It's now common knowledge that vegetarian eating is one of the most nutrient-rich diet choices you can make.

First, the myths>> Eating meatless means you won't get enough protein or nutrients; vegetarian cooking trades flavorful meats for bland tofu, mushy grains, and tasteless vegetables. Not by a long shot. It's now common knowledge that vegetarian eating is one of the most nutrient-rich diet choices you can make. Nowadays people from all walks of life are cutting down on or eliminating meat and other animal foods. And vegetarian tastes have come a long way since the days of plain salads and bean loaf. Using seasonal produce and fresh herbs combined with a variety of whole grains, pasta, soyfoods, and exotic spices yields vibrant combinations of flavor, texture, and color—enough to please any gourmand.

In the fall and winter, hearty vegetarian stews and casseroles carry the day, but there are many satisfying, lighter dishes for warmer months. Try out these spring and summertime vegetarian recipes on your nonvegetarian family and friends. You may be surprised when they don't miss the meat—and ask for seconds.

Two-Corn Garbanzo Patties
Serves 6 / This unique veggie burger actually uses not two but three types of corn: kernels, fine cornmeal, and coarse-grained polenta. No need for a bun; it's delicious and satisfying served over peppery arugula.

1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon canola oil
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen and thawed corn kernels
2 tablespoons chopped shallots
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 19-ounce can garbanzos (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
1 cup fresh French bread crumbs
2 tablespoons fine cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons minced red bell pepper
2 teaspoons polenta (coarse cornmeal)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 5-ounce bag arugula leaves
Fresh thyme, for garnish

1. Heat 1 teaspoon canola oil in a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Add corn kernels, shallots, dried thyme, and parsley. Sauté for 3 minutes.

2. In a food processor, place garbanzos, bread crumbs, cornmeal, salt and red bell pepper. Pulse until chunky. Add corn-shallot mixture and pulse about 10 times. Do not overprocess.

3. With wet hands, form mixture into six equal patties, about 1/2-inch thick. Dredge patties in polenta on both sides. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon canola oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add three patties at a time and cook 4–5 minutes, until golden brown. Turn over and cook for an additional 4 minutes. Repeat with last three patties.

4. In a small bowl, mix lemon juice with olive oil. Season to taste with kosher salt and pepper. Toss desired amount with arugula leaves. Spread arugula leaves on plates. Top with corn patty and garnish with fresh thyme. Serve with leftover dressing.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 291 calories
% fat calories: 42
Fat: 14g
Saturated Fat: 2g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Protein: 7g
Carbohydrate: 36g
Fiber: 6g
Sodium: 586mg

Stuffed Balsamic-Grilled Portobello Mushrooms
Serves 4 / Meat eaters love the steaklike texture of these mushrooms. If smoked mozzarella tastes too strong, feel free to substitute a milder cheese in its place.

3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 1/2 pints red cherry or grape tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 teaspoon dried thyme
4 large portobello mushrooms, stems and gills removed
4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
4 ounces smoked mozzarella, thinly sliced
1 10-ounce bag baby spinach, steamed

1. Preheat oven to 425°. Drizzle a roasting pan with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and add tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and thyme. Toss to mix. Roast for 15–20 minutes, or until tomatoes start to burst. Keep oven hot.

2. Preheat grill or broiler to medium heat. Place mushrooms gill-side up on a work surface and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a little kosher salt (optional), and remaining 1 teaspoon pepper. With remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil, lightly coat the rounded side of the mushroom caps.

3. Place mushrooms, gill-side down, on grill or broiler pan. Grill or broil for 6–8 minutes on each side, until soft and slightly charred.

4. Transfer mushrooms to a roasting pan and fill with 10–15 tomatoes each. Top with cheese. Place in hot oven until cheese bubbles. Set each mushroom on a mound of steamed spinach and serve immediately.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 262 calories
% fat calories: 61
Fat: 19g
Saturated Fat: 5g
Cholesterol: 22mg
Protein: 12g
Carbohydrate: 15g
Fiber: 5g
Sodium: 486mg

Orzo with Roasted Vegetables, Basil, and Feta
Serves 4–6 / Serve with crusty bread and a light salad for a fabulous springtime dinner. It's also a great addition to a buffet brunch or lunch.

1 small red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 small yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 small orange bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
6 thin stalks asparagus, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 pint red grape tomatoes, halved
1 large shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup orzo
1 1/4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons sliced fresh basil
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

1. Preheat oven to 425°. Toss bell peppers, asparagus, tomatoes, shallot, and garlic with 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large baking dish. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 25 minutes, turning once or twice with a spatula.

2. Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat in a large saucepan. Add orzo and stir until lightly browned, 2–3 minutes. Add vegetable broth and season with salt and pepper. Lower heat, cover, and cook for 12 minutes, until liquid is absorbed.

3. Add roasted vegetables to orzo. Add lemon juice and toss lightly. Let cool to room temperature and add feta, pine nuts, and basil. Top with grated lemon zest.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 441 calories
% fat calories: 46
Fat: 24g
Saturated Fat: 5g
Cholesterol: 17mg
Protein: 12g
Carbohydrate: 50g
Fiber: 5g
Sodium: 323mg

Grilled Havarti and Avocado Sandwiches
Serves 4 / You can use any type of fruit spread or preserves in this sandwich: fig, peach, or whatever strikes your fancy. For an easy, delicious appetizer, quarter the sandwiches and serve on a platter with sliced, tart green apples.

2 teaspoons salted butter, softened
8 slices French bread, 1/4-inch thick
2-4 tablespoons apricot fruit spread or preserves, to taste
4 ounces Havarti cheese, sliced
1 large avocado, sliced

1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat (or use an electric frying pan set on high). Butter four bread slices on one side only. Put slices, butter-side down, on a clean surface. Spread 1/2–1 tablespoon apricot fruit spread or preserves in a thin layer on each slice. Top with cheese and layer with avocado slices. Cover with remaining bread; butter tops.

2. Place two sandwiches in the pan and cook for 2–3 minutes, until bread is golden brown and cheese has begun to melt. Flip sandwiches over, pressing down slightly with a spatula. Continue cooking until golden brown. Serve immediately.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 307 calories
% fat calories: 56
Fat: 19g
Saturated Fat: 8g
Cholesterol: 30mg
Protein: 11g
Carbohydrate: 24g
Fiber: 4g
Sodium: 306mg

Pappardelle with Basil-Mint Pesto
Serves 6 / Mint adds a fresh and unexpected taste in this recipe, but any type of pesto will work. If you're pressed for time, use store-bought pesto and you'll have a terrific dish ready in 10 minutes.

Basil-Mint Pesto
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
2 large cloves garlic
3 cups basil leaves, loosely packed (about 3 ounces)
1 cup fresh mint leaves, loosely packed (about 1 ounce)
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1 pound pappardelle (wide ribbon pasta) or linguini
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups fresh or frozen and thawed spring peas
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. To make pesto, combine 2 tablespoons pine nuts and garlic in a food processor and purée. Add basil, mint, cheese, and lemon juice; blend. While processing, slowly add 3 tablespoons olive oil. Process until well blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

2. In a large pot of boiling water, cook pasta. Drain well and transfer to a large bowl. Toss with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and let cool slightly.

3. Add pesto to pasta and toss well to coat. Stir in peas, remaining pine nuts, and salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 446 calories
% fat calories: 39
Fat: 19g
Saturated Fat: 4g
Cholesterol: 30mg
Protein: 17g
Carbohydrate: 52g
Fiber: 3g
Sodium: 393mg

Stir-Fried Tofu with Snap Peas and Cashews
Serves 6 / This is an incredibly easy, fast dish. Depending on the produce available, you can trade the snap peas for snow peas, broccoli, green beans, or even spinach.

1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons honey
1 14-ounce package extra-firm tofu, well drained and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon peanut oil
1 large shallot, chopped
1 pound sugar snap peas, trimmed
1 cup unsalted cashews, toasted
4 cups cooked jasmine rice

1. Combine soy sauce and honey in a baking dish and stir well. Add tofu cubes and toss to coat.

2. In a wok or large deep frying pan, warm sesame oil over high heat. Remove tofu from marinade and add to pan. Cook over high heat until tofu is golden brown on all sides, 4–5 minutes. Remove tofu from pan and set aside.

3. Add peanut oil to pan and sauté shallot over medium-high heat until lightly browned. Turn heat to high and add tofu, snap peas, and cashews. Cook for 1–2 minutes, until peas are bright green. Serve over hot jasmine rice.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 446 calories
% fat calories: 39
Fat: 20g
Saturated Fat: 3g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Protein: 16g
Carbohydrate: 56g
Fiber: 3g
Sodium: 375mg

Rebecca Broida Gart was a vegetarian for eight years; now she tries to get her two young kids to eat their vegetables.