I watched the documentary Forks Over Knives quite awhile ago. It touts the benefits of a plant-based diet and demonstrates all the ways it can reduce or eliminate pesky first-/Western world ailments such as heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. Being a vegetarian, the film was preaching to the converted to some degree when I watched it (I do eat some eggs and dairy, though much less than I used to).
But my husband, who lovingly refers to me as a “vegetarian hippie,” surprised me when I found him watching the movie this past weekend. Unlike Food, Inc., the documentary that single-handedly turned me into a vegetarian and which I forced him to watch, Forks Over Knives actually made an impression on him. As the end credits rolled, he declared, “Let’s just eat lentils tomorrow.”
Alas, his plant-based convictions were short lived, and I awoke to the smell of bacon sizzling in the kitchen the next morning. He did, however, mention that he wouldn’t mind a meatless dinner at least once a week.
For me, every day is meatless, but the “Meatless Monday” trend does seem to be gaining some traction across the country. In that vein, I decided to make a delicious meatless meal last night, which just happened to be Monday. Here’s how it went down…
Vegetarian Pasta Fagioli Soup
- One large onion, diced
- 3 carrots, chopped
- 3 celery stalks, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 bunch Swiss chard leaves, chopped (I used a half bunch of spinach)
- 1 28-oz. can of diced tomatoes, with juice
- 1 14-oz. can of cannellini beans, drained
- 1 14-oz. can of kidney beans, drained
- 6 cups of vegetable broth (I used 6 cups of water and added 3 cubes of vegetable bullion)
- 1 tsp. chili flakes (I didn’t measure it out — just added a generous sprinkling because I think the soup is best when it’s spicy)
- 10 sprigs of thyme leaves
- Parmesan rind if you have one (I didn’t, and I think it’s fine without it)
- 1 1/2 cups of small pasta (I used the smallest shells I could find)
- Olive oil (I always use extra virgin)
- Salt and pepper
- Grated Parmesan cheese
First, heat some oil in a large soup pot and add the onion, carrots, and celery. Cook for a few minutes, then add the garlic and some salt and pepper and cook for a few more minutes, until the onions are transluscent. I also like to make sure the carrots have softened a bit.
Next, add the tomatoes and beans and cook the resulting mixtures for a few minutes.
Then, add the Parmesan rind if you have one (I think I’d have to go to Central Market for that), a healthy dose of chili flakes, thyme, and broth or water and vegetable bullion. Bring it to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. The recipe states that you can let it simmer for as little as 30 minutes or as much as two hours. I prefer to let soups and stews cook for as long as possible, but both times I’ve made this recipe I’ve been in a rush and 30 minutes has been perfectly fine.
When you’re almost ready to serve the soup, add in the Swiss chard or spinach (or your preferred leafy green). Cook the pasta separately, not in the soup (I’ve always added dry pasta directly to my soup and now I realize that it soaks up too much of the liquid), and add it once everything is done.
I forgot to take a picture of the soup with the spinach and pasta added in, but here’s how it looked when it was nearly complete:
I served it in large bowls, topped with a sprinkling of Parmesan. Mozzarella might also be good if you aren’t bananas about Parmesan. I also made some basmati rice, and my husband poured the soup over that to give his meal a little extra substance.
After reading the comments on the original recipe on boston.com, I learned that this soup is actually more of a cross between pasta e fagioli and minsetrone. Ridiculous semantics aside, I think it’s an easy, healthy, and delicious recipe that even a meat eater will happily devour.
As a side dish/appetizer, I made Cheesy Quinoa Cakes, which I discovered awhile back on Pinterest. Here is the original recipe, and here is my spin on it:
Cheesy Quinoa Cakes
- 2 cups cooked quinoa
- 2/3 cup grated fontina cheese (I used a full cup because I freaking love this stuff)
- 3 tbs. all purpose flour
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced (I used about four, because I also freaking love green onions)
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper (do NOT add this much unless you really like pepper; the first time I made these, I used the full two teaspoons and all I could taste was pepper; this time, I just seasoned it to taste)
- Red pepper flakes to taste (my own addition)
- 2 1/2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
- Salt to taste
Mix all of the above ingredients except the olive oil, creating this gloppy mess:
Mix it together. Then, heat the olive oil in a pan. Form 1/4-cup patties with the quinoa mixture and place them in the heated pan. The original recipe says to cook them for five minutes on each side, but I just keep an eye on them and cook until they’re just golden brown on each side. Here they are in progress:
There’s also a recipe for Garlic and Lemon Aioli to dip the cakes in, which I made once and didn’t like because I found the lemon taste to be overwhleming. But it might be good with the lemon components reduced or left out entirely, and roasted garlic makes your kitchen smell like heaven. The hubs and I ate the cakes plain. He commented that they’re sort of falafel-esque, and I do think they’d be good in some pita bread with lettuce, tomatoes, and a little Tzatziki. At any rate, here’s the finished product, with a few bites taken out:
All in all, I think my Meatless Monday was a great success. Bon appétit!