The unconventional vegetarian
July 30, 2011 7:18 PM   Subscribe

What are some vegetarian/vegan meals that make people say "huh, I never would have thought of cooking that"?

Looking for easy, dependable weekday meals (not fine dining fare) that are outside the standard dal/bean chili/risotto/tofu stirfry/falafel/veg lasagna matrix.

Maybe it's a veganized meat dish (stroganoff or pasticcio or carbonara) or a dish from a less popular cuisine (West African peanut stew)?
posted by dontjumplarry to Food & Drink (23 answers total) 86 users marked this as a favorite
Papas Arrugadas con Mojo
posted by wcfields at 7:21 PM on July 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Have you ever tried bbq jackfruit? That recipe is similar to the one my boyfriend makes but we don't use molasses and he adds sauteed onions into the mix. We like to serve ours on burger buns with vegan coleslaw (which is also really easy to make).
posted by MaryDellamorte at 7:27 PM on July 30, 2011

I do a thing with zucchini and bulgur and indian spices that is really good:

You need:
3 summer squash of moderate size, or 5 baby ones, or 1 giant honking ski-sized one
2 cups of bulgur wheat (cracked wheat)
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
1-2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp salt, or to taste
ghee or high smoke point oil

Cut the squash into small bite-sized pieces. Heat a wok or big saute pan, add the oil, and fry the spices for 10 seconds or so, then add the cut up squash. Stir-fry the squash until it is starting to get cooked and is coated in the spices. It will smell delicious. Add the salt and toss to coat, then add the bulgur. Stir-fry the mix for 2 minutes or so, until the bulgur is looking toasty, and then add 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, cover, and turn to low. 20 minutes later, check and see if the bulgur is acceptably tender; if not, you might need to slosh in some more water and wait 10 or so more minutes. If you want more protein or to serve as a main dish, throw in a can of chickpeas after the squash is cooked.
posted by KathrynT at 7:29 PM on July 30, 2011 [7 favorites]

Lentil Chili.

I am vegetarian, but I still make chili with lentils often - and people love it. You can just boil some lentils, then substitute the ground beef in any chili recipe with the lentils. Spice up and prepare the boiled lentils exactly how you would ground beef in the recipe.

This is a great and simple substitution will make any chili recipe vegan.
posted by Flood at 7:31 PM on July 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

High protein pasta (like Barilla), tossed with sliced portobello mushrooms sauteed in olive oil. Add a can of chopped diced artichoke hearts (plain, not the ones in vinegar), and lots of garlic. Chopped fresh tomatoes and basil if you're feeling fancy, but totally not necessary.

Start cooking the 'shrooms when you put the pasta in the water, then add the other stuff at the end. The veggies should be done by the time the pasta is ready. After you add the pasta to the veg, drizzle on more olive oil and a dash of parmasen cheese and some cracked black pepper. So good. Not a bean in sight.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 7:58 PM on July 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

Baked / barbecued / chicken-fried tofu sandwich.

Tofu tikka masala
posted by amtho at 8:01 PM on July 30, 2011

I just learned about making carrot hot-dogs.

Oven roasted/grilled carrots in a hot dog bun.
posted by thylacine at 8:04 PM on July 30, 2011 [6 favorites]

I'd look at Indian food for sure. Something like half of the 660 Curries are vegetarian, and most of them go way beyond typical.
posted by vorfeed at 8:30 PM on July 30, 2011

I make a quick "Hoppin John " recipe:

Cooked brown rice
Dump a can of black-eyed peas on the brown rice--heat mixture.
Mix chopped up cherry tomatoes, cucumber and red onion with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Pour this mixture on top of the rice/black eyed peas.

Really good--make sure to have a piece of corn bread on hand too!
posted by pushing paper and bottoming chairs at 8:30 PM on July 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

(in particular, saag aloo gobi is amazing.)
posted by vorfeed at 8:35 PM on July 30, 2011

I think you can make all of these with stuff in your fridge or stuff you can buy once that will keep well for multiple uses:

Baked eggs (a breakfast dish really, but it's so good for dinner)

Vegetable kabobs (thread tofu and whatever veggies you have lying around onto a skewer and grill, eat with any number of condiments)

Kimchi quesadillas - inspired by all the Mexican-Korean places where I live, I keep kimchi in the fridge (it's fermented, it keeps) put it in tortillas with cheese (sometimes tofu as well) then heat (sandwich press works best, skillet is fine). I know it sounds gross, but it's great.

Bubble and Squeak

Stuffed bell peppers

Savory galette (You can use frozen shortcrust pastry, and you can fill them with any vegetables, herbs and cheese - if you like - that are in season or in your fridge)

Savory hand-pies/pasties (similar to above; use frozen pastry, fill half with whatever you like, fold it into a half-moon and bake)

Nasu Dengaku
posted by retrograde at 8:45 PM on July 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

Your "standard vegetarian matrix" doesn't seem to include a lot of our everyday fallback meals (well, except for the veggie lasagna!):
quesadillas, tacos, cheese enchiladas, burritos, loaded cheese-and-bean nachos with guacamole; black beans and rice with fried yucca and tomato salad; grilled cheese sandwiches; pita pizzas; cold salads like potato salad, pasta salad, black bean salad, chickpea salad, tabouli, egg salad, and garden salads; omelets, quiches, egg sandwiches; vegetarian shepherd's pie (we make it with TVP); peanut butter "thai" noodles; veggies and pita with hummus and feta dips; veggie wraps, etc.

I'm ovo-lacto vegetarian with small kids to feed so we lean heavy on quick, easy meals that the kids will eat. As you can see we do use cheese and eggs pretty often. (We also use fake meats like "chiken" breasts, tofurky, fake ground round, veggie dogs, and fake deli slices - not every day, but they are convenient.)

If I have time/energy/inclination I make things like minestrone soup; vietnamese spring rolls; veggie sushi (with miso soup); curried vegetables; calzones; spanakopita; rebaked potatoes stuffed with cheese and veggies; stuffed peppers; fried rice and corn cakes; veggies on the grill... These are all still pretty easy and not fancy, they just take more time to prep, but can be done ahead of time. (I have been meaning to try these vegan hot wings and making homemade seitan but haven't gotten around to either yet.)

None of this strikes me as unconventional, but maybe it is for you, I don't know.
A great blog for interesting, unusual, and fancier vegetarian recipes is Herbivoracious. You also could try something like Real Vegetarian Thai which is fairly authentic but more time-consuming. And looking at my list, we eat a lot of quasi-Mexican/Hispanic foods, those are easy and you could definitely explore that line further.

And back to easy, I can recommend some other cookbooks I have - all of them have ideas you might not have thought of for meals. Of course there is always Mollie Katzen's cookbooks, and the Moosewood restaurant cookbooks (I have Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home: Fast and Easy Recipes for Any Day); Nava Atlas does good cookbooks (I have Great American Vegetarian: Traditional and Regional Recipes); and I've found Entertaining for a Veggie Planet: 250 Down-to-Earth Recipes a nice source as well.
posted by flex at 9:15 PM on July 30, 2011 [6 favorites]

Vegan po'boys are pretty great. You can fry or saute artichoke hearts to sub for shrimp and add some spicy slaw.
posted by mynameisluka at 9:44 PM on July 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

Curried Nut Roast is always a hit at our house. Tastes great hot with roast vegetables or rice, the next day cold with salad. It always surprises meat-lovers.
posted by honey-barbara at 11:25 PM on July 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

We grill plums and peaches on our charcoal grill. We baste them with a honey/vanilla/water mixture and they are delicious.
posted by Ostara at 11:35 PM on July 30, 2011

not a meal, but it wouldn't have occurred to me that for lots of sauces and dressings you can just puree veggies or nuts and add acid and vegan fat (oil) instead of drippings or dairy for flavor.
posted by ifjuly at 7:43 AM on July 31, 2011

I'm not a vegetarian but this brown rice salad is always a hit with people. I take it to potlucks and people often ask me for the recipe. I make it with Trader Joe's frozen brown rice so I can assemble it quickly.
posted by hellochula at 10:55 AM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Vegan Chocolate Orange Cake

Made this on a whim as one of the cakes for a friends wedding reception, and omg it was awesome.

There are lots of easy vegetarian/vegan meals around. One of my standard go-to sites for quick recipes has been Manjula's Kitchen.

Also, Tastespotting is a fun place to find the neat and eclectic dishes, sometimes even vegetarian.
posted by HFSH at 11:23 AM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

Chickpeas Romesco (from Veganomicon) is great stuff, and the sauce can be used for all sorts of other dishes, too! Pretty much all of Isa-Chandra Moscowitz's books are full of great stuff.

The Cookin' With My Crawdaddy books are both full of Cajun dishes that are excellent (making the specified spice mixes in advance can make them pretty quick, too.)
posted by Wylla at 3:08 PM on July 31, 2011

Just because my CSA has been delivering beets for the last three weeks I've been forced to think outside the beet box. ;)

Anyway, this is a great recipe for any day of the week, the recipe amounts are a guesstimate.
  • This is a pasta dish so put on a big pot of water and have your favorite pasta ready to go. You'll have to do the timing based on what you're using.
  • First peel then dice a bunch of beets. If you have the greens, don't waste them! Wash, dry and put aside.
  • Throw diced beets into saute pan with some olive oil, shallots and hot pepper flakes if you have them. Cook until tender.
  • While beets are cooking get about 1 cup of vegetable stock and chop two or three cloves of garlic. When beets are tender, throw in garlic for a minute and then add the vegetable stock. Squeeze about 1/2 lemon in there as well.
  • Keep the heat on medium and reduce the liquid of the beets to a syrup. As you're doing this, chop up the beet greens and some fresh herbs. I usually use parsley and basil.
  • When the beets are nice and syrupy, turn off the heat, add the greens and cover.
  • In the meantime, drain your pasta, grate some parmesan. By the time you have done all that, the beets will be ready. Mix the beet mixture with your pasta, salt as needed, add cheese. Enjoy healthy and tasty dish!

posted by jeremias at 4:36 PM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

In case you're looking for dishes other than dinner, I've enjoyed freaking people out with my vegan black bean brownies for years. Despite containing a whole can of beans, you cannot taste beans and the brownies come out super moist. They are so quick they're almost instant:

-- Take box of any kind of chocolate brownie mix (not all are vegan), place contents in food processor

-- Add one can of black beans, drained;

-- Add one small package of chopped pecans;

-- Blend until smooth

-- Bake according to directions on box

--If you like frosted brownies, lemon frosting goes well with it, but not necessary.
posted by *s at 4:44 PM on July 31, 2011

I think watermelon "burgers" is pretty unconventional...

Also, I think I would need to eat 20 to be full.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 6:35 PM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Pumpkin mole.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:02 PM on August 2, 2011

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