Thursday, February 23, 2012

A vegetarian Lenten challenge

Lent began yesterday with Ash Wednesday. Even though I'm no longer a practicing Catholic, nine years of Catholic school have instilled in me a need to give up something for the forty days before Easter. This year, as I do most years, I've given up meat. (I've also given up eating out, unless someone else is paying. Besides being sacrifices, both are actually ways for me to try and save money.) It just so happens that this first week of Lent coincides with a challenge-within-a-challenge from the Dark Days Challenge, which is to make a SOLE (seasonal, organic, local, ethical) vegetarian meal.

To be honest, cooking vegetarian is sort of a normal occurrence around here. Because it's important for me to eat locally- and ethically-raised meat, which happens to be expensive, I don't often cook a lot of meat. Lately, though, I've been exploring my SOLE meat options and have been buying more meat (and thus increasing my food bill!). Coming back to meatless cooking allows me to fall back on old favorites, as well as to discover new vegetarian options.

Finding new vegetarian recipes can be somewhat of a challenge for me and my tastes. I don't typically like to cook with soy-based meat alternatives — too processed and don't always taste very good. I also think that most vegetarian dishes one finds in magazines or cookbooks are too focused on beans, soy, or other proteins, as if the main point of the meal is to replace the meat that is "missing." For me, eating without meat is an opportunity to put more vegetables in my diet. I'd rather eat a plate of greens over a brick of tempeh any day.

For this vegetarian Dark Days meal, I made an easy classic, namely a grilled cheese sandwich, and paired it with a parsnip and apple soup from Sunset magazine. The bread for the sandwich came from Beckmann's (30 mi), the cheese was an organic white cheddar from the Spring Hill Jersey Cheese Co. (98 mi), and the butter used for the pan was from Strauss Dairy (95 mi). The soup was made with sad, week-old (but still good for soup!) parsnips from Heirloom Organics, Fuji apples from Prevedelli, leeks from Catalán Farms, and shallots from Borba Farms (all about 40 mi away), as well as half-and-half from Clover Stornetta (95 mi). Instead of apple cider and chicken stock, I used water, which I usually like to do with soups because it helps to bring out the flavors of the parsnips and apples (or whatever vegetable is going into the soup). Finally, in place of creme fraîche, I used Strauss plain yogurt.

The soup is very good. The sweetness of the apples shines against the bitter-sweet flavor of the parsnips. It would probably taste especially good with some curry thrown in there. As is, it makes for a good place to dip a freshly-grilled cheese sandwich.

1 comment:

Sincerely, Emily said...

That looks to be a fantastic DDC vegetarian meals. Well done! I am with on - we eat many vegetarian meals. That certainly keeps the costs down to be able to afford the local meats. Like you lent challenge within the DDC also.