Vegetarian meals

Friends recently moved back to the state, and they’ll come up to visit eventually. He’s a vegetarian, and she is nearly one (she will eat seafood). So I’m wondering about meals I can make.

I can make what I call ‘cappellini alfredo con funghi’ (angel hair pasta with alfredo sauce and sautéed portobello mushrooms) with side dishes of steamed asparagus and garlic bread. Or I can make falafel sandwiches. I can make home-made cheese raviolis in advance and freeze them. A lot of work beforehand, but really easy on the day. I could serve it with a mixed green salad, maybe with some feta. A selection of cheeses, bread, and nuts is good for snacking.

For breakfast there can be omelettes or pancakes, and I have experimented with crêpes with fruit filling. If omelettes, then I can get some salmon for me and one friend. Or there are fried potatoes and onions with eggs ‘poached’ on top.

I’m sure that my friend will not be offended if I made seafood for his wife and me. (He wouldn’t be offended if I was eating a bloody rare steak.) But I want to be inclusive; not only out of friendship, but because it’s easier to cook one dish than separate ones. :wink:

I’ve never had any luck with roasted vegetables. They never some out as tasty as when other people make them.

Fake meat is suprisingly tasty. Fake meat can be substituted in a lot of recipes that require ground beef with almost no other changes for a really good meal.

EDIT: Quorn is probably the best brand. Yves is good too.

As a resident of Park Slope, Brooklyn (the Berkeley of the East Coast), I have loads of vegetarian and vegan friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Even though my affection for medium rare beef and slow-cooked pork is a matter for general merriment, lately I’ve been noticing how much of my cooking is vegan. Any number of veggie fussbudgets could sit down at my dinner table and get up satisfied, only skipping the single meat/poultry dish.

During the past week, I’ve served

Mon) Spaghetti aglio e olio with crushed red pepper, anchovy, and parsley; a saute of green and yellow squash with corn and basil in olive oil (and skewered grilled shrimp marinated in lemon, oil, S&P)

Tues) Black beans simmered with garlic, onion, oregano, and cider vinegar; fresh pico de gallo; sliced avocados; corn tortillas (and pork shoulder al pastor)

Wed) A huge salad of napa cabbage, red peppers, shiitakes, bean sprouts, daikon and carrots, dressed with nuoc cham; brown rice (and Thai grilled chicken, rubbed with a coriander root/garlic/black pepper paste)

Thurs) A platter of sliced homegrown tomatoes and red onion and basil, dressed with oilve oil, red wine vinegar, and salt; a mayonnaise/paprika potato/egg salad; fresh bread (and a grilled rib steak rubbed with oilive oil, garlic, and oregano)

Last night we just ordered a pizza. Leave off the sausage and pepperoni and a vegetarian could eat that, too.

I’m a vegetarian who doesn’t really like fake meat. All the suggestions you have look great.

Another good idea would be any sort of bean and rice/grain combination. Bean and cheese burritos, vegetarian chilli, chana masala, black beans and rice, etc.

Some is good, some is not. One that I like is called something like ‘Ital-Lean’, a vegetarian Italian sausage. Slice it into ‘coins’ and sauté it in olive oil with chopped onions. Add marinara sauce and heat until hot. Split a French loaf and put in the filling. Top with mozzarella and toast in the oven.

I thought of another thing I can cook: Chile relleno. Unfortunately I’ve lost the excellent Spanish rice recipe that Shayna gave me, but Rice-A-Roni Spanish Rice made with spicy tomatoes is good, and I’ve found some good vegetarian black beans in the can. (Or I can make them with dried beans.)


That sounds good. Or perhaps linguini alla checca.

I’m a vegetarian. We eat a variety of stuff, some of it very simple and quick to make, some of it more time consuming.

One of my favorite quick dishes is spaghetti tossed with sauteed garlic, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, and capers, with black pepper and whatever dried herbs taker your fancy. Fresh grated parmesan on top. Takes no time at all, and is yummy.

I have a recipe for a really nice brown rice and lentil loaf. It’s easy to make, and you also have leftovers for sandwiches or to eat cold later in the week. Loafs are great because they can take the place of meat in a “meat-and-two-veg” type of meal. When i cooked a lentil loaf this week, we ate it with mashed potatoes and corn on the cob.

My partner is not vegetarian, but eats vege most of the time. When she feels like some meat, she’ll cook up a chicken or some fish, and the lentil loaf is good because we can eat the same veges but just have different “meat” dishes.

One dish i really like making if we have a few friends over is eggplant parmagiana. It takes a bit of time, but you can do nearly all the big steps (breading and frying the eggplant; making the tomato sauce, etc.) ahead of time, then you just put it together and bang it in the over about an hour before serving. It’s a really great winter dish, and there’s always leftovers.

We do quite a lot of Asian-style stir fries. Depending on how quick we want it to be, we will sometimes use pre-bottled stir fry sauces, and will sometimes do everything from scratch, using things like fermented black beans, chilis, garlic, cilantro, etc., etc. For protein, we sometimes use regular tofu, and sometimes various types of fake meat that we get from the excellent Chinese supermarket here in San Diego. A couple of weeks ago, we got some fake duck, and were both amazed at how meat-like in texture it was, and how good the flavor was.

I’m pretty laid-back about breakfast. I usually have a bowl of cereal (raisin bran) with 2% milk, as well as a yoghurt and some fruit (oranges, peaches, cantaloupe, nectarines, whatever we got at the market that week). If we have a cooked breakfast, it’s usually eggs over easy with toast, and Morningside Farms fake bacon, which i think is yum. My partner also does a mean French toast.

ETA: My partner also makes some awesome Indian dishes from scratch, but that can be very time consuming.

Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone is the stock reference for vegetarian cooking and should sit in between the Larousse Gastronomique and Mastering the Art of French Cooking (the latter is definitely not vegetarian) on any serious cook’s shelf. Madison’s recipes aren’t just good for vegetarians; they’re good, period.

The trick of making vegetarian cooking appealing is really the same of any other type of cooking: presentation, smell, and taste. The normal Western diet is meat-heavy, (often to an unhealthy extreme) and meat becomes not only the centerpiece of the plate, but then other things are covered in meat sauce, and the typically strong flavor of meat tends to dominate a lot of traditional fare; the standard Germanic/Slavic/Scandinavian meal is a hunk of meat and a couple small servings of typically overcooked vegetables. (Your actual protein requirements for the normal adult human not in a strength training regime is about 3-4 oz of protein per day, which translates into one medium large chicken breast, one 8-10 oz cut of beef, one center-cut pork chop or one halibut fillet; many Americans eat double or more this quantity, plus a lot of saturated fats in combination.)

In contrast, most vegetables don’t have the same thick texture of mammal or fowl tissue and (when cooked) have more subtle flavors and smells, so you have to pay more attention to coordination of flavors and spices, and instead of having a central ‘meaty’ dish and sides have a minimum of three vegetable servings that are more balanced and that also complement and contrast each other in color and texture. It is also important to be careful to not overcook the vegetables; most dishes shouldn’t be soggy and should retain a bit of crispness for texture. (Eggplant is obviously an exception, but if I’m served another plate with overcooked squash, broccoli, or asparagus I’m going to throw a fit.) Another common problem with some vegetarian cooking is the lack of substance to it; you can’t just toss dry-grilled vegetables on a plate and call it a meal. To add flavor and a sense of body, use drizzled olive oil, cheese, or something else with some fats in it. Pastas, rice and pseudograins (quinoa), and lentils are a good base, but don’t go overboard; a good vegetarian dish should have more vegetables than filler. And sauces are definitely recommended because you can steep vegetables in them or reduce the sauce to intensify the flavor.

This is obviously a little more intensive than cooking meat. (When it comes to meat, I’m a fan of buying really good cuts and doing the minimum amount of cooking to get the natural flavor, rather than soaking in brines or marinades or doing a lot of elaborate prep.) However, once you get the hang of it, it’s not so bad; you learn to keep three or four dishes going at once and it doesn’t actually take that much more time, albeit there is typically a little more prep work with veggies in terms of cleaning, cutting, and trimming.

One thing about good (healthy) vegetarian cooking, however, is you can really get filled up without piling on a lot of calories, because the caloric density of vegetables is so much lower than meat and dairy. Of course, if you drown things in cream sauce or cheese, the benefit goes away; but good vegetarian cooking doesn’t require thick, heavy sauces, and in fact adding too much fats tends to cover the more subtle flavors.

One more tip: as with seafood, you want to buy vegetables as fresh as possible; the flavor degrades rapidly with storage, even (or perhaps especially) with refrigeration.

Good luck to you,


How about breaking a head of cauliflower into small florets, steaming it, tossing with chopped red onion and parsley, olive oil and vinegar? Serve it with bread (or pita) and some roasted peppers, feta, olives, and anchovies.

Actually, you could have a fine dinner just out of the fresh bread, roasted peppers, feta, olives, and anchovies, as long as the wine is good.

There’s plenty of vegetarian dishes I love, dedicated omnivore that I am:

Pasta puttanesca (you could skip the anchovies and just use capers, olives, garlic, hot pepper flakes, tomato.)

Caramelized onion swiss-chard tacos. (Skip the queso fresco for vegans, but otherwise do include!) I like this one with a chipotle-tomatillo salsa.

I make a cream of poblano and corn chowder that knocks everyone’s socks off. I don’t have the exact proportions here, as it’s my own recipe I just make up as I go along, but, basically, start with onions fried to translucency in butter. Add a clove or two of garlic. Add vegetable stock. Add roasted, skinned, chopped poblanos. Add one large potato or so. Add a small package of frozen corn. Salt and pepper to taste. When cooked through, blend and press through a sieve. Add another diced roasted poblano and some more corn for texture, a little bit of heavy cream, a smidgen of freshly grated nutmeg, and serve.

Also, any of a wide array of Indian dishes. I like making a curry from chickpeas and spinach or chard. There’s so many possibilities in Indian cuisine.

I second this recommendation. It’s a fantastic cookbook; I’ve never made a dud from it.

Also, Sundays at Moosewood is a great cookbook, full of vegetarian-adapted recipes from around the world. My wife’s personal favorite is their tofu triangles stuffed with spiced walnuts; it’s really damn tasty. Hmm. Maybe I’ll make that for dinner this weekend.


And I second *this * cookbook recommendation. My favorite recipe in there is called Mole de Olla, a Latin American vegetable stew. Top with a little greated cheddar=heaven. I make it with the cornbread recipe in the same cookbook, Sayra’s Cornbread.

If you’d want to try oven-roasted vegetables anyway, a favourite of mine is peppers, zucchini and aubergine cut in chunks and baked with halloumi slices on top. Thanks to the cheese, they come out of the oven really juicy and flavoursome.

Stuffed peppers are good as well - a bit retro, but easy enough to vegetarianise. My best combination so far has been a stuffing made from cooked quinoa and sauteed leek and mushrooms.

I’m big on lentils, since they cook fast and pack a lot of protein, fibre and iron. I’m particularly fond of salade de lentilles, which is the posh French way of putting “boil a cup of green lentils and let them cool in a mustard vinaigrette, add two finely chopped banana shallots and serve.” Couldn’t be easier.