So our inaugural Meatless Monday met with a wee bit of eye-rolling from some of you, because I served shrimp. I know that seafood is not considered true vegetarian fare, but we are new to this and feel pretty good about ourselves whenever we don't have bacon. (Mmm, bacon....)
Last Monday we were up in New Hampshire, where it was raining and pouring and we had to soothe our souls at Polly's Pancake Parlor, where we ate half a pig's worth of bacon. And, if I recall correctly, had pepperoni pizza for dinner. So apparently Meatless Monday doesn't happen on vacation.
So this week I was determined to not only go truly vegetarian, but to show off and use a soy-based meat-like product! I bought Lightlife Smart Grounds, which have the look of ground beef or turkey. They provide the texture you're looking for in spaghetti sauce, chili, etc. Coming out of the package, it's a rather unappealing brown solid, but it breaks up in the pan and ends up mixing in with whatever you're making. [Update 8/31/11: Tonight I tried a soy product I like even better, Morningstar Farms Meal Starters; read about it here.]
I tried a recipe for Vegetarian Paella recommended to me by Twitter pal @charna. Everyone in the family liked it, and no one was weirded out by the soy crumbles, not even Andy, who admitted that he wouldn't have even known if it was in fact ground beef, since everything was all mixed up together. I increased the ingredient quantities by 50%, although it turned out that I had a lot left over, so the recipe as shown below probably would have sufficed. You could definitely sub in almost any vegetable you can think of, use brown rice, and so on—the variations are endless. And I apologize in advance, but I used chicken broth instead of vegetable broth. But no bacon, so there's that.
2 teaspoons olive oil
8 ounces soy sausage, cut into 1-inch pieces (See my note above about soy crumbles. I think that slices of soy sausage would have looked somewhat disconcerting to my gang, but I may be wrong.)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup marinated artichoke hearts, quartered (I wish I hadn't drained off the marinade—we could've used the liquid, and the additional flavor.)
1 cup sliced yellow squash
1 cup sliced zucchini
1 cup sliced carrots
1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 cup frozen green peas
14-ounce can diced tomatoes (These I didn't drain, and I was glad for the extra liquid.)
6 to 8 saffron threads
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 bay leaves
2 cups cooked rice
1/2 cup reduced-sodium vegetable broth (Whoops! I used chicken broth. So sue me.)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add soy sausage and garlic and cook 2 minutes. Add artichokes, squash, zucchini, carrots, asparagus, peas, tomatoes, saffron, paprika, and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer and cook 5 minutes. Add rice and broth and cook for 5 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, remove bay leaves, and stir in parsley. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
And serve it with:
Sometimes when I'm in a hurry, I pick up the ready-made garlic bread at Whole Foods and just pop it in the oven. Today they didn't have any, but the bakery guy handed me an Italian loaf and shared his secret: Kerrygold Garlic & Herb Butter! The ingredients are simply pure Irish butter mixed with chives, parsley, garlic, salt, dill, pepper, and paprika. So all I did was slather it on the bread slices, toast 'em in the oven, and YUM! So, so good.