The legend persists: vegetarians have a limited and boring diet. Culinary blogger and author, Céline Marks proves the opposite.
Vegetarians know it: at the mere mention of the word vegetarianism, the panicked, outraged or simply disgusted reactions of meat people are almost systematic. However, vegetarians do not only eat salad. The day when these barbaric omnivores finally accept an invitation to dine at home, it’s an opportunity to impress them, or shut them up, without stuffing a broccoli.
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To find out how to treat these rib steak fans to a 100% veggie meal, we interviewed lifestyle blogger Céline Marks. In 2016, she decided to change her lifestyle after adopting her little beagle, Charly. Convinced by animal and environmental causes, she changed her diet to become entirely vegetarian. And last March, she published her first book, My vegetable kitchen (1). Surrounded by omnivores who have been able to adapt with greed and curiosity to this new diet, she gives us her best advice to bluff her guests, without animal ingredients.
Bet on surprise
In the country where you eat foie gras, rillettes and sausage without really asking questions, coming across a vegetarian is like an extraterrestrial encounter, with his cohort of received ideas. At least, until a few years ago. “People imagine that we only eat lettuce, chickpeas and seeds. It even seems that they think that we are punishing ourselves, whereas I have never been so fulfilled in my diet, notes Céline Marks. Since 2016, I notice all the same that it is becoming more democratic, in particular thanks to the Internet ”.
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In her early days as a vegetarian, the blogger is discreet when she is invited to dinner, to avoid the endless: “But you’re only going to eat salad? “. “I didn’t want to bother anyone, especially since my family still eats meat. So, at Christmas, I came with my own dishes. Eventually, everyone wanted to taste it and they all liked it. In fact, I noticed that there is a real openness on the part of omnivores, as soon as they see the dish in question”. To convince a cutlet fan to come and dine with a vegetarian, it is therefore preferable not to specify anything on the menu to avoid any a priori. Once the nose is on the plate, the marvelous colors of the plant world will do the rest.
“People imagine that we only eat lettuce, chickpeas and seeds. It even seems that they think we are punishing ourselves”.
… And gluttony
For Céline Marks, the key to success lies in the simplicity of the dish and its indulgence. “You have to do simple and familiar things, and not fall into the clichés of vegetarianism by serving a Buddha Bowl or dishes that are too eccentric”. Because to convince an omnivore to eat vegetarian, it is necessary above all to overcome one of the major generalities made on the subject: the lack of flavors that a vegetable dish can have. A cliché that Céline completely denies. “By becoming a vegetarian, I discovered a lot of new products and new flavors that allow me to cook very creatively, without it being complicated. And I have a blast in the kitchen!”.
In video: the recipe for zucchini crumble with parmesan by Céline Marks
In the kitchen, it is taste that triumphs. “It’s very simple, I only deviate very little from their eating habits. I can make a vegetarian pizza with pesto, artichokes, parmesan, pine nuts; or a zucchini and parmesan crumble, or even a pistachio babka with a nice watercress salad… It’s original, it’s colorful and it’s fun. For example, instead of serving simple cucumbers with cream like in the canteen, I will decorate them with white miso, Espelette peppers and a little honey sauce”. In order not to rush her guests too much, Céline Marks also recommends using cheese, which is found many times in her recipes: such as halloumi nuggets, lasagnariccia with chard or gnocchi with pumpkin and parmesan.
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Provoke the “wow” effect and not “I’m still hungry”
It’s proven. Visually, any vegetarian dish will not be able to compete with the well-grilled and very juicy roast chicken, which sits on the Sunday lunch table. Indeed, difficult to do the same when you work mainly with vegetables and you do not have a centerpiece to place in the center of the table. To remedy this, Céline Marks is betting on quantity and choice. “I try to make lots of different little dishes that we taste in a friendly and playful spirit. For example, I like to make two different starters. I am also very attentive to the presentation, which is very important. I bet a lot on the colors and the quality of the product: to do this it is imperative to work with seasonal products. Respecting the rhythm of nature allows us to be creative in the kitchen and work with products that will have many benefits for our health.
So, browse the stalls of your stores, select the fruits and vegetables of the moment that inspire you and make several dishes that you will have nicely when you sit down to eat. Some elements even allow you to get as close as possible to meat, such as imitation meat (steaks, aiguillettes or vegetable bacon). “I only buy it for the festive side when, for example, my husband and I are invited to a barbecue. But be careful, you have to pay attention to their composition. Since I don’t miss the meat, I don’t feel the need to move towards these alternatives”.
Play the gastronomic card
When we say goodbye to noble products, often composed of animal matter, it may seem almost impossible to raise our vegetables to a gastronomic rank. However, ideas fuse in the mind of Céline Marks. “For example, I’m going to orient myself towards products like the small squash, called “Jack be Little», which I will garnish with chestnuts, mushrooms, parsley and serve with a creamy sauce. Each time it’s a great success and from a presentation point of view, it’s pretty and original. You can also make a nice caramelized aubergine tatin with any vegetable”. And if you absolutely want to mention meat-based dishes, Céline Marks mentions her forest terrine. “Visually and from a taste point of view, it really looks like a terrine. With a piece of toast, it’s a killer. The main trick is still in the presentation. His last piece of advice: “Arm yourself with aromatic herbs, spices, seeds and cheese. Seasoning is the basis of vegetarian cuisine and it looks very nice on the plate”. Enough to raise your dish to a higher level.
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(1) My vegetable kitchen by Céline Marks, Hachette Pratique, 192 pages, €19.95.