No Such Thing as Down-Home Vegetarian

**Note to Readers** The following should be read with the best backwoods, hillbilly accent you can muster.

‘parently vegetarianism is just a fancy yankee thing. Down here we don’t have modus operandi or philosophy when it comes to food. Ya just eat, and if the meal don’t have meat…then it just don’t have meat. That’s why all vegetarian cookbooks and recipes are from yankees, or hoytee toytee types on the west coast.

Ok ok, stop with the hick voice. But I have noticed that a lot of recipes I’ve come across are re-inventing and fancing up down home cooking. Last nights (attempted) meal is a good case in point. I set out to make Cheddar Polenta Scallion Croquettes. Do you know what Cheddar Polenta Scallion Croquettes are? Cheesy grits grittle cakes! That’s all, nothing French about it. Just corn meal cooked down into a mash (polenta) left out to set, the cut into thin pieces and fried. Grittle cake! It sounds easy enough, but when I poured the polenta into a baking dish to cool and set, I didn’t use a big enough baking dish, making it much thicker than needed thus, it took forever to set and really just didn’t work. But the original idea was a good one, I think one day I’ll try it again.

To accompany our Cheddar Polenta Scallion Croquettes I made Broccoli Cheese Bites which were good, but just not worth it. And Mushroom Pasta.  The Broccoli Bites were:

2 cups chopped broccoli

1 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

3 eggs

1 cup Italian breadcrumb

All ingridents are mixed together (I did the egg first, then cheese, broccoli and finally breadcrumb to make mixing easier) and formed into bite size patties. The patties are then placed on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper and cooked 25 mins at 375. After 15 mins turn over.

They turned out ok–I mean, it’s cheesy broccoli! but just a little dried out. I blame that on my erratic oven more than the recipe.  I set it to 325 hoping it would settle on 375, but instead my broccoli bites cooked at 425 the whole time.  Next time, I think I’ll just stick to cheesy broccoli and rice or pasta. Which leads me to my final dish.

I was (correctly) worried that fried polenta cakes and broccoli bites would be a little dry and heavy so I tried to quickly come up with something else to balance. I first thought of soup, and I should have stuck with that thought. Instead, I made a creamy pasta and mushrooms. I used just a little more butter than needed to saute mushrooms and added it to pasta. It was creamy and tasty, but poorly paired with the polenta. We ate about 4 bites each and were full until lunch today.

This was a meal full of potential…and carbs. This has become our latest battle: to make meals without meat or processed foods that are filling and lasting. Using grains, pastas and starches are great ways to do just that, but this meal went over board. I do wish I could find a recipe book of typical Louisiana and southern fare sans meat. So many dishes, especially in Louisiana, are “poor people dishes” using mostly beans and rice. When meat is added, it’s tasty, but not always needed. Cajun cooking is a great example of a cuisine which uses spices and cooking methods to bring out a food’s natural ( and tasty ) flavor. I know it’s new fangled, but there’s no reason why there can’t be Southern Vegetarian Cookbooks.

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