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October is National Vegetarian Month. October 1, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. I just found out that October is National Vegetarian Month! That’s exciting news for a vegetarian like me who was born in October. Now I have something else to celebrate!

If you’re a vegetarian, challenge yourself to make at least one new dish a week this month. It’s a great time to add some new favorites to your menu!

And if you’re not vegetarian, but have ever found yourself wondering if vegetarian food was a) edible, b) satisfying, or maybe even possibly c) delicious, I challenge you to try one vegetarian dinner each week this month. You may already be doing this without thinking of it as vegetarian: mac’n’cheese; spaghetti or stuffed shells, etc. with marinara sauce; pasta primavera or fettucine Alfredo or penne in vodka sauce; a grilled veggie pizza or pizza margherita or white pizza; black bean soup or gazpacho or tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches; quiche or omelettes. Anything you make without meat or products made from meat like chicken or fish stock or gelatin is already vegetarian.

I’m sure you’d be happy to add some yummy new recipes to your menu files, too. I think the weekend is a great time to make vegetarian food, since then you have plenty of time to let the dish cook to perfection instead of rushing home from work starving and desperate to put something quick on the table. So I’ve decided to celebrate National Vegetarian Month by dedicating every Saturday post this month to providing vegetarian-friendly resources to help you find recipes, tips, cookbooks, and the like.

Of course, I’ll give you a recipe or two in each post as well. And since October is also pumpkin month, the main recipes will all feature pumpkin or winter squash. They’ll be rich, hearty, and delicious, I promise. Let the celebration begin!

Let’s start with a couple of online resources. The Veggie Table (http://www.theveggietable.com/) is, as its name implies, an online compendium of vegtarian recipes, but it also contains plenty of information on being or becoming a vegetarian under its “Vegetarian 101” heading. Vegetarians in Paradise (http://www.vegparadise.com/) is a L.A.-based, free online vegetarian digest and magazine, with tons of useful links (just scroll down the left-hand column to find everything from an events calendar to a directory to a Vegetarian Survival Kit, plus, of course, tons of recipes and tips).

Next up, a cookbook both vegetarians and non-vegetarians will find a wonderful, go-to resource:

A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen: Easy Seasonal Dishes for Family and Friends by Jack Bishop, Executive Editor of Cook’s Illustrated magazine (Houghton Mifflin, 2004, $35). I’m a sucker for seasonal cookbooks, and a vegetarian seasonal cookbook was a must-buy. Jack Bishop’s philosophy is “shop local and cook global, but keep it real.” That works for me!

Recipes are, of course, arranged seasonally, but there’s also a section of “Everyday Basics” like Greener Pesto, Creamy Polenta, Mashed Potatoes, Lighter Refried Beans, Simplest Rice Pilaf, Basic Pizza Dough, and Vegetable Stock. There’s also a chapter of Bishop’s favorite seasonal menus, and you can tell from looking at them that he really loves them and serves them, not that some editor said “You need to include some menus in this book.”

Let me tantalize you with a few recipe titles: Roasted Fennel, Potatoes, and Artichokes with Fennel Gremolata; Spinach and Arugula Salad with Indian-Spiced Chickpeas and Charred Red Onions; Potato-Leek Pizza with Goat Cheese; Rigatoni with Fava Beans, Ricotta, and Lemon; Red Curry-Braised Tofu with Snow Peas, Red Pepper, and Scallions; Gazpacho with Grilled Vegetables; Spanish Omelet with Peas, Potatoes, and Saffron; Bulgur Salad with Grilled Zucchini and Onion, Middle Eastern Style; Tomato and Mango Salad with Curry-Orange Vinaigrette; Tender Lettuce and Peach Salad with Pumpkin Seeds and Sour Orange Vinaigrette; Fried Green Tomato Salad with Goat Cheese; Black Bean Chilaquiles; Mexican Citrus Salad; Frittata with Caramelized Onions; Fettucine with Mascarpone and Sage-Walnut Butter; Spinach-Onion Quesadillas with Avocado-Chipotle Salsa; Gingered Carrot Soup; Curried Red Lentils with Caramelized Onions.

There are 248 recipes in all, so I could go on (and on). But you’ll notice that there’s one thing I haven’t mentioned, and that’s dessert. There are NO dessert recipes in this book. That’s because Jack Bishop’s wife is a former pastry chef, and the division of labor in their kitchen is that he cooks the meals and she makes the desserts. I don’t view that as a drawback—I have plenty of dessert cookbooks—but just FYI. The other drawback is a lack of color photos—there’s a puny color insert showing just 16 of the 248 recipes, though admittedly the photos are gorgeous.

But there are two big bonuses that dwarf these drawbacks: First, the intro to each recipe is lively, authentic, helpful, and experience-based. No bland generalities (“This dish is warming on a cold winter night!”) here. You’ll both enjoy and appreciate them. And second, the book is simply packed with useful tips on everything from buying and using rice noodles to keeping basil from browning, how to correctly sharpen a knife, the best way to use cream, and how to develop flavor in bean soups. Jack Bishop’s experience helming Cook’s Illustrated and starring in PBS’s long-running “America’s Test Kitchen” cooking show really shine through in these invaluable tips.

This week’s featured recipe is a cold-weather favorite, Curried Pumpkin Soup. It’s fast and easy to make, and so rich and delicious that all you need to add to make a meal is hot bread and a salad. Enjoy! And don’t miss the great bonus recipe that follows this one.

           Silence’s Curried Pumpkin Soup

1 29-ounce can 100% pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling), or 1 small pie pumpkin or large Butternut squash, halved, seeded, placed facedown on aluminum foil and baked in a 350-degree oven until tender, then scooped out and pureed

1 pint light cream

1/2 stick butter

1 large sweet onion (Vidalia, WallaWalla, 1015 or Candy type), diced fine

1 box veggie stock (all brands are good) or homemade

salt (we like RealSalt or Trocomare or Herbamare)

hot sauce (we like Pickapeppa or Tabasco Chipotle)

1 tablespoon each ground cumin, turmeric, ground coriander, and curry powder

1/4 cup (or mini-bottle) anise liqueur, such as Pernod or Sambuca

Saute diced onion in butter in a Dutch oven (I love my heavy LeCreuset Dutch ovens) or heavy stock pot until clarified. Add salt and spices, stirring to saute briefly. (You may need to add a splash of veggie stock, since the spices soak up the butter and make a paste, which is good, but can easily burn, which is bad.) Add a generous splash of hot sauce—you want the soup to be warming (hey, it’s cold outside!). Add the pumpkin, stirring well to blend. Add the light cream, then enough of the veggie stock to smooth out the soup to a silken texture (neither too thin nor too thick and porridgy). Heat through, then swirl the liqueur on top and stir it in. Give the soup another minute on the stove, stir well, and serve. Serves 4-6.

Here’s that bonus recipe:

Instead of a salad, you could serve this easy, fun dish either as an appetizer or a first course. It’s a delicious cold-weather treat for any festive occasion: endive boats.

                  Silence’s Endive Boats

To make these delicious endive “boats,” you’ll need to buy Belgian endive (those tight, pale green heads in the salad section with boatlike leaves), crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled feta cheese, dried cranberries, and nuts. (I had pecans on hand, but you could use almonds or walnuts if you prefer them. Buy nuts in small pieces unless you want to crumble or—in the case of almonds—chop them.) That’s all there is to it!

To put the boats together, place four large or six smaller leaves on each salad plate. Add a little crumbled Gorgonzola in the bottom of each leaf “boat” (this adds delicious bite, but you don’t want to overdo it or it will overwhelm the other flavors). Fill the leaves almost to the top with crumbled feta. Now, press in 4-6 dried cranberries in each “boat” (again, you want to add color and flavor, but not to overwhelm the other flavors with sweetness; ultimately, this is a savory appetizer). Sprinkle chopped nuts over the top of each filled leaf, and top it with lemon pepper or fresh-ground pepper.

Give each person a filled plate, a napkin, and a glass of dry Reisling, Traminette, or Pinot Grigio. This is finger food; you just pick up each “boat” and eat it. So easy and so good!

That’s it for this week’s roundup. Feel free to share your favorite vegetarian tips and recipes with us. Happy National Vegetarian Month!

                ‘Til next time,

                              Silence

Comments»

1. WhiteFang - October 1, 2011

I’m stuck in dorm where I can’t really cook for myself and my mouth is… watering.

I’d totally suggest a heavy, traditional Indian recipe to my vegetarian friends across the globe; it’s Shahi Paneer (quite literally translates to Royal Cheese). I’m no cook, but I link you to where the recipe is well explained:

http://sanjeevkapoor.com/shahi-paneer.aspx

kadai = big oval container kinda thing

On another note, my country needs a Vegetarian Month, too!

Oh wow, WhiteFang! I love paneer dishes and that sounds delicious! I make palak paneer and saag paneer, but of course they’re easy. Now you’re not the only one whose mouth is watering! I wish I had some shahi paneer and basmati rice right now!


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