Persian Wedding Rice

weddingriceYou don’t have to be getting married to enjoy this festive treat. The long grain rice is cooked al dente, and then combined with caramelized onion and carrot, orange zest, and exotic spices. The rice is added to a pan with melted butter and finished over low heat. The result is a fluffy, fragrant rice with the prized tahdig, a crusty disk on the bottom of the pan.

Ate too Much?

SilkRdPilaf. . . I certainly did! Those holiday meals are a perfect reminder that we can all eat more vegetables . . . for our own health and for the health of the environment. How about bringing back Meatless Mondays? Eating an all vegetarian meal does not have to be boring or challenging. For those of you concerned about getting enough protein, a meal of grains and legumes gives you all the essential amino acids. Create a tasty meal of brown basmati rice, French or beluga lentils (available at Whole Foods), seasoned with fresh herbs, cumin, julienned vegetables and garlic. Serve on a bed of greens for a quick meal, or as a high protein side dish for your vegetarian (or vegan) guests.

Simple and simply beautiful!

wintersaladWow your Thanksgiving guests with a beautiful seasonal salad. Start with a bed of baby greens, add a dash of olive oil and balsamic. Creatively arrange slices of fuyu persimmon and finely sliced watermelon radish on top of the greens. Add a little garlic salt, green onion and extra oil and vinegar — enjoy!


plated table VGLooking for Holiday party ideas? As cooler days descend upon us, wouldn’t it be fun to spend an evening at home with friends and wonderful food . . . without having to lift a finger? If you’ve never experienced an in-home cooking demonstration with Chef Margaret Riesen of The Vegetarian Gourmet, you’re in for a treat. You choose the guest list and theme — maybe “A Night at the Kasbah” with exotic Moroccan fare — and we bring the recipes and fixin’s. Having taught culinary arts at Santa Barbara Community College for 12 years, Margaret’s repertoire of world cuisines is extensive, and her classes are fun, delicious and full of practical ideas. Give us a call with your special wishes – we’ll do the rest!


app-woodside. . . surely you’re joking, Mr. Feynman! Corporate Holiday parties do not have to be a calorie bomb, but can appreciate employees and honor cultural diversity with delicious flavors from around the world. The Vegetarian Gourmet believes in healthy fare that delights and surprises – with many gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options. Our menus are prepared with LOVE and expertise from locally sourced, mostly organic ingredients. We make it easy, and we make you look good! 

Apple Rösti – a Swiss Comfort Food

roestiLike many comfort foods, this simple dessert doesn’t require a trip to a fancy store but makes use of what is on hand: day-old bread, apples and butter. Cut bread into fine slices and brown in butter. Remove from pan and add sliced apples, a little sugar, lemon zest and cinnamon. Cook until apples are softened, then add toasted bread to soak up the liquids. Serve with a dollop of cream.

Hummus: yum-yum or ho-hum?

With hummus turning up at every potluck, what sets the great ones apart from the rest? The secret is in the two main ingredients, the chick peas and the tahini. First of all, don’t buy canned chick peas – they’re undercooked and won’t ever give you the smooth, creamy texture of a really terrific hummus. Buy dried chick peas – available in bulk in many stores — and soak them overnight in cold water with a pinch of baking soda. The baking soda helps to soften the dried beans for faster cooking. Drain and rinse before placing in a pot of fresh water; do not add salt. Bring to a boil and cook until the chick peas are very soft, and then allow to cool. Number two: look for a high quality tahini; you’ll find it in a Middle Eastern store, a higher end market, or even on-line. The tahini should be smooth and creamy looking, not a hard lump of congealed paste with the oil floating on top. Two excellent brands to consider are Tarazi ( and Soom ( Now that you have the two most important ingredients, let your imagination do the rest!App-beets

Post-Holiday Parties — why not?

Holiday-CookiesOne way to take the stress out of the Holidays is to not cram everything into the month of December. Why not prolong the celebratory mood and schedule some of your gatherings in January? A survey published in FORBES magazine found that people associate the Holidays primarily with family. For this reason, the current trend is to move get-togethers with friends, business contacts and clients into January. People are more relaxed, but still in a festive mood, without all the Holiday stress. Given the huge build-up and hype — and the very short span of actual Holiday events — there is still plenty of energy waiting to be expressed. When planning a get-together in January, scheduling is not a problem, and gone is the anxiety of looking for supplies among crabby and stressed out Holiday shoppers. Deferred gratification? I think not . . .  it’s an opportunity to spend valuable time with friends and business partners, without the seasonal frenzy. Give it a try – and Happy Holidays!


Favorite Meat Substitutes

When people tell me that they descend from hunters and therefore are primarily carnivores, I remind them that those ancestors were hunter-gatherers. They hunted, yes, but what they ended up eating most of the time were roots, berries, nuts, and other plant foods. Occasionally, they got lucky and trapped an animal and feasted on its meat until it ran out or started to smell bad.
Non-vegetarians tend to worry about not getting enough protein in Main-VegStewan all-vegetarian meal. For many people in today’s busy world, building a meal around a piece of meat has become a habit and an easy way of assuring that you’re getting a “complete” protein. With the abundance of meat substitutes now available in most markets, creating a well-balanced, all vegetarian meal is easier than ever.
So what should you look for? Look for products that don’t have a ton of ingredients. Seitan is one of those products, made from wheat gluten (which is wheat protein), and comes with different seasonings and can be substituted for beef or chicken. Add it to a stir-fry, a hearty stew or rice dish (e.g. jambalaya or paella).
Soy products have been around for a long time and include tofu and tempeh. Tempeh is a fermented product and easier to digest than tofu. It comes in a firm cake, which can be steamed for a few minutes, then chopped and mixed with Bragg’s Liquid Aminos and chopped garlic, and included in a stir-fry or rice dish. Look for organic soy products, which do not contain GMOs.
Quorn ( has been a favorite of mine, very versatile and adaptable. You’ll find it in the frozen section of upscale markets, and it comes in “chicken” strips and tenders. The consistency and texture are very convincing and provide a great substitute for chicken. My all-time favorite recipes for Quorn are Mexican dishes, such as enchiladas or posole, as well as Spanish paella or jambalaya. Just make sure you don’t sear the strips – none of the faux meats taste good when seared.
Stay tuned for our blog about Field Roast ( products!