In the heart of cattle country, the quest to have an entire meal sans meat can seem a little daunting
Some restaurants only offer basic salads to accommodate vegetarians, and nobody wants to pay for an entire meal and only get a bowl of iceberg lettuce and carrot shreds.
But opting for a hearty plant-based or plant-heavy diet is good for the body, better for the environment and can be pretty tasty with the right recipes.
With the help of local farmers markets and the fresh greens that have become more readily available in grocery stores, it is easier to include fruits and vegetables as the main dish when cooking at home.
And those looking to do so can get experience at several metro vegetarian cooking classes.
Not only do students learn hands on techniques, but they also get to experiment with recipes and ideas that will make even the most novice of at-home cooks feel like top chefs.
Jermiah Duddleston, a chef at the Gourmet Grille at Uptown Grocery, teaches a free cooking class every Saturday.
In June, he showed how to cook grilled vegetarian sandwiches, featuring red onions, tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, red bell peppers and chard radicchio on ciabatta bread. He finished them with a roasted garlic aioli.
On Saturday, Duddleston will demonstrate how to prepare spinach and sweet potato enchiladas with a goji berry chimichurri. The enchiladas contain fresh red onion, poblano pepper and gold bell pepper too.
“I try to teach people to dance. I want them to learn the steps, I want them to feel good about what they are doing, and then I want them to improvise,” said Duddleston. “My dishes are simple and versatile.”
Over the course of a year, Uptown’s Saturday classes have doubled in size. Duddleston forms the curriculum based on what students want to learn.
Hearty, tasty, satisfying
The vegetarian Moroccan cooking class at Francis Tuttle Technology Center is one of chef Carolyn Pendley’s most popular courses. It features fresh produce and plenty of bean-based dishes, which are an integral part of the Moroccan diet and pair perfectly with the robust spices of that culture’s cuisine.
“The vegetarians that do come to class seem to be so starved for decent vegetarian offerings,” said Pendley.
She weaves protein into every meal by way of nuts, nut cheese, beans, tofu, soyrizo and soy crumbles to make the dishes hearty, tasty and satisfying.
Vegan, gluten-free and other special diets can be incorporated in her classes at the request of the students.
Nourished Food Coaching and Savory Spice Shop have teamed up to offer a cooking class that features gazpacho, a raw, cold soup that’s perfect for summertime. Recipes focus on seasonal, organic and local ingredients, when possible.
“We try to do simple and flavorful food, so it’s both healthy and enjoyable, but also something that is reachable,” said Jamie Conway, a chef and certified health and nutrition coach and co-creator of Nourished.
Choosing a meatless meal, even just once per week, can lead to improved health. If the idea of going completely vegetarian is overwhelming, Lindsey Riddle, co-owner of Nourished, recommends including a new vegetable with each meal.
The summer growing season is an ideal time to begin with new vegetables, as they are plentiful at markets.
Duddleston suggests using herbs and garlic to further enjoy the flavor of vegetables in their raw state, while Pendley recommends experimenting with tasty liquors, cognac, brandy and wine, as well.
Take some tips from the pros to bump your at-home cooking up to chef status, and get healthy doing so.