More Vegetables, Hold the Carbs

How do I eat vegetarian without leaning on carbs? Since I wrote The Weekday Vegetarians, I have gotten this question at every turn. The first thing I need to say about this is that in general, we eat a normal amount of carbs in our house. We’re not eating pasta every night, but nor are we serving riced cauliflower with our stir-fries. (I’ve tried. I just. Can’t. Do. It.) The second thing I want to say is low-carb vegetarian eating isn’t easy. But there are a few recipes in the old archive that have accidentally fallen into this category, so I wanted to re-up them for all the hounders. The not-so-secret secret is that in order to feel satisfied without carbs and without meat, you need fat and you need protein. To that end: Okonomiyaki (pictured above and recipe below) the savory Japanese pancakes traditionally made with eggs, flour (this recipe requires a very small amount, 1/2 cup spread across eight pancakes), shrimp and pork. I just load them up with mostly cabbage and shredded vegetables, and serve with a salad on the side for a quick Monday night event. Coconut milk can stand in for all kinds of carby things you think you need, as evidenced by Thai Green Curry if you just leave out the rice noodles. (Subscription only.) An indulgent sauce or dressing can do the job, too, as evidenced by this surprisingly satisfying Indonesian-ish Tofu Salad with Pineapple and Peppers which is drizzled with a spicy peanut sauce. Now that I think of it, that off-season caprese I opened with would work in this category as well, if rounded out with a few other small plates. Here is the Okonomiyaki recipe, and as always, please share your own discoveries if you’re into this kinda thing.

Okonomiyaki-Style Crispy Cabbage Pancakes
The Weekday Vegetarians
Makes 8 3-to-4-inch pancakes

3 tablespoons mayonnaise 
2 teaspoons sriracha sauce
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce
4 large eggs
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour
5 cups finely shredded cabbage, preferably napa
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives, plus more (optional) for serving
1 bunch scallions, white and light green parts only, finely chopped (about 2⁄3 cup)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more as needed

In a small bowl, whisk together the mayo, sriracha, and 1 teaspoon of the soy sauce. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, salt, the remaining 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 1⁄3 cup water. Gradually whisk in the flour—it’s OK if the batter is a little lumpy. Gently fold in the cabbage, chives, and scallions.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet set over medium heat. Heap 1⁄3-cup scoops of batter onto the hot surface, using the bottom of the measuring cup or a spoon to gently flatten them. Fry about three at a time, or as many as fit while giving them space. Cook until golden and crispy on each side, 6 to 8 minutes total. Transfer to a plate tented with foil to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining batter, adding more oil to the skillet if necessary. Serve alongside the sriracha dipping sauce and more chives, if desired.

P.S. For more simple vegetarian recipes, check out my New York Times bestselling book The Weekday Vegetarians. Reminder: All the fun stuff these days happens in the Dinner: A Love Story newsletter on Substack, which is consistently in the Top 10 most-read food newsletters on the entire platform. You can subscribe here.

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I like to make zucchini parm. I slice zucchini thinly on a mandolin then layer with sauce, cheese, and ricotta if you want. Zucchini or eggplant involtini would be similarly low carb!

gorilla tag

One of my favorite dishes is zucchini parm. I use a mandolin to finely slice zucchini, which can be layered with sauce, cheese, and ricotta, if desired. Similarly low-carb are involtini with zucchini or eggplant.