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The Vegetarian Dilemma (revisited)

by Ouida on June 2, 2010


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One word of caution, this blog deals with issues affecting people in middle age, which is why I am devoting some time to health and nutrition. I don’t have growing children so I won’t ever post frugal ways to feed a family of four.  Trent Hamm of the Simple Dollar, does that much better than I ever could.

Last week I wrote the vegetarian dilemma defining what I believe the dilemma is: that vegetarian cooking so often lacks flavor and texture that it often leaves you wanting a slab of meat just to feel satisfied.

I excitedly tried a new recipe, spiced potatoes with lentils and barley.  On the nutrition scale it scores big time.  On the flavor scale, the recipe sucked big time.  I am still eating it, because while my palate is quite unhappy, my colon is.  I keep thinking about all that wonderful nutrition with each spoonful of that crunchy-yet-flavorless slop that I consume.

What went wrong?

The dish is boiled. So some whole potatoes are pan fried in olive oil and coated with prefab cajun seasoning.  (Paul Prudhomme has a great recipe for home made cajun spices that actually involves using fresh herbs. His recipe for cajun spices can be made in advance and stored in an airtight container.)  The potatoes are then boiled along with the peas, barley and parsley the recipe calls for in a stock pot filled with vegetable broth.  The recommended lentils are canned and lemon juice is added to the broth.  The liquid is allowed to evaporate and the barley, lentils, peas and potatoes are tossed together along with lemon zest to create a brown white mixture that is not even remotely interesting to look at, much less eat.

What would I do differently, for I will try again?  Toss the recipe…it truly sucks and start over.  Start over with red potatoes rather than the new potatoes the recipe calls for.  Boil until fork tender, then toss with olive oil and K-Pauls’ homemade cajun seasoning and roast them until golden.

Next, boil the lentils, peas and barley in chicken stock rather than vegetable stock, drain.  Then toss in fresh parsley, lemon juice, the potatoes, garlic, and a roasted pepper.  Add the potatoes and salt and pepper to taste.  The prep time will be twice as long as the original recipe, but the flavor should be quite good.

I have used a recipe from the NYTimes a wheat berry in tomato sauce for topping vegetables.  The Times recipe uses this sauce with Asparagus but the sauce can be used with roasted butter nut or acorn squash.  It is quite good.  The recipe calls for coriander which makes the aroma just as pleasing as the taste.

From the Moosewood Restaurant is the farm-fresh meals deck.  This is a card deck with well-seasoned recipes.  Including a roasted squash, beans, corn, sage and red onion concoction that is quite good.

Why am I spending so much time on this topic?  We are becoming a nation of heavy people.  Travel internationally and you’ll see that we are truly becoming the heaviest people on the planet.  We love our protein and all of the animal fat that goes with it, but red meat isn’t the only source of protein.  If we don’t learn to get more of our proteins from whole grains and less from animal fats, especially red meat, there won’t be a health care system in the world or a dollar amount big enough to provide for the health needs of our citizens.

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