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Easy Vegetarian Cooking


by Sharon Cadwallader

The world of legumes took on a new dimension when vegetarian cooking became mainstream in our culture, and especially when tofu moved west. When we speak of legumes, we are generally referring to beans, peas and lentils. Peanuts, too, are technically considered a legume.
     Legumes are a remarkable source of protein, lacking only the essential amino acid methionine, which can be furnished by complementary servings of milk, cheese or whole grains. One exception is the soybean, which is considered to be a perfect protein. Soybeans’ by-product, tofu, is rich in estrogen. Legumes are also an excellent source of B vitamins, as well as iron, potassium and calcium. In addition, they are excellent sources of fiber, are low in sodium and are cholesterol-free.
     All beans, peas, and lentils should be rinsed and picked over before cooking, especially those that come in bulk. Dried beans should be soaked before cooking. Two soaking methods follow. It is a good idea to avoid adding salt to the legumes until the have cooked awhile, so as not to inhibit tenderizing. Also, acidic foods, such as tomatoes or vinegar, should only be added when the beans are tender. The flavor of legumes often benefits form a splash of vinegar, lime of lemon juice; just remember to add it last.

Cooking Dried Beans
     Soaking dried beans before cooking lowers their gas-producing qualities, reduces the cooking time and keeps the bean skins from separating from the flesh. Two main soaking methods follow.
Quick Soak: For every pound of beans, use 2 quarts water. Bring beans and water to a rolling boil in a large pot and boil for 2 minutes; remove from heat, cover and let stand 1 hour. Drain beans well. Cook beans in a large pot with fresh cold water, using about 6 cups water for every pound of beans.
Overnight Soak: For every pound of beans, use 6 cups of water. Soak beans in water in a large container overnight in the refrigerator. Drain beans well. Cook beans in a pot with fresh cold water, using about 6 cups water for every pound of beans.
Cooking Times
split peas and lentils: less than 1 hour; not necessary to soak
navy and kidney beans: 1 to 1 1/2 hours
white, black, Great Northern, pink, pinto, red beans and black-eyed peas: about 1 1/2 hours
garbanzo beans: about 2 hours
soy beans: 3 or more hours
lima beans: less than 1 hour for baby limas; about 1 1/2 hours for large limas

Vegetarian Vegetable Chili
Servings: 5-6
This recipe can be varied endlessly, depending on which vegetables are in season or appeal to your family. Using canned beans makes the recipe a quickie to prepare.

3 tbs. corn or canola oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 large green or red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried oregano leaves, crumbled
1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1 can (1 lb.) peeled tomatoes with juice, chopped
1 cup Vegetable Stock, (home-made or purchased), or more if desired
2 cans (16 oz. each) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
salt to taste
red wine vinegar to taste
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups finely shredded green cabbage
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 jalapeno chiles, seeded and minced

     In a large heavy-bottomed pot, heat oil over medium heat and saute onion for 2 minutes. Add garlic and sautÈ until onion is almost tender. Add bell pepper, celery, carrot, chili powder, cumin, oregano, thyme and coriander and saute for 3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Stir in beans and corn. Add salt, vinegar and additional stock, if you desire a soupier chili. Place cheese in a serving bowl. Toss cabbage with cilantro and place in a separate serving bowl. Place minced jalapenos in a small dish. Serve chili in warm bowls and let diners garnish individual servings with cheese, cabbage mixture and jalapenos at the table.

Mushroom, Rice and Tofu Loaf
Servings: 8
This makes a lovely company or family meal with cheesy scalloped potatoes, steamed vegetables and a tossed green salad. Serve whole grain rolls on the side. Look for powdered vegetable broth in jars or bulk bins in a natural food store.

8 dried shiitake mushrooms
3 cups warm water, plus more if needed
3 tbs. soy sauce
3 tbs. powdered vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups long-grain and wild rice mix
2 tbs. canola oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 lb. white mushrooms , chopped
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
10 oz. firm tofu
1 cup fine soft breadcrumbs
1 cup freshly grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sunflower kernels, toasted
1 tbs. dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp. coarsely ground pepper
salt to taste

     In a bowl, soak shiitake mushrooms in warm water and soy sauce for 30 minutes; drain mushrooms well; reserving liquid, and chop finely. Measure liquid, adding additional water if necessary to equal 3 cups. In a large saucepan, bring mushroom liquid, powdered vegetable broth and rice to a boil. Reduce heat to very low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes, or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed.
     Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat and saute onion, white mushrooms and garlic until softened. Transfer mixture to a bowl with cooked rice, shiitake mushrooms, tofu, breadcrumbs, cheese, eggs, sunflower kernels, thyme and pepper. Mix well and season with salt. Transfer mixture to a buttered 10-inch pie pan and bake for 35-50 minutes, or until firm and lightly browned. Cut into wedges to serve.

From Easy Vegetarian Cooking, by Sharon Cadwallader. Copyright © 1998 Bristol Publishing Enterprises, Inc. Excerpted by arrangement with 1998 Bristol Publishing Enterprises, Inc. $8.95. Available in local bookstores or call 800-346-4889 or click here.