Just a few years ago Vegetarian Times magazine polled Americans and concluded that the number of those who have chosen to cut red meat out of their diet has risen to a staggering number close to seven and a half million.
This trend was followed by an influx of availability of vegetarian fare. Popular grocery stores such as Safeway and Kroger have capitalized on this vegetarian trend by upgrading their vegetarian options by providing an entire section devoted to those who choose to go meatless.
With Valentine’s Day being just around the corner, many of us are attempting to scurry around town in attempts to make reservation at our favorite restaurant with the hopes spending a romantic evening with our significant other. Instead of shelling out close to $200 on an evening of fine dining, why not choose the option of eating in and preparing a magnificent meal for lover, incorporating fantastic fares from around the world while spending less than half of the amount afore mentioned.
Begin your culinary journey around the world with an appetizer meant to stimulate the senses and tantalize your taste buds. What better way to do this than to begin your meal with dip handpicked from my time in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
When making this appetizer for two, gather about 15 ounces of sour cream, one clove of garlic, about one half of your favorite type of pepper (I generally go for a milder pepper, but if you want to really spice things up, go for a spicier jalapeno), about 1.5 ounces of dry ranch salad mix and a pinch of cilantro. The easy part about this pre-meal treat is its preparation; by simply blending all of the ingredients together and chilling them for about a half hour before serving with your favorite chip or pita, you have a ready-made appetizer with minimal prep-work.
Moving on to the night’s entrée, we travel east to Korea, though populated with Americans and strained with a heavy relationship with their neighbors to the north, this country’s fine cuisine tends to fly under a number of people’s radar when it comes to culinary delights. Bib-im-bap, a mixture of assorted ingredients with a rice base served in a piping hot stone bowl is one of Korea’s most popular dishes.
Ingredients include a half cup of rice (drained), a pinch of sugar/salt (mixed) and sesame seeds, a half cup or peeled radish, one inch of zucchini, one teaspoon of sesame oil, a couple of cloves of garlic (minced), a half cup of shiitake mushrooms (sliced thin), a half cup of bean sprouts and spinach leaves, and a half cup of carrots.
Make sure you have plenty of dried hot chili flakes and soy sauce and add to taste. The only ingredient that you may have to make a special trip to find is the Korean red chili sauce called gochujang. Add about a half of a table spoon if you have never tried it before. More experienced users can add to taste.
Once all of the ingredients are assembled into a place where they can easily be reached, the first thing you are going to do is cook the rice by place in a sauce pan or rice cooker with about a cup or of water. Cook on low until the water is absorbed (about 15mins) and set to the side.
Boil the zucchini for eight minutes and salt to taste after draining.
Combining sesame oil and garlic with the boiled zucchini add sesame seeds and sugar in skillet and sauté for about a minute. After transferring sautéed zucchini to a plate, again sauté shiitake mushrooms with soy sauce.
Boil and drain bean sprouts until limp then transfer to separate bowl and add salt, sesame oil and seeds. After this step, you are going to want to boil the spinach and blanch for about 15 to 20 seconds.
Crisp rice and add all vegetables together, usually best served in a piping hot stone bowl.
As you can tell, preparation for the evening’s entrée may not be so simple and even though a bit more difficult than that appetizer, you can persuade your significant other to assist. By working together, you can talk about a plethora of things, perhaps brining the two of you closer together.
End the dinner with an American favorite, ice cream (I would suggest Graeter’s Black Rasberry Chip always a crowd pleaser).
This delectable meal will stir the senses and sooth the soul and make this year’s Valentine’s Day one to remember for the rest of the year!