Throughout my years as a vegetarian, many friends have shared with me their failed attempts at becoming veggie, too tempted by the piercing smell of a BBQ, a pollo a la brasa, and the likes. But there was never any of that in my experience, because I thankfully got all the support I could’ve wished for in my house. The usual pan for lunch became 2 pans from the moment I decided to quit meat: one with “normal” food, and one with the vegetarian version of “normal” food. I did not have to stop enjoying all the flavors I had grown up with and loved, because every effort was put into helping me eat the way I was used to, but sans the animal protein.
When I started cooking for myself years later, I felt confident in the kitchen because I had been geared up with lots of delicious ideas to keep eating my favorite dishes despite the “inconvenience” of being vegetarian. That said, I started my cooking days as a stick-to-the-recipe kind of girl, but I think I’ve come a long way from then. Now that I blog about food, I have become more adventurous and creative, and like to mix, match and change stuff more often than I used to.
Today’s meal, inspired by my mom’s Seco de Pescado recipe from The Everything Peruvian Cookbook, is a good example. The easiest way to turn any dish vegetarian is by replacing the meat with a vegetarian protein such as tofu, soy meat, or portobello mushrooms. But instead of doing that, I turned the potatoes that usually accompany this traditional entree into gnocchi, and left the meat completely out of the formula. I really liked what came out of this, and it brought me back to the seco taste of my childhood that I hadn’t enjoyed in a very long time. Most importantly, I had fun!
What’s your favorite and most creative way of turning a dish vegetarian?
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 medium red onion, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 tablespoon ají amarillo paste (optional)
- 2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
- ½ red bell pepper, diced
- ¾ cup cilantro leaves, blended with ¼ cup water
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- Salt and pepper
- 1 cup fava beans or green peas, cooked
- 1 pound potato gnocchi
- Parmesan cheese
- Heat the vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring until very tender (about 5-7 minutes).
- Add ají amarillo paste, tomatoes, red bell pepper, cilantro paste, salt and pepper.
- Cook for 5 minutes.
- Add the vegetable stock, put the lid on, lower the heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the cooked fava beans or green peas and keep warm.
- In the meantime cook the gnocchi in boiling salted water. They are ready when they float.
- Drain and combine with the sauce.
- Serve with Parmesan cheese.