Our Best Vegetarian Recipes: Tamale Pie, Protein Salad and More

Thinking about cutting back on meat? MOTHER's best vegetarian recipes are a great jumping-off point.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
January/February 1985
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Here are some of MOTHER EARTH NEWS' favorite vegetarian recipes.

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Something about food has a way of grabbing folks' attention. As soon as word got out around the office that we were doing a meatless mini-manual, various staffers began bringing in the recipes for their favorite vegetarian dishes.

So, in the spirit of sharing a good thing, here are some of MOTHER EARTH NEWS' best vegetarian recipes, gleaned from various kitchens and cookbooks.

Tamale Pie

Reprinted from "Laurel's Kitchen" by Laurel Robertson with permission from the publisher. 

This recipe is one of those staff-of-life dishes: Nutritionally, it's an excellent combination of ingredients that complement one another in proteins, and its rich, full flavor of beans and corn makes it a family favorite.

Group I: 

  • 2 cups of cooked pinto or kidney beans
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons of water
  • 2 tablespoons of oil
  • ½ cup of chopped onion
  • ¼ teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon of chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • ¼ cup of sliced ripe olives
  • ½ cup of fresh corn
  • ½ green pepper, chopped
  • ¼ cup of chopped parsley
  • ½ cup of chopped celery

Group II: 

  • 2 ½ cups of cold water
  • 1 ½ cups of cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • ½ teaspoon of chili powder
  • ¼ cup of grated cheese (or more)

Grind the beans in a blender or food mill, combine the tomato paste with the water, then set these aside while you sauté the onion in the oil. Combine all the Group I ingredients and let them cook over medium heat, stirring to prevent the beans from sticking. Adjust the seasonings to taste.

Next, combine all the ingredients in Group II, except the cheese, in a heavy skillet, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the cornmeal thickens and comes to a boil. Then spread 2/3 of the cornmeal mixture over the bottom and sides of a greased 8-by-8-inch pan, pour the bean mixture into the cornmeal crust, and spread the remaining cornmeal on top. Sprinkle the top crust with the cheese and cook in a 350-degree oven for ½ hour.

Green Rice Casserole

This recipe, contributed by one of MOM's staffers, is extremely easy to fix and provides a good use for leftover vegetables.

  • 1 1/3 cups of evaporated milk or light cream
  • ½ cup of vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • ¼ teaspoon of pepper
  • ½ teaspoon of minced garlic
  • ½ teaspoon of Italian herbs
  • 3 cups of cooked brown rice
  • ¼ cup of chopped onion
  • 2/3 cup of chopped carrots
  • 2 bunches of fresh spinach, steamed slightly (or 1 10-ounce package of frozen spinach, thawed) 
  • leftover vegetables added to taste
  • 3 cups of shredded sharp cheese

In a large bowl, beat the milk, oil and eggs until well blended, then mix in the seasonings. Next, add all of the remaining ingredients except for 1 cup of the cheese, and mix well. Now, transfer the ingredients to a lightly greased 3-quart casserole dish and place the remaining cup of cheese on top. Bake at 400 degrees for 1 ½ hours.

Perfect Protein Salad

Reprinted from "The Moosewood Cookbook" by Mollie Katzen with permission from the publisher. 

This recipe's a favorite with several of MOM's staffers. It's good for you as well as good-tasting!

  • ¾ cup of raw soybeans
  • ¾ cup of raw rye or wheat berries 
  • one of each, diced: scallion, carrot, cucumber, red onion pepper, stalk of celery
  • 1 cup of cottage cheese


  • ½ cup of cider vinegar
  • ½ cup of mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons of dry white wine 
  • juice of 1 lemon or lime
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh fennel or dill
  • ¼ teaspoon of dry mustard
  • ½ cup of freshly chopped parsley 
  • dash of basil 
  • salt and pepper to taste 

Cook the soybeans and rye or wheat berries until tender, then add them to the marinade and chill the mixture. Add the diced vegetables, and then combine everything with the cottage cheese. Serve with alfalfa sprouts and tomato slices.

Savory Cheese and Onion Pie

Reprinted from "The Vegetarian Epicure" by Anna Thomas with permission from the publisher.  

  • pastry for a 10-inch pie shell
  • 10 ounces of cheese, grated (½ Swiss and ½ Gruyere suggested)
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 4 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 teaspoon of freshly chopped basil
  • 2 large, firm tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¾ cup of cream nutmeg (optional)

Line a 10-inch pie dish with your favorite pastry and chill it. Then toss the cheese with the flour and set it aside. Melt the butter in a large skillet, and sauté the onions until they begin to turn golden. Spread about 1/3 of the cheese over the bottom of the pie dish, then layer the onions on top. In the butter that's left in the pan, heat the tomato slices with the chopped basil for a minute or two, then arrange the mixture over the onions, and cover with the remaining cheese.

Next, beat the eggs with the cream and pour over the cheese. Sprinkle a little nutmeg on top, if desired, and bake the pie in a preheated 350-degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top browns nicely. Serve hot, in wedges, to six hungry cheese lovers.

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