Veggie Chat Leftovers: Teen Carbotarian, Mashed Mates, Provencal Veggie Feast
As promised in yesterday's What's Cooking Vegetarian chat, I've answered a handful of leftover questions worth chewing on for further discussion. Please weigh in as you see fit in the comments area below, and have a safe, delicious weekend!
Virginia:A friend of mine's teenaged daughter has become vegetarian. But she doesn't like vegetables (and neither does he really -- just vegetable soup). So far, they eat a lot of cheese sandwiches and cheese pizza when she visits. Any suggestions for a non-cook for his teenaged daughter on weekends? I've suggested omelets and using fake eggs but that's about it.
So you've got a noncook and a young, impressionable carbotarian. The cheese marathon has got to stop! This is actually a great opportunity, not a dilemma. Both Dad and daughter could use some kitchen time together in form of a few cooking lessons, using her new diet as a springboard for action.
It's a win-win situation; Dad shows daughter that he's "cool" enough to take a cooking class and is open to her new eating preferences, plus he may a learn a new thing or two that he throws together on those nights he's cooking for himself. Meanwhile, our newbie vegetarian feels validated, meets other vegetarians and learns in a nonjudgemental way about the world beyond cheese sandwiches and the importance of eating smart, with or without meat.
Locally, there are a few options, each with a different twist. Mimi Clark, who's based in Fairfax City, teaches her monthly hands-on "Vegan Gourmet" classes on Sunday mornings, which would be perfect timing for this duo. In fact, the next class is Sunday, March 9.
For a taste of India, there's Pritha Mehra and her hands-on meatless classes, in both Fairfax and Arlington, Va. Mehra gets a big thumbs up from Celebritologist Liz Kelly, who's been cooking without meat for at least three years.
In D.C., Phyllis Fruchter covers several global cuisines, but once a month offers a vegetarian class from her kitchen in Dupont Circle. March's meatless class is Italian, and in April, the class "travels" to Spain.
If this pair enjoys hummus, baba ghanouj and other meatless Middle Eastern mezze, the monthly classes at Arlington's Lebanese Taverna market may be a fun experience. Some classes are held on Saturday; at least one of their monthly offering is vegetarian.
Mashed potatoes! : My boyfriend is veg and loves mashed potatoes. I'd like to figure out a way to fit those into our meals, but my omnivore sensibilities can't get past the need to pair them with meat. I've tried grilled portobellos, but didn't love the match. How can we work mashed potatoes into our vegetarian meals?
Try the white-on-white method: Add a handful of cauliflower florets or a few chopped parsnips into the pot and mash everything together, for a new twist with added nutrients. When everything is pureed, particularly if you add garlic and herbs, your mashed potato-loving bf will not be able to tell he's eating his cruciferous veg as well.
For something more substantial, you may want to consider something along the lines of this Italian mashed potato-green bean pie, detailed below. I've had this recipe in my notebook for more than 10 years, but unfortunately am unable to remember the source; what I know now is that "polpettone" is Italian for stuffed meat, but this Ligurian version is meatless (but with dairy and eggs). I often make this dish around Easter, when the weather flips between winter and spring; the potatoes symbolize the comfort from the wind and the green beans symbolize new grass and the promise of warmer days.
Polpettone di Patate e Fagiolini â€¨â€¨
1 pound potatoes, peeled and chopped â€¨
3/4 pound green beans, trimmed
1 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced â€¨
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon, dried
2 tablespoons fresh parsley â€¨
3/4 cup parmesan-- grated
1/4 cup ricotta â€¨
3 eggs, beatenâ€¨â€¨
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cook potatoes in boiling salted water until tender. Mash and cover. â€¨
Cook beans in salted water for about 15 minutes, finely chop. set aside. â€¨
Soak breadcrumbs in milk. Add more milk if mixture gets too dry. You want some moisture, but not liquid.
Cook garlic in olive oil, and add herbs and beans. This mixture must be cool before adding to potatoes, cheese and eggs. Season. Fill a greased oven-proof baking dish, shape unimportant (to make more of a tart, use a 12-inch round dish). Top with breadcrumbs. Score top with a knife, making a diamond pattern. Bake about 40 minutes, until golden.
Washington, D.C.: I am looking to host a Provence-inspired feast in the spring. I'm very excited about it, but have a problem: I can't figure out a vegetarian option as an alternative to the main course. My menu as it stands now features an entree of chicken with an herbes de provence pan sauce, haricots vert bundles, and roasted potatoes. What alternative entree can I offer in case I have vegetarians at the table?
Provencal cooking is one of the ultimate expressions of honoring the change of the seasons, which means a heavy emphasis on fruits, herbs and vegetables (aka vegetarian fare). The options are limitless.
Without knowing exactly when you'll be hosting the party (i.e. early or late spring), I'll make some general suggestions that would capture the essence of spring.
The first thing that comes to mind is an onion tart -- not a pizza-like pissaladiere (which is wonderful), but something a little more formal, with a buttery flaky crust, made in a tart shell. Onions get caramelized, seasoned with thyme -- or if you really want to get Provencal - some fennel seeds. You can pour into blind-baked shell and add chevre or Gruyere or leave it to bake by its lonesome.
Earliy in the spring, you'll see artichokes, and you could braise a bunch in white wine and a carrot-leek mix for a substantial side dish.
Similarly you could braise fennel, which would go beautifully with the roasted potatoes you mention.
Garlic soup would be a fun starter, but only if your friends eat eggs and dairy. Eggs are beaten, mixed with cheese, then tempered into the two heads of garlic swimming in broth. Traditionally a chicken stock is used, but you could make a quick veggie stock and still yield lovely results. Serve with toasted baguettes. That sounds good on a wintry mix day like today, n'est-ce pas?
If you like mushrooms, there's nothing spring-ier than morels, which you can sautÃ© with shallots and finish with white wine.
For more ideas than you could ever imagine, check out Patricia Wells's many cookbooks on Provence, where she spends part of the year teaching cooking classes.
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