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The Cookstr 10: Ten Vegetarian Recipes for Winter

January 8, 2010

A little while back we asked ya’ll what topics you’d like to see featured in The Cookstr 10. Vegetarian was a big consensus, and so here, for your cooking pleasure, are ten veggie recipes that will hopefully make the apex of winter (or the nadir, depending on how you look at it) taste delicious. (There was actually another vegetarian Cookstr 10, way back in February 2009–you might want to check that one out, too).

Vegetable Moussaka by Victoria Blashford-Snell and Brigitte Hafner

Clearly, people come to vegetarianism for all kinds of reasons: some as a way of life, some just looking to lighten up their diets by introducing more meat-free meals. And thanks to the rise in vegetarianism, there are so many more cool products on the market, and the availability of things like tofu, gorgeous beans, and various grains, not to mention interesting fresh produce, makes eating vegetarian much easier than it was even a few years ago. So many cultures have vegetable and vegetarian dishes at the heart of their cooking (and again, those ethnic ingredients are so much more readily available these days), that jumping into vegetarian cooking is a great way to explore new cuisines. Any way you mince it, vegetarian cooking is good eating.

1. Deborah Madison’s Baked Polenta Layered with Tomato, Fontina, and Gorgonzola. This polenta gratin with its blend of cheeses looks inviting baked in a large earthenware dish–bring it to the table bubbling and fragrant and serve it family-style. For more formal occasions, it is very attractive baked in individual dishes. Both the polenta and the tomato sauce can be made well in advance, so putting the casserole together takes only a short time.

2. Myra Goodman’s Portobello Mushrooms Stuffed with Spinach, Parmesan, and Fennel. Portobello mushrooms, with their hefty size and meaty texture, are one of the go-to staples of vegetarians looking for something robust to sink their teeth into. These mushrooms are stuffed with spinach, cheese, fennel, and fresh tarragon and parsley, and — as an added bonus — the flavor-packed stuffing also includes shiitake mushrooms, which enhance the portobellos’ earthy taste. And if you substitute breadcrumbs for the cheese, adding just enough to lightly bind the stuffing, you’ll have a vegan version.

3. Nava Atlas’s Gingery Japanese Noodles with Mushrooms and Snow Peas. This vegan noodle dish is served Japanese-style in a small portion of broth. Different varieties of soba noodles are available in natural foods stores and well-stocked supermarkets. It is extremely simple to make, and the soba strands intertwine with crispy snow peas and chewy slices of mushroom for a great textural dish.

4. Victoria Blashford-Snell and Brigitte Hafner’s Vegetable Moussaka. Lentils replace the lamb, and yogurt is a light alternative to béchamel sauce (and a time-saver!), in this vegetarian version of a Greek favorite. Serve with a mixed green salad and crusty rustic bread.

5. Art Smith’s Fennel, Watercress, and Orange Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette. A great winter salad when fennel and oranges are at their peak, and vegan-friendly as well. We adore the peppery taste of watercress, but if you find it overwhelming feel free to substitute tender baby greens in its place. The citrus dressing is a welcome burst of brightness during the shortest, coldest days of the year.

6. David Waltuck’s Eggplant Parmesan. Hearty, rich, and satisfying, this dish clearly falls into the category of “crossover” dishes that meat-eaters find more than acceptable as a main course. The addition of ricotta lends a touch of creaminess, making the casserole extra satisfying. Baking this in a shallow pan prevents the eggplant from becoming too soggy.

7. Mollie Katzen’s Sesame-Braised Cabbage with Leeks. Gentle and soothing, this lovely dish is more complex and rewarding than you might expect. The leeks and cabbage get a very tender, almost melting quality when they have been braised for a while. The light crackle of the sesame seeds on top is a great textural contrast.

8. Jay Weinstein’s Mushroom-Barley “Risotto”. Italian culinary purists may gasp in horror at this risotto, which rests its laurels on barley instead of Arborio rice. Well, it may not be authentic, but it sure is delicious, and barley is a grain that deserves more play on our tables. Serve with crisp vegetables, such as sliced fennel, dressed with olive oil, lemon, and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

9. Deborah Schneider and Deborah Szekely’s Heirloom Apple and Smoked Gouda Salad with Honey Walnut Dressing. Another gorgeous cold-weather salad with crisp apples, nuts, and smoky cheese mixed in with spiky, mildly bitter frisée and crimson radicchio. This will win both taste and beauty contests.

10. Frank Mentesana’s Vegetable Stock. Everyone needs a good veggie (and in this case, vegan) stock recipe in their repertoire, even if you aren’t eating exclusively vegetarian. The flavor is subtle, which is very useful when you don’t want the other flavors of a dish to be overpowered. Keep piling up all kinds of vegetable trimmings to throw into stock–carrot peels, celery leaves and bottoms, the ends of onions and leeks trimmings–and grab those items from the vegetable bin that may be a shade past their prime. You’ll want to stay away from cabbage or eggplant or asparagus, or anything with a really strong, overwhelming flavor.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. January 20, 2011 12:27 pm

    One of the most popular recipes on my blog is a vegetable dish – Cabbage and Brown Rice.

  2. May 5, 2011 9:19 am

    thanks for all the recipes you gave here that i could try out. i commend your effort because you really researched and compiled them for people to try out.

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