The meatless thing is easy for me since I'm a vegetarian. However, during Lent, in order to make abstinence count for something, I go vegan on Fridays. That presents more of a challenge for me, although it's not as difficult as it seems on the surface. The dish in the photo above, for example, is vegan and totally awesome. That was last night's dinner, so obviously I'm not adverse to going vegan on non-Fridays as well.
Last night's dish is from the current issue of Vegetarian Times and is attributed to Paul McCartney. It's super simple, and Dennis, who was eating chicken with his veggies, tried the cornmeal-crusted tofu and declared it "restaurant quality." So there you go. Here's that recipe in a nutshell:
Recipe # 1: Steamed Veggie Salad with Tofu
2 pints cherry tomatoes
4 cups broccoli, separated into florets
1 red pepper, sliced
2 cups sugar snap peas
2 cups baby carrots
Romaine lettuce, chopped
1 block of tofu, cut into rectangular slices
Salt, pepper, basil
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp maple syrup
2 tsp dijon mustard
Whisk dressing ingredients together and set aside for later.
Preheat the oven to 400. Roast tomatoes for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, steam veggies in a steamer basket. (Feel free to use whatever veggies you have on hand. The original recipe called for string beans, but I had snap peas, so I made the substitution and added red peppers since my kids like those.)
Coat the tofu slices in cornmeal mixed with salt, pepper and dried basil. While the veggies steam, sauté the tofu in olive oil for about five minutes per side. Drain on a paper towel.
Put chopped Romaine lettuce and scallions on your plate. Put steamed veggies, roasted tomatoes, and tofu slices on top. Drizzle with dressing. Serves four to six, depending on how much your family loves tofu. Just add another half-block of tofu to get six big portions.
I served this with a side of quinoa. Take 1 cup of quinoa that has been soaked for five minutes and rinsed. Put quinoa and 1 1/2 cups of water in pot with a little salt. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for about 15 minutes or until liquid is gone. Remove from heat and let stand for five minutes. Loosen with fork.
Recipe #2: Pasta and Lentils
I shared this recipe last year after surprising success with it. Here's what I said about it then:
Before you click by this post because the word "lentils" scares you, especially in relation to pasta, I beg you to stop and just consider it for a moment because it is out-of-this world delicious. This particular recipe is actually a combination of two: a lentil sauce recipe from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian and my own addition of roasted butternut squash and garlic that gets added in right before serving. (That change-up happened because I had a squash that needed to be used and, voila, a new recipe was born.) The result is a dinner that is not only vegan (no meat, dairy, eggs, etc.) but incredibly yummy, with a complex texture and taste even though it's easy to make.
Click HERE for the pasta and lentil recipe.
Recipe #3: Kale Two Ways
Click HERE for a great Beans and Greens recipe using kale and cannellini beans. As a bonus you'll also get a recipe for Kale Chips, which are a great low-cal salty snack.
Recipe #4: Israeli Couscous with Apples and Dried Cranberries
Click HERE for a great side dish to go with your Lenten fish or tofu. The recipe I have posted suggests chicken broth, but that's easy. Just swap it for vegetable broth.
Reciped #5: Creamy Polenta with Garlic and Cheese
This can be a main dish or a side dish. It can be vegan or not, with some minor adjustments.
1/2 cup milk, preferably whole, although I used skim with a splash of half and half (Use plain almond milk to make this vegan.)
2 cups water
1 cup coarse cornmeal
I tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 spring fresh rosemary chopped, or a teaspoon of dried rosemary
1 teaspoon of chopped garlic
1 tablespoon of butter (Earth Balance for vegan version)
Grated Parmesan cheese, optional
Combine milk and water with large pinch of salt in a saucepan over medium heat. When it's close to a boil, add the polenta in a steady stream, whisking the whole time to keep away the nasty lumps. Add the rosemary.
Turn the heat down to a simmer and keep whisking until the polenta gets thick -- about 10 or 15 minutes. If it starts to look too thick too soon, add a little water. (I did this. I was fine.)
Add the butter, cheese (if using), garlic and stir. Grind some pepper into it to taste. Serve immediately as a side dish or main course. I doubled this recipe for my hungry family and used it as a side dish with baked salmon and sauteed broccoli rabe.
Variation: You can make grilled or fried polenta by decreasing the amount of water and making a thicker mixture. Don't add the butter, cheese. I'd probably skip the garlic and rosemary as well for this version. When it's done, spread the polenta on a board and let it cool for a while. Then cut it into slices -- about 1/2 inch thick. Now you can brush the slices with olive oil, salt and pepper and throw them on the grill or into a frying pan.
Stay tuned for more veggie recipes for Lent...