Good Question: Menu for Meat-Lovers and Vegetarians Too

Here's a good menu challenge for all of us. Reader Paula needs to cater to both vegetarians and avid meat eaters at her upcoming party. Read her dilemma -- can you help?

I am desperate. I am having an apartment warming and I have no idea what to make. There will be 25 people there and ALL of them are finicky eaters. Vegetarians, people who don't like "fancy" foods, people who will only eat Mexican food - (think beef, chilis, tomato and onions), people who hate heat/spice, people who don't like vegetables… The list goes on.

I wanted to make Chicken Tortilla Soup and a tomato bisque – but was accused of not wanting to make a real meal. I don’t want to do carne asada or burgers because that is all we ever do. What dishes and sides can I make in large quantities – one Mexican influenced, the other vegetarian – that will appease my finicky family?

Paula, our current favorite party dish is short ribs. They are cheap, best made ahead, and hearty enough for the most avid meat-lover. They can also be rubbed with crushed spices for a Mexican flair; we suggest just rubbing a few pounds of these with crushed chipotle chilies, cumin, a little brown sugar, and salt. Brown well and then slow cook in beer or wine for a few hours. They can be refrigerated, de-fatted, and reheated just in time for the party.

You can see more about short ribs here:

Good Recipe for a Crowd: Beer-Braised Short Ribs

For the vegetarians, what about a selection of homemade calzones? You could fill them with simple things like cheese and tomato sauce, or some shredded vegetables and even squash.

You could also do a few meat ones for the meat eaters, or make the whole party a calzone party! They are easy to eat while standing up or balancing a plate, and you can make them ahead of time and reheat in the oven.

You could also do fajitas or corn tortilla wraps with a variety of meat and vegetarian fillings, but that may be too close to the carne asada that you are trying to avoid.

Readers - any more ideas for Paula?

Related: Recipes for Vegetarians (and Vegans Too)

(Images: Kim Badawi for Gourmet; Romulo Yanes for Gourmet)