If you're a vegetarian, you either have to learn how to cook or accept that you'll be lucky to scrounge up any halfway decent food for the rest of your life. I quit eating meat 10 years ago, and I can honestly say I'd probably have only a fraction of my present cooking knowledge if I were still eating meat. Vegetarianism forces one to make a choice: am I going to eat bland frozen food, pizza, and bagels for the rest of my life, or am I going to learn how to cook? I chose the latter, and now I'm going to share some of my favorite recipes with you.
Black bean soup
My wife and I ate this last night. Like most of the food I cook, I adapted an existing recipe to better suit our tastes. This recipe is actually derived from two separate recipes in two separate cookbooks--Colorado Collage and The Feast of Santa Fe. The former has a recipe for Mexican Bean Soup, but it turns out disturbingly bland and smooth if you follow the recipe exactly. The latter has a recipe for refried beans which, while delicious, calls for half a stick of butter! This recipe cuts that in half, and it's much more flavorful than the Colorado Collage soup recipe. It's not a low fat recipe, but it is high fiber.
-1 medium onion, diced
-At least 4 cloves of garlic (I recommend 6), crushed
-3 cans black beans
-1/4 cup of liquid from the beans
-1 stalk celery, diced
-2 T olive oil
-2 T butter
-2 small cans of diced chilies
-1 t cumin (more or less depending on taste and the intensity of your cumin)
-1 t chili powder (see above)
-4 cups vegetable stock
-6 slices of vegetarian bacon
1. Pour the olive oil in a cast iron skillet. Fry the mock bacon; remove and set aside.
2. Melt the butter with the remaining oil. Add the onion and saute until translucent; add the garlic and spices. Cook for another minute.
3. Remove pan from heat. Add the beans, stirring and mashing as you go along. Add as much of the liquid as necessary to make the mixture into a paste. Don't worry about making it an especially fine paste, though--it looks better if it's a little on the rustic side. (Note: You can stop here and if all you want is some pretty tasty refried beans. And, uh, six strips of vegetarian bacon--I guess you could make a sandwich or something. If you prefer smoother refried beans, keep mashing. Maybe you could even use a stick blender, but I don't have one so I don't know for sure. If you want more authentic refried beans, use pintos instead. If you want to use dried beans, a pound will do the trick. You'll need to cook them first, of course.)
4. Thoroughly combine the bean mixture with the vegetable stock. Add the diced chilies, "bacon," and celery.
5. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for ten minutes. Serve while hot. Garnish with grated cheddar cheese, if desired. Like many TexMex soups, it's also really good with some tortilla chips; add them as you would crackers.
A few words on ingredients: For the "bacon," I recommend Morningstar Farms because it's fairly cheap and available throughout the US. (Carnivores could presumably use real bacon, but you're on your own as far as picking out a particular brand.) I like Progresso black beans because they retain their structural integrity better than competing brands of black beans. But this is the sort of recipe where structural integrity is pretty much irrelevant, so use any brand that tastes good. I've never had any problem with any brand of canned diced chilies. Old El Paso works just fine, and it's probably the most readily available brand.