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This eggplant dish uses ingredients that many people may have at home.

NorthJersey.com

Finding it difficult to score meat at the supermarket? No problem. There are many dishes you can make that are meat-free. Here are 12 vegetarian  — and pescatarian —recipes that North Jersey chefs swear by. They’re so delicious even die-hard carnivores will be pleased, if not swear off meat.  

Meatless Moussaka

Moussaka is the heady national dish of Greece. You can make it with meat sauce but, for a nice twist, skip the meat and gild this “Greek lasagna” with vegetables instead. Brothers Angelo and Jetmir Bushi of Angelo’s Greek Taverna in Maywood serve it at their well-loved family-owned restaurant. “It’s a family recipe and it is a big seller,” Angelo said. 

(Courtesy Angelo’s Greek Taverna, Maywood; angelosgreektavernanj.com)

For the béchamel: 

  • 2 ounces butter
  • 5 ounces flour
  • ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 15 ounces milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 ounces grated Parmesan and Romano cheese

For the moussaka:

  • 2 potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
  • 2 eggplants, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1 zucchini, sliced thin
  • 2 canned roasted peppers
  • Flour for frying
  • Olive oil for frying

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Make bechamel: Melt butter in a sauté pan over medium heat, add flour, black pepper, nutmeg. Combine. Add milk and eggs and cheese. Combine and turn off heat.

Dip first three vegetables in flour, and fry each separately.

Dry roasted peppers well. 

In a roasting pan, layer potatoes, then cheese, then zucchini, then cheese roasted peppers and finally another layer of cheese. Top with 2/3 bechamel and layer eggplant on top. Pour remaining bechamel over the top. And bake in over for around 60 to 90 minutes.

Serve with tomato sauce.

Serves: 2 

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Saganaki

Fried cheese? This classic Greek dish uses delicious Kefalograviera cheese that is lightly dusted in flour and pan-seared for a golden crust. “Super easy and sinful,” said Themis Mourelatos, chef and owner of popular Greek restaurant A Taste of Greece in River Edge. Mourelatos serves this dish, a family recipe with a modern twist, at his jewel box spot. It’s served hot and meant to be shared. If you don’t eat gluten, you can skip the flour and put the cheese in the broiler to cook.

(Courtesy A Taste of Greece, River Edge; atasteofgreecenj.com)

  • 8-12 ounces Kefalograviera or Halloumi cheese
  • Four for dusting
  • Honey for drizzle
  • Sesame seeds 

Lightly dust cheese with flour, sit in a frying pan in high temperature for 2 minutes on each side.

Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Serve with jam.   

Grilled Cheese Casserole

This recipe appears in The Preppy Cookbook, a cookbook penned by chef and caterer Christine Nunn. The Fair Lawn resident said that this kid-friendly side dish easily can be used as an entrée. “Chances are you have everything you need to make it,” she said. “You can swap out the cheese for any kind you like, but I am a classic kind of gal.”

(Courtesy Christine Nunn, Picnic Catering by Christine)

  • 8 slices American cheese, cut in 2-inch strips
  • 4 or 5 ripe tomatoes such as beefsteak, cut into 2-inch wedges (no need to make them uniform or pretty)
  • 10 slices white or wheat bread, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons butter, cut in small cubes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Generously butter a 9-inch by 13-inch casserole dish.

In a large bowl, combine the cheese, tomatoes and bread. Lightly press the bread mixture into the casserole dish and dot the top with the butter cubes.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until the cheese is melting and starting to turn golden brown stirring once halfway through cooking.

Let stand five minutes before serving.

Serves: 4

Black Bean Soup (Caldinho de feijão)

This black bean soup is a traditional Brazilian dish. It is a reflection of the homestyle cooking chef Ilson Gonçalves of Samba in Montclair grew up eating in his native Southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina. His mother operated a popular restaurant and he learned to cook by watching her.

(Courtesy chef Ilson Goncalves of Samba Montclair)

  • 2 cups black beans, soaked for 12 hours
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, small diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ teaspoon Cajun seasoning mix
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • ½ cup chopped parsley

Soak beans in cold water for at least 12 hours before cooking. Discard the soaking water.

Simmer beans in a large pot with water and bay leaves, covered, for about 1 hour. If you have a pressure cooker at home, you can cook it for 20 minutes after the pressure is achieved. 

In a small frying pan, sauté onion and garlic with olive oil. Transfer them to the beans pot and add the Cajun seasoning mix. Continue to cook beans with an open lid for about 1 hour. 

Transfer beans with liquid to a high-speed blender. Blend for a few minutes until smooth. You can add more water if you think the soup is too thick. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Bring soup back to the pot to reheat before serving. Garnish with olive oil and chopped parsley.

Serves: 6

Yuca Gnocchi (Nhoque de Mandioca)

Brazilian-born chef Ilson Gonçalves of Samba restaurant in Montclair penned a cookbook, entitled “The Samba Cookbook.” This recipe appears in it. Goncalves said, “It will go perfectly well with a pesto or a classic homemade marinara or Bolognese sauce.”

(Courtesy Ilson Goncalves, Samba Montclair)

  • 2 pounds yuca, peeled and chopped
  • 5-8 tablespoons yuca starch (polvilho)

Put yuca in a pressure cooker and cover with water. Bring to pressure and cook for 25 minutes, until yuca is super soft. If you choose to use a regular pot, it will take about 50 minutes.

Drain the yuca and mash with a fork or potato masher until it forms a soft purée.

Add 5 tablespoons of yuca starch and mix with your hands to form a soft dough. If it is too wet, you can add more yuca starch as needed.

Flour rolling surface with some yuca starch. Roll dough into thick logs and cut into even squares. This recipe should yield around 60 gnocchi.

Yuca gnocchi can be refrigerated or frozen for later use. When it is time to eat, cook them in boiling water for a few minutes, until gnocchi starts to float. 

Serves: 6 

Potatoes Gratin

AJ Capella, executive chef of Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen in Morristown, said that he made this gratin for a customer while Jockey Hollow’s kitchen was still open. (Mother’s Day is the first day that JHBK, which temporarily closed its doors due to the coronavirus pandemic, will have takeout.) “He was ‘craving potatoes and we added black truffles. But no matter when, It’s a comforting side dish.”  

(Courtesy AJ Capella, executive chef, Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen)

  • 10 russet potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 3 shallots
  • 20 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup parmigiano reggiano
  • Salt 
  • Pepper

Peel and thinly slice potatoes. A mandoline works well for this, if you have one.

Slice garlic and shallot, cook on low until translucent in olive oil with a pinch of salt and the thyme.

Add cream and reduce by half. Remove thyme and blend cream mixture with cheese.

Layer the potato in gratin dish in a spiral pattern, pressing down each layer firmly. Top with cream.

Cover with foil and bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. Then broil for 10 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before cutting.

Serves: 6 as a side dish

Pan-seared Yellowfin Tuna

Owner Bashkim Balidemaj of BV Tuscany Restaurant in Teaneck assures that this recipe is as easy as it gets. He also assures that if you don’t have tuna in the fridge, you can use salmon, sole, barramundi or snapper.

(Courtesy BV Tuscany Restaurant, Teaneck) 

  • 6 to 8 ounces tuna
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Sesame seeds for garnish
  • Splash of soy sauce

Salt and pepper the fish. Heat oil in a frying pan. Sear fish for a few seconds in olive oil on one side and similarly a few seconds on the other side, depending on the temperature you prefer. Slice fish into four to six pieces. And place on sauteed spinach or any other vegetable you’d prefer. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Drizzle with soy sauce.

Serves: 1

Shrimp Roti

Thomas Ciszak, chef/owner of relatively new French restaurant Brasserie Memere in Closter, serves this shrimp dish at the restaurant. 

(Courtesy Thomas Ciszak, Brasserie Memere, Closter) 

  • ½ cup lentils
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup fish or chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 20 U10 shrimp (peeled and deveined)
  • 3 ounces andouille sausage (sliced)
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 onion (small dices)
  • 1 bulb fennel, sliced thin
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 pinch saffron (optional)
  • 1 ounce white wine
  • 1 teaspoon Pernod (optional; also can substitute Sambuca)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ teaspoon espelette pepper

Wash the lentils in cold water. Fill medium saucepot with lentils. Add bay leaf, one peeled garlic clove and fish stock (or chicken stock). Cover with lid and boil until soft. Keep lentils in pot until serving.

Heat olive oil in a sauté pan on medium heat. Add the shrimp and sear both sides for 1 minute. Take out the shrimp and set aside. Add into the pan sliced andouille sausage, sliced garlic, diced onions and thyme. Saute until onions are translucent. Add fennel and cook until it is al dente. Season with salt, pepper and pinch of saffron.

Deglaze the pan with white wine and Pernod and cook for one minute. Add the shrimp back into the pan and cook until medium, approximately 2 minutes.

Serve the shrimp and vegetable mix over the green lentils. Sprinkle the espelette pepper over the finished dish.

Serves: 4. 

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Vegetarian Pakoras

India is a nation filled with vegetarians. So it should not surprise that Benares, a lovely Indian restaurant in Wyckoff, would serve a slew of vegetarian dishes, including pakoras, a popular Indian snack food.

(Courtesy Benares, Wyckoff)

  • 2 cups gram flour (besan), also known as chickpea/garbanzo flour 
  • 2 tablespoons rice flour 
  • Salt to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder 
  • ½ teaspoon red chilli powder 
  • ½ teaspoon coriander powder 
  • ½ teaspoon cumin powder 
  • Pinch of Asafoetida (optional)
  • Pinch of baking soda
  • Oil for deep frying
  • 1 medium potato 
  • 16-20 spinach leaves (palak) —  or a combo of other leafy greens
  • Chutney or ketchup for serving

To make the batter, put gram flour in a mixing bowl, add rice flour, salt, turmeric powder, red chili powder, coriander powder, cumin powder and asafoetida, if using. Heat a tablespoon of oil, and add to mixture. Add sufficient water and whisk well to make a thick, smooth, lump-free batter. Add a pinch of baking soda and whisk again. Rest the batter for 5 to 10 minutes.

Heat oil in a wok or other deep pan over medium-high heat.

Take some salted water in a bowl and thinly slice the potato into the water.

Dip each potato slice in the batter, wipe off any excess on the side of the bowl, and drop it into hot oil. Fry till crisp and golden. Drain on paper towels.

Add little water to the batter to thin it down before dipping the spinach leaves.

Dip each spinach leaf in batter and deep-fry in hot oil till crisp and golden. Drain on paper towels.

Arrange the pakoras on a serving plate and serve hot with tamarind chutney or ketchup.

S’mores Tart

Chef Michael Merida’s Rockin’ Roots in Hillsdale is a plant-based café, coffee and juice bar. It’s perforce vegetarian. This is one dessert that should please vegetarians, pescatarians, carnivores — and kids, of course. 

(Courtesy Michael Merida, executive chef Rockin’ Roots, Hillsdale)

For the shell:

  • 4 ounces graham crackers, ground
  • 3 ounces melted butter
  • 1½ ounces sugar

For the filling:

  • 2 yolks
  • 1 whole egg
  • 2 ounces brown sugar
  • ½ quart heavy cream
  • 1 pound dark chocolate, 58-62%

Make shells: Mix all ingredients together and place in ring mold and pat down to make tight. About ¼ way full. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Take out and let cool.

Make filling: Whisk together eggs and sugar. Bring cream to a boil. Slowly add a little cream into egg mix, stir, then slowly add more. Cool over low heat until base is thick. Strain over chocolate. Mix with whisk. Once fully incorporated, pour into tart shells and place in fridge to cool.

For garnishing either use tiny marshmallows or pipe a stiff meringue on top before serving and use torch to burn.

Serve with warm chocolate sauce.

Yields: 10 three-inch tarts.

Peppers Stuffed with Quinoa, Corn, Mushrooms & Walnuts

Stuffed vegetables, called gemista pronounced yemēsta, are a staple of Greek cooking, explained Alex Gorant, executive chef of Axia in Tenafly. Here he shares a recipe for a non-traditional version he makes at Axia when he gets a vegetarian request.

  • 4 peppers any color, large if possible
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 head garlic, roasted
  • 2 cups mushrooms, chopped
  • Kernels from 2 ears corn, grilled or roasted
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted

Remove the tops of the peppers with the stem. Remove the seed pod with a knife, and remove any seeds and white ribs from the inside of the pepper with a spoon.

Simmer the peppers in a pot of salted water for 5 minutes. 

Drain the peppers in a colander and place in a baking pan. When the peppers have cooled, rub the outside with some olive oil.

Mix the remaining ingredients together to make the stuffing. If you’d like, add herbs — parsley, thyme, oregano. Add spice if you’d like, perhaps cumin and cayenne pepper.

Place enough water in the baking dish to come a quarter of the way up the peppers and cover with the pan’s lid or foil. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes. The peppers should be soft and tender but not falling apart. Remove the lid/foil and spoon onto a platter. 

Serves: 4

Veggie Meatballs

Jamie Knott may sear Hudson Valley foie gras, sauté Viking Village sea scallops and mix Napa cabbage with colossal crab meat in the kitchen of his fine-dine restaurant Saddle River Inn, but when at home his kids — Jaeden, 12,  Brandon, 9, and Brooklyn, 6 — would rather dine on veggie meatballs. “It’s one of my wife’s recipes, adapted,” Knott said. “You can serve these with pasta or as meatball Parmesan sandwiches(–just melt mozzarella and pick your favorite bread.” Knott is also chef/owner of Saddle River Cafe and Cellar 335 in Jersey City. 

(Courtesy Jamie Knott, chef/owner Saddle River Inn, Saddle River Cafe, Cellar 335)

  • 2 heads broccoli, cut in uniform pieces
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut in uniform pieces
  • 1 pound shiitake mushrooms (or any other meaty mushroom)
  • Salt and pepper o taste 
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Almond-milk-soaked bread (focaccia, small diced; about 2 cups after soaked; 4 cups before soaked 
  • ¼ bunch parsley 
  • ¼ bunch basil 
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan
  • 1½ cup marinara sauce 
  • 2 eggs 
  • Italian bread crumbs to coat exterior

Preheat oven to 375. Season broccoli, cauliflower and shiitakes with olive oil salt and pepper, then roast for 12 minutes. Let cool. Process in a food processor.

Meanwhile mix chopped garlic, olive oil, milk-soaked bread, parsely, basil, Parmesan, marinara sauce and eggs in a bowl. Fold in with the rest of the ingredients.  

Form balls of 1 to 2 ounces and bread with Italian bread crumbs.

Bake at 350 for 14 minutes on a baking sheet with olive oil. 

Yield: 16-20 balls depending on size. 

Esther Davidowitz is the food editor for NorthJersey.com. For more on where to dine and drink, please subscribe today and sign up for our North Jersey Eats newsletter.

Email: davidowitz@northjersey.com Twitter: @estherdavido 

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