East meets West in vegetable entrees

April 23, 1995|By Bharti Kirchner | Bharti Kirchner,Eating Well magazine United Feature Syndicate

Where I grew up in eastern India, no single course had more importance than the others. In the West, the entree -- almost always a meat, poultry or fish dish -- is the meal's main attraction, and the vegetables and grains get only sideshow billing.

Americans are interested in cooking meatless meals, but they are uncertain about what constitutes a vegetarian entree. A grilled vegetarian burger is a good place to start. Once you have convinced your family that a vegetarian entree can be just as satisfying as meat, they will be eager to try these other vegetable dishes.

Rice, Carrot, Mushroom and Pecan Burgers

Serve on a bun or toasted country bread.

Makes 6 burgers

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped (1 tablespoon)

1/2 pound mushrooms, trimmed and sliced (8-10 mushrooms)

1/2 cup toasted pecan halves (2 ounce)

1 cup cooked rice, preferably brown basmati rice

1 cup grated carrots

1 cup fresh bread crumbs (3 slices bread)

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

ground red pepper (cayenne) to taste

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Heat the broiler. Lightly oil a baking sheet or coat it with nonstick cooking spray and set aside. Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add onions and garlic and saute until the onions are soft, about 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and saute until they are slightly soft, about 3 more minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

In a food processor (not a blender) coarsely chop pecans. Add rice, carrots and the sauteed onion mixture. Pulse a few times until the mixture has a mealy consistency and transfer it to a large bowl. Add bread crumbs and mix well. Season with salt, black pepper and ground red pepper. Stir in egg.

Shape the mixture into 6 patties. Place the patties on the prepared baking sheet. Broil, about 6 inches from the heat, until lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes per side.

Per serving: 301 calories; 8 grams protein; 11 grams fat; 44 grams carbohydrate; 144 milligrams sodium; 36 milligrams cholesterol.

Five-Vegetable Curry

Serve with rice or millet, a bowl of plain yogurt and fresh fruit. Garam masala, an Indian spice mixture, is available in gourmet or Indian food stores. (Penzeys Spice House sells garam masala and other spices through the mail. To order, call [414] 574-0277.)

Serves 4

1 tablespoon vegetable oil, preferably canola oil

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped (1 tablespoon)

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 pound eggplant, unpeeled, cut into 1-inch cubes

3/4 pound potatoes, preferably Yukon Gold, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (3-4 potatoes)

3/4 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (2-3 sweet potatoes)

1/2 pound tomatoes, preferably plum tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped

1/4 pound green beans, cut into 2-inch lengths

1 to 2 tablespoons chopped blanched almonds, ground to a coarse powder

2 teaspoons garam masala or curry powder

Heat oil in a large, steep-sided skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat until very hot. Add garlic and ginger and cook until golden, about 1 minute. Add jalapenos, cumin and turmeric and stir to distribute evenly. Add sugar, salt and 1 cup water. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Add eggplant, potatoes, sweet potatoes and tomatoes. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add greenbeans and simmer, covered, until the vegetables are tender, another 15 to 18 minutes.

With the back of a spoon, mash a few of the potatoes and sweet potatoes and mix in with the sauce. Stir in ground almonds and garam masala or curry powder. Remove from the heat. Let stand 10 minutes before serving to allow flavors to develop.

Per serving: 272 calories; 6 grams protein; 5 grams fat; 54 grams carbohydrate; 1,090 milligrams sodium; 0 milligrams cholesterol.

Spicy Chickpea-Potato Stew

Warmed flour tortillas make a nice accompaniment.

Serves 4

3 cups cooked chickpeas (two 15-ounce cans), drained and rinsed

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped (1 tablespoon)

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

3/4 pound tomatoes, preferably plum tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped

1 pound potatoes, preferably Yukon Gold, peeled and cut into 1 1/2 -inch cubes (4-5 potatoes)

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

ground red pepper (cayenne) to taste

1 small cucumber, peeled and sliced

1 small red onion, thinly sliced and separated into rings

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

Place 3/4 cup of the chickpeas and 3/4 cup water in a blender or food processor and process until smooth; set aside. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until sizzling. Add chopped onions, garlic and jalapenos and saute until the onions are lightly browned on the edges, about 5 minutes. Add cumin and turmeric and stir to distribute evenly. Add tomatoes and the reserved chickpea puree; bring to a boil. Add potatoes, reduce heat and simmer, covered, until the potatoes are nearly done, 15 to 20 minutes.

Stir in the remaining chickpeas. Simmer, covered, until the potatoes are tender (but not mushy) and the stew is heated through, another 5 to 10 minutes. Season with salt, black pepper and ground red pepper. Serve garnished with cucumber slices, red onion rings and cilantro.

Per serving: 348 calories; 12 grams protein, 7 grams fat, 62 grams carbohydrate; 744 milligrams sodium; 0 milligrams cholesterol.

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