Vegetarian Dinners

Stuffed eggplant. Photos by Keri White

With the festive, celebratory meals enjoyed throughout the High Holidays, interspersing with a vegetarian repast can be just what the doctor ordered.

The following dishes are not super-light, but they are meat-free and provide a good counterpoint to the richness of brisket, matzah ball soup, apple cake … you get the picture.

The first dish was inspired by eggplant Parmesan, which I love but find laborious to make and on the heavy side. I eliminated the breading and frying step, skipped the layer of mozzarella cheese and stuffed the eggplant with tomato-braised veggies rather than layering the slices. I served it atop pasta laced with the surplus veggie mixture, but you could skip that if carbs are a concern.

The second dish was an attempt to use leftover rice. Because the fritters are, by definition, fried, this would not be on the low-fat, low-cal list, but they can be a vehicle for shredded veggies, fresh herbs or yogurt — or served solo. They would also be nice accompanied by a green salad to round out a meal.

Stuffed Eggplant
Serves 4

This can easily be made pareve/vegan with the elimination of the Parmesan cheese. If a bit of additional crunch or seasoning is desired for the topping, you can add seasoned bread crumbs or panko.

1 large eggplant
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
½ of a large zucchini, grated
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon fresh oregano or
1 teaspoon dried
1 13-ounce box or can diced tomatoes
¼ cup broth or water, as needed
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese to taste
¾ pound fettuccine or other pasta
Fresh basil for garnish

Remove the stem, and cut the eggplant in half vertically. You want to remove most of the “flesh” of the eggplant, leaving a shell for stuffing, so you will cut a line around each side, about ½ inch from the skin. Be sure not to puncture the bottom.

Using a spoon (a grapefruit spoon with serrated edges is perfect here, but any spoon will do), scoop the flesh out of each half, chop it into pieces and place it in a colander. Sprinkle the eggplant halves and the cut pieces generously with salt, and let it sit for 30 minutes.
Heat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Rinse the eggplant, and pat it dry. Brush the insides of the eggplant halves with oil, place them in a baking dish and bake them for about 40 minutes until cooked through and completely soft.

While the eggplant cooks, make the filling.

In a large skillet, heat the remaining oil and sauté the onion and garlic until fragrant. Add the eggplant, grated zucchini, salt, pepper and oregano. Sauté until the vegetables are partially cooked, about 8 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, and stir. Lower the heat, and simmer.

If the mixture becomes too dry and begins to burn, add the broth or water. Simmer for the time the eggplant bakes, until all the vegetables are soft and melded. The mixture should resemble thick, chunky salsa in texture. Taste for seasoning, and add additional salt, pepper and oregano, if needed.

When the eggplant shells are done, remove them from the oven and spoon the tomato mixture into each shell, leaving about 1½ cups in the skillet to top the pasta. Top with Parmesan cheese as desired.

Place the stuffed eggplant back into the oven for about 10 minutes. While the stuffed eggplant finishes baking, cook the pasta to al dente (1 minute less than the box directs).
Drain the pasta, toss it with the remaining tomato mixture and place the stuffed eggplants on top of the pasta. Top it with chopped basil and additional Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Rice fritters

Rice Fritters
Make 8 fritters

This is a great way to use leftover rice. They are so delicious that, in the future, despite my general dislike of leftovers, I may make extra rice to have an excuse to make these.
I used grated zucchini because I had it on hand, but any grated veggie such as carrots, eggplant, potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli or cabbage would work fine.

2 cups cooked rice
1 egg
2 tablespoons flour
¼ cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 carrot, grated
½ cup grated zucchini
Salt and pepper to taste
Canola oil for frying

In a medium bowl, mix all the ingredients.

In a large skillet, heat a thin coating of oil over medium heat.

With wet hands, form the rice mixture into patties, using about a third of a cup for each, and carefully place them in the hot pan. The patties are prone to falling apart, so it is best to minimize flipping to one time each.

Let each patty cook for about 4 minutes per side and carefully flip them — using two spatulas can help them hold together. They should be golden brown and lightly crisped.

Serve alone or topped with your favorite sauce, as a side dish or with a salad.


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