Vegetarian and Vegan Collection

I had a brief (a year, give or take) vegetarian period in high school, spurred on by attending a Paul McCartney concert. I was very bad at vegetarianism; I wasn’t cooking for myself, so I was basically just being a pain to my family, most certainly non-vegetarians. Then when I realized that I missed barbecue, that phase ended.

Nowadays, we cut back on meat for environmental and health reasons. Having a stockpile of vegetarian recipes also makes it easier to bring potluck offerings that can accommodate lots of different diets and come home with an empty dish (THE BEST FEELING). I generally don’t bother with meat substitutions; I like a vegetarian dish to stand on its own, not as a pale imitation of something else.

Pesto Calabrese
This might be the most exciting use of ricotta cheese I’ve ever come across. It’s creamy and spicy and works as a pasta sauce or a sandwich spread. Or just off a spoon. I had a few of these knocking around, but went with this Saveur version as my jumping-off point. It’s really simple, but the vegetables require some time and care for the best result.

Ingredients

1 small eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2 in/1.5 cm cubes
2 t salt
3-4 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and end cut off
1 red bell pepper, cored and finely diced
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
2 Roma tomatoes, cored, seeded and finely diced
1 c/250 g ricotta cheese
2 T Parmesan cheese, shredded
2-3 robust sprigs of basil
1/2 t lemon juice
pinch red pepper flakes (optional, use more if you want more heat)
salt and pepper to taste

Tools

Medium skillet
Colander
Paper towels
Food processor

Place eggplant cubes in colander and toss with salt. Set aside for 20 minutes, then blot and gently squeeze cubes with paper towels to get most of the salt off.

Heat oil in skillet to medium high and add garlic cloves. Fry garlic until lightly golden brown on all sides (whole cloves will appear blistered), then set aside. Add onion and bell pepper to skillet and cook, stirring often, for about 10 minutes or until just beginning to caramelize. Add eggplant to skillet and cook until tender and just starting to brown on edges, about 8 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook until soft and beginning to break down, 5-7 minutes. Remove skillet veggies to bowl to cool and set aside. Give them a taste to see how much salt the eggplant absorbed.

When cool enough to touch, put garlic, veggies, cheeses, basil, lemon juice and red pepper flakes into food processor and blend until smooth. Adjust seasoning; you’ll almost certainly need to add salt.

Note: if you’re using this as a pasta sauce, scoop out some pasta water (1/2 c max) right before you drain it. Added a tablespoon at a time, the starchy water can loosen a too-thick sauce and help bind it to the noodles.

Dal & Jeera Rice
I adore Indian food and struggled for a long time to get the flavors right in my home attempts. It would turn out fine and edible, but often tasted like something was missing. This led to lots of research and a wildly stocked spice cabinet, but I finally got it together. The secrets were patience and asafoetida. This recipe from Steamy Kitchen helped, as it’s pretty foolproof. I altered the spices substantially to suit my tastes, but I follow her process. I’ve included my Jeera Rice recipe, tailored for rice cooker use. It’s a bit more work than plain steamed rice, but I think it enhances the meal quite a bit.

Ingredients

Lentils
1 1/2 c dry lentils (I used brown, the original suggests black caviar lentils)
2 T butter, divided
1 T vegetable oil
pinch asafoetida or hing powder (use sparingly, it’s very strong)
1 medium onion, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, finely diced or cut into matchsticks
2 hot green chilies, chopped (optional – remove seeds for less heat)
1 t curry powder
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1/2 t ground cumin
1/2 t ground coriander
1/2 t ground fenugreek
1/2 t ground fennel
1/2 smoked paprika (hot or sweet, whatever you like)
1/2 t ground turmeric
1/2 t salt
fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 small can tomato sauce (6 oz. or 200 g)
1 c vegetable broth
Rice
2 T oil or butter
1 t cumin seeds
2 c rice
1/2 t salt

Tools

Medium soup pot or saucepan
Large mesh strainer
Medium skillet
Stick blender (optional, a potato masher will do)
Your favorite rice pot or a rice cooker

In a deep pot, cover lentils with water by 2 inches/5 centimeters, bring to a boil and reduce to simmer for 10 minutes. While lentils are cooking, heat 1 T butter in a small skillet to medium and cook gently until milk solids start to brown and smell nutty. Add oil to skillet, add hing and fry, stirring for one minute. Add onion to skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent. Now add garlic, ginger and chilies and cook until fragrant and tender. If skillet looks dry, add a bit more oil, then add curry powder, cayenne pepper, cumin, coriander, fenugreek, fennel, smoked paprika, turmeric, salt and pepper to onion mixture and stir until well distributed and very fragrant. Cook for one more minute, then remove from heat and set aside.

Drain lentils and return to pot. Add cooked onion mixture, tomato sauce, vegetable broth and 1 T butter. Bring lentils to a simmer and cook over low heat until thick and creamy, adding broth as needed. To improve texture, mash lentils occasionally with the back of a spatula while cooking. When lentils are completely tender, remove from heat and process with stick blender or potato masher. If desired, stir in a tablespoon or two of cream and adjust seasoning. Serve with naan or rice, accompanied by plain yogurt and chopped cilantro.

For the rice, heat your oil or butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add cumin seeds and stir around until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add rice and stir until well coated with oil, then allow rice to cook until toasty smelling. Put rice in your pot or rice cooker, add salt and water and cook.

Vegetable Broth

There are a lot of recipes out there that might not feature meat, but use meat as a flavoring element; my own rampant use of chicken broth is a good example. This makes vegetarianizing dishes like those much easier.

Chickpea Soup

What an excellent thing to make with your huge batch of vegetable broth! I’ve both blended it up to a creamy, thick base and left it whole beans and vegetable chunks – it’s great either way.

Refried Beans

You don’t NEED an Instant Pot for these. However, thinking about beans and being able to eat them the same day is a luxury that’s hard to overstate.

Panzanella

Got stale bread and and more tomatoes than you know what to do with? This one’s for you!

Di San Xian

Potatoes in Chinese food was news to me, but my goodness was this a fantastic use for them! The link above is a video, if you want the written version of the recipe, see this Reddit post. That said, I think the video is actually more straightforward and this channel warrants deep exploration.

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