LEXINGTON, MASS. — The recent recall of tainted meat has prompted me to do something I've contemplated for a long time: share with others my joy in learning to prepare wonderful vegetarian meals.
A little family history may be in order here. Our daughter was a most unlikely candidate to become a vegetarian. Her restaurant menu choices were very predictable: a hamburger (no lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, or cheese please) and much less frequently, fried chicken.
I can well remember the last hamburger she had. We had grilled hamburgers for supper. She ate hers hesitatingly. After supper she said something to this effect: "If meat doesn't taste that good to me, why do I eat it?"
She determined that evening to stop eating meat or fish of any kind and has never changed that decision she made about nine years ago.
Her brother joined her in deciding to become a vegetarian about 3- 1/2 years ago. My husband, who used to express a desire to have less meat, has gotten his wish.
Our daughter's initial decision had a distinct effect on our home life. Feeling supportive of her wish to preserve life, however, I set out on a new adventure: to continue preparing satisfying and delicious meals without including meat or fish. The desire to do this provided a creative spark that has contributed greater enjoyment to our evening gatherings around the dinner table.
My early inclination was to try to prepare familiar meals with slightly different ingredients. Taste was, and is, of utmost importance.
There is an endless variety of meals incorporating rice, potatoes, pasta, and grains. Adding vegetables, beans, nuts, and breads adds further variety. The judicious use of flavorings, herbs, and spices, makes for wonderfully tasty dishes.
This recipe for black-bean chili was one of our early successes and has become a favorite in our extended family.
As these beans bake, your home will fill with a delicious aroma and the promise of a great meal.
We serve this chili over medium-grain rice the first night and with nachos on a subsequent night if any chili is left.
A choice of toppings is also included.
1 pound dried black beans
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chili powder (or to taste)
1 medium onion, diced
1 or 2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 12-ounce jar of your favorite salsa
Soak beans overnight, or place them in a saucepan covered with 2 inches of water; boil two minutes; cover, and let sit one hour.
Drain beans and place them in a 3-quart oven-proof casserole.
Add enough water just to cover beans.
Bake at 350 degrees F. for about three hours. After two hours, check beans and add more water if beans look a little dry.
Serve over rice, top with Cheddar cheese, diced onion, diced green pepper, diced tomatoes, salsa, sour cream, guacamole, and tortilla chips.
Serves 4 to 6.
1 ripe avocado
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced onion
1 tablespoon minced green pepper
1 tablespoon minced tomato
Cut open avocado. Scoop out flesh. Mash with fork. Squeeze 1/2 lime over avocado. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper. Mix together. Add garlic and vegetables. Sprinkle on a bit more salt and pepper. Squeeze rest of lime over mixture. Combine well. Serve with chili.