My problem with American cuisine is that it’s just too meat-centered. Meals often center around beef. The vegetable course, if there is one, is limited to iceberg lettuce with maybe a sliver of a hot-house grown tomato.
I find that really, really bland and boring. As a vegetarian, I love hot, spicy, savory foods. I’m always looking for ideas for entrees that can be prepared from locally grown vegetables.
Now, some, including local farmers and food aficionados, are helping by distributing recipes and cooking ideas for vegetarian entrees that are hearty, satisfying and delicious.
In a previous column, I mentioned the pumpkin chili recipe that I received from Cindy Weatherly of Cindy’s Produce. That’s one of many that can be prepared either with or without meat; and, if you choose, you can use vegetarian crumbles, which simulate the texture of ground beef.
I have other ideas for dishes that include locally grown vegetables as the primary ingredient, and I’ve included a list of five that will take you through the growing season.
1. In the fall, enjoy a stew made from sweet potatoes, butternut squash – or a combination of both – cooked in vegetable broth. If you want, you can add lentils, onions and garlic. If you like spicy foods, you can add hot peppers or curry.
2. Naturalist Vickie Shufer, a Blackwater resident, gave me the idea for stuffed acorn squash for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Halve the squash, scoop out the seeds, and stuff it with your choice of rice or bread stuffing for a festive, attractive and delicious dish.
3. Start off the spring season with asparagus and spinach tossed with quinoa and served with a lemon dressing. Homegrown asparagus and spinach are harbingers of spring, and they are so tender that they only need to be steamed for a few minutes. The quinoa turns the vegetable combination into a complete meal.
4. In summer, enjoy stuffed bell peppers made from locally grown tomatoes and peppers and, if you choose, vegetarian crumbles. It’s even worth peeling the tomatoes to get the added flavor of the homegrown varieties.
5. Zucchini Boats — an idea provided by the volunteers who work in the community garden at Nimmo United Methodist Church – are a very adaptable summer dinner. Slice the zucchini in half, scoop out the inside, and lightly saute it with any number of other ingredients, which can include other vegetables, lentils, or grains such as rice of quinoa. Then spoon the mixture back into the zucchini shell and bake until the shell is tender and the stuffing begins to brown on top.
Because of space limitations, I haven’t included complete recipes. In truth, I really don’t follow written recipes for most of these foods. However, if you’d like to know more, feel free to email me and I’ll share some tips for preparing these foods.