Vegetarianism is no longer a trend in America, but a way of life for a growing percentage of the population.
That’s why the Kendall College School of Culinary Arts in Chicago trains future chefs to use passion and ingenuity in cooking for the range of vegetarian lifestyles enjoyed by Americans—from “flexitarians” (those who eat meat only occasionally) to lifelong vegans.
“Today’s vast variety of vegetables, fruits, grains, beans, legumes and nuts taps the creative juices of many a chef and cook,” says Eric Stein, RD, CCE, a culinary instructor at Kendall College. “While the benefits of a well-rounded vegetarian diet can include improved health, more good news is that vegetarian cooking can be just as delicious—or even more so—than meat options.”
To illustrate, Chef Stein’s earthy Mushroom, Lentil & Farro Stew is a definite best bet for warming up diners during the colder season. Featuring “meaty” texture from ingredients such as mushrooms and whole-grain farro, this a great vegetarian alternative to other winter stews.
Likewise, Chef Stein’s Garden Vegetable & Quinoa Lasagna for warmer weather twists the classic dish by swapping out lasagna noodles with thinly sliced zucchini. Quinoa—an “ancient” whole grain and complete protein from a plant source—as the starch helps make this dish a vegetarian favorite.
Following are Chef Stein’s tips for foodservice operators to capitalize on the goodness of whole grains and other foods in ways that even die-hard meat lovers will crave!
7 Tips to Go Meatless
More American consumers are learning that, if planned correctly, a vegetarian diet can be lifelong, healthy and satisfying. Here are seven tips from Chef Eric Stein, MS, RD, CCE, of Kendall College’s School of Culinary Arts, for delivering pleasure and gratification to vegetarian customers, which can translate to repeat business for your operation.
- The semi-vegetarian diet known as “flexitarianism” emphasizes eating meatless up to 80% of the time, with animal proteins (primarily seafood) consumed on an infrequent basis. To meet the demands of this growing population, market your vegetarian options via descriptive menu language, table tents and other ways to let customers know you offer great-tasting choices featuring “on trend” flavors and cooking methods.
- Discover the abundant world of whole grains for eating satiety and better health. Substitute usual starch choices such as potatoes, pasta or white rice with grains such as amaranth, quinoa, farro, barley, spelt and brown and other colored rices.
- Many people reject a vegetarian diet because they fear not consuming adequate protein. Educate your customers about high-protein and complete-protein plant sources.
- Go green! Varieties of green leafy vegetables abound, many that your customers might not have tried. Seek out a new variety every week or two and research a delicious recipe for a special.
- Don’t overdo it with dairy and eggs. Cheese, eggs, ice cream and the like are meatless foods from animal sources, but they can be rich in calories, saturated fat and cholesterol.
- The same satisfying umami flavor sense provided by animal proteins can also be found in plant-based foods such as mushrooms, tomatoes and seaweed.
- To offer “meaty” texture without the meat, vegetables such as eggplant, portobello mushrooms and bell peppers contribute a pleasing “bite” that makes dishes heartier.
Garden Vegetable & Quinoa Lasagna
Courtesy of Eric Stein, MS, RD, CCE, the Kendall College School of Culinary Arts, Chicago
Yield: 8 servings
- 4 c. vegetable broth
- 2 c. dry quinoa (rinsed thoroughly and drained)
- 1 t. kosher salt
- 2 25-oz. jars marinara sauce
- 8 fresh basil leaves, chopped
- 1 c. ricotta cheese
- 1 c. crumbled goat cheese
- 2 large zucchini, cut into very thin rings
- 2 large summer squash, cut into very thin rings
- 2 large eggplant, peeled, cut in half lengthwise and sliced very thinly
- 1 c. finely grated Parmesan cheese
- In a small saucepot, combine the broth, quinoa and salt. Stir well and bring to boil.
- Cover the pan with a lid and reduce heat to simmer. Allow the quinoa to cook for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the quinoa to rest, covered, for 5 minutes.
- Transfer the quinoa from the pan to a large bowl with 1 jar of the marinara and the basil. Mix to combine. Fold in the ricotta and goat cheeses.
- Spoon ¼ of the remaining jar of marinara sauce over the bottom of an 8” square baking dish.
- Lay overlapping slices of zucchini, squash and eggplant over the marinara sauce in the baking dish. Spoon half of the quinoa mixture over the vegetables, and cover with another ¼ of the marinara. Repeat with more vegetables, the remaining quinoa, and ¼ of the marinara.
- Top with the remaining vegetable slices and remaining marinara. Sprinkle the Parmesan over the lasagna.
- Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake at 400°F for 30 minutes.
- Remove the foil from the baking dish and cook the lasagna an additional 15 minutes or until the zucchini is tender and the top is bubbly and browned.