I've gotten some nice emails and phone calls from friends who have been reading my blog. Some even say they are inspired to either go vegetarian or incorporate more vegetarian foods in to their diet. More and more Americans are are making the decision to eat less meat, whether it's for environmental, health, or cruelty to animals reasons. With the big push to go green in this country, I think vegetarianism (at least some of the time) is poised to become even more mainstream. Check out this article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kathy-freston/vegetarian-is-the-new-pri_b_39014.html
But how do you get started? As someone who hasn't eaten meat in 21 years, I can tell you it is real shift in thinking. Even these many years later, I am frustrated when I am served a bowl of something in a restaurant (usually a pasta) with a one note flavor while my husband is served a well-balanced plate with a protein, starch, and vegetable. The idea of many different flavors happening in one meal is something I constantly strive for in my cooking. It is why I almost always bring three different meal components (not including dessert) to my clients. Meals are important to me and I want to taste lots of different things.
I love to cook so it doesn't always feel like work to me to make lots of different dishes (sometimes it does). However, to enjoy vegetarian food, you do not necessarily need to work hard. If variety isn't all that important to you, you can make a big batch of something (a delicious spring stew perhaps) and eat it all week, just varying the salad or appetizer you serve with it.
We are coming in to the most wonderful time of the year for vegetarian cooking. The sheer bounty that comes to us in the Pacific Northwest in June, July, August, September, and October makes me wonder why anyone eats meat. There are so many incredibly delicious and satisfying things out there to eat! Here are a few pointers on making the shift.
Get Thee to a Farmer's Market
Here in Seattle, there is at least one Farmer's Market going on each day of the week all over the city. (Check out www.seattlefarmersmarkets.org). I know the trend is rising all over the country and it is one of the best ways to get your ideas and taste buds going. We all hear that we should eat with the seasons and I think it is an important part of vegetarianism. The impact to the environment is less, food tastes better, and we are eating the foods our bodies need. You can get great information from the farmers themselves. I went to the Phinney Ridge market yesterday and bought some beautiful tiny turnips. I asked the woman at the booth how she liked them best and she suggested roasting them in a hot oven (tossed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper) and then sprinkling them with Parmesan cheese. Yum!
Buy a Couple Cookbooks
The very first cookbook I bought is one I still use and the first one I recommend to people who ask which is a good one. It is called Quick Vegetarian Pleasures by Jeanne Lemlin. I have made probably 75% of the recipes and can honestly tell you they are indeed quick, they always turn out, they are easy, and they call for ingredients easily found in the supermarket. You will have success and will love the food. She has at least three other cookbooks (two of which I have) and they are all good. This one is the easiest though and a good one to start with. I think the vegetarian bible is Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. She is one of the founders of Greens Restaurant in San Francisco which is a veg Mecca and her book is wonderful. Again, most recipes, and there are over 1000 of them, are totally approachable, just maybe a little more time consuming than Lemlin's book. I use it as a vegetarian Joy of Cooking. It is the book I turn to most often.
http://www.ecookbooks.com/ is a great place to buy cookbooks because they deeply discount the books (which can be expensive) and if you spend $25, the shipping is free. They have almost everything. If you prefer the bookstore experience, please shop local! Carol at Santoro's Books here in Seattle has a very nice cookbook selection and will order anything for you. By the way, the above photograph is about one fifth of the cookbooks that I own!
Subscribe to a Magazine
You may be surprised but I don't necessarily recommend getting Vegetarian Times. I find the recipes and the articles a little too overzealous. I think the food tends to be either overly flavored or really bland. I get Cook's Illustrated, Bon Appetit, Gourmet, and Food and Wine. I find that in any given issue there are plenty of delicious vegetarian choices, if not as main courses, then at least some soups and salads I want to make. There are lots of interesting articles about food and I have a feeling that we are going to see more and more about vegetarianism.
This is my favorite food site. Let's say you just went to the Farmer's Market and were inspired by the radishes (they are beautiful right now). You can come home, go to this site (which is the web site for Gourmet and Bon Appetit), and plug in radishes. It will give you tons of recipes from their archives and best of all, there will be comments from other cooks. So you know that if 30 people said it's delicious, chances are it's delicious.
Of course I am always available for questions and inspiration. email@example.com.