vegetarian & vegan

Vegetarian Thanksgiving happy day for the turkey

Move over big bird and make room for the sides.

Vegetarian dishes are stealing the spotlight for more than a few families who are choosing to eat meatless on Thanksgiving - just as they do every other day of the year. 

The NY Times' Tara Parker-Pope writes today about the health benefits of a birdless holiday meal in her Well column while reminding us too that creativity is limitless with a cornucopia of beautiful fresh vegetables.

Eat your veggies!

Summer squash, with its gorgeous and creamy butter-yellow skin, is in the farmers' markets.

When I was a kid, I ate so much squash - fresh from the garden - that I was sure I'd never suffer another bite. The typical dish we ate consisted of a medley of sautéed summer vegetables - squash, zucchini, onions, tomatoes and sweet corn. It was delicious!

But even the tastiest dishes soon grow old if repeated too often. There really are only so many ways to sauté or stuff a squash.

I was intrigued by these Summer Squash Sloppy Joes featured in the July 2006 edition of Cookie

But since we're trying to cut back on meat, rather unsuccessfully, I might add, I thought we'd try this recipe with mushrooms as a replacement for the ground beef or turkey. You might substitute firm crumbled tofu too.

Summer Squash Sloppy Joes
adapted from a recipe by Melissa Clark


* 3 Portobello mushroom caps, diced
* 3 garlic cloves, minced
* 1/2 onion, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
* 1 carrot, grated
* 1 1/2 cups summer squash, diced
* 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
* 1 tablespoon mild chili powder
* 1 teaspoon paprika
* 1 teaspoon dried oregano
* Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
* 3 ounces cheddar cheese, thinly sliced

* 6 Challah buns

1. Preheat the broiler. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, sauté the mushrooms until browned, about five minutes. Add the garlic, onion and carrots, then sauté another two minutes or until just soft. Finally, add the squash and sauté about a minute more.

2. Stir in the tomato paste and 1 1/4 cups water, stirring until the paste has dissolved. Add the chili powder, paprika, and oregano, and season with the salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook until the mixture has thickened, 8 to 10 minutes.

3. Divide the cheese among the bottom halves of the Challah buns. Transfer both halves of the buns to the broiler, open-faced, and toast until the cheese has melted and the top buns are toasted.

4. Remove the buns from the oven and fill each sandwich with the squash-and-mushroom mixture. Serve immediately.

For a side dish, try this Asian Coleslaw recipe - a nutty-vinegary, sweet and nice counterpoint to the picquant Sloppy Joes.

Eating in: Saturday night dinner

My smart and thrifty mother raised three teenagers who loved to eat on a single mom's income. 

I learned early the lessons in economy which have served me well in the kitchen and developed a preference for making many of the foods that are purchased pre-packaged, which here means overprocessed.  

No, I'm not making my own bread each week - though I could and occasionally do. But I'm clever enough to know which tasks to tackle and which tasks to leave to the masters. 

So, what to do when faced with a pinched wallet and champagne tastes? Eat in!

While I realize restauranteurs will cringe when I say this, but if your budget needs a reality check, treat yourself to more dinners in. I'm not advocating giving up a weekly meal out (if you can afford it), but I am saying you can have a fantastic meal in for half what you spend at a restaurant.  

My Sunday morning posts are dedicated to the Saturday night eat-in. Last night I was in the lazy, one dish mood - the perfect mindset for risotto where you get your vegetables and grains all in one flavor-packed plate.  

Last night's menu:

Wild mushroom and carrot risotto

Vanilla ice cream with bittersweet dark chocolate sauce


2007 William Cole Alto Vuelo Pinot Noir

Light ruby red in color with notes of cherries and thyme on the nose. The palate is layered with primary flavors of strawberry and herbs, accompanied by secondary flavors of smoke and subtle oak. A light bodied wine, with silky tannins and a lingering finish. A beautiful example of cool climate Pinot Noir, should cellar well for several years. The wine is aged for 12 months in French barrels (Pop the Cork Wines)

You can have your cake and eat it too.

Caribbean soul on fire at Red Bamboo

 Red Bamboo 11.18.08 017I am by habit a carnivore.  It's not a meal without meat, right.

But, that's changed since my recent dinner at Red Bamboo, a fabulous Fort Greene find that caters specifically to vegans and vegetarians.

Specializing in mock meat, the super ambient restaurant, located at the corner of DeKalb Avenue (271 Adelphi Street), could convert even hard core carnivores with its Caribbean soul infused signature dishes.

Try to get a seat in one of the discreet nooks upstairs (from Wednesay night on). Very speakeasy.

This should be illegal.  Thank goodness it isn't. Fantastic taste.Red Bamboo 11.18.08 008

Try these dishes if you try nothing else. Chef Billy Ahearn is skilled.

  • soul chicken, crispy panko breaded fried faux chicken
  • collard green rolls, spring rolls made with mock smoked ham and -- what else -- collard greens.
  • Mango chicken salad, vegetarian chicken, mango slivers, and mixed greens lightly dressed
  • grilled Portobello mushroom salad served on a bed of meclun
  • chicken parmesan & pasta     

       Red Bamboo 11.18.08 038Recommended drinks are:

  • Sorrel mojito (think sour-sweet wild strawberries and mint)
  • White Guava Sangria (wildly tropical and some of the best sangria around)
  • It's Not Your Mama's Fruit Punch 

For dessert, do Death by Chocolate or the chocolate ganache covered strawberry shortcake.

Eggs Maria

The Eggs Benedict Alternative

Breakfast is the best meal of the day.  

I love breakfast so much that often I have breakfast for dinner.

What I adore about cooking in my teensy test kitchen is that I don't need a lot of fancy gadgets to make really fresh, really wonderful dishes.  

Gadgets are great and I am amazed at how they can make your time in the kitchen simpler, faster and easier.  

But they are expensive, they take up space (which is at a premium in my itty-bitty Brooklyn apartment) and you don't really need them.  

Accoutrements are delightful, but not an absolute for great meals.

Today I was in the mood for eggs, but I didn't want your average eggs over easy and a couple of pieces of buttered toast.  I wanted something brunch-y like Eggs Benedict.  

However, I didn't want to spend an hour in the kitchen stirring up Hollandaise and I didn't have any Canadian bacon or English muffins.

What I did have was some eggs, some polenta that I'd molded after making a yummy dish of polenta with wild porcini and sage butter, some salsa and some fresh tomatoes from my garden at 611.

Voila! Eggs Maria.

Think Real Food for Real People

Sometimes it seems like bad luck is your middle name.  But then we find we do get what we deserve – and in the most unexpected ways.

Ella shops for onions At least that’s what happened to Ella Nemcova, chef and founder of  The Regal Vegan, a dinner delivery service in Park Slope that offers meatless and healthy alternatives to takeout.

Nemcova was slogging her way through the corporate world.  She'd been a copywriter for 10 years and found the task thankless.  Her apartment had been burglarized and her landlord was trying to have her evicted.

"It was breaking me," recalled Nemcova.  "...All of these things were happening. (I said) I get it. I've got to go."  So, the copywriter turned chef packed up her belongings and took off for a few months of travel, which resulted in year-long excursion that had her nibbling and noshing through Europe, India, Southeast Asia and Russia. 

On her journey, she explored new spices, textures and flavors in the markets of the places she visited and in the homes of the people she met. "When you're on the road, you have no idea what you're eating. I met these amazing Cambodian kids and they invited me home to eat," said Nemcova, laughing.  "I asked, 'What's this?'  And they said, 'We'll tell you later.' It had these really small bones."

Happily for those of us who associate the “V” word with strange entrees having the texture and flavor of sawdust, Nemcova returned home to experiment with her diet and her menus.  Soon her desire to eat well and feel  fantastic translated to her life's work, The Regal Vegan. 

Eating well and creativity in the kitchen were important to her. The fact that she was energized as well as sleeping and feeling better than she had in years, was no small bonus.  "I had to eat food that was  wonderful, that had fine quality.  You can't back away from flavor. It makes no sense," she said. 

Her detox diet, Ellavation, was developed to get her system back into shape after her travels. Nemcova sought help at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, learning to eat the best foods for the best health.

Her years in advertising paid off.  Nemcova's creative menus are as gorgeously explained as they are prepared.  The meals are composed from fresh, seasonal and organic ingredients and the menus vary weekly.  Clients can access her website or Nemcova will email the week's offerings.

You won't even miss the meat.

photo by: Lee Seidenberg