Monday, May 10, 2010

List # 8 of the 52 Lists: My Favorite Vegetarian Meals

Before I was born, my parents were vegetarians. Not vegan, but still pretty hard core. It was the 70s and my Dad had long hair. My Mom wore bell bottoms. There was no Whole Foods and eating healthy wasn't trendy or hip. It was hippy and fringe and probably drove my trim- haired, Navy grandfather a bit crazy.
But my parents were into it. They had a huge garden. My Mom made her own ketchup and mayonnaise. They ate muesli and brown rice. Instead of chocolate, they had carob. My older brother and sister walked to the health food store to get a treat, not 7-11. My mom put sesame tahini sandwiches in their lunch bags. (Which they threw in the trash on the way to school.)

My parents stopped being vegetarian a short while after I was born. They became Christians and food stopped being their religion. Besides, when people had them over for roast beef after church on Sunday, it felt awkward saying, "oh we'll just have peanut butter sandwiches. We also like sesame tahini."
So while there was a meat loaf for dinner now and then, pork chops and chicken, we still ate a lot of vegetarian meals.
They were good and we all liked them.
Keep in mind though, they weren't necessarily "health food." A lot of my mom's vegetarian recipes are heavy on the cheese. But they are good. Good. Good. Good.

So here is the list of a few of my favorites.

List # 8
My Favorite Vegetarian Meals
1. Zucchini linguine. Just a few simple ingredients: zucchini, cheese, cream and pasta, but together a symphony in my mouth. It tastes even better the next day.
It is rich. I eat it maybe once a year.
2. Mushroom Cutlets. If you love mushrooms then these are for you. Diced mushrooms bound together with an egg, some breadcrumbs, a touch of grated cheese and some green onion. Pat together into a burger shape, gently fry and serve on a bun with lettuce, tomato and avocado. It is better than any burger you have ever had.
3. Noodles and onions. I hated when my mom made this dish. The amount of onions called for in this recipe caused my eyes to burn and weep the whole time dinner was being made. I would hide out in my room with a wet towel over my eyes. But when those onions, sliced thin and cooked to a sweet, golden brown, were heaped on top of wide egg noodles and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, well all the pain was worth is.
Sadly, I cannot eat this dish now. It would cause me far more pain than burning eyes. So I just remember with great fondness a favorite dish of my childhood.
4. Rice Tacos. A hands down favorite and one we still eat all the time. We just had them for dinner last night as a matter of fact. The one thing about rice tacos is there are hard and fast rules about ingredients. If you change it up, they won't taste good. Trust me on this one.
Follow the rules and you won't be disappointed. Try it tonight.
Who knows, you might be having sesame tahini sandwiches next.

Rice Tacos
1 cup brown rice
corn tortillas
2 large carrots grated
1 cup lettuce, shredded
1 cup tomatoes diced
1 cup grated cheese
All of the above are toppings for tacos--you can make more or less, depending on how many people you are serving. Use your judgement.
Salsa and guacamole to taste

To Prepare
Cook rice according to instructions
Grate carrots and cheese on large holes of a box grater
Shred lettuce and dice tomatoes
Prepare guacamole
When rice is almost done cooking, cover bottom of a large frying pan with canola oil, or some other light oil and heat until hot. Fry tortillas into taco shells.

Assemble tacos with rice and all the toppings.
Light some candles and incense and pretend you're a hippy while you enjoy your delicious vegetarian meal.

A word about The Rules
As I said before, there are some hard and fast rules about the ingredients for rice tacos.
#1 You must use brown rice. The nutty, sweet flavor of the brown rice lends itself perfectly to these tacos. White rice does not work. It just tastes gross.
#2 Add the grated carrot. Again, the sweetness of the carrot adds a special something to these tacos. Besides the added benefit of more vegetables, they just taste really good.
#3 Additional toppings may be good, but these are essential.
#4 Use corn tortillas and fry them. Have you ever noticed how much more flavorful corn tortillas are than flour? That is because white flour tortillas are processed white paste and anything that would add flavor has been stripped out.
Use corn.
You don't have to fry, but really, just eat these once in a while and do it. DO NOT buy those pre-made shells from the grocery store. The success of this meal is the mingling of all the different, fresh flavors. Those pre-made shells are anything but.
If you just can't bring yourself to fry, (I understand. These are the only things I ever fry) then simply warm the tortillas on the stove. But I warn you, they won't be as good.

Rice tacos. Go meatless tonight!
Love from Greta


Jennifer said...

LOVE this post. Scot and I have been discussing how we will be seriously limiting our meat intake. We actually sound just a LITTLE like your hippie parents. :) Scot more than I that is. I have to get you some of our brown rice. It rocks. Great ideas here... can't wait to try them. xox

Betsi* said...

Now I'm hungry! Hehe! I do believe I will be making these tonight! I wonder how cumin seed would taste cooked in with the brown rice? Hmm...may try that. I'll let you know!