Who needs meat with a meal when you have tons of flavor?
Meatless meals don't have to be complicated or lacking for flavor and substance.
Reader Mitch Burnett asked for help with easy to prepare, meatless meals. He is not a vegetarian but simply does not like the taste of meat. He wanted to see more meatless meals in this column.
The faithful who have given up meat for Lent also do not need to feel deprived with the dishes these readers have shared.
Last week was easy, light meals in our house. I made layered burritos with vegetarian refried beans to which sauteed onion and garlic, cumin and vegetable stock were added. Oh, I just wanted spoonfuls of those beans. Believe me, they didn't taste like canned refried beans when I got through with them.
Readers, as usual, have obliged Burnett and shared some of their favorite meatless meals. I guarantee even the most avid meat eater won't miss the meat.
"This is called a meatless Mexican lasagna that a friend gave me several years ago," Carol Fletcher said. "I usually serve a crispy cold coleslaw with this or any side dish you prefer."
MEATLESS MEXICAN LASAGNA
2 cups whole kernel corn (drained, can or frozen works)
1 can black beans with jalapeno, drained
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes (seasoned with basil, garlic and oregano)
1/3 cup diced bell pepper
1 (4.5-ounce) can green chiles (hot or mild, your call)
1 small can sliced black olives
1/3 cup chopped green onions
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon cilantro
1 teaspoon cumin
2 cups grated Mexican cheese
4 large corn tortillas
Combine the first 10 ingredients in a bowl and mix. Spray an 8-by-1-inch casserole dish with nonstick spray. Place 2 corn tortillas in bottoms of dish and add half of the mixture. Cover with 1 cup of cheese. Place 2 tortillas on top of cheese and add remaining mixture. Cover with cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Serve with sour cream and salsa.
-- Submitted by Carol Fletcher
"I am sending you two of our favorite recipes," said a Bradenton reader who asked not to be named. "Don't forget to tell your reader to try frittata and ratatouille as other meatless choices."
A frittata is simply a type of egg and vegetable combination, similar to an omelet. Ratatouille is a flavor mix of fresh vegetables and herbs and spices.
POTATOES WITH GREEK TOPPING
3 pounds potatoes
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
12 imported black or green olives such as kalamata or castelvertrano
1/2 to 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
8 ounces crumbled feta cheese (substitute blue or roquefort if desired)
1 pint cherry tomatoes
Juice of 1 lemon
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Wash potatoes and peel if desired. Cut them into 1-inch chunks. Place chunks in a large bowl with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Stir to coat and spread in a shallow baking pan. Place potatoes in the oven and bake about 40 minutes, stirring twice during cooking.
In the same bowl, place pitted olives, parsley and feta cheese. Cut the tomatoes in half and add them to the bowl. Stir to blend and add a splash of extra olive oil if desired.
When the potatoes are finished, transfer to a serving bowl and squeeze the lemon juice over the top. Pass the topping separately.
Alternatively, put the topping on the potatoes and return to the oven for 10 to 15 more minutes.
(We prefer the second version. Some folks use cottage cheese in this dish. It is important to use fresh lemon juice and fresh parsley.)
-- Submitted by a Bradenton reader
"This recipe was adapted from one published by Sarah Fritschner in the Louisville Courier Journal. Fritschner is the author of the 'Express Lane Cookbook,' " the reader said.
"Here is my second meatless meal idea," the Bradenton woman said. "This recipe is adapted from one published by Bobby Flay in USA Weekend in 1999."
For those who want flavor, this is a must-try meal.
"We have found it easier to oil the bottom of the tortilla stack before assembling this dish," she said. "That way you do not have to flip the tortillas before you start the grilling process. They are much easier to flip after you have started cooking them."
CORN, ZUCCHINI & GOAT CHEESE QUESADILLAS
6 (8-inch) flour tortillas
1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese, grated
1/2 cup white Cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 cup goat cheese
1/4 cup red onion or green onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup zucchini, cut in slivers
1/2 cup fresh corn kernels
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat grill to medium. Combine the grated cheeses and chopped vegetables in a large bowl. Mix well.
Place 4 tortillas on a work surface. Spread softened goat cheese on each and then divide the other cheeses and vegetables among the tortillas. Season with salt and pepper.
Stack the tortillas to make two-layer tortillas and cover each stack with the remaining tortillas. Brush the tops with olive oil and grill, oil side down for 3 to 4 minutes. Brush the other side of the tortillas with oil and carefully flip over. Grill for 2 to 3 minutes until golden brown and the cheese has melted.
Cut into wedges and garnish with salsa.
-- Submitted by a Bradenton reader
While I love meat, I have enjoyed trying these meatless recipes. I think every weekly menu needs a meatless evening meal at least once a week. If you readers have more meatless ideas, please send them to me. Spring is here and summer is on its way, so lighter meals really are the order of the day.
Yes, it is time to clean up the grill for easy cooking. Readers, please send me your favorite grilled or barbecued recipes.
I know readers will appreciate some new ideas.
Andrea Yeager, who can be reached at email@example.com, takes contributions at P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567.