Meals for meatless days

When you want a cool dish, mix canned or cooked beans with raw and cooked vegetables, and even fruit, to make a main-course salad.

Hard boiled eggs, walnuts and cheese dress up roasted eggplant and tomato salad. (photo credit: YAKIR LEVY)
Hard boiled eggs, walnuts and cheese dress up roasted eggplant and tomato salad.
(photo credit: YAKIR LEVY)
It seems that at this time of year, more people are planning meatless meals than in other seasons.
Some simply prefer lighter food when the weather is warm; others are doing so in order to observe the tradition of avoiding meat during the Nine Days leading up to the fast of Tisha Be’av.
An easy way to come up with meatless menus for summertime is to focus on plant sources of protein, such as beans, tofu and seitan (wheat gluten).
To avoid overheating our kitchen, we often make lentil dishes, especially split ones, which cook in a short time, and we opt for canned beans instead of dried ones. For a quick dish, we heat canned or cooked beans or tofu in a tomato, light curry or another sauce, along with fast-cooking vegetables such as zucchini, mushrooms or frozen vegetables.
When you want a cool dish, mix canned or cooked beans with raw and cooked vegetables, and even fruit, to make a main-course salad.
Beans with fruit might sound odd, but the combination can work if it’s done thoughtfully.
Indeed, at a recent potluck party we enjoyed a sweet-and-savory chickpea salad that had corn kernels, diced cooked beets, diced cucumbers and green leaf lettuce, as well as apple slices, red grapes and a dressing of olive oil, lemon juice and vinegar. It was satisfying, yet light and refreshing.
The Greek white bean salad made by Orly Ziv, author of Cook in Israel, would appeal to lovers of Mediterranean flavors. Ziv, whose heritage is Sephardi Greek, makes the salad by combining large cooked white beans with chopped red onion, chopped garlic, hot pepper, chopped Kalamata olives, olive oil, coarse salt, pepper and red wine vinegar or lemon juice, and sprinkles it with chopped parsley.
Kelsey Kinser, author of Vegan Beans from Around the World, turns the American dish of pinto beans spiced with chili powder and cumin into a main-course salad by adding corn, diced green peppers, tomatoes, red and green onions, fresh coriander and a dressing of olive oil and lime juice.
You can build a meal around “meaty” vegetables such as mushrooms or eggplant. To make our roasted eggplant and raw vegetable salad more filling, my husband Yakir and I top the salad with crumbled feta cheese, walnuts and diced hard-boiled eggs. (See recipe.)
Adding quick-cooking grains like bulgur, couscous, rice or quinoa to dishes of beans or vegetables is another way to make summertime suppers more substantial.
Ziv notes that mejadra, the Middle Eastern specialty made of lentils cooked with either rice or bulgur wheat, can be served with yogurt, tahini sauce or salad to make a light meal. When chickpeas replace the lentils and carrots are added, you get Bulgarian sirknize, which Ziv seasons with cumin, garlic, hot pepper, sautéed onion and fresh coriander. For a light whole-grain salad, she mixes bulgur with tomatoes – both raw and lightly cooked – as well as sautéed onion, preserved lemon, coriander seeds and fresh coriander leaves. (See recipe.)
The easiest way to get supper on the table is to choose a main course that requires no cooking, or perhaps just brief heating, as Kinser does to prepare her flavorful entree of couscous with chickpeas. She microwaves the couscous and dresses it with olive oil, red onion, garlic and lemon juice and zest. Next she adds the chickpeas, chopped sweet red pepper, cucumber, parsley and fresh mint. This tabbouleh-style couscous makes a perfect entree for a hot summer day. (See recipe.)
The writer is the author of Feast from the Mideast.
Bulgur and Tomato Salad
This recipe is from Cook in Israel. Author Orly Ziv wrote that this salad can be served warm or cold, as a side or light meal. For more flavor, she recommends lightly crushing the coriander seeds so they will open a bit.
Makes 4 to 6 servings as a side dish, or 2 as a light main course.
❖ ½ cup fine bulgur
❖ 1/3 cup water
❖ 2 Tbsp. olive oil, or to taste
❖ 1 small onion, chopped
❖ 1 Tbsp. coriander seeds
❖ 3 tomatoes, cubed
❖ 2 green onions, sliced
❖ 2 slices preserved lemon, chopped (optional)
❖ Salt to taste
❖ Chopped cilantro (fresh coriander)
Put the bulgur in a bowl and cover with the water.
Soak until the water has been fully absorbed.
Meanwhile, fry the onion in olive oil in a skillet until softened. Add the coriander seeds and half of the cubed tomatoes and simmer for a few minutes. Pour on top of the bulgur.
Add the remaining fresh tomato, green onions and preserved lemon, if using, and season with salt.
Allow to sit so the flavors can meld for at least 30 minutes before serving. Serve hot or cold. At serving time, garnish with chopped cilantro.
Eggplant and Tomato Salad with Feta Cheese and Walnuts
Black olives and an abundant garnish of hardboiled eggs, feta cheese and walnuts flavor our salad of roasted eggplant and fresh vegetables.
Serve it with lemon wedges and olive oil and, if you like, with fresh pita or other fresh bread.
When you expect hot weather, you can roast the eggplant and onions at night or early in the morning, or roast the mixture ahead and freeze it.
Makes 4 to 6 servings as a first course, or 2 or 3 as a main course.
❖ 1 onion, halved lengthwise
❖ 450 gr. (1 pound) small eggplants, cut in bite-size cubes
❖ 8 tsp. extra virgin olive oil, or more to taste
❖ 4 tsp. strained fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
❖ Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
❖ Cayenne pepper to taste
❖ 2 finely diced small, slim cucumbers
❖ 2 finely diced medium tomatoes
❖ 1 cup chopped romaine lettuce (optional)
❖ 8 flavorful black olives, pitted, finely diced
❖ 2 Tbsp. chopped green onion
❖ 1/3 to ½ cup chopped parsley
❖ 2 hard-boiled eggs, diced
❖ 60 gr. (2 ounces) feta cheese, crumbled
❖ 1/3 to ½ cup walnuts, chopped
❖ 6 walnut halves (optional)
Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F). Place onion halves cut side down on cutting board. Cut each in three lengthwise, and slice thinly crosswise to obtain small, thin pieces.
Put onion slices and eggplant cubes in roasting pan. Add 4 teaspoons olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast, stirring two or three times, about 45 minutes or until eggplant and onions are tender. Transfer to a bowl and let cool.
Add 4 teaspoons lemon juice, 4 teaspoons olive oil, salt, pepper and cayenne to eggplant mixture.
Add cucumbers, tomatoes, romaine, diced olives and green onion. Reserve 1 tablespoon chopped parsley for sprinkling, and add remaining parsley to eggplant mixture. Mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, cayenne, olive oil or lemon juice if desired.
Put the diced hard-boiled eggs in a small dish, sprinkle them with salt and freshly ground pepper, and mix lightly.
Spoon salad into a shallow serving dish. Top with the diced hard-boiled eggs, crumbled feta cheese, chopped walnuts, reserved chopped parsley and walnut halves.
Chickpea Couscous
This recipe is from Vegan Beans from Around the World. You can cook the couscous on the stovetop but to save time, author Kelsey Kinser recommends preparing it in the microwave.
Makes 4 servings
❖ 300 gr. (10 ounces) couscous (1½ cups)
❖ ½ red onion, finely diced
❖ 3 Tbsp. olive oil
❖ 2 lemons, juiced and zested
❖ 1 garlic clove, minced
❖ A 400-gr. (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
❖ 1 cup chopped and seeded sweet red pepper
❖ 2 cups chopped cucumbers
❖ ½ cup chopped parsley
❖ ½ cup chopped mint
❖ Salt and pepper
Cook the couscous following package directions, or microwave it: Mix couscous with 3 cups water in a bowl and cover it. Microwave on high for 2 to 3 minutes. Let rest for 3 minutes. Uncover, fluff with a fork and check for doneness. If it’s not tender enough, cover and microwave another minute. Let cool.
In a very large bowl, mix onion, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest and garlic. Stir until well-combined.
Add remaining ingredients and toss to coat with the olive oil and lemon juice. Add more lemon juice if desired, and salt and pepper to taste.