When VT asked readers to nominate and vote for their favorite vegetarian dishes in our first online restaurant poll, we didn’t know what would turn up. Complicated creations from high-end establishments? Simple tofu scrambles from breakfast joints? We were open to anything—and got a little bit of everything. The winners range from comfort food to haute cuisine, and showcase some of the best vegetarian eateries in the country.The one thing they all have in common? An undying commitment to local, sustainable, organic, and, of course, vegetarian lifestyles—something we think should be on every menu, every day.
EMERALD RICE CAKES Serves 12 – Vegan While this gourmet entrée requires a fair amount of preparation, all the work can be done ahead of time. The result is worth the work
Squash Purée 2 Tbs. olive oil 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced (1 1/2 cups) 2 cups cubed butternut squash 1/2 tsp. dried thyme 1 14-oz. can light coconut milk 1 tsp. unrefined sugar Habanero Jerk Sauce 2 Tbs. olive oil 1/2 cup finely diced shallots 1/2 habanero chile, minced 1 tsp. sweet paprika 1/2 tsp. dried thyme 1/2 tsp. ground allspice 1/3 tsp. ground cloves 2/3 cup orange juice 1/3 cup lime juice 1 tsp. unrefined sugar Rice Cakes Olive oil for brushing pans and rice cakes 1/2 cup cilantro leaves 2 cups cooked jasmine rice 1/2 cup finely chopped canned bamboo shoots 1 tsp. salt 2 cups watercress, for garnish 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint, for garnish Seitan Mixture 2 Tbs. olive oil 1 cup cubed seitan or firm tofu 2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.) 2 cups cauliflower florets 1 cup baby spinach leaves
- To make Squash Purée: Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, and sauté 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in squash and thyme, then coconut milk and 1 cup water. Simmer 20 minutes. Stir in sugar, and cool. Purée in blender until smooth.
- To make Habanero Jerk Sauce: Heat oil in saucepan over medium-high heat. Sauté shallots 7 to 9 minutes. Add habanero, paprika, thyme, allspice, and cloves, and sauté 20 seconds. Add orange juice, lime juice, and sugar, and simmer 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.
- To make Rice Cakes: Grease 13- x 9- inch glass dish with olive oil. Purée cilantro with 1/2 cup water in blender or food processor. Combine cilantro purée, rice, bamboo shoots, and salt in bowl. Press rice mixture into prepared baking dish. Cover with parchment paper, and weigh down with second baking dish fi lled with cans. Cool 2 hours.
- Heat oven to broil, and grease baking sheet with olive oil. Cut rice into 12 squares. Place on baking sheet, and brush tops lightly with oil. Broil until well browned. Meanwhile, warm Squash Purée and Habanero Jerk Sauce.
- To make Seitan Mixture: Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté seitan and garlic 5 to 7 minutes. Add caulifl ower and 1/2 cup Habanero Jerk Sauce, and sauté 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in spinach, and cook 1 to 2 minutes more, or until spinach is wilted. Season with salt and pepper.
- To serve: Ladle 1/3 cup Squash Purée onto each plate. Spoon Seitan Mixture in center, and top with Rice Cake. Spoon 2 to 3 Tbs. Habanero Jerk Sauce around plate. Toss together watercress and mint, and top each rice cake with greens mixture.
PER SERVING: 209 CAL; 8 G PROT; 12 G TOTAL FAT (3 G SAT. FAT); 18 G CARB; 0 MG CHOL; 259 MG SOD; 2 G FIBER; 4 G SUGARS
CASHEW-MUSHROOM PÂTÉ Serves 12 – Vegan A hint of peanut butter holds the pâté together and makes it more spreadable. Feel free to substitute your favorite nut butter.
1/2 cup cashews 1 1/2 Tbs. nonhydrogenated vegan margarine 4 cups sliced mushrooms 1/4 cup coarsely chopped onion 1 clove garlic, minced (1 tsp.) 1 tsp. curry powder 1/4 tsp. garlic salt 1/8 tsp. ground cumin 2 tsp. cooking sherry 2 tsp. chunky peanut butter Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish Roasted red pepper strips, for garnish Sourdough toast points
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread cashews on baking sheet, and toast 7 to 10 minutes, or until pale brown, shaking pan occasionally.
- Heat margarine in large skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms, onion, garlic, curry powder, garlic salt, and cumin, and sauté 10 to 12 minutes, or until mushrooms are browned and most of liquid has evaporated. Add sherry, and cook 1 to 2 minutes more, or until alcohol has evaporated. Transfer to blender or food processor, and add cashews and peanut butter.
- Purée mixture in blender or food processor until relatively smooth. Transfer to bowl, and chill 2 hours, or overnight. Scoop pâté into center of plate or bowl, sprinkle with parsley, and decorate with red pepper strips. Surround with sourdough toast points, and serve.
PER SERVING: 56 CAL; 2 G PROT; 4.5 G TOTAL FAT (1 G SAT. FAT); 3 G CARB; 0 MG CHOL; 45 MG SOD; 1 G FIBER; 1 G SUGARS
GOLDEN BOWL Serves 4 – Vegan – 30 minutes or fewer The secret to this recipe is double-frying the tofu cubes to give them an extracrisp exterior. We’ve added a selection of sautéed vegetables to the mix, but feel free to adapt the basic recipe to your tastes and preferences.
2 Tbs. vegetable oil, divided 15 oz. extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into 1/2-inch dice 2 tsp. low-sodium soy sauce, plus more to taste 2 cups steamed broccoli 8 oz. sliced mushrooms 1 cup finely chopped onion 1 cup diced yellow bell pepper 1 cup sliced yellow squash 1/2 cup shredded cabbage 1/2 cup grated carrots 2 Tbs. nutritional yeast, or more to taste 2 cups cooked brown rice
- Heat 1 Tbs. oil in large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add tofu, and sauté 10 to 15 minutes, tossing with spatula, until light golden brown all over. Sprinkle with soy sauce, and sauté 2 to 3 minutes more to further brown tofu. Transfer tofu to paper-towel-lined plate. Drain and rinse skillet, and wipe dry.
- Heat remaining 1 Tbs. oil over high heat. Add tofu and all vegetables. Sauté 5 to 7 minutes, or until tofu is browned and vegetables are tender, tossing constantly with spatula. Sprinkle with soy sauce to taste. Sprinkle nutritional yeast over tofu to coat. Sauté a few seconds more. Remove from heat. Serve over brown rice.
PER SERVING: 348 CAL; 19 G PROT; 14 G TOTAL FAT (1.5 G SAT. FAT); 40 G CARB; 0 MG CHOL; 98 MG SOD; 8 G FIBER; 6 G SUGARS
MAC AND CHEESE Serves 4 – Vegan – 30 minutes or fewer The “cheese” sauce is thickened with rice flour, making it both vegan and gluten free.
2 1/2 cups plain soymilk 2 1/2 Tbs. white rice flour 1 1/2 Tbs. large flake nutritional yeast 1 1/2 tsp. low-sodium soy sauce 1 Tbs. granulated garlic 1 Tbs. granulated onion 2 Tbs. nonhydrogenated vegan margarine, melted 1 tsp. yellow mustard 1 8-oz. pkg. rotelli (corkscrew) pasta
- Whisk together soymilk, rice flour, yeast, soy sauce, granulated garlic, and granulated onion in saucepan. Simmer 4 minutes, or until thickened, whisking constantly. Whisk in margarine and mustard, and simmer 10 minutes more.
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, and toss with sauce.
PER SERVING: 364 CAL; 15 G PROT; 9 G TOTAL FAT (1.5 G SAT. FAT); 56 G CARB; 0 MG CHOL; 534 MG SOD; 3 G FIBER; 6 G SUGARS
SEITAN PICCATA Serves 6 – Vegan – 30 minutes or fewer Piccata is a classic Italian dish seasoned with lemon juice, capers, and lots of chopped parsley. If you can’t find seitan cutlets, use strips instead and serve over rice for a pretty presentation.
6 seitan cutlets, rinsed and drained Whole-wheat flour for dredging 4 Tbs. olive oil, divided 1/4 cup chopped shallots 1/4 cup chopped yellow onion 2 Tbs. drained capers 1/2 tsp. minced garlic 1/2 cup dry white wine 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice 1/2 cup low-sodium vegetable broth 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley 2 Tbs. nonhydrogenated vegan margarine 1/2 tsp. salt 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper Large caper berries or lemon slices, for garnish, optional
- Dredge seitan cutlets in flour, shaking off excess.
- Heat 2 Tbs. olive oil in skillet over high heat. Sauté cutlets in oil 30 seconds per side, or until crisp and golden brown. Remove seitan from skillet, and drain on paper-towel-lined plate.
- Add remaining 2 Tbs. olive oil to skillet, and return to high heat. Add shallots, onion, capers, and garlic, and sauté 1 to 2 minutes, or until softened, stirring frequently. Whisk in wine and lemon juice, and cook 3 to 5 minutes more.
- Add broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer 1 minute to combine fl avors. Whisk in parsley, margarine, salt, and pepper. Pour over seitan cutlets, garnish with large caper berries or lemon slices, and serve.
PER SERVING: 285 CAL; 32 G PROT; 13 G TOTAL FAT (3 G SAT. FAT); 11 G CARB; 0 MG CHOL; 274 MG SOD; 2 G FIBER; 1 G SUGAR
RADICAL REUBEN Makes 4 sandwiches Can’t find beet juice? Purée a 15-ounce can of beets and use it for the marinade.
Seitan 1 lb. seitan, thinly sliced 1 cup pickle juice 1/2 cup beet juice or beet borscht 1 tsp. pickling spice 3/4 tsp. garlic powder 1/8 tsp. ground black pepper Reuben Sauce 1/4 cup soy mayonnaise 3 Tbs. ketchup 2 Tbs. finely chopped pickles Sandwiches 8 slices rye bread 4 slices Swiss or soy cheese Sauerkraut, for garnish
- To make Seitan: Place seitan in baking dish. Bring pickle juice, beet juice, pickling spice, garlic powder, pepper, and 1 cup water to a boil in saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 15 minutes. Strain marinade, and pour over sliced seitan. Cover and cool. Chill overnight.
- To make Reuben Sauce: Combine all ingredients in bowl.
- To make Sandwiches: Preheat oven to broil. Set bread slices on baking sheet. Top 4 bread slices with drained Seitan and cheese. Broil 5 to 7 minutes, or until Seitan is hot and cheese is melted. Transfer Seitan-topped bread slices to serving plates, and garnish with sauerkraut. Spread remaining 4 bread slices with Reuben Sauce, and place on top of Sandwiches.
PER SERVING: 472 CAL; 45 G PROT; 15.5 G TOTAL FAT (6.5 G SAT. FAT); 45 G CARB; 26 MG CHOL; 807 MG SOD; 2 G FIBER; 6 G SUGARS