Vegetarian Journal's Foodservice Update

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Vegetarian Journal's Foodservice Update
Healthy Tips and Recipes for Institutions

Volume IX, Number 4  Fall 2001  


By Nancy Berkoff, RD, EdD, CCE

As the number of vegetarians grows each year, vegetarian cuisine is obviously becoming more and more popular. Making your kitchen and menu veggie-friendly includes creativity and a veggie mindset; no new equipment or expensive ingredients are required! You'll find that vegetarian cuisine is as easy to prepare as any cuisine and you don't need to buy a bunch of special ingredients unless you want to.

Before adding menu items, ascertain what you customers' needs are. Some customers may be cutting back on meat and dairy for health reasons, some may be lacto-ovo vegetarians (eating eggs and dairy, but no meat or fish), and some may be strict vegans (excluding all animal products, including dairy, eggs, honey, etc.). After assessing customer needs, educate your personnel. Include both staff and customers in mini-taste panels, product samplings, and cooking demos. A visit to a local vegan restaurant or to a food store that stocks a lot of vegan products could be educational.

Review your inventory and identify vegetarian ingredients. Here are some suggestions of items to have on hand (you'll be surprised at how veggie-friendly you already are):

In the freezer: frozen vegetables and fruit, frozen potatoes, frozen pie crust (made with vegetable shortening), fruit juice concentrates (to be used as a cooking sweetener in place of sugar).

In the refrigerator: fresh produce, fresh herbs, fresh garlic and ginger, fresh potatoes, tortillas (made with vegetable oil), assorted breads, margarine, prepared salsas, chutneys, oil-based salad dressings (made without dairy or eggs), juices.

In nonperishable storage: canned tomato products, canned and dried beans (lentils, pinto, kidney, navy, garbanzos, black-eyed peas, split peas, white, lima, etc.), pasta, rice, potato mixes (made without dairy), grains (couscous, kasha, oats, bulgur, etc.), peanut butter, fruit preserves, vinegars, mustard, oils, dried herbs and spices, flavoring extracts and zests, canned fruit in juice or water, dried fruit, and sugar-free cake and pudding mixes (be sure they are also dairy- and egg-free).

Inspect the labels if you are using processed products, such as bakery mixes, frozen entrées, and prepared salad dressings. Some animal-derived ingredients are obvious (powdered egg, dried milk, bacon bits), and some are less obvious (fructose, sucrose, lactose, casein, rennet, or enzymes used in the production of cheese and whey).

Preparation of vegetarian menu items can be made-from-scratch or speed-scratch. If your kitchen and staff have the time and capacity, beans, veggie burgers, and pasta dishes can be made from scratch (these items stand up well to cook-chill). If time and skill are lacking, utilize speed-scratch ingredients, such as canned beans, frozen or chilled veggie burgers, and frozen pasta entrées. Add your own touches to create signature dishes. We've included lots of ideas at the end of this article; feel free to use them and improve on them.

Vegetarian ingredients are versatile, easily adaptable to different dishes. Canned or "scratch" lentils can be mashed with stewed eggplant, fresh tomatoes, onions, and garlic and used as a dip for vegetables, a spread for garlic bread, or as a sandwich condiment. Tomato salsa can be a salad dressing, chip or vegetable dip, flavoring for soup, or an ingredient in casseroles. Orange or apple juice concentrate can flavor a salad dressing or marinade, replace sugar in baking recipes, or add zip to a sweet and sour sauce served over grilled vegetables. (Many vegans avoid refined white cane sugar because it is often processed with bone char, an animal byproduct.) In addition to fruit juice concentrates you can use syrups, dried fruit, nut butters, and molasses as sweeteners. Cooked black bean beans can be tossed in salads, simmered in soups, baked into breads, smashed into spreads, or stand on their own, garnished with sliced red onion and avocado.

Develop timesaving production techniques for preparing vegetarian and non-vegetarian menu items. For example, prepare steamed vegetables with margarine or olive oil, rather than butter, or use vegetable stock or base, rather than meat stock. This means making only one batch for everyone. Purchase canned vegetarian refried beans (the price is the same) and use shredded vegan soy cheese, fake meat, or whole beans as an optional garnish rather than incorporating them into soups or casseroles.

Excerpts from the Fall 2001 Issue:

Click here to go to the main foodservice page (Vegetarian Journal's FoodService Update and Quantity Cooking Information with links to each issue).

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Converted to HTML by Stephanie Schueler.

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