So you’re a vegetarian…WHAT do you eat?

When I was six years old, I became a self-declared vegetarian.  Ever since, I’ve found that people don’t hold back when they are curious about your dietary habits.  I’ve gotten everything from simple questions (“why?”) to more difficult ones (“but you eat chicken, right?”).  But over the years, the number one question I’m asked contains four simple words: “WHAT do you eat?”

Over the years, my responses have varied depending upon the tone in which the question is asked and the extent to which I believe the person asking the question really wants an answer (and isn’t just criticizing me in a question format).

Asked in an innocent and curious way:  ”Well, basically, my diet is plant-based, which means that I eat mostly fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes.  Although some vegetarians choose not to, I do enjoy fish, eggs and dairy in moderation.  And I try my best to eat seasonally so I can can enjoy the tastes and nutrients my food brings me to the fullest.”

Asked in a “you’re crazy” way:  Same as above, but I add “I am always full of energy, and feel and look great.  How do you feel today?”

And asked in an obnoxious, sabotaging way, in which there is no hope of engaging in pleasant conversation or inspiring someone: “I’m kosher.”  Vegetarianism is actually the highest form of Kashrut, and for whatever reason, referencing religion makes people like this feel uncomfortable.  They never say another word and I get to walk away with the last laugh!

If you are considering going vegetarian, one of my friends recently embarked on the journey and is .  (She is an incredible writer and a fabulous fellow foodie – be sure to check in as she chronicles her veggie experience.)

Another good way to answer this question is by responding with recipes that will make people salivate.  See below for recipes from our Asian-inspired dinner last night.  Enjoy!

Sushi

Sushi rice

Rice vinegar

Salt

Sugar

Kombu seaweed

Nori sheets

Wasabi powder

1 Kirby cucumber, cut into matchstick pieces

1 carrot, cut into matchstick pieces

1 avocado

sprouts

sushi-grade tuna, cut into thick matchstick slices (optional)

Rice Preparation:

Combine 1/4 cup rice vinegar, 2 teaspoons salt, 1/4 cup sugar, and a 4-in. piece of kombu seaweed into a saucepan.  Heat on the stove over medium heat until the sugar and salt are dissolved into the vinegar.  Do not boil.  Leave sitting off heat until needed, and remove the kombu before using.

In the meantime, Rinse the rice in cold water.  Cook the rice in an equal amount of water in a 2-qt. pot on the stove following the package’s directions, or by bringing to a boil, then cooking over very low heat until the water is evaporated.

When the rice is finished cooking, transfer to a glass bowl and add the vinegar seasoning mix to the rice, tossing gently with a large, wooden spoon.  Cool rice, tossing occasionally, about 15 minutes.

Sushi:

Place a sushi mat on a work surface with slats running crosswise.  Arrange 1 sheet nori, shiny side down, on the mat, lining up the edge of the sheet with the edge of the mat nearest you.  Using damp fingers and a large wooden spoon, gently press rice into a thin layer on the nori, leaving a 1 3/4 in. border on the side farthest from you.

Arrange your first sushi ingredient of choice (cucumber, for instance), in an even strip horizontally across the rice, starting 1 inch from the side nearest you.  Arrange your next ingredients just above the first one in the same manner.  Repeat for all of your ingredients (I recommend starting with just 1-3 ingredients in each roll, as it can get messy!)

Beginning with the edge nearest you, lift the mat up with your thumbs, holding the filling in place with your fingers (it helps if your hands are still wet) and fold the mat over the filling so that the upper and lower edges of rice meet.  Then squeeze gently but firmly along the length of the roll, tugging the edge of the mat farthest from you as you tighten.

Once the whole roll is sealed, transfer it, seam side down, onto a cutting board.  Cut each log crosswise into 6 pieces with a wet thin-bladed knife.  Serve with wasabi paste, soy sauce and ginger.

Plum and Goat Cheese Salad

Baby spinach (or your greens of choice)

2 ripe plums, thinly sliced

1 handful dried cranberries

2 T goat cheese crumbles

Toss. Serve a light honey vinaigrette (balsamic vinegar, honey, olive oil, salt and pepper) on the side.

Peanut Rice Noodles

1/2 pound rice noodles

1/2 cup chopped peanuts, roasted, skinned

1 cup shredded red cabbage

1 bunch scallions, chopped

Peanut sauce:

1/4 cup natural peanut butter

1 clove garlic, minced

1/8 cup orange juice

2 t. tamari

Bring a pot of water to a boil, then turn off the heat and soak the rice noodles for 10 minutes.  Drain and allow to cool.

In a bowl, prepare the peanut sauce.  Combine all of the ingredients until they are well blended.  Add water to get desired consistency.  In a arge bowl, mix the rice noodles with the peanut sauce.  Top each serving with peanuts and scallions.

Note: You could also use udon or soba noodles in place of the rice noodles.

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