Eating green can mean more than lettuce
Vail, CO, Colorado
Having a vegetarian diet does not mean you can’t eat well ” or enjoy your food just as much as that steak-eater at the table next to you.
Instead of relying on dairy or meat for richness and big taste, vegetarian dishes can be flavorful using spices and quality ingredients.
Many chefs start with the protein on the plate, said Kelly Liken, chef and owner of Kelly Liken restaurant in Vail. Liken’s menu is especially vegetarian-friendly. She offers a vegetarian special and is even glad to whip up a five-course vegetarian tasting menu if a customer asks.
“I start with what is fresh and local, such as high-altitude, locally grown carrots. It gives a lot of options in the kitchen,” she said.
And if you “respect the ingredients,” recipes don’t have to be complicated either, she said. Good, fresh produce can pack a lot of taste. There are tricks to making vegetarian dishes flavorful, such as using vinaigrettes for a more acidic taste or using bulgur wheat and quinoa as rich, flavorful pastas, she said.
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“Tiny things like capers, lemon juice or mustard can make a big punch without adding dairy or meat,” Liken said.
Marshall Blanchard, chef at the Golden Eagle Inn at Beaver Creek, said his alternatives to butter and cream are citrus and olive oil.
“It gives the rich taste without being heavy,” he said.
The restaurant does not feature specifically vegetarian items, but he relishes the challenge of creating a vegetarian dish at a customer’s request. Recent dishes he dreamed up include a butternut-squash sauce with coconut milk and a black Thai rice marked by coconut milk and ginger.
The restaurant also uses vegetable stock and many nondairy sauces for dishes on the regular menu, he said.
Vegetable purees make great sauces, and coconut milk and spices can make for great dishes that won’t leave your taste buds wanting, Blanchard said.
Learning to cook is important for vegetarians and vegans because restaurants can have limited options, former vegetarian Allen Dibben said.
“I still cook a lot,” he said. “You can get a lot of flavor from the spicing.”
Ethnic foods were a staple, he said, because U.S. food is very meat-based, but a lot of ethnic cuisine is vegetable-based.
But good-tasting food isn’t the only concern for people who don’t eat meat.
Vegetarians and vegans need to make sure that they get all the nutrients and protein they would normally get from meat, Vail nutritionist Sally Connelly said.
“If you’re relying on fast food or if your major source of protein is dairy, that’s not good. You can get what you need by making sure to get all the food groups ” never missing out on a serving of nuts, vegetables and all the important oils,” she said.
Nonmeat eaters are most likely to be short on vitamin B-12 and zinc, which are primarily found in meats, and omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish. But vegetarians can make up for that by using flaxseed oil and nuts, she said.
The key is variety, Connelly said. Most of the necessary nutrients more common in proteins also can be found in different vegetables, just in smaller amounts, she said.
Liken said her best advice for vegetarians and vegans is to “eat colorfully.” Different vegetables offer different nutrients, so eating a variety tends to cover the bases, she said.
“Mix your colors ” have red veggies, dark green ” and think about different textures. It sounds so simple, but it works,” she said.
Most people should take a good vitamin supplement anyway, Connelly said, because nutrients can be missing or destroyed after cooking.
One good supplement is Vitamineral Green, a drink mix made of natural vegetable juices, vitamins and minerals, said Lizz Arellano, a staff member at Nature’s Provider in Avon.
“It includes all the amino acids that are so hard to get for people who don’t eat meat,” she said. “And it’s the best tasting green drink I’ve had.”
She also recommends Barlean’s flaxseed oil and multivitamins from Bluebonnet or Probiotics.
Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 748-2928 or email@example.com.