In another life I’m fairly certain I was a rabbit. My love for salad is inexplicable—I could be happy with arugula to spring mix for lunch and dinner, seven days a week. This being said, I am not a vegetarian nor do I eat salad for every meal. Instead, I avidly follow the fleisch-geist and partake in a varied diet.
Living with a vegetarian this summer has broadened my love and admiration for meat free cuisine. Sick of pasta, I set out to make delicious dishes that were simple alternatives to default vegetarian options.
Finally, after weeks of sauna-like weather, Florence had mercy on me. My utter bliss when I woke up to a breeze welcomed a trip to San Lorenzo Mercato Centrale. If you ever come to Florence, I recommend shopping here for both the experience and fresh products.
While scoping out produce vendors for the best options and prices, I stumbled across a stand selling chili powder. A native Texan, I naturally adore chili and was immediately inspired to make a vegetarian one that evening.
This impromptu recipe is incredibly simple and flexible—feel free to substitute/add your favorite vegetables or spices!
- 1 T Olive Oil (or however much it takes to line the bottom of your pot)
- 1 White Onion, chopped
- 3 Carrots, chopped
- 3 Cloves of Garlic, minced
- 2 Bell Peppers, chopped
- 3 Celery Stalks, chopped
- 1 T Chili Powder
- ½ Cup Dried Porcini Mushrooms (can use fresh, but in this recipe the broth is used)
- 1 Cup Mushroom Broth
- 1 Can Peeled Tomatoes with liquid, diced
- 1 ½ Teaspoons Dried Oregano
- 1 ½ Teaspoons Fresh Basil
- First, take your dried mushrooms and soak in warm water for at least 10 minutes. Extract the mushrooms, squeezing out excess liquid. Set aside, but keep the mushroom broth.
- Coat the bottom of a pan with the olive oil. Add the onion, carrots, and garlic. Sauté until soft.
- Continue to stir while adding the bell peppers, celery, and chili powder. Let vegetables cook for about 5 minutes.
- Add mushrooms, stirring for 2 minutes. Then add the can of tomatoes with 1 cup of heated mushroom broth.
- Stir in dried oregano, salt, and pepper.
- Cover and let simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Comforting, fulfilling, and spicy, this chili sent me to bed satisfied and excited for leftovers. I recommend toasting some bread with olive oil for getting those last bits of sauce!
Tofu and Vegetable Stir-Fry with Peanut Sauce
Craving Thai food, I decided a stir-fry with peanut sauce would be an excellent and easy vegetarian meal. To boost the protein, I instinctively defaulted to tofu. Now, buying tofu in Florence is rather difficult. You cannot buy it at most markets or grocery stores. Instead, of all places, I found tofu in a shop that sells candles and fragrances. Weird, but go with it…
There are many ways to cook tofu, but in a stir-fry I recommend going a crispy route. In this recipe I went with the egg and cornstarch wash.
- 1 teaspoon Vegetable Oil
- 2 Fresh Zucchini, chopped
- 2 Fresh Carrots, chopped
- 1/2 White Onion, chopped
- 1 Cup of Green Beans
- 1 Bell Pepper, Chopped
- 1 T fresh Ginger, minced
- Salt and Pepper
- 3/4 ounce Tofu, cubed (*remember to press out the excess water)
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 cup Cornstarch
- Salt and Pepper
- 3/4 cup Vegetable Oil
- 3/4 cup peanut sauce (can purchase or make: see separate recipe below)
- 1/4 cup chopped peanuts
- Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the vegetables and sauté until tender.
- Continue to stir and add the minced ginger. Salt and pepper to taste. Once vegetables are cooked to desired tenderness, remove from heat and place vegetables in a dish. Set aside.
- Whip the eggs in a bowl. Then, in a different bowl, add cornstarch, salt, and pepper.
- Dip the tofu in the eggs, then the cornstarch.
- Put the vegetable oil in the skillet and heat up. On medium heat, cook the coated tofu for 5 minutes, or until golden and brown.
- Stir in the peanut sauce and chopped peanuts to coat.
Thai Peanut Sauce
This sauce makes the tofu and rice. It has a nice kick to it that finishes sweet, just what you want in a peanut sauce. Her recipe makes a lot, but keeps well in the fridge or freezer.
Reheat the vegetables if they’ve cooled. Prepare rice for the bottom of bowl. Add the vegetables, tofu, and peanut sauce on top. Enjoy!
Cheers to vegetarians,