I am not a vegetarian, but I live with one. As a result, I only cook vegetarian at home. If you think about it a minute it should be clear as to why that makes the most sense. Among other things, we both stay healthy, vegetables are delicious, and raw meat is no fun to handle and cook. Occasionally I indulge myself in a burger or something meaty when we’re out, not every time.
I have noticed that when we are out with friends and I order meat I tend to receive congratulations, as though I have done something exemplary by being normal and not some kooky vegetarian like my boyfriend. Some of our closest friends derive genuine joy out of watching me eat meat, as though my taking part in this normal behavior somehow makes Mike’s deviant hippie behavior more acceptable.
Whatever, point being I am vegetarian in my kitchen.
Cooking vegetarian is in equal parts awesome and awful. Here I will illustrate this complexity with a vegan recipe. In this post I follow a recipe from the weighty tome The Vegonomicon, an excellent recipe book and a fun read. These girls are awesome. I’m making Broccoli Millet Croquettes, which I will pair with the White Bean Aioli recipe. Both are from the book, both yum.
Why Cooking Vegetarian is Awesome: Millet
I get to experiment with all kinds of grains and fun stuff. I mean, how cool is millet? I find these light-as-air little food beads to be simply delightful!
I guess you can still experiment with a world of grains without being a veg, but why would you when you have the satisfyingly robust proteininess of that dinner table heavyweight, meat.
Why Cooking Vegetarian is Awful: Millet
If you have ever experimented in the world of grains and legumes you will know that a lot of them need to be cooked twice, or soaked overnight and then cooked, or fried and then boiled and then fried, as in the case of this millet recipe. First we fry it in oil and herbs until it changes color slightly. This very slight change of hue is so subtle that I never can tell if it has actually happened, so I fret, and then I wait, and then I move on.
When we finally decide it is time, we add water or broth and simmer for a while. (The recipe is available online and in the book, I am not going to list it here.)
Why Cooking Vegetarian is Awesome: Vegetables
I mean, how wonderful is broccoli? I don’t think there is a single piece of advice about health where eating plenty of vegetables is not mentioned. While a lot of things in my life are a total mess, I feel like I’ve got this one down.
Why Cooking Vegetarian is Awful: Vegetables
Specifically, chopping vegetables. So much chopping, cleaning, peeling, chopping, endless chopping. It is tiresome.
I’m choppin broccoli! Chopping broccoli! Chopp.. UH!
– At this point we add broccoli to the pot, and boil some more, wait, cover, uncover, cover. Wait.
– Between this step and the next one the mixture has to cool. I live in Montreal and it is February so I just threw it in the snow on my balcony for a while. (I put a tight lid on it though, to keep out the squirrel-rats.)*
*squirrel-rats are just regular squirrels, in the city.
Why Cooking Vegetarian is Awesome: …
I’ve got nothing for this one. I hate forming things into patties. I don’t like getting my hands dirty, I don’t like how you have to sqwoosh them around so much until they hold together and I don’t like how half the time they fall apart anyway before you get em in the pan. This one is squarely in the:
Why Cooking Vegetarian is Awful: Patties / Croquettes / Bites / Whatever you call it, bleh.
I do not love this part. Form mixture into patties. But for this recipe at least they go straight from patties to frying pan, without a stop at the breading station. If there is something I like less than forming things into patties it is coating my hands in raw egg and breadcrumbs.
(Obviously a vegan cookbook won’t be calling for egg wash.)
– Finally we fry the patties in oil.
Why Vegetarian Cooking is Awesome: Yum!
The finished product was freaking delicious! It was crunchy on the outside, tasty on the inside, light and fluffy, just amazing with the aioli dressing. Which leads me to:
Why Vegetarian Cooking is Awful: That was just an appetizer! I had to make like four more things! In addition to the aioli sauce that went with the croquettes. AND THIS ONE RECIPE WAS SO MUCH WORK!
But yeah, delicious. And the aioli sauce is incredible. Tastes just like the mayo version of aioli, but so much less mayonnaise. Because it contains no mayonnaise at all, it is vegan.