Exciting recipes for the newly vegetarian?
July 31, 2009 10:06 AM   Subscribe

We are dipping our toes into vegetarianism. What recipes make you excited to be vegetarian? Bonus points for grill & crockpot options.

We have access to a great farmers' market and some nice grocery stores so a variety of food is not a problem, but we've been carnivores for so long we have trouble thinking up radically new meals.

We'd like to develop some new habits and expose ourselves to some ingredients we haven't used before. What we ideally want is a diverse list of go-to meals that we can rely on so as not to be tempted to fall back into any old meaty habits.

We're very much interested in savory and spicy foods and want to have some fun in the preparation process. Quick recipes appreciated too. What are your personal favorites?
posted by activitystory to Food & Drink (46 answers total) 90 users marked this as a favorite
I am almost to full vegetarian and one thing that has been a great surprise is grilled asparagus. put them on skewers, one at the bottom and the other just below the head and grill them on the platform above the main grill. tasty.
posted by parmanparman at 10:10 AM on July 31, 2009

Portabello mushrooms make excellent meat-replacements on burgers, especially when they're grilled. I also love eating sandwiches where I've grilled summer squash and used it as the "meat" of the sandwich.
posted by scarykarrey at 10:14 AM on July 31, 2009

Tofu Shirataki is a revelation. I am more of a flexitarian than a vegetarian, but I love that stuff.
posted by Medieval Maven at 10:22 AM on July 31, 2009

Don't miss Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. It is a FANTASTIC cookbook, and should cover your vegetarian recipe idea needs (it's big). Some of the recipes are a bit complicated/elaborate, but they seem to magically work even if you dumb them down a bit.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 10:22 AM on July 31, 2009

Risotto and paella in various forms would meet your requirements.

I'm not much of a foodie, but I do like Bittman's "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian." (Bittman, best cookbook writer ever?)

All I can say is don't think that you need to replace meat in your diet with some kind of veggie protein each and every time. Be sure to eat beans and nuts, but really most meat eaters eat way, way more protein than is needed for a healthy diet.
posted by yesno at 10:23 AM on July 31, 2009

Seconding Deborah Madison's cookbook. I have yet to make anything from it that is not absolutely delicious.
posted by bitterpants at 10:24 AM on July 31, 2009

I just got this cookbook from the library: The Modern Vegetarian, and it is fabulous. So many really good savory dishes that make excellent use of the farmer's market. My favorite is the watermelon curry. Another good cookbook is the Moosewood Low Fat Favorites. It has only a very tiny section on seafood, but I would say 6/7 of the recipes are vegetarian, and awesome.
posted by bluefly at 10:24 AM on July 31, 2009

Also, there are a bunch of cool recipes on this recipe blog. Most (but not all) are vegetarian, and I can't vouch for all of them, and some of them are downright wacky. Many are specially designed to feed 30-40 people.

FULL DISCLOSURE: It's the recipe blog from a coop where I used to live, it's occasionally maintained by my SO, and I've contributed a few recipes of my own :) I hope that isn't too self-posty.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 10:27 AM on July 31, 2009

My girlfriend is vegetarian, and it seems like mexican food and indian food can be very veggie friendly. For a lot of mexican dishes, you can use more rice, beans, and veggies, and you won't miss the meat at all. I'm still an omnivore, but I never complain when she cooks.
posted by buriednexttoyou at 10:29 AM on July 31, 2009

Make a batch of polenta. Spread into a greased baking dish. Cut into squares, or use a glass to cut rounds if you're feeling fancy. Brush with olive oil and grill.
posted by Juliet Banana at 10:30 AM on July 31, 2009

There are lots of amazing vegetarian Indian dishes that can be fairly quick and as spicy as you'd like. I sometimes make my own variation of this chickpea dish, for example. That site has a bunch of other recipes that might be of interest.

The often recommended blog 101 Cookbooks also has a lot of interesting vegetarian recipes.
posted by katie at 10:30 AM on July 31, 2009

I'm not a vegetarian, but I do a really good impression of one in the kitchen thanks to 101 Cookbooks. She has a stellar apple salsa served with brie and vegan bacon on a fancy little bun. It's spicy, sweet, salty and creamy. So good and such a great use of apples.
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 10:33 AM on July 31, 2009

Quiche -- not the weak soggy kind, but quiche made with a fairly heavy cream and some really good cheese. I like parmigiano reggiano in it; this recipe for "Queen Elizabeth's favourite quiche" (no tuna topping, natch, but just diced tomato works well) would be a good place to start.
posted by kmennie at 10:37 AM on July 31, 2009

Two recommended books

Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker

And The Vegetarian Meat and Potatoes Cookbook This second one uses tofu, seitan, etc for meaty substance, without the actual meat. Yum. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.
posted by krudiger at 10:37 AM on July 31, 2009

I've been off meat (except fish) for a month and a half now, and I'm shocked by how little I miss it. Today for lunch I'm having fresh fava hummus with chopped mint.
posted by ottereroticist at 10:47 AM on July 31, 2009

I too am trying to eat more vegetarian meals and have found some really delicious and easy recipes in Jeanne Lemlin's cookbooks.
posted by zoel at 10:48 AM on July 31, 2009

Back when I was vegetarian, I loved making hummus:

Drain a can of chickpeas (you can use the dry ones, too, but it's a hassle), keeping back 1/4 cup of liquid
Whiz the chickpeas and reserved liquid in a blender with:
1 tablespoon tahini (this is sesame butter, most fancy food stores have it)
4 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt, black pepper, and crushed garlic to taste

Whiz until it's nice and smooth. If you need to, add a little water. Then put it in a bowl, drizzle some more olive oil on top, and garnish with chopped parsley or cilantro. Serve with pita bread or corn chips. Make some tabouli and you've got an entire meal in maybe 30 minutes prep time...

This recipe is easy to vary, too. Throw in some strong-flavored things (kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, green chile, sun-dried tomatoes, or cayenne pepper are favorites of mine) to change the taste.
posted by vorfeed at 10:53 AM on July 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Vegetarian Fast Food by Rose Elliot is a stand-by for us. You'll also find a wealth of recipes at Recipezaar - they have a vegetarian sub-category, and type in whatever key word you like (say, crock-pot) and you'll find lots of suggestions
posted by tr33hggr at 10:58 AM on July 31, 2009

Not a specific recipe, but learning to cook dried beans is an important vegetarian skill.
posted by electroboy at 10:59 AM on July 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've been a vegetarian for over 10 years, and the recipe book that's my go-to is definitely Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. There's so many things in it that I didn't realize were SO EASY to cook. A few of my favorites from the book that are quick to make are the beer glazed black beans (canned is fine if you don't time to cook beans from scratch), baked eggs with herbs & parmesan, walnut and parsley pesto, and the easy yogurt sauce + any kind of broiled or grilled vegetable (faves: eggplant, onions, and peppers).

In college tofu scramble was my go-to dinner. At the time I didn't like eggs, so this was a revelation to me. It may be less impressive if you already like scrambled eggs+cheese+ veggies+stuff. But I find it super easy and filling, and endlessly adaptable.
posted by soleiluna at 11:00 AM on July 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

- Get a good vegetarian cookbook -- either the Deborah Madison book recommended above or Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. Each of these is meant to be enyclopedic/comprehensive.

- A few tips to make more-nutritious-than-average pasta dishes: (1) If you see a recipe for creamy pasta (e.g. pasta primavera), consider simply leaving out the cream and letting the vegetables, olive oil, and parmesan do the work. (2) Avoid the standard white ("enriched") pasta; use whole-wheat or vegetable-based pasta. (3) Go heavy on the sauce/vegetables, light on the pasta.

- Never let "chicken stock" in a recipe dissuade you from making it. You can get vegetable bouillon (or "Better than Bouillon," a good brand) at the store, or make vegetable stock yourself. People writing soup recipes may think the recipe would look naked without stock, but you don't even need it; water is often fine.

- How to make asparagus taste better than the usual steamed version: (1) Break off the end by hand (wherever it naturally breaks), (2) peel the stalks (won't work if the asparagi are really skinny) but leave the peel on the tips, and (3) saute instead of steam. Useful for pasta dishes, risotto, etc.

- Must-have pantry items include dried tomatoes and dried wild mushrooms. Let them soak for a few minutes in hot water to reconstitute them before using them. Mark Bittman recommends combining dried and fresh wild mushrooms.

- Use quinoa instead of rice. Just as easy to make (simmer 1/2 cup quinoa in 1 cup water for 20 minutes), and a better source of protein.

- Usually if I'm making any kind of dinner entree, I start by sauteing one or more of the following: onion, garlic, shallots, scallions.

- If you find that your meals are too bland, add more herbs/spices. Keep plenty of dried and fresh ones around. Err on the side of being generous and adventurous with them -- don't hold back. Some are fine in dried form: oregano, tarragon. Some are OK dried but much better fresh: basil, dill. Some are only good fresh: parsley, cilantro, chives.

- Whatever you're making, squeeze a bit of lemon on at the end.
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:04 AM on July 31, 2009 [7 favorites]

A few of my summertime favorites is a platter of grilled vegetables. Serve a good assortment and let people fill plates with their choice of goodies.

Don't forget the grilled bread! Bread + a little fat + fire = alchemy.

- slice zucchini or summer squash lengthwise into planks. Salt and let sit in a colander 20 minutes. Rinse off salt and pat dry. Brush with seasoned oil (when I'm serving lots of grilled veg, I like to keep the squash seasoning pretty simple: a little chile powder or paprika, pepper, maybe some garlic), and grill over high heat until brown and tender. Don't be afraid to let them get really dark and a bit crispy around the edges.

- marinate mushrooms in garlicky-herby balsamic dressing (light on the oil), then grill over a hot fire. Serve them with grilled bread and a salad. To get a really intense flavor, sometimes I make a reduction of balsamic vinegar and red wine, add the seasonings, then steep the mushrooms in it while it bubbles away on a medium-high burners. Open all your windows for this process.

- slice or chunk some sweet onions (Vidalias, red onions, Spanish onions, whatever) and brush with oil. Grill on the coolest part of the grill, so they have plenty of time to get tender and just brown around the edges. I like to use skewers for these, so they don't fall down into the fire when I move 'em.

- Grilled asparagus is killer, as mentioned above. Keep it pretty simple: oil, lemon, salt, pepper. A nice accompaniment: slice a lemon in half and grill it cut side down; squeeze grilled lemon over the asparagus.

There's no end to the combinations of grilled vegetables and vegetarian fare: big slabs of beefsteak tomatoes, small tomatoes still on the vine, halved or quartered heads of radicchio, scallions (which get a little smoky and suave), parboiled potato planks brushed generously with oil or butter and sprinkled with salt, fingers of marinated tofu (I like to boil mine first for ten or fifteen minutes, then drain it, weighted, before cutting into pieces and marinating) or tempeh, ears of corn... What looks good at the farmers' market?

The best portabello mushroom burger-replacement treatment I've had was served to me at a friend's cookout. She described the steps briefly, but I haven't had a chance to try it yet:
- blanch the mushrooms in boiling water for a few minutes.
- drain, then toss in balsamic dressing. Marinate for a few hours.
- grill.
Heavenly --- a little tender, flavorful, and delicious.

Also suitable for summer, and a good accompaniment to cook-out food: somen with spicy peanut sauce. In this entry, I describe serving it with shrimp cakes, but it's great on its own, or topped with panfried tofu or blanched edamame.

The Deborah Madison cookbook mentioned above is a winner. We're especially fond of the roasted squash galette with caramelized onions, but the whole book is full of great basic recipes as well as special-occasion dishes.
posted by Elsa at 11:05 AM on July 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've been a vegetarian for many years and I never got tired of brown rice, lentils and, less often, beans. Add sauteed mixed vegetables and you're set. The key thing about brown rice is that you must NEVER stir them near the end of cooking, instead push a few grains aside to check if water is boiled out, and when it is, turn off the stove and fluff them with a fork and let them sit for 5 minutes. About 7-8 minutes before rice is done, add some soy sauce - don't add it to cooked rice.

Cast iron dutch oven (really a pan rather than oven) works great for sauteeing vegetables. The best spices for sauteeing are cardamom and black pepper - grind and heat them in olive oil for ~5 minutes and then add vegetables.

Romaine salad is one of the tastiest things in the universe: chop romaine *very* finely, almost to dust, then chop one organic carrot, also very finely, add a bit of good olive oil (bertolli extra virgin is great, p. berio is too spicy). Don't add vinegar or any dressing!

Calmyrna figs are awesome, if you can find good ones (my favorite right now are from trader joe's).
posted by rainy at 11:07 AM on July 31, 2009

The Roasted Vegetable, tons of ideas for veggies grilled or roasted and incorporated into a variety of dishes. Most or all recipes are vegetarian. (Maybe some chicken stock or bacon here and there)
posted by sararah at 11:10 AM on July 31, 2009

I've recently been making a lot of chickpea burgers, and have yet to tire of them. Here is the first recipe Google brings up, which looks great, but I've been doing it recipe-less. I just puree some chickpeas, parsley, and whatever spices I feel like, and then add oat bran to the mix until I like the consistency. Then, I form it into patties and give them a few minutes on each side in the frying pan, and that's about it. They're great with cucumbers and yogurt on top.
posted by pemberkins at 11:15 AM on July 31, 2009 [4 favorites]

I've been a vegetarian for about a decade & what's really been useful for me is not searching for meat analogs. I don't want to eat something that tastes KINDA like sausage -- I just want to eat non-meat foods that are delicious!

Sweet potatoes are something that I find very versatile & easy to prepare -- can be made either savory or sweet, as an entire dish or an accompaniment. I also love cooking soups in the winter, potato or squash or broccoli.

I'm really into cooking seasonally right now & have found this cookbook to be full of winners: A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen.
posted by oh really at 11:26 AM on July 31, 2009

From The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, Szechuan Tofu Triangles in triple pepper sauce.
posted by plinth at 11:28 AM on July 31, 2009

VeganYumYum is one of my favourite food sites - she's got some snazzy recipes, including make-your own seitan.
posted by fish tick at 11:33 AM on July 31, 2009

You can get vegetable bouillon (or "Better than Bouillon," a good brand) at the store, or make vegetable stock yourself. People writing soup recipes may think the recipe would look naked without stock, but you don't even need it; water is often fine.

If you use Better than Bouillon, be aware that it's pretty salty, moreso (I think) than other bouillons. I would not use water, because I think it makes soups bland.
posted by runningwithscissors at 11:45 AM on July 31, 2009

Zucchini, sliced, and sauteed in butter with a healthy sprinkle of kosher salt. The same goes for asparagus. I could eat either of those every day, for the foreseeable future.

I'm actually surprisingly pleased with the Morningstar Farms fake hot dogs - they're extremely low-cal, super easy to make, and I usually pour on some veggie baked beans.
posted by god hates math at 12:14 PM on July 31, 2009

"How it All Vegan"
Not just for vegans! I regularly put real cheese, eggs and milk in the recipes. I'm not even a vegetarian any more (I never was vegan) and I still use this book! Everything is soooo yummy!

I would also mention the idea of not thinking of things as meat substitutes but as their own thing as there is nothing that is going to be exactly like meat, but there are things that aren't meat that are very delicious with great and varied textures - like tofu and seitan (my favorite!).
posted by smartypantz at 12:33 PM on July 31, 2009

Our countertop DeLonghi convection/toaster oven is maybe the best money my wife and I have ever spent, kitchen-wise. It roasts veggies quickly and hassle-free, and knowing that we can go from chopping to eating (and bring more flavor to the party than the average stir-fry) in 30-45 minutes has inspired real creativity, which is the most you can ask from any kitchen implement.

Yesterday I chopped 1 large-ish red bell pepper, 1/2 a large white onion, one (amazing) bunch of asparagus, cut one package of seitan into small slices and added an ear's worth of fresh corn and a small container of grape tomatoes (halved). I tossed it in an oven-friendly pan with extra virgin olive oil (always Italian, usually the Whole Foods house brand - good stuff for basic cooking) and spices (go nuts! I kept it Italian style, but if you like the crazy spicy that'd rock as well) and put it in the convection oven (tossing a few times along the way) for about 45 minutes. I then whisked a small amount of red wine vinegar, tomato paste (the squeezy kind in the toothpaste tube - invaluable) and fresh garlic together, tossed it into the pan and cooked for about another 10 minutes. It was simple and awesome, and a total improvisation.

(Props to oh really on the avoiding fake meat advice. A meal, even a simple one, can be such a satisfying, grounding experience. Some of the meat analog stuff is pretty creepy, and I've been at this a long time. Good luck! I'm happy that you're giving it a shot.)
posted by mintcake! at 12:36 PM on July 31, 2009

Let me cast another vote for Bittman. It really is an encyclopedia of food, hundreds or thousands of awesome recipes done up in no-nonsense style. (His NYT columns and blogposts are great too, though not always vegetarian.)

I roast or grill a lot of vegetables in the oven. It's the easiest thing in the world. Oil, seasonings, iron skillet, leave it for a while (varies by veg obviously). Broccoli, cauliflower, and asparagus are all favorites.

I love fried rice as a comfort food. It is easy to make and quite versatile flavor-wise.

In general, though, I recommend getting good, fresh vegetables and experimenting with ways of preparing them that help to express rather than suppress the nice fresh flavors.
posted by grobstein at 1:16 PM on July 31, 2009

One regular favourite in our household: take large mushroom flats. Put them gill-side up in an oven dish. Sprinkle some chopped parsley over the gills. Cover with slices of cheese. Sprinkle cheese with smoked paprika. Bake uncovered in a hot oven until the cheese bubbles. NOM.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:24 PM on July 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

People writing soup recipes may think the recipe would look naked without stock, but you don't even need it; water is often fine.

No, it's really not. This is one of the quickest ways to turn people off vege cooking, the lack of flavour, as meat has such an overpowering flavour and when you're coming from that it's hard to move to more subtle flavours. Use bouillon, please!

I don't have any specific cookbooks to recommend as I've been vege for most of my life, but I'd say purchase a couple of the well-recommended cookbooks here and use them to start. I definitely agree with the commenter above who advises against relying on meat analogues. You have the whole world of vegetables, grains and legumes on which to rely, so get creative! Unless you want bangers and mash, of course, in which case vege sausages are a perfectly appropriate purchase!

And I must agree with the commenter above me - large portobello mushrooms fried in butter with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, served with roast potatoes and rocket salad, are pure goodness.
posted by goo at 1:57 PM on July 31, 2009

The Moosewood books (Moosewood Cookbook, Enchanted Broccoli Forest, etc) are all good.

When my wife was vegetarian, I learned to cook a lot of Indian dishes, which are both delicious and fun to prepare. To of my favorite cookbooks are:
The Indian Vegetarian

Lord Krishna's Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking.
posted by chbrooks at 2:19 PM on July 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

I used to happily eat this at least twice a week when I was a vegetarian. It was so easy I could practically make it in my sleep, and it tasted so good I never got tired of it.

Easy Black Bean Soup (serves 2, ingredients easily doubled)

-Put the drained, rinsed contents of one 16-oz can of black beans into a saucepan. Add enough vegetable broth to cover. Stir in one chopped tomato, one or two chopped garlic cloves, and chili flakes/cayenne/chili powder to taste. Other spices that go well with this soup: cumin, oregano. Add salt if necessary.
-Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for at least 15 minutes.
-Remove from heat, taste and adjust seasonings, then stir in 2 tbsp lemon juice.
-Use an immersion (hand) blender to puree as smooth (or chunky) as you like. If the soup's too thick, add more vegetable broth and simmer until soup is heated through.
-Serve plain or topped with any or all of the following: plain yogurt/sour cream, chopped chives, grated cheddar, chopped jalapenos.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:35 PM on July 31, 2009 [3 favorites]

Bitman books are great. I found the Moosewood books annoying - sorry;)

goo kinda has it about using water for stock, but here is the trick: layer the flavors!!! Build flavor via addition and reduction. Is kinda a zen process, but the results are amazing in the end.

Example: if I am making a sauce that calls for meat stock, I saute garlic, onion + mushroom. I might remove most the mixture while cooking, reduce the juices and bits to a brown crust, re-introduce the starter veg, brown, remove from pan, let pan heat, add greens, pull out their liquid, remove while greens are par cooked, reduce the greens liquid, re-add all elements of the dish - finish.

A few rounds of reduction and deglazing should build up the flavor of any sauce or stock - the basis of the more elaborate dishes. Before the finish, I might include adding wine, lemon juice, or a dash of vinegar (rice or balsamic) to one of the reductions. We are talking about small amounts of liquid per reduction step, so the reduction/deglaze really doesn't take much longer than adding a can of chicken broth to a dish. The difference (even if you use a canned veg stock, and these are usually awful, btw) is NO MSG or faux chemical flavor enhancers that are included in plenty of "healthy" vegetarian alternatives.

I'm a big fan of a simple one-pot meals of quinoa + lentils + chopped garlic + water, or brown rice + lentils, etc. Then I add veg, or sauce, or dijon mustard + olive oil (or flax oil) + a little balsamic. Sea salt. Good pepper. Excellent!

MeMail if you want any details on an easy DELICIOUS recipe for Sweet Potato Chilli. Basically, it is chopped sweet potato, onion, garlic, cumin, hot red pepper + oregano (this collection of herbs = chilli powder, for those keeping score!) + pinto beans and crushed tomatoes. Sour cream is the topper. Serve with brown rice... or not:) Cilantro, if you love cilantro.

I've tried every veg stock out there, as referred to in another post. I LOVE the Swanson's canned veg broth the best - but it has nasty ingredients. I still use it instead of beef or chicken stock in gravy reductions on the holidays... but I acknowledge it is bad for you. Flavor is amazing. (be warned, salt content is very high, adjust any recipe accordingly.)

In closing, I always find simple is best. There is some debate about soy products being bad for you if they are not previously fermented (as in soy sauce or tempeh) but I'll only direct you to google and come up with your own conclusions on that issue. Think about incorporating dried wakame seaweed or nori seaweed into your recipes, as they are chock-a-block on minerals and add a pleasing salty flavor.

Good Luck, and good idea to try vegetarian!
posted by jbenben at 5:11 PM on July 31, 2009 [4 favorites]

Draw a line east from Casablanca: couscous with roasted vegetables, koshery, hummus, baba ghanoush, tabbouleh, falafel, mujaddarah, and then you hit India for dhal, dhosas and whatever you can imagine. Herbs and spices are your friends.
posted by holgate at 5:46 PM on July 31, 2009

Not a recipe, just some pointers..

I've been a vegetarian for most of the past 9 years (dabbled in veganism, a few lapses back to eating meat for a few months at a time). I hate fake meat. Whenever I eat fake meat I'm unsatisfied at best, but often just end up craving real meat more than I did before. Also, many vegetarians rely on soy meats as their primary source of protein. Not only does it hinder creativity in cooking (there are much more interesting things to do with vegetarian cooking than emulating meat dishes), but it's not all too healthy to rely on processed foods as a main protein source.

Nuts, beans and eggs are great protein sources. Quinoa is also a good protein source (the only complete vegetable protein) and is easy to throw into just about any meal- sub it for pasta/rice in a stirfry, stuff vegetables with it, etc.

If you do need a meaty flavor or texture, Quorn chik'n products are pretty close to the flavor of chicken (texture of chicken patties/nuggets) and are good in stirfrys or sandwiches. Field Roast grain meat sausages are also excellent. They're good as regular sausages or crumbled in a pasta dish or sauce. While they don't try to get the exact flavor of meat, I think they do the best of all meat substitutes that I've had at replicating the hearty feeling of having eaten meat.

One of the most helpful things that I've done to make my meals more interesting and varied was to join a CSA. I end up getting a mixture of familiar vegetables and ones that I haven't used too often or at all. It forces me to experiment with the ones I've rarely used and figure out new ways to use ones that I'm used to. The Debra Madison and Mark Bittman cookbooks mentioned above have been extremely helpful in figuring out how to use my CSA share.

Good luck & have fun!
posted by cheerwine at 7:42 PM on July 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

And my girlfriend (vegetarian her entire life so take this with a grain of salt) just made me add:

smoked paprika and/or mushrooms/mushroom broth adds a lot of umami+heartiness that you will probably be missing
posted by cheerwine at 7:50 PM on July 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have many veg cookbooks and find a lot to be overly simple and lacking any real flavour (the How It All Vegan series is the worst offender)

My all time favourite cookbook is Dreena Burtons Vive le Vegan. The recipes are easy, flavourful and filling. Some of my favourites are the blackbean soup, humus pizza, curry/miso potatoes (make this with yams too! Yum!)

The cookies are awesome! They turn out just like regular cookies but no eggs butter or milk! The double chocolate almond ones are especially good and people beg me to make them all the time.
posted by sadtomato at 9:51 PM on July 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm not vegetarian but I play one in my kitchen ...

and I am partial to grill cheeses and fresh cheeses. I recently discovered that Halloumi makes a good subsitution for paneer in curry. You can also pan fry it and add it to a toasted sandwich. It's one of those nice things to have around when you want to make something quickly.
posted by cotterpin at 3:13 AM on August 1, 2009

I am not a vegetarian, but sometimes people mistake me for vegan because I eat meat so infrequently.

Typically, I take a lazy (and boring) approach:
cut up a bunch of vegetables, douse with salt, pepper, olive oil, garlic and sautee
cut up some tubers and roast in a toaster oven, douse with vinegar
reheat beans, add some brown rice, add a spice
make an assorted mix of soups
make salads (choose a leaf, a nut, a cheese, a dried fruit, and a good vinaigrette)

Sometimes, I splurge:
vegetarian sushi (easy)
stuffed grape leaves
Indian cuisine
I make a few different curry powders (spicy and sweet)
I make a few different chili powders (very spicy)

Also, I recommend going very light on whole grains and cheese. This is difficult for some people making the change, but neither are really good for you.
posted by TheOtherSide at 3:58 AM on August 1, 2009

I've been completely addicted to this pea and mint risotto lately. I've made it at least four times in the last fortnight, and even when I've screwed it up (I ended up with pea, mint and rice soup one night) it was delicious. It only takes about half an hour, and you can have most of the ingredients in the back of the fridge and garden for when you forget to plan ahead.
posted by Emilyisnow at 7:15 AM on August 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

No, it's really not. This is one of the quickest ways to turn people off vege cooking, the lack of flavour, as meat has such an overpowering flavour and when you're coming from that it's hard to move to more subtle flavours. Use bouillon, please!

Please see the soup chapter in Mark Bittman's oft-recommended How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, where he encourages the reader to feel free to make soup without stock. As he points out, if you make a soup by sauteing veggies and adding water, you're already making a vegetable stock! See also Bittman on "risotto without stock."
posted by Jaltcoh at 5:19 PM on August 2, 2009

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