After cheating deliciously for 1 night, it was back to meatless eating for another 3 nights. One dinner that was just ok, one wonderful Asian style feast, and one night of lovely leftovers. Not bad!
On Thursday I made these green pea fritters. Very simple: green peas, thawed, mashed with an egg, some flour, lots of fresh mint, a little Parmigiano. Oh and there were supposed to be a couple of tablespoons of ricotta in there, but Dennis had eaten all the ricotta for lunch. So I blame it on the case of the missing ricotta, that these fritters were a bit heavy and stodgy (but tasty). Served with one of my favorites, with mushrooms and fried halloumi.
On Friday we had some friends over for an impromptu after work dinner. I made a huge bowl of spicy noodles (noodles tossed in a sauce made with sesame paste, black vinegar, peanutbutter, sesame oil, chili oil, Sechuan pepper and soy sauce), nestled on a bed of pan fried napa cabbage and mushrooms. Roasted 2 heads of broccoli, and dressed those with soy sauce, black vinegar, ginger and garlic. Marinated some tempeh and mushrooms in sweet thick soy sauce and sambal badjak, and served this, fried, in little lettuce cups with lots of fresh coriander. Blueberry pancakes with pecan ice cream for dessert. An extremely delicious and very satisfying dinner where no one missed the meat at all.
We had the left over noodles for dinner the next night, pan fried and topped with a fried egg. And more roasted vegetables: green asparagus this time, doused in Chinese black vinegar and chili oil.
This might be my new favorite dressing for roasted vegetables: the spicy, almost smoky punch of the chili oil, the sweet and sour darkness of the black vinegar.
The verdict: If I had a week of uniterrupted home cooking ahead of me, I could easily do meatless week again. But, going out to dinner or having dinner with friends presents difficulties for the part-time vegetarian. In restaurants, I will often order a vegetarian dish if it appeals to me, but to be honest, most of the time the meat options are just much more tempting. (Not to mention the fact that many restaurants don't even have vegetarian dishes on the menu. When it says "ask your waiter for vegetarian options" you know that you won't be served anything really exciting).
And friends? As an optional vegetarian, can I ask them to prepare a meatfree meal for me? Should I just not say anything and eat whatever they have that has no meat? I don't know.
I'll continue to eat meat when I feel like it, not much, and nothing but free range / organic meat as far as I can help it (that means, when I'm responsible for buying it). I'm not ready (yet) for a life without bacon, meatballs and roast chicken. But this week did make me more conscious of how easy it is to rely on meat for flavor and protein and satisfying dinners, and how cooking with vegetables, grains, pulses and a bit of dairy is a huge creativity challenge.