes, some fresh chiles and aromatics and dried spices. Stopping there would be completely reasonable, delicious and vegan. But adding a layer of scallion-y, Cheddar-topped cornbread baked right over the chili in a Dutch oven, as Melissa does, can take this dish squarely into party territory. “Trust the process,” one commenter wrote on the recipe, and I do!
*Dinner can obviously be only finger foods. Please just humor me.
Vegetarian Tamale Pie
One More Thing!
Perhaps you’re an ovo-lacto vegetarian, or a vegan, or a flexitarian, or an ostrovegan, or a social omnivore — or you are simply looking to incorporate more vegetables into your lifestyle. Veggie readers eat all types of ways, and I strive to account for them all.
So let’s take a beat to talk about Parmesan.
While many cheeses are considered ovo-lacto-vegetarian friendly, traditional Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano contains animal rennet, which is used in the cheese-making process, and is thus exempt from that category. But cheeses labeled Parmesan — not Parmigiano-Reggiano — may contain nonanimal rennet derived from vegetables or fungi.
How can you tell if a cheese labeled Parmesan suits your eating habits? In a product’s ingredients list, enzymes can refer to either animal rennet or nonanimal rennet, so keep that in mind. Some products will helpfully specify vegetarian enzymes, and others will simply label the product “vegetarian” or note the absence of animal rennet elsewhere on the packaging. (Other potential nonanimal rennet ingredients are vegetable enzymes and microbial enzymes.) And then there are dairy-free, Parmesan-style vegan cheeses.
A couple of options to keep an eye out for: BelGioioso, a cheese brand available at major grocery stores across the United States, makes a vegetarian Parmesan that is labeled as such, and Organic Valley grated Parmesan lists vegetarian enzymes in its ingredients.