It’s not difficult to satisfy the appetites of the meat-eaters at your table even when meat is not on the menu. One need only remember to incorporate the colors, the textures, the heartiness and the warmth of a traditional meat and potato meal and your meat-eaters will finish the meal feeling content and pampered.
While the carnivores in your kitchen might well turn up their noses at a garden burger or a tofu dog, here are two main courses that will make them feel like they have settled for second best:
Moussaka has the look and the aroma, and provides all the sensory satisfaction, of a lasagna Bolognese or a classic meatloaf but doesn’t require meat to achieve its character. While the classic version does call for a bit of ground lamb or beef, moussaka works just as well when chopped portabella mushrooms are substituted for the meat. What’s more, the creamy baked béchamel layer on top balances out the meal every bit as well as a dollop of whipped potatoes next to a t-bone steak.
To serve four you will need:
Butter for baking dish
1 large eggplant peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
7 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 medium onion minced
1 large clove of garlic minced
½ pound portablella or cremini mushrooms wiped clean and coarsely chopped
1 can (28 oz.) canned tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped
¼ cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 ½ Tablespoons flour
1 ½ cups milk
1 tablespoon butter
½ cup feta cheese crumbled
Dash of grated nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Butter a 4-quart ovenproof dish. Place the eggplant on a layer of paper towels and salt. Set aside for about 15 minutes while the salt draws out excess liquid. Meanwhile sauté onions and garlic in olive oil until just tender. When eggplant has drained, add it together with the mushrooms and continue to sauté until all ingredients are tender and the onions are golden. Transfer the mixture to baking dish in an even layer.
In a separate pan, melt the butter. Stir in the flour and stir with a fork until butter begins to bubble and flour is fully incorporated. Gradually add milk and continue to cook over low heat until the mixture begins to thicken. Remove from the heat and stir in crumbled feta.
Pour the béchamel sauce evenly over the eggplant mixture, dust very lightly with nutmeg and bake for 15-20 minutes or until top begins to turn golden. Cut in squares and serve with a side salad and crusty bread.
ZITI WITH CAREMLIZED CAULIFLOWER, BASIL, AND TOASTED PINE NUTS
Pasta, particularly a substantial and toothsome pasta like ziti, when prepared with deeply flavored vegetables and sharp pecorino cheese, and warm toasty pine nuts provides all of texture and chewiness of a great steak dinner.
To serve four you will need:
1 pound of ziti cooked according to package directions.
½ of a medium head of cauliflower cut into florets
1 small onion chopped
1 clove garlic minced
3 tablespoons light olive oil
4 tablespoons pine nuts
Pecarino/romano cheese for grating
5 or six large leaves of fresh basil cut into ribbons
Pepper-infused olive oil (Available at your grocer)
Toast pine nuts in a dry cast iron or other frying pan tossing to turn, until dark golden brown. Set aside
In another pan, lightly sauté minced garlic and onion in olive oil taking care not to burn the garlic. Add Cauliflower and continue to sauté over medium heat until edges of florets begin to brown and the florets are fork tender. Add cooked and drained pasta and transfer to serving bowl . Grate cheese over top, sprinkle on toasted pine nuts and scatter basil ribbons. Serve with a whole-wheat baguette and a hearty red wine.