The big 5 vegetarian dishes
Now that we all need to eat more vegetables and less meat, some of the most common dishes we whip up just to get through the working week – week after week – will need to be replaced by greener ones. Therefore, we have made it our business to launch:
"The green big five"
That is to say ”the big five” dishes that, in the near future, will replace meaty classics like spaghetti Bolognese, sausages and mashed potatoes, meatballs and macaronis, hamburgers, etc (depending on everyday culinary traditions in your part of the world).
The list was composed with our ears firmly to the ground, but is otherwise entirely unscientific. Here are, without mutual ranking, the big five workday dishes that you will be eating in the near future:
Pasta and tomato sauce
A dish made in heaven. Maybe even more satisfying than the mother of all comfort foods, spaghetti Bolognese. A humble classic which is easily taken to new levels with parmesan, freshly ground black pepper, olives, capers, a drizzle of fine olive oil…
A genuine tomato sauce needs time, especially if you are ambitious enough (and the season is right) to make it from scratch with sun ripe plum tomatoes. It makes sense to make a big batch that you can use as the basis for lots of tasty, healthy, and affordable dishes to get you through the week (see vegetarian lasagna below).
A simple and tasty tomato sauce recipe is available.
Easy to go green with pasta
There are of course many more vegetarian pasta dishes that might have qualified here: Pasta with butter and garlic, with garlic and chili, with mushrooms and parmesan, with spinach and pine kernels, with blue cheese, with broccoli, black pepper and garlic, with butter and truffles, just to name a few.
On the one hand: Making this dish takes time and planning. On the other hand: If you make a generous batch and freeze it in portions you have food for weeks ahead.
The great thing about vegetarian chili is the presence of large, bold flavors. Give it all you’ve got with dried and/or smoked chilies, with cumin, with oregano, with selleri (for the umami), with coriander, beer, and more. This way, nobody is going to miss the meat.
Avoiding vegetarian mush
There is always a risk of vegetarian stews turning into a soft mush without texture. Therefore, for the sake of texture variation, use at least two kinds of beans of different size and texture in your chili. And serve with crunchy nachos, fresh and crispy vegetables, and cool and silky guacamole…
A word from the language police
Chili con carne literally means ”chili with meat”. In other words there is no such thing as ”chili con carne without meat”. Chili without meat is called – and the Spanish wording works perfectly to make this a vegetarian dish with a status end reputation of its own – “chili sin carne”. Nuff said.
This is very vague, we know. Just about any vegetable can be turned into a soup, but there is no escaping it: Not even soup sceptics can resist a hot and tasty soup served with – for example – home baked bread and hearty cheeses.
What you need are some vegetables (they don’t even have to be in great shape), some tasty stock, and a blender. However, to take it to a higher lever you also need this:
Italian style pasta makes it easy to create vegetarian dishes (and so do Asian noodles…). A recipe for success:
One batch tomato sauce (see above)
One batch ricotta & spinach
Make ricotta & spinach
Deep frozen leaf spinach (500g/1 lb)
Fresh ricotta cheese (250g/0.5 lb)
1 clove of garlic
(Herb) salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Thaw the spinach and press out water without damaging leaves
- Chop garlic and sweat – gently until soft – in olive oil in a pan
- Add spinach and cook off even more of moisture
- Take pan from heat and stir in ricotta
- Salt and pepper (and nutmeg) to taste
Make lasagna "like usual"
In an oven pan with straight edges: Start with a layer of tomato sauce, then sheets, then ricotta & spinach, then repeat – at least three times. The last layer should not be the sheets of pasta. Top with grated, tasty cheese before placing in oven.
Most Asian kitchens work with umami – the fulfilling, savory flavor that signals the presence of proteins to the brain – in a very deliberate way. The whole point with soy sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce, and others is to add so much tasty umami that not even a dedicated carnivore will miss the animal protein absent in vegetarian dishes.
A hint of chili heat also makes vegetarian dishes more satisfying and filling.
A fishy stir-fry recipe
In the recipe below we have assumed that you don’t mind having your vegetarian food flavored with sauces made from fish and/or shellfish. If you are more militant, try a stir-fry sauce made from soy sauce, rice wine, chili, and white pepper. Adding mushrooms and/pr seaweed is also a good trick for creating deeper flavors in strictly vegetarian dishes.
Stir frying = high heat + high speed
The idea is to stir-fry the food immediately before plating and putting it in front of the guests. The greens must be hot – but not limp from excessive cooking. Doing things in the right order is a must:
- Boil rice
- Cut vegetables into similar size morcels
- Make a mise en place
- Prepare the stir-fry sauce
- Heat up the wok
Suitable greens when stir-frying
Broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, sugar snaps, green beans, snap beans, spring onion, red onion, pak choi, Chinese cabbage, bell peppers, and more. And chopped garlic and chili to taste.
Stir-fry sauce recipe
When stir-frying meat it is common to marinate it for a while, in a marinade or in the sauce itself. When stir-frying vegetables the sauce is on its own and goes in later. Since garlic and chili both need to be properly cooked, they should go into the pan earlier.
For 2-3 portions:
2 tbsp fish sauce*
1 tbsp oyster sauce*
1 tbsp chicken or vegetable stock (Chicken is tastier…)
1 dash sesame oil
Freshly ground white pepper
* These proportions can be switched. More fish sauce makes a saltier sauce. More oyster sauce makes it sweeter. Garnish with, for example, fresh coriander, sesame seeds, cashew nuts, peanuts, etc.
The big 6,7,8…
What happened to Portabello mushroom burgers? Or vegetable patties and grilled haloumi? Oven-baked celeriac? Deep-fried vegetarian spring rolls? Time will tell…