With our vegetarian crew of two always-hungry, over 6 feet tall, 20 year old boys, and a 3 1/2 week long passage across the Atlantic from land to land, meal preparation presented a new challenge. There would be no fresh fish to make meals from nor calorie-rich meat I could serve. I found what worked best to keep the hungry crew satisfied was to keep breakfasts and dinners simple (we’d often have a hearty hot breakfast together and everyone took a hand in making other meals) and take the time to make one large stew-pot meal that we would have for our main meal together, usually in the middle of the day. The boys would keep snacking on it after the lighter dinner that Rand and I prefer, and on around the clock until it was gone. I kept making the size of the meals bigger and bigger but I can’t think of one time the meal wasn’t completely devoured within 24 hours.
Feeding vegetarians well requires care to make sure that they get enough healthy calories (alcohol and ice cream calories don’t count!), so I made rich stew meals with lots of legumes like chickpeas, lentils, and different types of dried beans, combined with many vegetables and served it with rice and quinoa, cous cous, potatoes or pasta. I used a lot of winter squashes in the stews, and eggplant and zucchini (we discovered that zucchini stored in a dark, dry cupboard lasted in good shape for longer than any other fresh vegetable – who knew!). I also cooked with white russet and yukon gold style potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams and some interesting varieties of Canary Island tubers, turning them into their own dishes, and added them to main course stews too.
Flavors that the crew liked best were Mexican spices, curries, and combinations of cumin, coriander, turmeric, garlic, ginger and cinnamon, not necessarily all together. I used many different chiles for the heat and flavor the Pipp men so love. And it seemed I started many main dishes with sauteed onions in it if only to hear the boys exclaim about how delicious the galley was smelling. I used olive oil or coconut oil for cooking, not butter and I always had red and white wine on hand to add flavor too. Every night I’d put some sort of legume in water to soak overnight and frequently I’d use my pressure cooker to speed cooking.
I’d often serve the main vegetable dish over a multi-grain rice I’d make by combining wild, red, brown rice with three types of quinoa. I’d add the rice mixture to onions that I’d sauteed in olive oil. I’d also cook the dry rice mixture for a bit too before I added vegetable broth that I made using an organic cube I had brought from Whole Foods in the USA.
I liberally sprinkled nuts like cashews and almonds in dishes. They added a satisfying crunch.
When a dish had a lot of heat (as in spice), I’d sometimes serve it with a yogurt and mint mixture, something we picked up during our time in Turkey. Sometimes, I’d add cashews and coriander or garlic and lemon to the yogurt depending on the predominant flavors of the stew.
Except in the rare large supermarket in a good-sized city, you can’t find pre-made pasta sauces as are so common in the USA so you learn to make sauces from scratch. I made a variety of vegetable rich pasta sauces when we were living in Italy and had a full kitchen. I froze them and we had them with ravioli and other pastas on the passage when it was time for a light cooking day.
My favorite recipes and ideas for what spices to use with what and what might go well with what came from the Cafe Brenda (a Minneapolis restaurant) and the classic Silver Palate and New Basics’ cookbooks, liberally improvised from depending on what I had on hand, as well as online recipes I found. Some of the best sources of online recipes were bbcgoodfood.com, allrecipes.com, minimalistbaker.com, cookieandkale.com, jamieoliver.com and kingarthurflour.com (for bread)
Here are some of the results: