Pollsters say that more Americans want more vegetarian options at restaurants.
The bottom line is health, says John Scroggins, editor of the Food Channel, a trends newsletter.
The surveys of people who want more vegetarian options, whether they're college students or older adults, cite health as the operative factor.
But people want their food to taste good, too. That's where ethnic foods come in.
Cultures other than our own -- from Mediterranean to Asian -- have long histories of marginalizing meat. For centuries, they have balanced their plates instead with beans and grains, vegetables and fruit as illustrated by the recipes below.
Layered Enchiladas With Green Chili Sauce
Makes 4 servings
1 (15-ounce) can black beans
2 medium onions, chopped
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (28-ounce) can green enchilada sauce (divided use)
12 (7-inch) corn tortillas
2/3 cup sliced black olives (optional)
2 cups shredded reduced-fat Monterey Jack or Cheddar cheese or a blend
2 cups shredded lettuce (see note)
1 cup nonfat plain yogurt
Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, coarsely mash beans and their liquid with a fork. Stir in onions, parsley, cilantro, chili powder and garlic.
In a large skillet, heat 1 cup enchilada sauce over medium heat until hot but not boiling. Remove from heat. With tongs, dip 4 enchiladas in hot sauce, allowing excess to drip back into pan. Spread the 4 tortillas in a single layer in a large, lightly greased glass baking dish. Spread half of beans over tortillas.
Dip 4 more tortillas; make second layer on each of the 4 tortillas. Spread remaining beans on top. Cover with olives, if using. Dip last 4 tortillas and place on top for final layer.
Spoon enchilada sauce over all and sprinkle with cheese.
Bake 10 to 15 minutes, or until cheese melts.
Line 4 dinner plates with lettuce. With 2 spatulas, transfer each stack to an individual plate.
Pass remaining enchilada sauce and yogurt.
Note: You can use iceberg lettuce, but romaine or even mixed salad greens will have more nutrients.
Per serving: calories 586; cholesterol 44 milligrams; sodium 2,279 milligrams; fat 15 grams; 21 percent calories from fat.
Sesame Noodle Salad
Makes 4 to 6 servings
Sesame Dressing (recipe follows)
8 large white or shiitake mushrooms
8 ounces dried vermicelli
3 tablespoons salad oil (divided use)
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
K? 1/4 pound green beans, ends trimmed, cut into 1/4 -inch diagonal
2 medium carrots, cut into julienne strips
2 medium crookneck squash, cut into julienne strips
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry
12 to 18 grilled shrimp
Prepare Sesame Dressing; set aside.
Trim and clean mushrooms. Set aside caps; cut stems into julienne strips.
Cook vermicelli in boiling salted water until barely tender. Drain, rinse with cold water and drain again. Place in a large bowl; set aside.
Place a wok or skillet over high heat. When it's hot, add 2 tablespoons oil. When oil is hot, add ginger, beans, carrots, squash and julienned mushroom stems.
Stir-fry just until vegetables are barely crisp-tender, about 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from heat; add to noodles. To wok or skillet, add remaining tablespoon of oil, soy sauce, sherry and mushroom caps. Cook, turning occasionally, until mushrooms have absorbed all liquid, about 2 minutes. Place in a small bowl, cover and refrigerate.
Mix dressing with noodles and vegetables. Season to taste with salt. Cover and refrigerate, stirring occasionally, for at least 2 hours. To serve, garnish with mushroom caps and shrimp.
Sesame Dressing: In a skillet, combine 1/4 cup salad oil and 3 tablespoons sesame seeds. Stir over medium-low heat until seeds are golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Stir together 1/3 cup sugar, 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar and 2 tablespoons dry sherry until sugar is dissolved. Mix in cooled sesame seeds and oil.
Note: You could also add shredded cooked chicken, shrimp, scallops or strips of lean pork to this salad.
Per serving: calories 402; no cholesterol; sodium 185 milligrams; fat 19 grams; 42 percent calories from fat.