Meat-Free Marvels

03 Jan 2024

Wintery veggie dishes sure to soothe the soul

Recipes and Photos by Fanny Slater

Hearty vegetarian recipes? Yep, you read that right. We're embracing the chilly climate with a symphony of satisfying comfort food that showcases plant-based cuisine in all its glory. These versatile seasonal dishes will not only make your mouth water but also revise your traditional definition of winter dining.

Wake up to the smoky smell of poblano peppers with our chile relleno breakfast casserole. This cheesy egg masterpiece is a makeover on the classic that skips the stuffing, battering, and frying but still leans on tangy tomato sauce for richness. Next up: a vibrant vegetarian spin on a Ukrainian staple that tugs on the heartstrings of my childhood. Spiked with vinegar and built on a base of crunchy cabbage, buttery potatoes, sweet carrots, and lively beets—this borsht is anything but boring. Our meat-free Bolognese is packed with tender goodies like melt-in-your-mouth eggplant, crunchy zucchini and sharp Pecorino. I suggest a sprinkle of red pepper flakes for an added kick.

Sweeten your night with bold, buttery roasted acorn squash halves. A tasty trio of robust maple syrup, brown sugar, and cloves create a caramel-scented pool right in the center. Last but not least, the pièce de resistance—a vegan rendition of an iconic Malaysian soup. Swimming with green curry, coconut milk and tender spaghetti squash, this sweet and spicy laksa is herbaceously addictive and even gluten-free.

Look, I'm not saying chuck the chicken pot pies and beef stews altogether. I'm just suggesting there are plenty of plant-based solutions to warm you up all the same. Read on for the rundown.

Cheesy Chile Relleno Breakfast Casserole

Yield: 6-8 servings

Casserole

2 1/2 pounds poblano peppers (about 8 large)

1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided

1 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese, divided

8 large eggs

1 cup whole milk

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon coarse salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Green onions and cilantro, for garnish

Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup chopped yellow onion

1 large jalapeno, chopped

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more to taste

1 teaspoon chili powder blend

2 large cloves garlic, minced

2 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes

1/4 cup chicken stock

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

 

Preheat the broiler to high.

Arrange the peppers in a single layer on foil-lined baking sheets and broil, flipping occasionally with tongs, until the skins are charred and blistered on all sides, about 15-20 minutes.

Transfer the peppers to a large mixing bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Set aside and allow the peppers to steam for 10 minutes.

While the peppers are steaming, preheat the oven to 350°F and lightly coat a 9-by-13-inch baking pan or 3-quart casserole dish with nonstick spray.

Add the flour, baking powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, salt, and black pepper to a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Add the eggs and milk to a large mixing bowl and whisk until frothy. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and whisk until thoroughly combined.

Peel the peppers and discard the skins. Remove the stems, cut each pepper in half down the middle, and remove the seeds. Slice the peppers into long strips.

Spread half of the peppers in the bottom of the dish and top with 1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese and 1/2 cup cheddar. Repeat with the remaining peppers and cheese, and pour the egg mixture over the top.

Bake the casserole until puffy and golden brown around the edges, about 45 minutes.

While the casserole is baking, make the sauce. In a medium saucepot over medium heat, add the olive oil. Sauté the onions, jalapeno, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and chili powder until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Pour in the tomatoes and chicken stock and bring the mixture to a boil for 1 minute. Remove the sauce from heat, cool for 5 minutes, and then transfer to a high-speed blender or food processor (or use an immersion blender) and puree until smooth.

Return the sauce to the pan over low heat. Whisk in the vinegar and season to taste with additional salt if necessary.

Allow the casserole to rest for 10 minutes before slicing into portions and topping with sauce. Garnish with cilantro and green onion tops and serve.

 

Vegetarian Borscht with Beets & Cabbage

Yield: 6-8 servings

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

5 small Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

5 small red beets, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt, plus more to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon tomato paste

8 cups low-sodium vegetable stock

3 cups chopped green cabbage (about 1/3 medium cabbage)

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or lemon juice, plus more to taste

1/2 cup sour cream

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh dill

 

In a large heavy-bottomed saucepot like a Dutch oven, melt the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sweat until very fragrant and translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add the carrots, potatoes, and beets and sauté until the veggies are lightly golden on the outside, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, salt, and pepper and cook for 1 minute.

Pour in the vegetable stock and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the carrots, potatoes, and beets are tender but not mushy about 20 minutes. Add the cabbage and vinegar and stir to combine. Simmer until the cabbage wilts but still has some crunch, about 10 minutes.

Season to taste with additional salt and vinegar. Divide the borscht among bowls and garnish with the sour cream and dill.

 

Rigatoni with Eggplant Bolognese

Yield: 4-6 servings

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large eggplant (about 1 pound), cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 cups chopped yellow onion

1 cup peeled and diced carrot

1 cup diced zucchini

1 teaspoon dried oregano, or 1 tablespoon fresh

3 large cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes

1 14.5-ounce can of diced tomatoes

1 pound rigatoni noodles

1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, divided, plus more for serving

1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped, plus some for garnish

 

In a large heavy-bottomed pot, add 3 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add the eggplant, onion, carrot, zucchini, salt, pepper, and oregano. Saute, stirring occasionally, until the veggies have softened and taken on some color, about 3 minutes, and then stir in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.

Stir in the tomato paste so it coats the veggies and cook for 1 minute. Deglaze the pot with the canned tomatoes, scraping the bottom to release any bits that are stuck. Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the rigatoni according to package instructions (reserving 1 cup of starchy cooking water).

Add the cooked pasta, 1/4 cup of the Pecorino, and the basil to the pot with the sauce and toss, slowly adding the reserved starchy cooking water a few tablespoons at a time to help the sauce cling to the noodles. Season to taste with additional salt.

Divide among plates, garnish with the remaining Pecorino and basil, and serve with extra cheese alongside.

 

Maple-Clove Roasted Acorn Squash

Yield: 4 servings

2 acorn squash (about 1 1/2 pounds each)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon plus 1 pinch coarse salt, divided

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Pinch ground cloves

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced

2 teaspoons pure maple syrup

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

 

Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Going through the stem, slice the acorn squash in half and then scoop out the seeds. Lay the halves, cut side up, on the prepared sheet pan.

Brush the cut sides lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt, pepper, and cloves. Evenly distribute the butter, maple syrup, and brown sugar between the cavities of each half.

Bake until the flesh is tender enough to easily be pierced with a sharp knife, about 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on the size of the squash. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and serve warm.

 

Green Curry Coconut Laksa Soup

Yield: 6 servings

1 4-pound spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeded

4 tablespoons coconut oil, divided

1 teaspoon coarse salt, divided

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided

4 scallions, white and green parts chopped and divided

2 large cloves garlic, minced

2-inch knob ginger, minced

1 minced fresh Thai chili or jalapeno

1 medium red bell pepper, cut into strips

8 ounces green beans, ends trimmed and cut in half

2 heads baby bok choy, cut into 2-inch pieces

2 tablespoons green curry paste, plus more to taste

6 cups vegetable stock

1 1/2 cups canned coconut milk

2 teaspoons sweet chili sauce

1 tablespoon lime juice

Jalapenos, bean sprouts, cilantro, Thai basil, and lime wedges for serving

 

Preheat the oven to 425°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Lightly coat the inside of the squash halves with 2 tablespoons of coconut oil. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Place them cut side down on the prepared baking sheet and bake until fork tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Set aside, then separate the flesh from the skin when cool enough to handle.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to a large saucepot over medium heat. Sauté the white parts of the scallions until translucent about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, and chilies, and stir for about 30 seconds. Add the bell pepper, green beans, and bok choy and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes.

Season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and stir in the green curry paste. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 minute, and then pour in the vegetable stock.

Bring the soup to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Stir in the coconut milk and then simmer, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are tender-crisp, about 15 minutes. Stir in the spaghetti squash strands and cook until warmed through, about 5 more minutes.

Remove from heat. Stir in the sweet chili sauce and lime juice. Adjust to taste with additional salt, chili sauce, and lime juice.

Divide the soup among bowls and garnish with sliced jalapenos, chopped green scallion tops, lime wedges, bean sprouts, cilantro, and Thai basil.

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