Vegetarian comfort food

Meatless eating fills stomach, spares wallet, increases health

Apr. 16, 2013
Vegetarian vegetable stew mimics those made with beef, pork or lamb with meaty portobello and white mushrooms.
Vegetarian vegetable stew mimics those made with beef, pork or lamb with meaty portobello and white mushrooms. / GANNETT
Black is the new brown, whether black quinoa, rice or lentils, in a vegetable lentil shepherd's pie. These grains are loaded with the same antioxidants in such blue-purple fruits as blueberries, plums and cherries. / GANNETT

Wine and Dine

This week’s recipe: Vegetarian vegetable stew
The wine: 2011 Dr. Hermann, Riesling, QBA, Mosel, Germany
Variety: 100 percent Gewurztraminer
Visual aspect: Light mineral
Nose: Hints of spice and tropical fruit
Palate: Off-dry finish
Food pairings: Seafood, Asian fusion, Sushi, grill vegetables
Where it falls on the 100-point scale: 90 out of 100
The price: $14.99


Vegetarians deserve comfort, too. They are entitled to bear hugs from hearty stews, casseroles and savory pies made with traditional rib-sticking ingredients — except, of course, meat, poultry or fish.

The benefits of meatless comfort food are twofold: a good-for-you meal and a way to save money.

A national campaign by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, called “Meatless Monday,” touts eating like a vegetarian just one day a week to reduce consumption of saturated fat by 15 percent. This is enough to ward off lifestyle diseases including heart attacks, strokes and cancer.

A weekly commitment adds the disease-fighting benefits of fresh fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes.

Animal proteins and fish also typically cost more than non-carnivorous staples, from pastas to brown rice.

These one-pot comfort dishes can be a Wednesday-night family meal or served piping hot with wine and crusty bread for a Saturday-night dinner party.

Vegetarian vegetable stew

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, minced

1 medium carrot, minced

1 medium stalk celery, minced

1 medium red onion, chopped medium

9 medium portobello mushrooms (about 1 1/4 pounds), stems discarded, caps halved and sliced 1/2-inch thick

10 ounces white button mushrooms, stems trimmed and mushrooms halved

2 medium garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 cup white wine

2 1/2 cups vegetable stock

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 cup canned diced fire-roasted tomatoes

1 bay leaf

4 large carrots (about 1 pound), peeled, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces

2 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled, quartered lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon cold water

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add minced onion, carrot and celery. Saute, stirring frequently, until vegetables begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Add red onion and saute until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add portobello and button mushrooms. Increase heat to medium-high and saute until the liquid from the mushrooms evaporates, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, rosemary and thyme and cook for 30 seconds more.

Add white wine, stirring and scraping up any browned bits stuck to the pot. Cook until wine is reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Add stock, salt, tomatoes, bay leaf, carrots and sweet potatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until carrots and potatoes are tender, about 35 minutes.

Mix cornstarch and water to form a smooth paste. Stir the paste into the stew and cook until the liquid thickens, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn off the heat, stir in peas, cover and let stand until peas are hot, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in parsley and balsamic vinegar, discard the bay leaf and adjust the seasonings. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.

Vegetarian butternut squash mac-n-cheese

1 large butternut squash

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

6 tablespoons butter

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

7 cups low-fat milk

2 cups sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 box (16 ounces) whole-wheat elbow macaroni, cooked according to package directions and drained

To roast the squash, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut squash in half lengthwise; remove seeds. Place in roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil. Place in oven and cook until soft all the way through, about 1 hour. Set aside. When cool, remove skin and place squash in a food processor or blender. Puree until smooth.

To make cheese sauce, melt butter in saucepan. Add flour. Stir to make a roux and cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add 3 cups milk and stir until thickened. Add remaining milk and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add shredded cheese and stir until melted. Season with salt and pepper.

To assemble, place cooked elbow macaroni in a large bowl. Pour half of the cheese sauce over. Add pureed squash and fold together. If it seems too dry, add the rest of the cheese sauce. Place in an ovenproof dish and heat for 15 minutes at 325 degrees. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Vegetable lentil shepherd's pie

3 large potatoes

8 tablespoons vegan butter substitute

1 chopped yellow onion

3 large carrots, chopped

2 large celery stalks, chopped

1 1/2 cups seasonal vegetables (such as quartered brussels sprouts, cabbage, green beans or butternut squash for fall/winter)

Leaves from 3 stalks fresh thyme

Leaves from 1 large stalk rosemary, chopped

1 large clove garlic, minced

1/2 pound sliced baby bella mushrooms

1 cup frozen peas

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 cup vegetable broth

1 can (15 ounces) black lentils (or about 1 1/2 cups homemade cooked)

Peel and quarter potatoes and boil in salted water until tender, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt 4 tablespoons butter substitute in a large pot over medium heat. Saute onion, carrots, celery, any other hard vegetables and the herbs until almost tender, about 8 minutes. Add garlic, mushrooms and peas. Saute until all vegetables are tender, about 2 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper.

Reduce heat to low. Add Worcestershire sauce and vegetable broth. Cook, uncovered, for 2 minutes. Stir in the lentils.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mash potatoes in a large bowl with remaining butter substitute; season with salt and pepper. Transfer vegetable mixture to individual ramekins, oven-safe bowls or a medium-size casserole dish. Spread mashed potatoes on top. Roast until bubbling and brown, about 20 minutes. Place under the broiler for a minute to brown the top. Garnish with fresh herbs. Makes 6 servings.

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