Thursday, January 01, 2004
If you are a vegetarian you're aware of the difficulties faced when trying to go out to eat. One restaurant may have some decent entrées but wholly miss the point when it comes to desserts or appetizers, still others may have grand salads and great vegetarian soups but nothing else on the menu that is not beefed up, stewed in chicken broth or littered with bacon bits. We've all tried exhorting the server to "please" tell the kitchen we don't want mayonnaise on anything and oh, by the way do you suppose I could substitute olive oil for the butter patties with my warm rolls, and that's only the better sit-down restaurants; fast fooders and mall stalls - don't even ask. So what is a vegetarian to do? If you're like us you have 3 or 4 vegetarian venues that you frequent regularly and they're fine else you would not patronize them, but what happens when you want to dine out with friends who are not and never will be vegetarians and who do not appreciate the ambiance of a restaurant the serves fruit smoothies, and I'm not referring to a frozen daiquiri from the bar. They're still your friends and eating out with friends is proven by the FNIC, located in the NAL and part of the USDA, to enhance ones mood, invigorate the heart and blood flow and in general it's good for us. So you go along to the bistro of the hour and feast on a house salad with vinegar, one or two suspicious appetizers, steamed vegetables and call it a meal
The problem is the food service industry, like any other business, plays to the audience. Restaurants don't want to turn away paying customers so they will usually bend over backwards to accommodate individuals in a group but unless they are prepared in advance sometimes the results are less than rewarding. That is why there are so many vegetarian dining clubs, bundled together vegetarians make a respectable clientele, appreciative of fine dining and willing to pay for it. What more could a restaurateur ask. A phone call in advance can usually arrange a special menu with most restaurants provided the seating is for 10 or more. Unfortunately that is not always possible; simple economics preclude a restaurant amending its menu for a couple dining out irregularly. With so few nationally recognized restaurants offering a solid vegetarian selection along with their regular fare it becomes hard to dine out vegetarian unless of course you live in San Francisco or Toronto.
Being vegetarians, we like to cook almost as much as we like to eat and since we started this ezine we have looked for ways to enable like minded vegetarians who like to cook to be proactive in their own communities encouraging local restaurants to add vegetarian and vegan selections to their everyday menus, providing suggestions to local food service operations: hospitals, church soup kitchens and catering services which participate in public events like ball games and concerts. Now, however we think we've hit on a novel idea that may impact major chain restaurants on a national level and in a positive manner. If you have not already discovered the web site "Top Secret Recipes" then allow us to introduce you. Top Secret Recipes is a fun, engaging and valuable site for anyone who likes to eat out and at the same time enjoys cooking at home. Here you will find the "Secret Recipes" of your favorite foods at national restaurant chains. Go ahead, take a look for yourself and then come back, we've got an idea.
You're back, what did you think, did you find a recipe secret, one you would like to try at home? Well, unless you're a tree stump you probably did and if not we're sure that you'll go back when the thought comes to mind, " I wonder how they made that?" So, here's our plan, Secret Recipes is a site that enables home cooks and food geeks to indulge in their favorite sport, hunting down and capturing that elusive recipe and making it your own, well not yours maybe, but yours/theirs, sort of thing. Anyway we came up with a contest, yeah we know, contests suck, specially cooking contests, they're a dime a dozen and all anyone wants to do is perfect yet another barbequed rib recipe for the godzillianth time. Our contest is unique though because there are no prizes, we're a small ezine as ezines go and we don't have any money for prizes. The reward for entering this contest is just that, you know, entering, What you do is go to Top Secret Recipes. com and find your favorite non vegetarian recipe, that would probably be the one you used to eat a lot before you became a vegetarian, and simply "vegetarianize" it. Send us the recipe we'll publish it and the winners will be chosen by our readers. Then, and this is the neat part, we will contact the owner of the "Secret Recipe" and deliver your vegetarian/vegan version, hereafter known as your VVV to them along with our own strong recommendation that they include it on their menu alongside the original. Your VVV now has a chance to be offered by some of our favorite national chains. Any monetary or other consideration that you work out with the recipient of your genius is your business, we'll just be happy for your success.
We've included a sample entry just because we like you and even if you don't enter our contest you deserve something for just being a loyal reader. Thank you
Vegan Version of Top Secret Recipes
Southwestern Vegetable Soup
Makes 6 servings
2 cups veggie broth
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 cup water
1 cup canned dark red kidney beans, with liquid (or black beans)
1 cup frozen yellow cut corn
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 4 oz can diced green chilies
½ cup diced Spanish onion
½ cup tomato juice
6 corn tortillas, minced
1 ½ tsp chili powder
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp cilantro
salt and pepper to taste
Garnish (1 cup grated vegan cheddar/jack cheese blend, 1 cup crumbled corn tortilla chips)
Combine all soup ingredients in large saucepan or soup pot over high heat. Be sure to mince the corn tortillas into small pieces with a sharp knife before adding them to the soup.
Bring soup to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the soup has thickened and tortilla pieces have mostly dissolved.
To serve, ladle 1 ½ cups into a bowl, and sprinkle with garnish
All recipes should be sent to Editor: Secret Recipe Contest. We'll publish the winner but we won't retain any rights and you can have the recipe back to do with whatever you wish. In the probable case of a tie all the winning entries, or entrées if you prefer will receive the same first prize, our adulation. Judges decisions shall be final unless they change their minds and all winners will not be notified. Oh, and all relatives of anyone connected with this ezine or its sponsors (we don't have any so it would surprise us if that amounted to very many people) are most definitely encouraged to enter. Contest open to everyone, omnivores included, no purchase necessary, void in NJ?
We think that all the light hearted asides aside, this is a great way to capture the attention of the majors and let them know that vegetarians and vegans are an increasing voice in the market place and we deserve as much junk food as the rest of the public, just make ours vegetarian, thanks.
By the way, and our lawyers would probably tell us to say this if we had any lawyers that is: this contest is governed by a Creative Commons License, and its endorsement by any party other than The Green Cutting Board is neither implied nor assumed.