Vegetarian cooking for the unwilling vegetarian

Today’s guest post is courtesy of my friend and former co-worker Damon Terzaghi.  Damon told me that he had a recipe that would knock my socks off.  Sounds pretty darn tasty!

I love meat. I love eating meat. I love cooking meat; and if it wasn’t socially unacceptable, I would probably bathe in meat. However, about 2 years after I got married, my wife informed me that she wanted to be a vegetarian. After the fire department talked me off of the ledge, I had to figure out how to cook for a vegetarian when you’re not actually a vegetarian.

I’ve come to the conclusion that meat is obsolete. Its quite expensive, and diet people tell you not to eat too much (booooo!). So if you’re not already in my predicament, you soon will be. All the more reason to read this blog!!
Anyway, once I came to grips with my wife’s anti-meat stance, I came to two very important conclusions. 1) I love my wife more than I love eating meat…barely. And 2) I’m too lazy to cook 2 meals every night, so we’ll all be eating vegetarian!

The general theme of this post is how to cook a decent veggie meal when you are a total lazy butt (or too busy with other things to cook gourmet). Please don’t forget that theme as you read on…

I am of the opinion that you can use the same ingredients to cook any type of meal. Throw onions, tomatoes, peppers and garlic together and you’ve got yourself a meal! Toss it with pasta, it’s Italian. Put in some black beans and a tortilla, it’s Mexican! Mash some potatoes into it, and it’s polish. Hell…I bet if you sautéed in a few grasshoppers, you could pass it as French! Anyhoo…the moral is that you don’t have to be creative to be good.
So, on that note, here’s the recipe de jour (also making this a fancy French meal, simply from the vocabulary!!!). We’re cooking a red lentil stir fry.

Step one: Gather ingredients

I use a nice combo of vegetables in this recipe. Today, I’m using:
1lb of Asparagus ($3.29 at the Giant - $2.50 on sale)
1 tomato (about $1)
1/2 onion (.$0.75)
a few cloves of garlic ($.40)
a box of mushrooms ($1.99)
1 green pepper ($.60). (Note: this makes a BOATLOAD of food, so you may want to halve the recipe – or be prepared for mega leftovers. I usually have the leftovers for lunch for at least 2-3 days after this).

Ingredients: tomato, onion, garlic, green pepper, mushroom, asparagus, olive oil.
First, chop them up into medium size pieces.
Then put them all together with a small bit of olive oil and sauté them for a while.
  1. Asparagus is awesome, but be sure to break off the “bad parts”. The bottom is very chewy and not very tasty. Hold it in your hand and gently bend the bottom. It will naturally break. The bad part is the small bottom. Throw that out (see pic).
  1. The rest can be chopped up and thrown into the sautee.
  1. Once you throw everything together, let it cook for a while (I do about 7-10 mins). This allows the flavors to spread across the whole dish.

Once the veggies are done, throw in one package of red lentils (about 1 lb - approximately $2) and 4 cups filtered water. I do the lentils first and then dump in the water and stir together the whole mixture. It probably doesn’t matter, but I’ve never tried it another way, simply because I’m scared that change will mess up the recipe and that messing up the recipe will ruin all of the karmic benefits from my vegetarian vibe.
Bring this concoction to a boil, cover, and let simmer for about 30 minutes. The simmer time takes some judgment. I usually add some water during the cooking time, but that’s not necessary. Just watch it to make sure that the red lentils boil, expand, and don’t burn. This just takes some judgment to be honest; I don’t have any fancy tips or anything.
Once you’re done, you have a full red lentil goop but boy is it delicious. We usually serve it one of two ways:

  1. In a wrap. (Note: we were trying to get rid of some cheese that was about to go bad – you don’t usually need to put this much on there. A little bit of grated cheese is generally enough. Often, I don’t put anything else on at all).

  1. In a bowl. My daughter hates wraps, so we do this for her every time. This concoction is delicious even by itself, so definitely just scoop into a bowl. Let it cool, and see what you think.
Suggested accessories include: grated cheddar cheese (adds to the deliciousness. My sister-in-law is vegan, which adds a whole new level to my suicidal tendencies when she visits, but if you’re not vegan then throw some cheese on and it’s AWESOME); and plain yogurt. Make sure you get plain; one time I got vanilla yogurt thinking it was the same as plain. That was a bad idea.

It really is very good, very easy to make, and quite simple. In summary:
Mince garlic, add chopped onion, green pepper, mushroom, tomato and asparagus to the pan. Sautee in olive oil for 5 minutes. Add 1 lb dried red lentils, and 4 cups filtered water. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about 30 mins. Uncover, reduce heat and let the mixture thicken. Once it’s cooled, serve either alone in a bowl, or in a wrap/tortilla. Add grated cheese/yogurt to taste.

The result is so good that even the most picky eater known to man (a 5 year old girl) will enjoy it!

So the overall moral is:
  1. you can cook vegetarian food that doesn’t suck
  2. it is actually tasty and healthy
  3. I will eat this at least once a week and I love it, but if anyone wants to meet me at the steakhouse, I wouldn’t be opposed.