High Heat But No Meat

Dave DeWitt In the Kitchen with Chile Peppers Leave a Comment

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by Nancy Gerlach, R.D., Food Editor Emeritus


Mongolian Asian Noodle Salad
Cuban Beans and Rice
Green Chile Artichoke Hearts and Pasta
Three-Chile Tamale Pie
Dal Curry

Vegetarianism was once thought to be a fad by most people, but no more. There are an increasing number of people are giving up meat and not just for religious or spiritual reasons. Research has shown a direct relationship between the consumption of red meat and heart disease, so reducing or eliminating your intake of meat for health reasons, makes sense. And since a pound of beans is a lot cheaper than a pound of meat, vegetarian meals can also be a big boost to your budget. Whatever the reason, discovering the variety possible in vegetarian cooking can be a tasty and spicy adventure.

There is a common misconception that being a vegetarian means you just don’t eat meat. But it’s not that simple. The basic principle of this style of cooking is to switch from animal protein to dishes that include more complex carbohydrates such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. There are also classifications or definitions of vegetarians based on what they include in their diet. They are:

  • Vegetarians–persons who eat no meat, fowl, or fish, nor do they consume any animal by-products such as gelatin.
  • Vegans–same as vegetarians, but in addition they do not eat dairy products and eggs. Strict vegans will not eat honey either, as it is produced by bees, which of course are animals.
  • Lacto Vegetarians–same as vegetarians, but will eat dairy products but not eggs.
  • Ovo Vegetarians–same as vegetarians, but will eat eggs but not dairy.
  • Lacto-Ovo Vegetarians–same as vegetarians, and will eat dairy products and eggs.

This collection of recipes is geared to the lacto-ovo vegetarians and even though there are a number of meat substitutes or analogs on the market, these recipes don’t require the purchase of any special food.

Another misconception is that vegetarian meals are bland, boring, and unpalatable. Not true. Just remember, many of the world’s great cuisines such as Chinese, Indian, and Mexican have a basis in limited meat availability and they certainly aren’t bland or lacking in flavor or sophistication. Along with the abundance of vegetarian recipes that they have in common is that they all contain some type of chiles. With enough spice from chiles, you will never miss the meat!

Some people are following vegetarian diets totally, while others are limiting their meat meals to one or two a week and most of us will probably only ever be part-time vegetarians, but we can all benefit from a healthier diet.
The following recipes are tasty, all contain chile, and are generously spiced; they just don’t contain meat, poultry, or fish. So keep an open mind, be adventurous, and enjoy some high heat meatless meals.

Mongolian Asian Noodle Salad

This salad makes an excellent first course or a spicy accompaniment to any Chinese meal, meatless or not. This is a very basic recipe can add whatever ingredients you desire such as blanched Chinese pea pods.

2 cup chicken broth or more to dilute
1/4 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 tablespoons Asian garlic chile-based sauce
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Louisiana-style hot sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon grated or minced ginger
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

2 cups cooked vermicelli or Chinese noodles
2 cup chopped green onions, including some of the greens
1 cup sliced red bell peppers
2 cup shredded carrots
2 cup mung bean sprouts
1/4 cup sliced cucumber
Garnish: Chopped roasted peanuts
Chopped fresh cilantro

Combine all the ingredients for the dressing and mix well. Add additional broth to thin to desired consistency. Allow the dressing to sit at room temperature for an hour to blend the flavors.
Place the noodles in a large bowl or platter and top with the vegetables. Pour the sauce over the salad and gently toss to coat the noodles.
Garnish the salad with the nuts and cilantro and serve.
Yield: 4 servings
Heat Scale: Medium

Cuban Beans and Rice

This is yet another variation of the classic and popular dish, black beans and rice or “Moors and Christians.” The recipe gets its name from the black of the beans and white of the rice. Not only a great entree, it can also be used as a filling for tacos and for burritos. Red kidney beans can be substituted in the recipe for a slightly different taste.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, cut in wedges and separated
1 small green bell pepper, cut in strips
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 habanero chiles, minced
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
 1 cup long-grain raw white rice
1 small tomato, cut into wedges
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and liquid reserved
Salt to taste

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Saute the onion, bell pepper, garlic, and habanero in the oil until the onions are softened, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste, bay leaves, thyme and black pepper.
Add the rice to the pan and saute until the rice becomes opaque. Stir in the tomato and beans.
Pour the bean liquid into a measuring cup and add enough water to make 2 2 cups. Add to the rice and bean mixture, stirring once. Cover the pan and cook on low for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is done.
To serve, remove the bay leaves and ladle onto a platter and serve with warmed flour tortillas.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Heat Scale: Hot

Green Chile Artichoke Hearts and Pasta

The heat of the green chile compliments the flavor of the artichoke hearts in this pasta dish that combines the flavors of the Southwest with those of Italy. Serve with a crisp garden salad and garlic toast for a light meatless meal.

1 pound linguine
1 6-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 green New Mexico chiles, roasted, peeled, stems and seeds removed, chopped
2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil
2 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup pitted Kalamata black olives, sliced (optional)
Grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
Garnish: Chopped fresh parsley or basil

Cook the pasta in boiling water salted until done but still firm, al dente. Drain and keep warm.
Drain the artichokes, reserving the liquid, and coarsely chop.
Heat the olive oil in a heavy sauce pan, add the onions and saute until the onions are soft, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the reserved artichoke liquid, chiles, chopped artichokes, and basil. Reduce the heat and simmer the sauce for an additional 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir in the ricotta cheese. Toss the pasta in the sauce to coat, top with the nuts, olives, and grated cheese. Garnish with the parsley and serve.
Yield: 6 servings
Heat Scale: Medium

Three-Chile Tamale Pie

This casserole has all the basics of tamales but is much easier to prepare. By varying the accompaniments, this dish can serve as a hearty dinner or a light luncheon. The combination of corn and beans is a good for vegetarians as it balances the protein to make them complete.

1 medium onion, chopped
1 small bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon chili powder
6 green New Mexican chiles, roasted, peeled, stems and seeds removed, chopped
1 14-oz. can pinto beans, drained
1 cup whole kernel corn
1 cup tomato sauce or commercial salsa
2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/3 cup chopped black olives
Salt to taste

1 cup corn meal
2 eggs separated
1 teaspoon salt
3 jalapeño chiles, stems and seeds removed, chopped
2 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
Sour cream and salsa for garnish

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and lightly grease a large loaf pan or small baking dish.
In a heavy saucepan, heat the oil until hot. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic and saute until the onions are soft, about 3 minutes. Stir in the chili powder.
Add the green chile, beans, corn, tomato sauce, and cumin and mix well. Simmer the filling until hot and thickened.
Bring 2 cups of salted water to a boil and gradually add the corn meal while stirring constantly. Reduce the heat and cook until the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the egg yolks and jalapeños. Allow to cool.
Whip the egg whites until stiff and gently fold them into the corn meal mixture.
Spread 2 of the batter over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Add the bean mixture and top with the remaining batter. Cover and bake for 35 minutes or until the batter is firm. Remove from the oven, sprinkle the cheese over the top and bake uncovered for another 10 minutes or until the cheese is thoroughly melted and browned.
Allow to sit for a few minutes before cutting and serving.
Yield: 6 servings
Heat Scale: Medium to Hot

Dal Curry

Dal is the Hindi word for several of the legumes or beans that resemble lentils or split peas. In India they can be found both fresh and dried, but here we almost always find them dried. The bean used in this curry is called “toovar dal” and resembles a yellow split pea. Pulses or dried lentils are sometimes hard to digest. So cooks in India where they are staples, say to prepare them with ginger or turmeric to make them more digestible. This recipe contains both.

1 teaspoon ground cayenne chile
1 cup yellow split peas, cleaned and rinsed
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
3 cups water
1 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 serrano chiles, stems removed, chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 cup chopped onions
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 medium tomato peeled and chopped
2 cups cooked white rice (optional)
Garnish: Flaked coconut
Chopped fresh cilantro

Combine the cayenne, split peas, turmeric, and water in a large sauce pot. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered for 45 minutes or until the peas are tender and the mixture is the consistency of a thick soup.
Heat the oil in a heavy skillet and saute the serrano chiles, ginger, onions, and garlic until soft. Add the coriander, cumin and tomato and continue to cook for 5 more minutes. Add the tomato mixture to the bean mix and simmer until heated through.
To serve, place some rice in the bottom of a bowl, ladle the dal over the top. Garnish with the coconut and cilantro and serve.
Yield: 6 servings
Heat Scale: Hot

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