In 2016, vegetables were the belles of the ball. More than ever, restaurants, chefs, influencers and others in the food world are placing the spotlight directly on the finest produce out there, and diners are happy and filled with phytonutrients and fiber. Sure, we’re all proud omnivores here on the Food Republic editorial staff — not likely to pass up a deep-fried fish or brined bone-in pork chop. But we all made some pretty spectacular vegetarian meals this year, and apparently you did, too. Here are our top 20 most-read vegetarian recipes of 2016.
Cauliflower makes a great stand-in for meat in this vegetarian dinner. Look for the freshest cauliflower you can find: It should have tight, compact florets with no signs of yellowing or browning and crisp-looking leaves at the base.
If you like Middle Eastern food, try this easy grilled eggplant dish. Fanning out the eggplants on the serving plate makes a stunning presentation. Tahini gives the dish some creaminess, and pomegranate seeds bring sweet crunch and color.
Recipe: Kale, Pea And Ricotta Fritters
Donna Hay, Australia’s go-to home cook, has a new collection of recipes out that will inspire you to eat more healthfully while sacrificing nothing in terms of flavor and aesthetics. Whether you’re making yourself a casual lunch or masterminding an upscale dinner party, this is one book that will help ensure that everyone is nourished, satisfied and eager to know where you got the recipe. These kale, pea and ricotta fritters pack a nutritious punch and look beautiful on a platter.
One of the original street foods of the world, this amazing Szechuan dish was once served by vendors walking around with a stick laid across their shoulders. On one end hung a pot with some hot broth and on the other end was a pot with the noodles. It eventually evolved into one of the spicier Szechuan offerings, dan dan noodles with shiitake mushrooms; upon the dish’s arrival in the States the spices were tamed to please more palates.
Recipe: Baked Onions In Brie Custard
This baked onions in Brie custard dish is great as a standalone vegetarian dish or as a fancy accompaniment to roast chicken. I have used Brie in this recipe, but you could use any mold-ripened cheese that has a bit of flavor. You could even use a funky washed rind if you like.
Recipe: Beet Butter Linguine
Roasted beets are pureed with goat cheese and hazelnuts to create a thick, creamy paste that melts into hot pasta. After cooking the pasta, make sure to reserve the remaining pasta water to add to the linguine and beet puree. The pasta water contains excess starches that help the sauce cling to the noodles, coating every strand. For a beautiful appetizer, try this beet butter puree on toasted crostini.
Recipe: Avocado Tartare
Serve With: Toasted baguette slices.
Pairing Wine: Citrusy, medium-bodied Spanish white, such as Verdejo.
Recipe: Fried Halloumi And Avocado Salad
Fried cheese doesn’t really need an introduction. You know you’ll like it. Serve as a salad or stuff in a pita bread.
This is a really pretty, elegant salad full of popping tastes and contrasting textures. Quail eggs are tricky things to peel — use your fingernails and a small, sharp knife — but well worth the effort. If you can’t get them, then use hen’s eggs and serve one per person.
What could be better than deep-fried crumbed cheese? Yum yum! Whether you use goats’ cheese, ricotta mixed with herbs and dried chili and rolled into balls, mixed cheese scraps squashed together or, as here, Camembert, deep-frying it in this way is like having grilled (broiled) cheese on toast!
Tip: You’ll have leftover basil butter, which you can freeze and use again later. It’s delicious on toast, all kinds of veggies, and pretty much anything else.
Recipe: Ethiopian Carrot Tartare
The inspiration for the tartare is an Ethiopian dish called kitfo, a steak tartare that has been warmed in butter infused with a bunch of spices. It is out of this world! Ethiopians eat the tartare several different ways: t’ire (raw) or leb leb (medium-rare) and sometimes cooked further. The spices play really nicely with the sweetness of seasonal carrots here in lieu of beef. I par-cook the carrots to get rid of that raw taste before grinding. Also, I like to toast up the spices first in the butter with some shallots and garlic. Browning the butter, making beurre noisette, adds even greater complexity.
This eggplant fries dish has been on the menu at Spuntino since day one and is a much-requested recipe. For me, it’s a dish about contrasts. The hot eggplant fries versus the cool yogurt. The crunchy sesame coating versus the soft center. The smoky flavor of the eggplant versus the aniseed tang of the fennel. You can have fun with the presentation of this dish, too, by using a shot glass for the fennel yogurt and then stacking the fries around or to the side.
Recipe: A Hearty Coconut Daal Bowl
This is a twist on my mom’s lentils, daal, which are spiced, nuanced and creamy. Daal was a staple in our household, and when I go home to visit, there is always some in the fridge to remind me of my childhood. In this soup, I make the lentils a bit more dilute and add in any greens I have lying around — kale, baby spinach, chard, a super greens blend — to take advantage of the cold-fighting vitamins. I sometimes add in a bit of coconut milk for silkiness, and if I need a bit more bulk, I throw in some cooked rice, bulghur or quinoa. Pickled shallots add the perfect tart balance and toasted cashews up the nuttiness factor.
Traditional arancini are made with rice that’s combined with cheese and other fillings, then breaded and fried. This version uses millet that’s cooked in extra water so that it’s soft and sticky, and combined with two kinds of cheese and buttery, garlicky wilted spinach. You can cook the croquettes ahead and refrigerate until shortly before serving; warm them in a 350°F oven for 15 minutes or until thoroughly heated.
Tofu is frequently included in dishes with meat because it adds another layer of texture — incredibly important to the Vietnamese plate. Trumpet mushrooms are known for their umami flavor, and, combined with the onion roux, they give the sauce buttery texture and add a healthy, earthy richness to the normally plain tofu.
Recipe: Curry Onion Tart
My twist on quiche, this tasty tart is filled with onions cooked the South Indian way, with fresh curry leaves, mustard seeds and red chilies. They work a treat with this smoked paprika pastry, which has an attractive reddish hue. Serve slices of this tart with a spoonful of coconut chutney.
There are many tricks for making vegetable burgers taste meaty. Our favorites are adding mushrooms to up the umami ante; seasoning with cumin and smoked salt to lead the taste buds toward chili con carne and grilled meat; stirring in some beans for a creamy mouthfeel reminiscent of well-marbled steak; and throwing in a shredded beet for some rare-meat redness. These burgers have it all.
I always love looking for the overlap in ingredients between different cuisines. For example, both Mexican food and Indian food rely on flavorful, warmly spiced sauces; they use a variety of vegetables and legumes and they include flatbreads at many meals. As a nod to this overlap, I included curry powder in this otherwise straightforward enchilada pie — a saucy, lasagna-like American dish that pretends to be Mexican. Despite the use of chilies, the casserole is fairly mild. If you’d like more heat, leave in some or all of the jalapeño seeds.
Recipe: Healthy Quinoa Chili
Bowls of hearty whole grains topped with healthful, delicious fare are a trend that will outlast any fad pastry or rainbow this-or-that. Join food stylist and recipe developer Anna Hampton as she explores the wide world of ancient strains, gluten-free options and other filling, fiber-rich grains that pair beautifully with fresh vegetables, home-fermented foods and lean proteins for a meal that looks as good as it tastes. This quinoa chili recipe is as hearty as a stew gets.