Vegetarian Dinners That Don’t Suck

I know what you’re thinking: you don’t blog for three months and then we get… vegetarian dinners?

Well, first of all, you know how I love to play food blogger.

But second of all, I’ve been in a bit of despair lately about climate change. If you haven’t been paying attention, climate change has begun to be called “climate chaos,” and the new reports from almost everywhere are just really, really, bad. One night a few weeks ago, Ben told me he’d read an article that suggested that we may be headed for total societal collapse in a decade.


It’s a lot to process. It’s terrifying. But it’s also made me really believe that even though the government is sticking its head in the sand that there are small changes we can all make that, when they add up, can have a big effect. And as you can see from this handy chart, besides deciding to have fewer children (oops), and changing some of our transportation habits (try it!), one major thing we can all do is eat. Less. Meat.

A handy infographic from Seth Wynes and Kimberly A Nicholas about climate change and how you can help fight it.
Personal Choices to Reduce Your Contribution to Climate Change

That’s not all: we also need to drastically reduce our food waste. According to a great presentation I went to recently, a third of all the food in the world goes to waste. It occurs at the site of production in developing countries, and at home in developed countries. Here’s a helpful article about that.

Vegetarian dinners that are delicious, easy, and good for the planet!

And so, because I know that plant-based cooking flummoxes a lot of people (“It’s not satisfying!” “My kids won’t eat it!” “It tastes like cardboard!”), I thought I’d post five weeknights’ worth of vegetarian recipes?the kind that use up leftovers, too!?over the next five weeks, along with notes and suggestions for ways you can adapt them to fit YOUR family’s tastes.

Adapted from a recipe for Pasta e Fagioli from Claire’s Corner Copia Cookbook.

Approx. 1 pound of dried Great Northern or other pale-colored, fleshy beans, preferably heirloom, soaked overnight with a pinch of salt, then drained and rinsed
1 cup of chopped parsley
6 cloves crushed garlic
A small handful fresh basil, chopped
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
As much olive oil as you can spare (1/3 cup is a good start)
One 28-ounce can tomatoes, crushed
Two carrots, scrubbed and sliced
Half a bunch of chard or kale, chopped small
Some cooked GF or regular pasta, small shapes

Put the beans, parsley and basil, fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, and bay leaf in a pot and cover with plenty of water. Claire says 3 quarts. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for at least an hour, stirring frequently, until the beans are approaching done but not there yet. Add the olive oil, carrots, and tomatoes and simmer an hour longer, until the beans are soft (Tamar Adler says to test three beans, and if one isn’t ready yet, back into the pot they go) and the broth is thick and stew-y. When it’s about done, add your chard or kale and cook until it’s soft. Stir in your cooked pasta to warm it. Season generously with salt. At the table, pass the black pepper, some parmesan cheese, and more olive oil. Delicious served with bread for dunking.

Notes: Where I live we can get these gorgeous heirloom beans in bulk. I choose a speckled cranberry bean-type bean for this soup (in a reused plastic bag, of course) though a classic Great Northern or Navy would be good, too. The heirloom beans are better because they retain their shape beautifully and when they break down they seem to become more than the sum of their parts. You can also make this with pre-cooked beans from your freezer or even a few cans. Just cook them for way less time, but they’ll still absorb these good flavors. Also: have some potatoes or sweet potatoes that need using up? Great?throw them in towards the end in lieu of the pasta. Have someone in your family who categorically won’t eat a vegetarian meal? You could brown some chicken sausage in a separate skillet and add it towards the end. This is one of those recipes that is infinitely adaptable, and always good.

Tried it? Have a comment? I’d love to hear from you.

Tune in next week for Indian Feast!

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