Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Five Favorite Ways to Add Savory Flavor to Meatless Meals

Linking up with Moxie Wife! If you're joining us from over there, be sure to have a look at our recipe archives for lots of Lenten meal ideas!

Several years of meatless Lents has yielded some delicious meals, and some that are ... lacking. To really make a meatless dish taste like dinner, it helps to have a few tricks up your sleeve to make up for what is lacking. Here are a few favorite tricks I've learned over the years to keep your diners from asking "Where's the beef?"

1) Parmesan
(Source: Flickr user cosmos_72)
Sure, you always sprinkle a little on your spaghetti, but meatless dishes are the time to really get serious about your Parmesan. Grate it fresh off the block or slice off curls with a vegetable peeler, and use it to top bowls of soup and salad, stir it into risotto, and put a healthy layer on top of that pizza. You won't even miss the pepperoni.

2) Dried Mushrooms
(Source: Flickr user Artizone)
Simmer them in your broth, or crumble/grind them up and use them like a seasoning. Farmhouse Vegetable Soup combines them with soy sauce to make a rich broth. You can usually find porcinis and others at your regular grocery store, but Asian markets tend to have shiitakes for a more reasonable price.

3) Asian Sauces
You can get pretty adventurous with these, or just stick with soy sauce if you'd rather. Tamari is a thicker, smoother-flavored soy sauce. Fish sauce can be used pretty much anywhere you'd use soy sauce, but a little goes a very long way (and when you're not cooking meatless, try it in burgers!) Miso is a Japanese ingredient that can go with just about anything you can think of.

4) Tomatoes
There's a reason tomatoes form the base for so many condiments: they're packed with flavorful glutamates, the same flavor compounds found in beef. Brown some tomato paste (as in Gardener's Pie) or add some sun-dried tomatoes (like in our taco lentils) to get this flavor in concentrated form. And don't forget to put a small tomato in your stock pot!

5) Smoke
Roast those vegetables, caramelize your onions, toast some nuts. Getting some browning going will add a lot of depth of flavor. There's a reason grilled meat tastes so good, and the same flavors build (on a smaller scale), when you brown your vegetables. If your recipe or ingredients don't lend themselves to browning, a bit of liquid smoke or spices like smoked paprika or chipotle powder will do. This is an especially good trick for recipes like split pea or potato soup, where you might be feeling the lack of bacon.

1 comment:

Silliest Bunny said...

Great tips...

Hubby doesn't like mushrooms but if they are dried and I make them into bitties.. he'll never know :)