Delicious -- And Vegetarian

It was Friday afternoon, and I was in the mood to play hostess. However, as I e-mailed a small group of close pals for Saturday supper, I realized I was inviting them on short notice.

The reason for the rush: I was in the midst of a round of recipe testing, and I needed a bunch of mouths to feed. Of primary concern was a a beer-batter veggie tempura (stay tuned for those details in tomorrow's blog space) that I was tinkering with, yet if I was inviting friends for the evening, I needed to expand the menu -- and perhaps solicit culinary contributions.

In addition to battered veggies, I was thinking about simmering a pot of heirloom beans (more on those in Thursday's blog space!), and since one couple was strictly vegetarian, I thought, what the heck, let's keep this dish free of meat, too.

The menu was going in a casual direction as well. Another finger-style snack was in order, plus maybe a dip. For the former, I settled on a Szechuan-style green bean dish that has done me well at previous dinner parties, as host as well as cook-for-hire (recipe below). I walked Mister Groom through this one, and within 15 minutes, he was Szechuan stylin'.

For a dip, I was curious to try the sikil pak recipe in Heidi Swanson's "Super Natural Cooking." This is a traditional Mayan dish consisting of toasted ground pumpkin seeds (aka pepitas), seasoned with the heat of a chile, lots of garlic and tomato for body. While working through the recipe, I realized that aside from the natural oils of the pumpkin seeds, there was nary a drop of fat in the final result (recipe below). This is a fun, healthful twist on the chip-n-dip combo, and the intriguing mix of flavors intensifies the next day.

To round things out, Liz offered to bring a cold couscous salad, with pine nuts, dried fruit and herbs; and Jen and Brian whipped up a cornbread that worked beautifully with the reddish beans and their pot liquor.

Everything was delicious -- and vegetarian. I love when culinary serendipity happens, and no one missed the meat. I'm noticing more omnivores tearing a page out the veggie-licious book; in fact, starting this month, Gourmet magazine has launched a new vegetarian column, with a focus on meat-free mains for everyday gatherings. I only wish more food monthlies would follow Gourmet's lead!

Share your favorite dish -- that also happens to be vegetarian -- in the comments area below.

And if you're free at noon ET, join me for an hour of kitchen clang-clanging.

Sikil Pak
From "Super Natural Cooking" by Heidi Swanson

Ingredients
1 habanero chile, stemmed
10 cloves garlic, unpeeled
4 tomatoes (I used plum size)
2 1/2 cups toasted pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup vegetable stock (I used water)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 pinches ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

Method
In a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat, char habanero and garlic cloves until garlic has patchy dark brown spots and habanero has char marks all over its skin. Remove from pan, add tomatoes and do the same thing. (This will loosen skin, which I peeled away after tomatoes cooled.)

Grind pumpkin seeds into a fine, uniform meal in a food processor. Carefully cut habanero into quarters and use a paring knife to seed and devein. Using a hand/immersion blender or food processor, combine habanero, tomatoes, garlic and liquid in a medium bow and puree a bit, leaving mixture semi-chunky. Add pumpkin seeds and continue blending, until consistency is similar to thick mayonnaise; you may need to thin it with a bit of warm water.

Stir in onion, cilantro, cinnamon and salt. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve with your favorite crackers or chips.

Makes 2 cups.

Crunchy Szechuan Green Beans
From "Vegetarian Appetizers" by Paulette Mitchell

Ingredients
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 pound green beans, trimmed
1/3 cup coarsely chopped onion
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon water, or as needed
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh, peeled ginger, minced
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or 2 teaspoons Chinese chili paste with garlic
toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Method
Heat canola oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add beans and onion; cook, stirring occasionally until beans are crisp-tender and blackened in spots, about 10 minutes. (Note: I found the onions too burned and bitter to add to dish, so I discarded them after cooking)

Pour beans into a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients, except the sesame seeds. Sauce should have a cake-batter consistency; add water as needed. Pour sauce over cooked beans and stir to combine.

Add sesame seeds for garnish. May be served warm or at room temperature.

Makes enough for 10 buffet-style servings. Can be easily doubled.

By Kim ODonnel |  April 10, 2007; 10:23 AM ET Entertaining , Vegetarian/Vegan
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Comments

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Black beans and rice - hands down. I love this meal b/c it is filling and homey, and I definitely don't miss the meat.

I do chopped onion and garlic sauteed in the pan, add cooked black beans and warm. Top with chopped tomatoes, green onions and a dollop of sour cream over the rice. That is a perfect meal to me.

Posted by: CA | April 10, 2007 12:04 PM

Veggie enchiladas! Homemade enchilada sauce (tomato sauce, veggie broth, chipotles in adobo, chili powder, garlic, salt, pepper), layered with organic corn tortillas, queso fresco, and black beans sauteed with diced new potatoes, red cabbage, cilantro and onions.

Posted by: Ann | April 10, 2007 12:17 PM

Kim,
I replied to the chat with the recipe for horseradish pesto but was too late for the chat. Can you find it and add it to the blog for the one who asked for it.

It really is just a basic pesto recipe with the basil leaves replaced with chopped horseradish leaves (we grow horseradish in our garden). One needs to chop the leaves well before putting them in the food processor because they are tougher than basil. We also remove the heavier veins before chopping them.

Once you grow horseradish, you keep having it because it comes back, year after year after year.

Posted by: Pine Nuts | April 10, 2007 1:20 PM

It's vegetarian, but also a response to the mom in your chat who was looking for dip ideas for her kids. She said hummus wasn't doing it, has she tried a bean dip? My parents hate hummus (too hippie crunchy for them), but are in love with my white bean dip. Rinse and drain a can of cannelini beans, and blend in the food processor with a bit of olive oil, red onion, garlic, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and whatever Italian seasoning you like. I usually just toss in herbes de Provence. It's super easy, freezes well, and isn't as thick or dense-feeling as hummus.

Posted by: Alex, VA | April 10, 2007 1:34 PM

raita. oh yeah. drain yogurt for a couple hours. add salt, pepper, chopped mint and cilantro. minced cukes (seeds removed), cumin. chopped scallion, tomato, and chilis are optional, depending on your taste and what's in season.

Posted by: kid dip | April 10, 2007 1:39 PM

Butternut and Kidney Bean Curry

This is one of my all-time favorite vegetarian recipes.

One butternut squash, as uniformly thick as possible (this maximizes the flesh-to-seed ratio)
One 14.5 oz. of kidney beans
One can of coconut cream (I use the lite)
2-3 tablespoons curry, any kind that you prefer
A few cardamom pods or 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
One or two star anise pods
Three or four whole cloves
A cinnamon stick
A few bay leaves

Peel and dice the butternut squash. Place in a medium-to-large lidded saucepan and sprinkle the spices over it, choosing amounts to suit your preferences.

Pour the top half of the kidney bean juice over, but stop before it gets murky. Rinse the kidney beans and put into the pot. Add water so that half the butternut is covered. Cover the pot and steam on low heat. (Alternatively, use a pressure cooker for about 15 minutes.) Add more water if needed.

Stir in the coconut cream and serve with rice, roti or naan.

NB: I add the coconut cream at the start when using a pressure cooker and get good results.

Posted by: Heather | April 10, 2007 4:26 PM

I second Alex,Va's recommendation on that bean dip - I use one that is from the "everyday italian" that is really similar and it is DIVINE.

I like hummus too though and can't imagine someone NOT liking it!!

Posted by: second Alex/VA | April 10, 2007 6:41 PM

I am a vegetarian and enjoy cooking. Being from India cooking and eating are an integral part of our culture. Here is one of my favorite Indian recipes that I learned to make from my mom who is an excellant cook:

Khatti Daal (Sour Lentils)

1 cup red lentils picked and rinsed
2 tbsp oil/butter/ghee
1 onion finely diced
3-6 cloves of garlic crushed
1" piece of ginger crushed
1" piece cinnamon stick
2 tomatoes diced
1 1/2 to 2 tsp of dried mango powder (amchoor)
1/2 tsp of red chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
salt to taste
chopped cilantro for garnish

Method:

Cook lentils in water until soft and thick. In a separate non-stick pan heat (use medium heat) the fat of your choice, add cinnamon and saute for a few seconds. Then add onions and saute till onions are translucent. Add ginger, garlic, turmeric and chilli powder- saute for 5 seconds. Now add the tomatoes, garam masala and mango powder and let mixture thicken for a few minutes. Add this thick mixture to the cooked lentils, adjust the liquid if needed (lentils should not just be thick but should have some juice) and stir in salt to taste. Let it come to a rolling boil, turn off heat, garnish with cilantro and serve hot over white or brown rice.

NOTE: If you don't have mango (amchoor) powder you can use tamarind paste or lemon/lime juice (add at the very end)and adjust the spices and sourness according to your taste.

ENJOY!

Sweekriti, Lacey WA

Posted by: Sweekriti | April 10, 2007 11:00 PM

I'd say any veggie indian dish, but i'll submit a dish i "created" on my own

you'll need either precooked beans (Cannelini work great) or a can drained and rinsed

sautee some shallots and coursly chopped garlic and a small red onion, halved and thinly sliced in peanut oil (you can use olive if allergic) to this add some red pepper flakes to taste and a little salt once things start to carmelize a bit. Add a drizzle more oil if needed and toss in chopped greens (I usually use kale or chard) at this point I add some veggie stock if I have it on hand, or water- a drizzle of vinegar and a shake of salt and a little liquid smoke and veggie worchestishire and then add the beans and put the top on for a bit (lower heat)until wilted and a puddle of juice has formed. To serve I top with a sprinkling of toasted nuts, fresh ground pepper, and sometimes a shake of tabasco with a nice piece of crusty bread. I've also made the same thing with sliced and sauteed field roast "veggie sausage" tossed in at the end.

Easy, plus it makes a good batch for lunch leftovers.

Posted by: lirc | April 11, 2007 5:20 PM

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