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You don’t always have to serve meat as a main course in order to make a delicious dinner.
Plant-based recipes consist of fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, but no dairy, eggs or meat. While I would not be happy with a diet devoid of dairy, eggs or cheese, I am very happy to eat whole plant food meals a few times a month. I am not a purist, so I include olive oil in my cooking preparations. We really liked these recipes and did not think they needed the addition of meat.

Try some plant-based recipes every once in a while. They are good for you and the planet.

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Eggplant Caponata

Serves 6 as an appetizer. This also makes a good spread for bruschetta.

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds eggplant (1 large)

1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for the baking pan
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely diced
1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups chopped Italian tomatoes
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and chopped
8 chopped pitted Kalamata olives
1/4 cup minced jarred roasted red peppers
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Basil leaves for garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and score once or twice with a knife (not hitting the skin on the bottom.)

Roast face down on foil lined baking sheet that has been sprayed with oil, about 20 minutes or until tender. Let drain on a paper towel for 10 minutes, cut side down.

Scoop the eggplant out of the skin and finely chop.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil (or substitute vegetable broth) over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet. Add the onion, celery, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the Italian tomatoes, vinegar and agave and cook for 5 minutes more. Add the remaining oil, eggplant, capers, red peppers, olives and parsley and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes or until thickened.

Cool to room temperature. Drizzle with remaining olive oil and garnish with basil leaves. Serve with your favorite Italian bread.

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Mushroom Ragu

Serve over cooked pasta, polenta or rice.

Ingredients

2½ pounds fresh mixed mushrooms, small and firm
1/2 ounce dried porcini, soaked in 1 1/4 cups warm water
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary, a tender stem about 4-inches long
1 sprig fresh sage, with 4 big leaves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or vegetable broth
1 cup shallots, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1 1/2 cups canned finely chopped Italian tomatoes
1 cup dry white wine
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup vegetable broth

Directions

Squeeze out the soaked porcini and slice them into pieces about 1/4-inch wide. Strain the soaking water and set aside

Clean, trim and slice the fresh mushrooms into thin slices, barely 1/4-inch wide.

Tie all the fresh herb sprigs together with piece of kitchen twine or enclose the leaves in cheesecloth.

Put the oil or vegetable broth into a large, deep skillet with a cover or Dutch Oven and place over medium heat. Add the onions and shallots and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and stir well.

Cook for 6 minutes or more-stirring often-until they’re soft without any browning.

Add all the porcini and sliced mushrooms into the pan.. Sprinkle with another 1/4 teaspoon salt and add in the herb bouquet, toss briefly, raise the heat a bit and cover the pan.

Cook, covered, for about 3 minutes-shaking the pan now and then to sweat the mushrooms.

Uncover and continue to cook over fairly high heat, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms shrink and the liquid evaporates, 5 minutes or more.

When the mushrooms begin to brown, clear a spot and add the wine and stir constantly until the wine thickens and evaporates. Pour in the porcini water, vegetable broth and  Italian tomatoes.

Bring to a boil, stirring and then lower the heat to keep the sauce bubbling gently and cover the pan. Cook for one hour, stirring occasionally.

If after one hour the mushrooms are thoroughly tender and the saucy liquid has thickened, remove the herb bouquet. If you want the sauce thicker, cook for another 30 minutes.

Taste and add salt, if needed, and freshly ground black pepper.

Use the sauce immediately or let it cool. Store it in the refrigerator for a week or freeze, for use within several months.

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Italian Vegetable Stew

Vegetables that will hold up to long cooking times are the best choices for stews. If you use more delicate vegetables, they should be added toward the end of cooking. Good veggie choices for stews are sweet potatoes, russet potatoes, root vegetables such as carrots, turnips and parsnips, green beans, pumpkin, winter squash and cauliflower. Cutting the vegetables into uniform pieces helps them cook evenly.

I used purple and red potatoes in this recipe to give the stew some added color.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil or vegetable broth or water
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 fennel bulb, cut into 1 inch pieces
3 medium carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 stalks of celery, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 1/4 lbs mixed small purple and red potatoes, cut in half
½ cup red wine
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
One 26 oz container strained Italian tomatoes (Pomi) or tomato sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups frozen Italian or regular green beans, partially defrosted

Directions

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Heat the oil (or water) in a Dutch Oven and add the garlic and onions. Saute over low heat for a few minutes until the onion softens.

Add all the remaining vegetables, except the Italian green beans, and stir until coated with the onions. Add the red wine and bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook 10 minutes.

Add the seasonings, strained tomatoes and tomato paste. Turn the heat up to medium and cook until the sauce starts to bubble.

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Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook the stew for 30 minutes. Add the green beans, cover and cook for 10 or 15 minutes more.

Don’t forget the crusty Italian bread to dunk in the sauce.

 

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