mushroomsWe’ve been doubling down on vegetarian meals, cooked from scratch. I want to share some of the recipes that have been hits.

Until recently, it has been hard to find vegetarian options at restaurants, especially here in France profonde. Even salads would be topped with gizzards, duck chitlings and foie gras. When I would ask for something without any of that, the waiters would be quizzical, like, that leaves the frisée, which is just for looks and not much to eat. The concept of other vegetables and beans was not dans l’air.

Suddenly, everybody has vegetarian options, as well as vegan and gluten free. We rarely eat out but I enjoy looking at menus posted outside restaurants for ideas. My main sources of ideas, though, are the Jow app (I wrote about it here), Marmiton, Smitten Kitchen, Bon Appétit and the New York Times (we subscribe to the last two–support journalism, including food journalism, by subscribing!). Bon Appétit has a series called Healthy-ish with lots of yummy ideas.

Another thing I do is make traditional dishes and replace ground beef with beans, mushrooms or both. bread wholeI was listening to the podcast “The History of English,” which recently looked at “The Forme of Cury,” possibly the first cookbook in English. The host noted all the feast days and other days when meat was forbidden, and it added up to about half the year. People lived mostly on bread, used to scoop up a stew of vegetables, some fish and, when allowed, bits of meat. Bigger animals were for richer people. I know an elderly lady who insisted that beef and lamb were “noble” meats but pork and chicken were not. She also was very affected by having lived through World War II and the aftermath; anything that was scarce during the war was good, and everything they ate then (cabbage, beets) was bad.

I think these things affect how people eat today. It isn’t just in France, or Europe or the West–when I lived in Africa it was a big deal to serve guests meat and beef was considered “better” than chicken. People there tended to eat a stew of beans, maize and vegetables twice a day, every day, except for meat on Sunday.

Anyway, reducing or eliminating meat consumption is really going back to tradition, a tradition that is much, much longer than the meat-centric meals we now consider traditional.bread cutHere are some of my favorite recipes that I’ve made recently, in random order (we do not eat pasta on consecutive days, twice a week max). In fact, I’m kind of running through my saved folder on Instagram, which is heavy on NYT and Bon Appétit.

Cauliflower tacos with cashew crema from Bon Appétit. OMG. This is my favorite recipe on the list. Have made it a couple of times. Ate it all before getting a photo. Who wants to shoot a picture when you’re hungry? I just wish we had fresh tortillas and not Old El Paso. This is a sheet-pan wonder that is very easy. I made some pickled onions for crunch instead of radishes, which I didn’t have. You use what’s on hand!

bolo
Cauliflower bolognese. Leftovers in a bento box from Mon Bento, a made in France company. They aren’t a sponsor. I’m just a happy customer.

Cauliflower bolognese from Bon Appétit. Pretty good. I found the cauliflower flavor to be strong, but that isn’t a bad thing. The “meat” is mushrooms.

Kale pesto with whole-wheat pasta from Bon Appétit. “Whole-wheat pasta”–DUH. Always. Kale is very hard to find in France profonde, so we tried it with frilly cabbage. Too cabbage-y. Must try again with other green winter vegetables, such as blettes (Swiss chard). We’ve made pesto with a mix of spinach and basil, but basil is out of season. Sniff!!

squash pasta
Squash pasta with sage and almonds.

Creamy butternut squash pasta with sage and walnuts from New York Times Cooking. I’ve made this a few times. SO GOOD. I used sliced almonds instead of walnuts. Sage from the garden. Had this last night and didn’t want to make broth so used pasta water. It all works.

Crispy tofu with maple-soy glaze from Bon Appétit. This is great. I added a bunch of stir-fried vegetables, because….more vegetables. The point about cooking undisturbed is essential–turn too soon and it will stick. Didn’t have fresh ginger and used ginger powder; maybe fresh would be better but it was still delicious. To keep the tofu from getting soggy, I removed it when crispy, stir-fried the vegetables, then returned the tofu and poured over the glaze.

mushroom millet
Crispy mushrooms (and peppers) over millet-cauliflower mush, which is better than it sounds.

Farro with crispy mushrooms and sour cream from New York Times Cooking. This was the basic idea and I made it differently. I had some leftover millet-cauliflower mush (recipe in Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian”), and used that for the base. Did the crispy mushrooms and leeks, and added a couple of sweet peppers (I know they are expensive in the U.S., but here they are cheap). No dill in the garden, so used fresh parsley, which is growing like gangbusters.

Mushroom Bourguignon from New York Times Cooking. Another big winner. If you are making polenta, it’s a good idea to pour what isn’t in your dinner dish into a greased cake pan so you can slice leftovers into pretty squares. Polenta sets up fast, and if left in a bowl results in unappealing blobs. No pearl onions in the pantry? Just add more regular ones.

sweet potato chickpeas
Roasted sweet potatoes with chickpeas and other vegetables.

Roasted yams and chickpeas with yogurt from Smitten Kitchen. I definitely should do more sheet-pan dinners. This was so easy. I threw in a bunch of accessory vegetables–broccoli, zucchini, fennel. Also swapped out the yogurt with a drizzle of almond butter, which is so good it’s criminal. 

Lastly, one that’s just made up on the spot. Crispy tofu with vegetables in a curried tomato sauce, over rice. Cut a couple of blocks of firm tofu in half lengthwise; wrap in paper towels and let them dry (even better–put something heavy on top to squeeze out even more water). Mix some cornstarch with some curry powder in a liter/quart-size container with a tight lid. Set aside while you cut up a big pile of vegetables into about the same size/shape so they cook evenly. I also did mushrooms.

Start the rice–1.5-2 times the water for the amount of dry rice. A cup of dry rice is enough for two people, unless you want leftovers. You can replace part of the water with coconut milk for extra-yummy rice. Cover and bring to a boil; let it keep boiling (turn it down so it doesn’t boil over), still covered, until you see holes in the rice. DO NOT STIR. Turn off the heat, keep covered and let it finish steaming, about 20 minutes.

Pour a little oil (I use olive…whatever) into a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms. DO NOT STIR. Let them cook a good while, until the juices start to dry up, then turn them.

Meanwhile, cut the tofu into small cubes (about 1 cm). Put into the container with the cornstarch mix and shake well to coat all the cubes. tofu curryRemove the mushrooms to a bowl, add a little more oil to the same skillet and cook the tofu. Let it cook all the way to brown before turning. I am not so fussy that I will turn every little cube on every single side. Two or three sides browned is good enough. Remove to a bowl.

Add a little more oil to the same skillet. Cook your vegetables, starting with onions (put on the lid to make them sweat). Add garlic, then other vegetables, starting with the hardest ones. So carrots go in before zucchini because they need a couple of minutes extra to cook.

Pour in a can of stewed tomatoes or diced tomatoes. If the tomatoes are whole, break them up with your spoon. Add some curry paste, to your taste. I used a ton of Indian curry paste, but sometimes I do it with Thai curry paste. They taste completely different. Such an easy way to change things up.

When the sauce is reduced a bit, return the mushrooms and tofu to the skillet to heat them up. Serve over the rice.

I’ll do some more recipe lists/recommendations as I cook (if I remember to take photos. All those bento shots are because I didn’t take a picture until I was putting away the leftovers).

Meanwhile, what is going on with the weather? We had 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 Celsius) earlier in the week. Today it’s 55 F (13 C), so it seems chilly, until you remember that it’s FEBRUARY. The almond trees are in full bloom, like ballerinas dancing across the countryside. The daffodils, even in the north shadow of the house, are ready to pop. Crazy. It’s hard not to enjoy the warm sunshine, but it’s worrisome. Et chez vous, comment ça va?

mimosa
Mimosa.

 

 

48 thoughts on “Vegetarian in France

  1. Lots of great veggie ideas there. We also do a bit more lately, from cauliflower fritters to spinach and chickpea stew. As for the weather, it is indeed concerning. The birds here are chirping up a storm while last night temperatures dropped well below zero. Everything feels out of whack. Yet how not to love the sunshine?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I love the idea of cauliflower tacos – right now the cauliflowers are ready in the garden, so we’ll need to eat them up – cauliflower cheese last night, roast cauliflower tomorrow and the tacos on Sunday!! I have a supply of sublime tortillas that a friend brings – from Germany of all places! They freeze really well…

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  3. Am ready to try some of you recipes – they sound and look great. I am sitting here in Central New York State with the snow coming down – all schools in the area closed – your lovely picture of the mimosa made me long for Spring.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. My kind of food! Who new I would be ahead of the curve. That loaf of bread in the first photo, what is the variety and name? I can’t quite read it. Maybe the resident baker might try to duplicate it. Looks so yummy, I can imagine it weighs a few kilos. There are a few restaurants that actually serve this type of creative vegetarian food here.
    I will search out the recipes. Now I’m starting to get hungry.
    Thanks
    Ali x

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The bread is called pain d’épautre, which is like farro. The form is funny. Sometimes he makes it with regular flour and calls it pain de meule, which refers to how the flour is ground, between two stones, making it rougher. Other times he makes the same form as pain provençal, which includes tomato and other stuff.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We have a small flour mill that B uses to grind the grains for bread. I’m spoiled. It is a surprise that I’m not seriously over weight with always having fresh bread. The anticipation, waiting for the first first slice. It’s the best. He has not been able to replicate a baguette to our satisfaction though. We save that for when we come to France.
        Ali

        Liked by 3 people

  5. I’m excited to try a lot of these – sheet pan dinners are sort of the only thing we can handle right now. And we do have access to very good tortillas.

    Fun story about tortillas: one Mother’s Day, my parents were telling me it was time to get the patio furniture into my back yard. Our friend who owns the Suburban I always rely on wanted me to walk through an investment property with him. And I wanted to make fish tacos and get my mom a mandoline slicer. All pleased with the efficiency of this plan, I got him to drop off the furniture, go to the Italian Market, and drop by his place. I came out of Tortilleria San Roman with a bag of impulse buys and then had to go to the Acme for tortillas once I was back in the suburbs.

    Weatherwise, it was a terrifying but comfortable 55 degrees in Philadelphia at 7 this morning, but now it’s snowing. I’m so confused.

    Also, I’m scared when I read Mon Bento and want to change it to Mi – I was cramming Spanish on Duolingo after Tito and I got together, and now my French is all messed up!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Big smile!
      I always admire your stories here and on your blog about how you and your friends and family help each other out.
      All these recipes were easy, fairly quick and delicious. I hope they help vary your routine.

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  6. Smitten Kitchen is the bomb.

    The cuisine I miss most when I’m in France is Mexican, which so easily adapts to a vegetarian diet. Nachos with refried beans instead of meat: a fun splurge on a Friday night. Tacos with chunks of sautéed or roasted squash and seasoned black beans, tomatoes, colorful grilled peppers and onion, a side of chili-flavored rice: yum.

    Flour tortillas are easy to make and puff up like little balloons on the griddle, making them exceptionally light and fragrant. I’ll send you a recipe if you’re interested.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have made flour tortillas from scratch. We did a huge Cinco de Mayo party, and I made all the tortillas. Exhausting. (You know there’s a French connection to Cinco de Mayo–it’s Mexico’s victory over Napoleon’s forces.) What I miss are good corn tortillas. Fresh!

      Liked by 1 person

          1. Do you have Netflix? Watch the Chef’s Table episode on Cristina Martinez from South Philly Barbacoa – it’s more about her life than the food, so immigration and tradition and family and her oppression in Mexico, but also indigenous corn that they grow in Lancaster County just for her restaurant’s tortillas.

            Liked by 2 people

      1. It’s not difficult to make fresh tortillas. Not long after I arrived in France I decided to make my own, so I ordered a tortilla press online, and bought masa harina. Not as cheap as in the US, but well worth the trouble and it doesn’t take much time to make the tortillas.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I absolutely love your red marble countertop! And your dinners look pretty tasty as well. I’m probably eating less meat these days owing to the cost more than anything, and now that we don’t have a place anymore to BBQ things like chops and sausages, they seldom get a whirl in the apartment kitchen as the smell permeates everything. Funny about the noble meats idea, as I’ve always said I considered lamb to be the Queen of meats. These days she never seems to come down from her lofty throne to grace my table as she’s $$.

    After prolonged drought and the misery of bushfires we’ve finally had some rain! Typically, it’s come down in sheets so flooding is now in the news. Australia … The weather is always crazy here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad to hear you have rain! But isn’t it a typhoon?
      The marble is local, from Caunes-Minervois, used at Versailles and the Paris Opera. The kitchen is in the middle of the living room so we wanted beautiful counters. So glad we didn’t do Plan A, which was then-trendy black granite.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s divine! I have your Plan A but just a reconstituted veneer over an old laminate counter. A no fuss/low cost decision as I couldn’t decide on the beautiful colours of marble and changed my mind about doing a proper renovation in the end and just went for a bit of a spruce. Indecision is such a budgetary friend! … Yes there is a cyclone about to hit the NW of the continent but here where we are it’s behaving like a standard wet summer now with lows bringing bucketing rain. The tourists look so miserable in their plastic ponchos. We’ve had nary a drop for the whole summer until now.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. We spent years fussing over what got put on the marble, but over time, people cut lemons and tomatoes on it and it got etched and now the imperfections are kind of all over and it’s fine. The stressing period was less fine, and I am attracted to the less fussy aspects of other materials.

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  8. Those all sound soooo good, I am going to have to read through with more care. Love using Bento boxes, I wish they were more common here.
    We had weather in the low 70s the other day, yesterday was high 60s with pouring rain and a morning tornado warning (oh joy), today it’s high 30s and blowing a very bitter 25 mph out of the west, headed for the 20s overnight. Daffodils are like “Whaa??”

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I found some bio masa harina from Bob’s Red Mill sold by luckyvitamin.com . The irony for me is that where I used to live outside Portland, Oregon, Bob’s was five minute drive from my house! But the corn tortillas are very easy – just water, a bit of salt, the masa, and a tortilla press. I don’t make a lot but the process is generally pretty easy.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. It’s like with flour tortillas–the process is easy, but if you’re making a lot (and because they are so good when fresh, everybody eats more, not just one or two), then even easy takes an eternity. I’ll look into luckyvitamin. Thanks for the tip!

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  9. Before I met my wife I traveled to England, late 70’s and 80’s. Great pleasure in riding the trains of British Rail, and footplate rides with the drivers, as I worked for the ATSF RR as a conductor. What was good about the somewhat dismal culinary landscape was the vegetarian restaurants. Certainly not vegan, with the full use of English dairy and eggs, but some really good cooking. Loved eating at Food For Thought in Covent Garden. Anyway, with my wife, we visited France, and really enjoyed French cuisine, but trying to find vegetarian restaurants was just hopeless, even in Paris. Do remember a great little place in Avignon. But cooking allows us to be what we want!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m really lucky now where I live here in France, as recently a little coffee shop/restaurant opened up and they specialize in vegan and vegetarian food. The owners are English. I also had some nice vegetarian in Cahors over the summer, so there’s hope for us here.

    Thanks for posting your recipes!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are more and more options. We had dinner at Domaine Michaud, and it’s table d’hôte, with one menu for everybody. But they make exceptions for vegetarians/vegans/gluten-free, etc. We booked a table with mostly omnivores and two vegetarians. The vegetarian dishes were fantastic, very refined, delicious, complex, and not just the meat dishes with the meat removed. They were actually better IMHO than the omnivore option.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. There are so many great ideas here. I cannot wait to try them out. I have just returned from Arizona visiting my step-son and my grandkids. While there we ate a fabulous vegetarian Mexican dinner.

    Grilled cauliflower steak on a bed of black bean puree topped with a red cabbage, jicima slaw with a siracha lime crema. It was delicious. Also had quesadillas made with blue corn tortillas filled with butternut squash, zucchini and cheese. they were served on a smear of guacamole with sour cream.

    I have found a few really good vegan blogs I will send you a few links.

    I hope all is well with you. You have been on my mind lately. Have a wonderful week.

    Liked by 1 person

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