This is Part II of taking a vegetarian trip around the world. As I wrote last week most people can agree that eating less meat is good for us and an occasional vegetarian meal is always welcomed at our house.
Skipping meat does not have to be something to dread, and vegetarian meals have come a long way. It is not just about removing meat or substituting “real meat” with a plant-based product. Vegetarian meals can be delicious, flavorful, and so filling that you won’t even miss the meat.
There are vegetarian options from all over the world. These are a few of our favorites. You might need to buy a few new ingredients or spices, but I think you will love the change.
Caccio e Pepe or Cheese and Pepper Pasta
This is one of my son‘s absolute favorite meals, and although he always claimed that he does not like anything spicy, the large amount of black pepper has never seemed to bother him.
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese
2 sticks butter, at room temperature
1 pound fettuccine or other wide pasta
About 1/4 cup kosher salt
Bring a large pot of water to rolling boil and add the salt. Cook the pasta until al dente and drain being sure to reserve at least one cup of the cooking pasta water.
In a large bowl combine the butter, cheese, black pepper and about 2 to 4 tablespoons of the reserve pasta cooking water. Mix well, then toss in the hot drained pasta. Combine thoroughly and toss until butter is completely melted. Serve immediately.
Nora’s Lebanese Tabouli
1 cup cracked bulgur wheat (#1, if you can find it)
6 green onions, chopped or finely sliced
1/2 cup fresh mint, chopped, or 3 tablespoons dried mint
4-5 tomatoes, chopped
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Allspice to taste
In a large bowl with a fine colander. Rinse wheat and soak in warm water for about 20 minutes. Drain well and squeeze out as much water as possible.
Combine all the ingredients and mix well. Chill for at least 30 minutes before serving. Toss and correct seasonings before serving.
Salad may be served on a bed of a crisp lettuce leaves.
Air Fried Falafel
2 cups dried chickpeas (Do not use canned for this recipe)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup fresh parsley leaves
3/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 small onion, quartered
5 to 6 garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
At least one day in advance, place the dried chickpeas and baking soda in a large bowl filled with water by at least 2 inches over the chickpeas. Allow to soak overnight or 24 hours until the chickpeas are not hard.
When chickpeas are ready, drain and pat them dry. Add the chickpeas, herbs, onion, garlic, and spices to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until all is thoroughly chopped and well-combined. I needed to process mine in 2 batches.
Transfer the falafel mixture to a bowl and cover tightly. Allow to rest for at least one hour or overnight until ready to cook.
Just before ready to air fry, add the baking powder and sesame seeds and stir to combine. Scoop tablespoons (I used an ice cream scoop) of falafel mixture to form patties about 1/2 inch thick and 1 inch wide. Place falafel patties in the basket of the air fryer and turn on for about 10 minutes. It may be more or less depending on your air fryer.
Serve warm with toasted pita bread, tahini sauce or hummus.
You can also bake falafel at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes or deep fry for about two to three minutes.
Vegetarian Southern Greens
In the south, we may be known for our “Meat and Three Lunches” but many times I will forgo the meat and add an extra vegetable. Good southern vegetables are often cooked with a ham hock or bacon grease, but adding a little extra garlic, onion, a dash of liquid smoke, and a rich vegetable broth can add extra flavor.
1 bag or bunch turnip greens, mustard greens, kale, spinach or other greens; well cleaned and chopped
1 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 teaspoons oil
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
1/2 – 1 cup water or vegetable broth
In a large pot, heat oil and sauté onions and garlic until lightly browned. Add greens and stir until greens have wilted. Add broth and liquid smoke and cook for additional 15-20 minutes until greens are tender. Depending on the type of greens you use will determine the length of cooking time.
Add hot sauce or pepper vinegar, if desired.
La’s Mac and Cheese
4 tablespoons butter
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cup milk, heated
16 oz. container of sour cream
4 Tbs. flour
1 tsp pepper
16 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups UNCOOKED macaroni noodles
Cook macaroni according to package directions. While macaroni is boiling, melt butter in a large saucepan; blend in salt, pepper, and flour. Cook for about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in warm milk to prevent clumps.
Once it is smooth, add in 3 ½ cups of the cheese and cook on low until cheese melts. Stir in sour cream and then cooked macaroni. Put in a well-greased 9×12 casserole dish and top with remaining cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until cheese melts. You can make ahead and refrigerate overnight but be sure to allow to come to room temperature before baking.
Stewed Tomatoes and Okra
2 pounds fresh okra
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cups chopped onions
2 cups chopped celery
3 cups chopped tomatoes or 3 cups canned tomatoes including their liquid
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon cayenne or red pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
Preheat oven to 300°. Rinse okra under cool water. Cut off stems and slice each pod into rounds.
Meanwhile, in a large oven proof pot, coat edges with vegetable oil. Add the okra and all the other ingredients to the pot. Mix well and cover pot with an oven proof lid. Bake in oven, stirring occasionally, for 1- 1 ½ hours until all of the “okra slime” has disappeared.
Remove lid and bake uncovered for the last 15 minutes or until okra is tender. Remove the bay leaves, adjust seasonings (add hot sauce if you like) and serve immediately
Turnip Green Casserole
2 cans slightly drained greens, any variety will work
1 can cream of celery soup
1/2 cup mayo
1 Tablespoon prepared horseradish
2 Tablespoon pepper vinegar sauce
2 eggs beaten
Mix all ingredients and put in a greased casserole. Top with crumbled cornbread. Bake 350 for 30 minutes.