Becky Luigart-Stayner

Solve the protein problem: Spread it around with these four exciting menus.

By Peter Berley
August 20, 2008

As vegetarians, we often seek alternative foods to stand in for that slab of protein in the center of the plate (aka meat)―foods that make us feel comfortable and confident that we are indeed getting a square meal. Few choices fit this description: tofu, tempeh, and seitan (wheat gluten).

Beyond those, we tend to smother vegetables with cheese and opt for egg-based casseroles or pies. And, of course, there's the all-purpose bean. On special occasions, we may turn to time-consuming stuffed vegetables or filled doughs.

But the best way to ensure proper nourishment and get the greatest pleasure is to create a well-rounded plate. The four dinners we feature here go beyond eggs, beans, and cheese.

Whichever menu you chose, there will be plenty to please―and nourish―everyone at your table.

Blue Plate Special
The Blue Plate Special includes the classic vegetarian combination of whole grains and legumes, with two contrasting sides. The dishes are simple and straightforward, but the flavor combination works.

A Taste of Thailand
In our version of Thailand's famous noodle dish, Pad Thai, coconut milk, tofu, and roasted peanuts deliver the protein. Briefly cooked crisp asparagus tossed in zesty vinaigrette makes a satisfying accompaniment.

Casserole Dinner
Robust Grits Casserole with White Beans and Rosemary makes a beautiful centerpiece for a buffet or an easy carry-along to a potluck. Every element of the casserole can be made up to two days ahead and refrigerated (assemble and bake just before serving). Hearts of Romaine Salad with Creamy Soy Dressing complements the casserole's Mediterranean flavors, and it provides refreshing crunch and added protein.

Tex-Mex Taco Supper
The Tex-Mex Taco Supper brims with contrasting colors, flavors, and textures. Savory black beans with seitan provide a solid protein base to go with crisp taco shells, spicy Avocado Salsa, and marinated vegetables.

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