Friday, June 24, 2011

Vegetarian for Beginners: Roasted Potatoes, Eggs, & Greens

Maybe it's because I've been meeting lots of new neighbors, but lately I've found myself explaining my husband's vegetarianism a lot. It's a practical conversation: what does he eat, they want to know. Don't I, a willing carnivore, get tired of dulling down my cooking to suit his taste? It's made me more mindful, and also a little proud, especially when the meal involves stuff from the garden. It's got me thinking.

The hardest thing about cooking vegetarian, I think, is the lack of a main character. Working with meat, it's a foregone conclusion that the chops or the roast or the steak is going to be the star of the show: everything else is just a side-plot. Building a vegetarian meal is more like picking a soccer team. You want a good striker, a good sweeper, a good goalie, and lots of strong and capable wing-people. This meal is like that: a trifecta of simple foods so comforting the absence of meat isn't noticeable.

We cook this a lot: in the summertime with fresh-from-the-garden chard or beet greens; in the wintertime with frozen spinach or kale. It'll work with escarole, collards, and just about any other dark leafy green you can name. Potatoes and fresh or frozen greens are always available, so the meal tastes good and in-season all year. 

The "Recipe"

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees while you cube as many potatoes as will fit in your biggest roasting pan. Keeping the potatoes spread out in a single layer will ensure crispness. Add one or two tablespoons of olive oil-- enough to keep things from sticking to the pan-- and a liberal sprinkle of salt, pepper, and maybe some dried rosemary or dill if you're feeling fancy. Roast, turning the potatoes every 10-15 minutes or so, until done, about thirty minutes.


Warm some olive oil in a big frying pan, and toss in a sliced clove of garlic. Add as much rinsed, stemmed, roughly chopped greens as will fit, and set the lid on the pan. Greens reduce, a lot, when they cook-- once the greens wilt down you can add more to the pan, if desired. Cook tender greens like spinach a mere two or three minutes, and tough kale ten minutes or longer. Splash a little balsamic vinegar over, salt, pepper, and serve.

Cook two eggs per person, however you like 'em. If you cook them once-over easy, you can let the yolks break over the crispy roasted potatoes, which is about as close to heaven as it gets... just my humble opinion, of course.


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