Tired from a day’s work? You’ll have these tasty vegetarian dinners on the table before you know it.

Most cooks we know look forward to weekends, when they can finger in the kitchen and artfully prepare their favorite meals. But what about the rest of the week? Everyone has to eat, but too many people – tired from the day’s work and pressed for time – throw in the kitchen towel and opt for take-out, defrosted frozen meals, or dinner out.

But not us. We know the value – in both money and good health – of creating delicious meals at home. That’s why we developed our new cooking column, where we feature simple vegetarian recipes that go from plan to plate in 30 minutes or less.

If you keep your kitchen stocked with some basic vegetarian ingredients (see “Stocking Your Kitchen,”) and the right recipes, cooking during the week can be fast, easy, and delicious. We have looked to some of the world’s greatest culinary cultures – Italian. North African, Mexican, and Asian – for inspiration, transforming traditional grain, pasta, salad, soup, and sandwich recipes into meals that will become favorites, even when you aren’t pressed for time.


Serves 4 TIME 10 minutes

This no-cook “stew” is the perfect choice for a hot summer night. The juice from ripe summer tomatoes and a little extra-virgin olive oil moisten the white beans (use canned or boil some yourself over the week-end and refrigerate them in their cooking liquid for up to four days) and form a delicious base. A sprinkling of fresh basil adds an authentic Italian flavor, but other tender fresh herbs, such as mint, cilantro, or tarragon, also work, well. Make sure to serve some crusty whole-grain bread with this dish to soak up the tasty liquid at the bottom of each howl. A leafy green salad would round out this meal nicely.

  • 3 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (about 4 cups)
  • 3 large ripe tomatoes (about 1 1/4 pounds), cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 12 large fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling over individual servings if desired
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  1. Place beans, tomatoes, and basil in large bowl. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Divide bean mixture among large individual soup bowls. Drizzle with more oil to taste and serve immediately.

PER SERVING: 328 calories, 17g protein, 8g fat 49g carbohydrates, 14g fiber, 283mg sodium, 9% vitamin A, 49% vitamin C, 6% calcium


Serves 4 TIME 25 minutes

The slightly chewy texture of arborio rice makes it a good choice for a summer salad because the rice won’t be overwhelmed by the dressing and vegetables. Like pasta, the rice is boiled in abundant water and drained – a technique that helps cut down the cooking time. Fragrant basmati rice will also work well in this recipe. The rice is served over a bed of leafy greens such as mesclun. To seed tomatoes, core, halve, and then use a finger to push the seeds out.

  • 1 1/2 cups arborio or basmati rice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  •   Salt and ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes (about 1 pound) cored, seeded, and diced
  • 1/2 medium cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and diced
  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
  • 12 large black olives, pitted and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil leaves
  • 6 cups mesclun or other leafy salad greens
  1. Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in medium saucepan. Add rice and 2 teaspoons salt. Boil, stirring occasionally, until the rice is al dente, about 15 minutes. Do not let rice become mushy. Drain rice in colander and rinse under cold running water. Drain rice thoroughly and turn into large bowl.
  2. While rice is cooking, whisk lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste in small bowl. Whisk in oil until smooth.
  3. Drizzle dressing over cooked rice and toss gently. Add tomatoes, cucumber, yellow pepper, olives, and basil. Mix thoroughly and adjust seasonings.
  4. Divide salad greens among individual plates. Spoon rice salad over greens and serve immediately.

PER SERVING: 337 calories, 6g protein, 12g fat, 53g carbohydrates, 6g fiber, 415mg sodium, 25% vitamin A, 159% vitamin C, 7% calcium


Serves 4 TIME 20 minutes

Thrifty Italian cooks use stale bread to make simple summer salads. The bread (whole wheat or sourdough that is a day or two old is best, avoid anything with seeds) is cut into cubes and moistened with a little olive oil, vinegar, and the juices from vegetables. Serve the salad as is or over a plate of lightly dressed greens.

  • 1 12-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained and cut into 1/2-inch squares (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 8 large black olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1 celery rib, minced
  • 1 medium scallion, white and light green parts sliced thin
  • 8 fresh basil leaves, sliced thin
  • 4 cups stale bread cut into 1-inch cubes
  •   Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  1. Place peppers, olives, celery, scallion, basil, and bread in large serving bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and toss gently.
  2. Drizzle vinegar and then oil over salad. Mix gently and set aside. Let sit at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until flavors blend and bread softens somewhat but is not mushy, about 15 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste and serve immediately.

PER SERVING: 221 calories, 4g protein, 13g fat, 25g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 543mg sodium, 33% vitamin A, 245% vitamin C, 6% calcium


Serves 4 TIME 20 minutes

Roasted peanut oil and 20 fresh gingerroot give an Asian twist to this simple tomato sauce. The raw spinach is tossed with the drained pasta and tomato sauce in a serving bowl, where the heat of the pasta and sauce wilts it – but leaves vitamins intact. Other tender leafy greens, such as arugula, watercress, or mizuna, could be substituted for the spinach.

  • 4 cups stemmed spinach leaves
  • 2 tablespoons roasted peanut oil
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced fresh gingerroot
  • 4 medium ripe tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds), cored and cut into 1/2-inch  cubes
  •   Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 pound linguine
  1. Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in large pot for cooking pasta.
  2. Rinse spinach in cold water and dry. Slice leaves crosswise into thin strips and set them aside in bowl large enough to hold cooked pasta.
  3. Heat oil in large skillet. Add garlic and ginger and saute over medium heat until garlic is lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring occasionally, just until tomatoes are heated through, 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. While preparing sauce, add salt to taste and pasta to boiling water. Cook pasta until a] dente and drain. Toss pasta and tomato sauce with spinach. Mix well until spinach turns bright green and wilts. Dioxide pasta among individual bowls and serve immediately.

PER SERVING: 532 calories, 19g protein. 10g fat 95g carbohydrates, 8g fiber, 327mg sodium, 48% vitamin A. 82% vitamin C. 7% calcium


Serves 4 TIME 20 minutes

Nutty whole wheat couscous is a good foundation for the contrasting flavors and textures of cucumbers, chick-peas. apricots, and almonds. The lemon juice and cumin are characteristic of North African cooking.

  • 1 cup whole wheat couscous
  • Salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 12 dried apricots, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons sliced almonds
  • 2 tablespoons think sliced fresh mint leaves
  1. Bring 1 1/2 cups water to boil in small saucepan. Stir in couscous and 1 teaspoon salt. Remove pan from heat, cover, and set aside until tender, about 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk lemon juice, cumin, and pepper to taste in small bowl. Whisk in oil until smooth.
  3. Transfer tender couscous to large bowl and fluff with fork. Drizzle dressing over couscous and set aside to cool slightly.
  4. Stir chickpeas, cucumber, apricots, almonds, and mint into couscous. Adjust seasonings and serve immediately.

PER SERVING: 366 calories, 12g protein, 11g fat 57g carbohydrates, 9g fiber, 281mg sodium, 17% vitamin A, 12% vitamin C, 8% calcium


Serves 4 TIME 20 minutes

Grilling intensifies the flavors in meaty portobello mushrooms and gives them enough heft to occupy the center of the plate. Round out the meal with rice – sticky short-grain sushi rice would be nice – and salad. Make sure to cook the mushrooms with the gill-like undersides facing up to prevent excess loss of juices.

  • 8 medium portobello mushrooms (about 2 pounds), stems discarded and caps wiped clean
  • 3 tablespoons tamari
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh gingerroot
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • Ground black pepper
  1. Light grill or broiler, adjusting oven rack so that it is about 4 inches from heating element. Place mushrooms on large baking sheet and set aside.
  2. Whisk tamari, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, and pepper to taste in small bowl. Brush mixture over both sides of mushrooms. Grill or broil mushrooms, with gill-like undersides facing up, until bottom is marked with dark grill marks (if grilling) or top is beginning to brown (if broiling). Serve immediately. with rice and salad.

PER SERVING: 89 calories, 7g protein, 3g fat 13g carbohydrates, 3g fiber, 764mg sodium, 16% vitamin C


Serves 4 TIME 20 minutes

Grilled eggplant and red 20 bell pepper are layered between slices of country bread slathered with sun-dried tomato pesto. The flavors are bold and summery. If you like, add some grilled zucchini and onions to the mix.

  • 2 large eggplants (about 2 pounds), trimmed and cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick strips
  • 2 large red bell peppers (about 1 pound), cored, seeded, and cut into
  • 1-inch-wide wedges
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 12 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained
  • 1 small garlic clove, peeled
  • 4 large fresh basil leaves
  • 8 slices country bread
  1. Light grill or broiler. Lay eggplant and peppers on large baking sheet. Brush with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Grill or broil vegetables, turning once, until marked with dark stripes, about 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, puree sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, and basil in workbowl of food processor or in blender, scraping down sides of container as necessary until mixture is smooth. Spread about 1 1/2 teaspoons of sun-dried tomato pesto, over one side of each bread slice. Assemble sandwiches, layering eggplant and peppers between slices of bread. Cut sandwiches in half and serve immediately.

PER SERVING: 337 calories, 8g protein, 14g fat 50g carbohydrates, 10g fiber, 604mg sodium, 68% vitamin A, 382% vitamin C, 7% calcium


Serves 4 TIME 25 minutes

This brilliant green soup is 5 rich with flavor and nutrition. The soymilk gives the soup body and helps blend the flavors. Any mild fresh herb may be used as a garnish. Chives and tarragon are especially good, as are basil and parsley. Serve with grilled bread and a sliced tomato salad.

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 medium leeks, white and light green parts sliced (about 2 cups)
  • 3 cups stemmed spinach leaves
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen peas (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup plain soymilk
  •   Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon or chives
  1. Heat oil in large saucepan. Add leeks and saute over medium heat until tender, about 7 minutes.
  2. While leeks are cooking, wash spinach (but do not dry) and roughly chop. Set spinach aside.
  3. Bring 2 cups water to boil, add spinach, and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add peas and cook until heated through, about 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in soymilk, and salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Puree soup in blender, in batches if necessary. Adjust seasonings. Serve warm or reheat carefully (do not boil as soup may curdle). Ladle soup into individual bowls and garnish with minced herbs. Serve immediately.

PER SERVING: 196 calories, 8g protein, 7g fat, 28g carbohydrates, 8g fiber, 399mg sodium, 35% vitamin A. 53% vitamin C, 12% calcium


Serves 4 TIME 20 minutes

Diced tomatoes are the backbone of this potent pasta sauce flavored with lime juice, capers, cilantro, and avocado. To keep the avocado from turning brown, toss it with lime juice and spoon it over the pasta just before serving.

  • 4 medium ripe tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds), cored and cut into  1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced fine
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper Rakes
  • 1 pound fusilli
  • 1 medium avocado
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  1. Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in large pot for cooking pasta.
  2. Meanwhile, combine tomatoes, garlic, capers, cilantro, oil, salt to taste, mid hot red pepper flakes in bowl large enough to hold cooked pasta. Set aside, stirring occasion ally to blend flavors.
  3. Add pasta and salt to taste to boiling water. While pasta is cooking, halve avocado and remove pit. Scoop out flesh and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Toss avocado with lime juice in small bowl.
  4. When pasta is al dente, drain and toss with tomato sauce. Divide pasta among individual bowls. Spoon avocado mixture over bowls and serve immediately,

PER SERVING: 629 calories, 19g protein, 20g fat, carbohydrates, 8g fiber, 464mg sodium, 14% vitamin A. 62% vitamin C


Keep your pantry or refrigerator stocked with the following items and all you’ll need to do is buy fresh vegetables and herbs in order to prepare all the recipes in this column.


  • Apricots, dried
  • Cannellini beans, canned
  • Chickpeas, canned
  • Couscous, whole wheat
  • Cumin, ground
  • Garlic
  • Gingerroot
  • Olive oil, preferably extra-virgin
  • Pasta, fusilli and linguine
  • Peanut oil, roasted
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Rice, arborio or basmati
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Sesame oil, Asian
  • Soymilk
  • Tamari
  • Vinegar, rice and white wine


  • Almonds, sliced
  • Black olives, such as kalamatas
  • Capers
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Roasted red peppers, jarred
  • Sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil
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