The question: I'm a vegetarian and love to entertain, but my meat-loving friends always poke fun at the lack of animal on the table, turning the meal into a big ordeal. Do I have to serve meat?
The answer: Although it pains me to provide succour to a vegetarian, no you do not. I'll even add that, depending on what sort of cook you are (i.e., less Moosewood, more Ottolenghi), you could serve your meat-snarfing friends a murder-free meal they'd love. The last time I cooked a meatless dinner, I served homemade ricotta cheese on crostini with pumpkin jam, squash ravioli with grated amaretti from the Babbo cookbook, chard with pine nuts, white wine and raisins as well as a blood orange and olive salad (both from Ethan Stowell's New Italian Kitchen), an incredible herb salad and some fabulous pork belly ice cream (just kidding). It was one the best meals I've made in ages, I am sad to report. And best I could tell, nobody ducked out afterward for a KFC Double Down.
Chris Nuttall-Smith is a food writer and restaurant columnist. Have an entertaining dilemma? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .