Simple Vegetarian Recipes

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by Rebecca Bennett

For moral, ethical and health reasons, the vegetarian and vegan lifestyles are gaining in acceptance and popularity worldwide, and simple vegetarian recipes are being concocted and published at an ever increasing rate.The problem is, most of these recipes are just a rehash of 'regular' recipes, hold the meat. Why not look at dishes that were originally intended to be meatless, whose flavor and presentations are complete as is.

Hot and Sour Soup
This popular offering of Chinese restaurants in the US is often served with chicken stock, egg, and pork, meatless and vegan hot and sour soup is just as valid and traditional. Among simple vegetarian recipes, hot and sour soup is a fancy and versatile offering. By using the recipe as a guideline, you can alter the ingredients to cater to the taste of your audience or the contents of your refrigerator. It also has a very short cooking time.
-> Base:
This soup can be made with a water base or you can use a vegetable broth. About 6 cups.
-> Vegetables:
Mix and match the vegetable combination. Amount of each ingredient depends on what you have on hand and how veggie rich you like your hot and sour soup. - Mushrooms (Any Kind) slice thin.
- Bamboo Shoots
- Carrots (cut into thin strips)
- Lilly buds (must be reconstituted)
- Bean sprouts (non traditional according to restaurants but adds protien and flavor)
- Tofu cut into cubes or thin rectangular strips. Since this recipe has a short cook time, you don't have to go with the extra firm tofu if you don't have it.
-> Spices and flavoring:
- Red Pepper Flakes (the hot part). Add to taste.
- Hot chili oil (more heat). Optional.
- White pepper (ground or powdered).
- Soy Sauce (About 2 tsp).
- Sesame oil or other flavorful vegetable oil (about 1 tsp)
- Vinegar (the sour part). Rice vinegar is traditional but you can substitute balsamic, wine, etc as desired. (About 2 tablespoons)
- Sugar (about 1 tsp)
- Ginger (optional). (About 3 tsp)
-> Additional ingredients:
- Corn starch mixture (1 tsp corn starch in ¼ cup water) used as an optional thickener.
- Chopped green onions as a garnish.
- Other veggies you may have lying around, like broccoli or water chestnuts.
-> Cooking:
- Heat the base to boiling.
- Add the ingredients while still on the heat.Add the harder veggies (carrots, bamboo shoots) first to give them more cooking time. Add the tofu and mushrooms near the end.
- Add the optional corn starch mixture at the end, stirring as you go.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- Remove from heat and let stand for a few minutes.
Serve hot. Garnish with the chili oil and onions.

Stir Fry:
Among simple vegetarian recipes, this is about as simple as you can get.
All you need is a good frying pan or wok, some flavorful oil, and a bunch of vegetables.
The point of stir fry is to cook the veggies quickly over high heat, to preserve the flavor and nutrition. A wok is best suited for this but not required. If you do want to use a wok, consider the electric version. Most ranges are not suited to wok cooking.
-> Veggies:
Whatever you want, whatever you have, as long as it can be fried and cut into small pieces.
- Mushrooms (any kind)
- Carrots
- Celery
- Onions
- Bean Sprouts
- Snow Peas
- Green Beans (fresh)
- Broccoli
- Bamboo Shoots
- Water Chestnuts
- Cabbage
- Spinach
- Tofu (firm, in cubes)
Get the oil pretty hot before you start cooking.
Once the oil is ready, begin adding the vegetables, staring with the hardest first and moving on to the softer ones. Cooking times are not exact. You will need to develop an eye for when to add each layer of ingredients.
An optional step at the end is to add some soy sauce or other flavored liquid just before serving.
Serve with rice and herbs.

Lentil Soup
Simple vegetarian recipes are not limited to the Asian side of the world. Lentil soup is a common European peasant food, created when eating meat happened rarely, if ever. This simple vegetarian recipe can also help clean out the fridge. And, like the hot and sour soup (above), it cooks in under an hour.
Lentils are a great protein source and, unlike other beans, don't have to be soaked before cooking.
-> Base:
Water or vegetable stock. (About 8 cups)
-> Veggies:
- 4 cups lentils, rinsed but not soaked.
- 2 carrots, diced.
- 2 stalks celery, also diced.
- 1 chopped onion.
- Minced garlic, about 2 cloves or to taste.
- Tomato: This can be chopped fresh, canned crushed or even a can of tomato paste.
- Spinach, sliced thin. (About ½ cup)
- Any other veggies that you feel like adding. Mushrooms, cabbage and
-> Spices:
Mix and match as desired.
- Oregano
- Dried basil
- Bay Leaf
- Vinegar (optional and to taste). (About 2 tbs)
-> Cooking:
- Heat about ¼ cup of oil (olive, sesame, corn, etc.)
- Add onions and the hard vegetables. Stir until onions are translucent and soft.
- While still on the heat, stir in the spices and the softer vegetables (mushrooms). Cook for 2-3 minutes to allow flavors to blend.
Do not add the spinach until ready to serve.
- If desired, remove the bay leaf at this time.
- Add the base, lentils, and tomato.
- Set heat to medium high until the base begins to boil.
- Reduce to a simmer and cook for 30-40 minutes, until the lentils are chewy but not mushy.
- Add spinach just before serving.
So as you can see, with the above simple vegetarian recipes on hand in your kitchen you can and will have some flavorsome vegetarian dishes to serve to your friends and family on a regular basis.

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