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Vegan Spring/Summer Ideas

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Hello all,

I have a friend who has recently decided to try being vegan due to some health issues. I learned how to cook from a vegetarian, so I'm comfortable working with veggies (other than mushrooms, which I don't know how to cook at all because I don't really care for them). I want to cook dinner for my friend and her husband, and frankly, I'd like to show off how good vegan food can be. What better time than now, with all the farmer's markets beginning to open?

So, topic of discussion: what kinds of vegan main / side dishes are out there that make use of all the produce that will soon be headed our way?

For my money, I'm not as interested in dishes that use tofu/seitan/etc because I want to focus on veggies as the star. For the same reason, I'm not as interested in a lot of asian cuisine, since ingredients like curry paste or soy sauce drown out a lot of fresh flavor, imho. I'm open for input on ways to mitigate that, though. Also, I'm willing to start learning how to cook mushrooms (and how to eat them, lol), since it would please the wife quite a bit if I did so. :D

Anyway, ideas I've got include:

All sorts of southwest-ish applications for corn (raw, sauteed, grilled - it's all good) combined with red onion, tomato, jalapeno, lime, cumin, etc - but how to make this into a main dish?

Soups are top-notch, and I think they can be make a successful dinner with a good salad and some bread. Gazpacho wouldn't be much of a main course, but avocado soup could hit the mark, hmm? Does dinner need something hot?

Tomatoes - I love sauteing some garlic & onion in olive oil and tossing in some halved cherry tomatoes, some herbs, and a splash of lemon, and tossing it all with a short pasta. It's like a warm pasta salad. But what else can I do with tomatoes?

Things I'd love to have any ideas for:

Potatoes - I have no idea how to make these into a main dish without involving butter, cheese, or bacon. Perhaps a potato leek soup (or something similar)? Would it be too bland without cream/milk?

Fruit - there have to be ways to use fruit as or in a main course, right? (Bonus points for an idea involving corn and blueberries, which are awesome together.)

Ways to use polenta as something other than to dump sauce or grilled veggies on - I've baked it off and made rounds to use as a base for mini-shrimp & grits appetizers, but I just don't have an idea for a similar vegan application...

Beans - I've ordered stuff from Rancho Gordo before and loved their product. But so much of what I've used the beans for (huevos rancheros, tacos, tostadas) isn't vegan; it all tastes so much better with some queso fresco, and obviously, huevos rancheros requires eggs. :D

Anyway, I'd love to discuss ideas for making spring & summer veggies shine on their own, and I appreciate any suggestions you all have!

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  1. Potato leek soup comes out just great without cream. If you must you can add some plain nut milk but i like it just fine using just veggie broth or stock.

    1. I think that grilled polenta would be perfect. What about topping the little rounds with ratatouille? Or caramelized onions if you wanted to do them as a side.

      Minestrone is my go-to vegan soup -- always with crusty garlic bread.

      Roasting and grilling are, IMO, the best ways to make veggies shine. Grilled mixed veggies (onions, zucchini, red peppers, asparagus, even fingerling potatoes -- pre-steamed) with garlic, olive oil, a little lemon juice, s&p. That's a whole meal right there!

      Crudites and hummus would be a good starter.

      1. For your southwestern flavors, add some pinto beans or similar, toss with a vinaigrette and you have a great dinner salad. Or serve beans dressed with salsa on the side. Or mound the salad on a bed of grains, like farro.

        I've made a ratatoille-like preparation and served that on baked potatoes. Sure, some cheese would make it richer, but it's still tasty!!

        Roasted or grilled veggies tossed with a homemade citrus vinaigrette like orange sesame on a bed of grains is my go-to spring/summer dinner.

        1. Yes- everything goes wonderfully on top of baked potato!

          For what it's worth, I think the corn, red onion, tomato, lime and cumin (I'd add cilantro if you or your friend like it) would be lovely atop some grilled polenta... so much so that I'm going to "borrow" this and make it for dinner soon. I, too, love polenta topped with ratatouille.

          Farro is great with asparagus, broccoli rabe, spinach, and cherry tomtatoes, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and fresh parsley.

          I don't typically consider tofu a "meat substitute", like seitan or tempeh. I usually use it as if it were an additional vegetable. But if you had a hankering for something huevos rancheros- like, I usually scramble a little tofu and turmeric when
          my hubby has a craving for chilaquiles.

          From time to time, I love a nice grilled veggie taco or wrap. No sour cream or cheese needed. This time of year I love to use grilled asparagus, sauteed mushroom and spinach. Yum!

          I make vegan refried beans a lot- toss cooked beans (pinto or black beans work nicely), onion, a little lime juice, cumin, some hot sauce (sambal oolek is perfect) and a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a food processor and pulse till most of the beans are mashed. Heat a little more olive
          oil in a skillet and cook the beans to the desired consistency.

          Another favorite bean dish is black-eyed peas with greens- mustard, collard, kale, spinach or any combination thereof- with chopped onion, carrot, garlic, gumbo file, cayenne pepper, paprika, and tomato. Go easy on the seasoning and the flavors really come through.

          Potato and pea curry is delicious, and not overwhelmingly curry-ish. I find that most potato recipes call for baking, and it's too warm in Chicago to use the oven during spring and summer, so I'd be keen on more potato main dish ideas myself. Usually, when we want potato, we just
          make it into a hash, with whatever kind of green veggie we have a taste for mixed in or on the side. Shell pasta goes nicely with potato and peas, too- the only "sauce" needed is a little olive oil and a splash of lemon juice. I add a nice handful of fresh parsley.

          Ratatouille is one of my favorite summer dishes for farmer's market veggies. I found a good recipe on this very site-it's delicious- we make it about once a week during summer's peak!

          I've used fruit for main dishes before, mainly mango, pineapple and rhubarb. I'll tap my brain and revisit with those ideas again later, too.

          Must get back to work now... but will be back to this thread!

          1. Here's a link to a recent thread for a vegan picnic. Check out the mushroom pate recipe the OP, bikery, finally made. It has a tiny bit of butter in it which I'm sure you could sub oil for. Other good ideas there as well.

            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7018...

            1. One of my favorite ways to do new potatoes is to quarter them and toss with a slurry made of olive oil, dijon mustard, garlic powder (not fresh, to avoid burning), S&P and fresh chopped rosemary, spread out on a baking pan and roast in a hot oven until browned and a bit crisp on the outside and tender inside.

              There is a recipe somewhere on chowhound for chickpea cutlets which are excellent and I like to use those as a base for a zucchini ratatouille....which is also good over rice or orzo.

              3 Replies
              1. re: weezycom

                The chickpea cutlets are excellent! Never tried them with ratatouille- I must! They freeze well, too, so I make double batches to have a quick meal another time.

                http://www.chow.com/recipes/11364-chi...

                1. re: opehlia payne

                  Cool, I am definitely going to try the chickpea cutlet recipe. Sounds really good.

                  1. re: opehlia payne

                    Although the recipe in and of itself is obviously quite different, they made me think of pan-fried falafel - another idea that I'd forgotten about. I'll definitely try the cutlets (they just sound so interesting), but falafel should go on the menu, too.

                    Here's the recipe I've used in the past for falafel: http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/fa...

                2. I have so many ideas for you, I don't know where to start! I am enamored with this roasted asparagus soup this week, so I guess I'll start with that:

                  Roasted Asparagus and Leek Soup

                  2 lbs. asparagus, tough ends snapped off, cut into 2-inch pieces

                  2 c. chopped leeks (white and light green parts only)

                  2 T. extra virgin olive oil

                  3 T. minced flat-leaf parsley

                  2 t. freshly grated lemon zest

                  3 to 4 c. vegetable broth

                  3/4 c. fat-free milk (or soy milk for a vegan soup)

                  Salt and pepper to taste

                  Preheat oven to 425. Toss the asparagus and leeks with the oil and spread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Roast until the vegetables are soft and golden, about 35 minutes. Place them in a blender with the remaining ingredients (starting with 3 cups of broth and adding more as needed) and process until very smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and gently reheat.

                  You can see a photo of it here: http://whatwouldcathyeat.com/2010/04/...

                  Other ideas for you would be an african groundnut stew, or a barley risotto with spring vegetables. But my standby would have to be cannellini beans and greens (broccoli rabe, kale, chard or escarole) served on whole wheat pasta.

                  1. Wow, thanks - some great stuff so far.

                    Ratatouille is a great suggestion (both for topping the polenta, and just in general). Ditto for the suggestions on farro - I've never cooked it, but it's been on my list of things to try.

                    I think it would be an interesting way to serve ratatouille if I scooped out part of a zucchini, cooked all the veggies about halfway, and then stuffed them into the zucchini and finished them off by roasting at all together - anyone tried that?

                    1. You might like this fantastic salad I made tonight which started with 1/2 can of black beans, then 1/2can corn, chopped celery, chopped cukes, chopped roasted r pepper, scallions, 1/2 red onion, lime juice, garlic, fresh basil, cilantro, cumin, string cheese chopped, cayenne, vinegar, oil, s&p. (omit the string cheese and it's still fantastic). I forgot to add some croutons but since I had leftovers, tomorrows lunch will include croutons. I called it a southwestern panzanella salad.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: lexpatti

                        Speaking of which, traditional panzanella is vegan if made with bread that has no animal products, like a baguette.

                        1. re: LisaPA

                          how about pocket bread? I will sometimes use that, like a fattoush salad.

                      2. Check out Alternative Vegan. It's a great cookbook and it's ALL veggie-based. http://www.alternativevegan.com/

                        1. I think the vegetable paella in this link sounds fantastic.

                          http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyl...

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: greedygirl

                            very nice site, thanks. everything looks awesome