healthy eating for healthy aging

Summer is vegetarian-friendly

Summer is vegetarian-friendly

When someone says “summer food”, what pops into your mind?

  • Ice Cream?
  • Grilled burgers?
  • Fresh tomatoes?
  • How about … Vegetarian?

Summer is the best season to be a vegetarian (or vegan).  Fresh vegetables abound.  When the weather is hot, we prefer foods that are lighter and more refreshing.  What I like best is that you don’t need to stick to complicated recipes or buy a bunch of fussy ingredients in order to put tasty meals on the table.  In fact, vegetables came to my rescue one recent evening.  I had nothing planned for dinner, but I had plenty of raw ingredients, so I got busy and quickly ended up with a multi-dish meal.

  1. First off, I had already boiled some eggs, so egg salad was on the menu.  It’s high protein and vegetarian.  If you can find lovely organic eggs from barnyard chickens, so much the better.
  2. Second, I had some summer squash and zucchini in the frig, so those were sliced up with a sweet onion and sautéed in olive oil, which is pretty simple.
  3. Third, I had some pre-cooked potatoes, so I made a quick potato salad, throwing in some chopped red onion and a chunked-up cucumber from the garden for extra crunch.  Dressed it with some olive oil and apple cider vinegar and a dash of dill.
  4. Fourth, I’d picked some green beans, so I decided to make a bean salad.  Ingredients included a can of kidney beans (drained and rinsed), the green beans that I steamed until they were still slightly crisp, chopped red onion, crumbled feta cheese, 1/2 fresh jalapeño (finely chopped) and some minced sun-dried tomato (because I didn’t have any fresh tomatoes around).  I added a bit of fresh oregano, salt, pepper and lime juice.
  5. Fifth, I sliced up a piece of ciabatta and grilled the slices briefly (grilled dry!).  Minced up several cloves of garlic and mixed them with olive oil.  Then spread this over the grilled bread and topped with some very thinly sliced Manchego cheese.
  6. Sixth, cooked some fresh corn.  It was plain, but if you want to add calories (feeding teenagers?), you could dress the corn up with a Mexican street-style coating of mayonnaise, chipotle, garlic and lime juice.

That’s a lot of food, but then you don’t need to eat huge amounts of any of it. People who think meatless meals aren’t filling or satisfying will find it hard to eat too much of this meal.  It’s all plant-based and vegetarian.  If you wanted to make it vegan, leave out the cheese and egg salad.  Instead of egg salad, serve some roasted spiced garbanzo beans.  You can use hummus instead of cheese on the grilled bread, and simply leave the cheese out of the bean salad, perhaps garnishing it with sunflower seeds.

For this type of quick summer meal, it helps to keep certain ingredients around so you can put dishes together with as little fuss as possible:

  • canned beans
  • various cheeses, especially feta, fresh mozzarella and some hard grating-type cheeses like Parmesan
  • nuts
  • olive oil
  • lemons and limes
  • vinegar
  • onions — red, sweet and yellow
  • eggs
  • potatoes, especially varieties that work well in salads or grilled
  • And of course, fresh corn and tomatoes when they’re available.

If you’re trying to eat more a plant-based diet in general, summer is a great time to make that transition.  Whether your vegetables come from your back yard or the local farmer’s market or the grocery store, summer is the best time to let the seasonal choices guide your menu.