FLAVORFUL VEGETARIAN BOLOGNESE
When my daughter recently told me that she and her family were going to be vegetarians, I wasn’t surprised. She has never liked handling meat, chicken, or fish. As an adult with her own family, she cooked mostly vegetarian. She and her family did not have a problem eating my meals made with animal protein, but now I will have fun with more vegetarian dishes. Vegetarian Grandson Colin will benefit from this, also.
As a family, we loved to grill and eat dinners on the back deck. My husband, Allen, was truly a grill master. He was able to push on a piece of pork, beef, chicken with his finger and know when it was perfectly done. And his skill with salmon is legendary in our household. He always timed it perfectly and brought it to the table when it would just melt in your mouth.
THE TALE OF THE BAT NAPKINS:
But Allen did have a few quirks, to put it mildly. Warning: If you are squeamish, skip over the next two paragraphs:
One day while eating on the deck, a woodchuck appeared in the yard near the back fence. Allen grabbed the baseball bat on the deck and raced to the back of the yard where the woodchuck was scrambling to dig under and get out. Allen whacked the animal with the bat—poor creature had no chance. We all watched with our mouths hanging open. Then he calmly came back, tossed the creature in the trash can, washed his hands, and continued eating.
Another time, while we were eating grilled salmon, we noticed that a bat was sleeping from the overhang on the very edge of the deck. Allen found a long pole under the deck, quickly and efficiently knocked the bat to the deck flooring. Then he immediately threw his cloth napkin over top of the creature and stomped on it.
Mouths open again.
No wonder Erika does not like to eat meat…
GUESTS SHOULD WATCH OUT FOR BAT NAPKINS
After that incident, the “bat napkins” became a family joke. As a result, I designated a specific napkin as THE bat napkin, because the original napkin landed in the trash with the poor bat. One napkin had a pair of black dots close together, reminiscent of fang marks–you can see the fang marks, above. Now whenever we sit down with the bat napkins on the table, we share the tale, then look to see who has the bat napkin. Maybe I should start giving a prize? No matter how frayed and faded these get, I will always save my bat napkins.
Back to actual cooking. This Bolognese sauce is great over pasta and contains no bats, wood chucks or even supermarket animal protein. Instead, I chopped up onions, mushrooms, celery, carrots, and lentils to replace the ground beef, but still make it chunky and toothsome. Since I had a lonely Roma tomato, I diced it up and added it with the rest of the ingredients. But don’t worry if you don’t have one, just proceed without it.
DON’T FORGET TO PICK THROUGH THOSE LENTILS
Give the lentils a rinse in a colander to remove any debris. I slowly pour the lentils through my fingers into the colander to sift through them to be sure there are no hidden stones lingering among the legumes. I don’t like bothering, but am always glad I did if I find something suspicious. No one wants to break a tooth in the middle of a savory meal.
After the onions have turned translucent, and the other veggies have softened somewhat, toss in all of the other ingredients. Let the ingredients come up to boil, then reduce the heat and simmer it all together for about an hour, stirring occasionally. The sauce will thicken as the lentils cook through.
The strong seasonings of this sauce can stand up to the flavor of whole wheat pasta or brown rice. You can also serve it over zucchini noodles, if so desired. I served this with whole wheat pasta and a side dish of zucchini with roasted corn. Cut up the zucchini and sauté over high heat in a bit of olive oil. Toss in some thawed frozen roasted corn and sprinkle with zest and juice of one lime. Pass grated parmesan to add to sauce and/or vegetables, as desired.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 large, sweet onion, diced
- 2-3 medium carrots, diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups white mushroom, diced
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 28 oz diced tomatoes
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 cup dried brown lentils
- 2 tablespoons dried parsley
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper, plus more to taste
- Parmesan cheese
In a large pot, cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Drain and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in the same pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 2 minutes. Then toss the garlic, carrots, celery, and mushrooms into the pot and continue to cook until vegetables are softened, about 4-5 minutes.
Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally. Continue until the lentils are soft, and the sauce has thickened.
Serve the Bolognese over pasta, rice, or zucchini noodles. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, if desired.