By Sue Knorr:
Now is the perfect time to take the plunge and try some new vegetarian dishes. Backyard gardens and farm stands are overflowing with countless choices at this time of year. Picture a vividly colored chopped salad, a heaping plate of vegetable “noodles” or maybe a pasta bowl filled with ravioli sans pasta. Ravioli without pasta? Yes, and it takes only a few minutes, no cooking skills required. Whether you’re a vegetarian or just want to mix it up now and then without the meat, these tips and ideas will have you coming back for more.
Meatless Zone protein choices are numerous, including but not limited to soy products, dairy and eggs, and fish for some. As a general rule remember to discard the egg yolks, choose low-fat dairy products and stick with wild-caught fish. Place your protein choice the size and thickness of your palm on a dinner-sized plate and fill the rest of the plate to overflowing with one or more of these tasty vegetable selections. The dishes given here pair well with fish, grilled tempeh, broiled tofu, flavored baked tofu served hot or cold and a variety of low-fat cheeses. Each of these recipes includes the fat needed for balance. (Note: the Cobb salad and ravioli recipes already contain all the necessary protein.)
I’ve used three basic techniques for prepping the vegetables. The most basic is cutting, chopping or slicing with a sharp knife. Slicing zucchini squash lengthwise with a common vegetable peeler makes the wide-ribbon noodles. The julienne noodles, which have a square-shaped, thin, spaghetti-like appearance, are made by slicing zucchini lengthwise with a hand-held julienne vegetable peeler. If you want to get really fancy, you can purchase a spiralizer to cut your vegetables into a skinny spiral shape. These common kitchen tools can be found on Amazon. Prices start at $1.99 for the peelers; spiralizers run about $10 and up.
Here are some of my favorites. Both the wide ribbon and the julienne-cut “noodles” can be eaten raw or lightly sautéed in a little olive oil just for a minute to two to allow them to soften but still retain their brilliant colors. The wide ribbons can also be briefly grilled. The dressing proportions are 1 part olive oil to 2 parts vinegar or citrus juice. With these ideas as a guide let your creativity flow and make them your own. The sky’s the limit. Enjoy!
A new twist on some old favorites
- Cobb salad made with chopped romaine lettuce, red or green peppers, cherry tomatoes, green onions and avocado, plus chopped hard-cooked egg whites and purchased baked, flavored tofu cut into bite-sized chunks with a creamy dressing made by mixing olive oil, vinegar, plain yogurt, onion powder, black pepper, herbs and your favorite crumbled reduced-fat cheese. Group each component in stripes side-by-side across the plate with dressing on the side to be tossed together just prior to eating.
- Stuff halved red, yellow, and orange mini sweet peppers with herbed reduced-fat goat cheese
- A three-bean salad of edamame, raw or canned yellow beans and canned chick peas tossed with your favorite vinaigrette or a lemon, olive oil and parsley dressing with a little S&P garnish with feta cheese, chopped macadamia nuts or slivered almonds
Zucchini dishes made with wide ribbons
- Golden zucchini (a yellow variety of zucchini) ribbons tossed with olive oil and lemon juice, chopped basil and a little S&P; optional. Add green ribbons and shaved Parmesan
- Golden and green ribbons tossed with halved colorful mini heirloom tomatoes, red and orange pepper strips, red onion slices, a little bit of grilled corn, and Italian-flavored olive oil and vinegar dressing; garnish with crumbled reduced-fat goat cheese
- For a Mexican flair, golden and green ribbons, thinly sliced red onion and chopped avocado with a dressing of fresh squeezed lime juice, olive oil, cilantro and S&P garnish with queso fresco
- Green ribbons on a bed of arugula; drizzle with a dressing of olive oil, red wine vinegar, crushed garlic, Dijon mustard, oregano and S&P and garnish with fat- free feta and crushed macadamia nuts
- For ravioli place one wide ribbon across another in the shape of an “x” (for smaller zucchini use two ribbons slightly overlapping, total 4 ribbons per ravioli). Place a tablespoon of ricotta mixture (16 oz. ricotta, 2 egg whites and 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan) in the middle and fold the ribbons over to make a square packet of ravioli. Place a single layer of ravioli on a baking dish, top with marinara sauce and bake uncovered in a 350-degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes until bubbly. Serve fresh berries for dessert.
Julienne-cut vegetable dishes
- Golden zucchini julienne “noodles” lightly sautéed in olive oil and minced garlic, then tossed with halved cherry tomatoes and fresh basil; garnish with grated Parmesan
- For a slaw toss julienne-cut yellow and green zucchini and carrots (cut into 3-inch lengths) with red pepper strips, thinly sliced radish, green onion, thinly sliced red onion, a little bit of corn cut off the cob, parsley, basil, baby spinach, chopped almonds and S&P garnish with grated cheese
- Raw Pad Thai of tossed julienne cut green zucchini and carrots (light on the carrots), thinly sliced red pepper, red cabbage, green onions, edamame or cubed tofu, a few pinches of sesame seeds and a dressing of raw almond butter mixed with garlic, lime juice, light olive oil (the flavorless type), low-sodium soy sauce, water and ginger