Help convert a meat eater to vegetarian dinners!
I've gotten my solidly meat-centric husband to agree to 2 vegetarian dinners at home per week. (For perspective, this is the guy who said many years ago that he'd take me to Greens for my birthday "if we can go somewhere else after" haha!) So we're making serious progress here.
So now I need some really amazing ideas to make sure he doesn't miss the meat! All ideas welcome...
We're both meat-eaters, but I can tell you what veg dishes we make often and have made recently.
Lasagne with mushrooms and greens in the place of the meat is always delicious, especially if you use a *very* good cheese.
Refried black beans over rice. I keep cheese, sour cream, tortillas, and hot sauce available (in case he wants to make a burrito), and offer to fry an egg to drop over the top if he's just putting it in a bowl. Speaking of eggs, breakfast for dinner is an easy way to knock one out (waffles, pancakes, eggs, hash browns), and I do it all the time.
Vegetarian black bean chili. I was surprised that my boyfriend liked it. I made it while he was out of town, and he came home early. And then I had to share. And it wasn't even *great* chili, just stuff out of cans, seasoned and simmered.
I just made French onion soup last night, and I used Better than Boullion (which is veg). Add a good salad, and you have a nice meal. I do a fair amount of vegetable soups, and as long as I have a bread and a salad to go with, he's happy.
I make a cheese polenta, pour it into a casserole, and put all kinds of stuff on it. Our favorite is spinach, mushroom, tomato and cheese. I added sausage to it last time, but it was overkill. My boyfriend said it's one of his favorite meals--and he doesn't like polenta.
Ravioli frequently has meatless fillings, and you could make your own, if you're into that kind of thing. Make a nice sauce, salad, a good bread, and maybe some greens on the side. And since that's the second time I've said salad, do some research and come up with some interesting ones.
Pizza is an easy thing to go vegetarian with. Later this week I'm doing a phyllo dough pizza, and don't plan on any meat-toppings.
I think that Indian food can be your friend (I'm not the best person to advise you here, I'm limited in what I've done), but lentils are frequently used, and are very filling. I find the most commonly used spices to be bold and savory enough that I don't even miss the meat if I've ordered something without. Thai food is another cuisine that I more often go meatless with. You could always get some cookbooks from the library.
Good luck, Maya.
Don't serve tofu.
With that critical part out of the way, I find that the issue with most vegetarian foods is that they try to replace traditional dishes with meat substitutes. That doesn't work, since meat is just better for those dishes. "Why am I having 2nd rate dishes when I could be having 1st meat versions?" Take this chance to really introduce the fella to vegetables.
I love kale's texture, so featuring smoked kale or adding it to an otherwise soft dish to increase the bite is great. You can also roast or braise cabbage (something exotic for a meat-lover).
If you're willing to splurge (and hunt for them), see if you can buy some good mushrooms. Common ones are nice, but a mix of the higher quality ones (such as morel and the wide variety of boletus) can stand on their own with just a simple sauce.
Winter squash is in right now, and even a meat eater can appreciate a warm, hearty soup.
Overall, my favorite vegetarian item is an eggplant sandwich. I bread the eggplant with a mix a hot spices and fry it up for that nice crunchy texture. Top it with some roasted/smoked kale, some caramelized or marmalade onions for sweetness and some goat cheese for a little smoothness. Served with a side of crispy/baked kale and it's a satisfying meal.
Don't serve tofu? Not sure what you mean by that.
If you mean don't serve tofu processed to allegedly look/feel/taste like some kind of meat, I'd say don't totally avoid it but be careful. I have non-veg friends who love the soyburgers at a local restaurant even though they don't really taste like hamburgers. Tofu can be enjoyed in its own right but it's not a meat substitute. A real meat eater could be very disappointed if he's told "this tofurkey tastes JUST LIKE real turkey" when it patently does not.
Tofu cooked in it's "natural environment" is pretty darn good too. Pad Thai with tofu instead of shrimp is really good. There are lots of ways to present tofu in delicious ways. Lots of ways to stirfry it, lots of great marinades to enhance the flavor of the dish you cook it in.
I love eggplant sandwiches too. I also love curried eggplant, szechuan style eggplant, Thai Basil Eggplant, etc etc etc. I've found eggplant to be more troublesome than tofu in trying to tempt people unfamiliar with vegetarian cuisine away from the Dark Side. Eggplant seems to raise more hackles in non-vegs than tofu, assuming no experience with either.
Of course, if the non-veg has been abused by some version of TVP faking meat, they may be more turned against the Tofu. It sort of depends. But both are good items to try in the absence of existing strong prejudice.
Supermarket tofu has limited appeal, but if you live in a place with a substantial Asian population you may be able to find a tofu factory. Flavored tofu, deep-fried tofu, stuffed tofu (my favorite is stuffed with spicy ground meat, but that kind of defeats the OP's point) - there's a lot more variety of taste and texture out there than you'll find on the grocery store shelf.
I made cabbage rolls last weekend using a plentitude of sauteed sliced baby bellas instead of meat. I'm quite a carnivore and I didn't miss the meat a bit.