Vegetarian Christmas Dishes from Around the World

Meatless Monday with Katie Cizewski

When it comes to the Christmas meal, there are two camps: tradition-lovers and those like me to whom the Christmas meal looks a little stale.  If you're thinking of starting a new tradition this year for your Christmas meal and don't know how to finesse the yuletide feast into an impressive, family-convincing meal, I have compiled a vegetarian menu full of traditional Christmas dishes from around the world to help you.

The meal begins in Denmark, with a traditional starter of roasted chestnuts with salt and butter.  Roasting chestnuts smell heavenly, and will scent your home with sweetness and nostalgia.

Then, a bright borscht soup from Ukraine cleanses the palate for the main event.  It has a bright, Christmas color from the beets.  The vermilion soup is studded with cubes of beets and topped with a dollop of refreshing sour cream.

For your main course, I suggest either Polish pierogis served with sauerkraut and mushrooms, or the Italian version: ravioli.  If neither appeals, try a lanttulaatikko.  Not only is the name a mouth-full, but this traditional Finnish casserole packed full of rutabaga is hearty, and will be sure to please even non-vegetarians.

In the Czech Republic, a side of potato salad with eggs, peas, and onions is traditional.  A warm basket of the Belgian Christmas bread, cougnou, which means "bread of Jesus" is a perfect accompaniment to this extensive feast.

And of course, the most important of all: dessert.  In Hong Kong, like other Christmas-celebrating locales, gingerbread is a popular treat.  In Australia, pavlova, a beautiful meringue cake topped with whipped cream and pomegranate seeds ends the holiday meal.  Bolo Rei, or King Cake, is the Portuguese tradition, and it contains a prize for the eater who discovers a shiny gift.  Despite the excitement of finding this trinket, it's discoverer has to pay for the Bolo Rei the next year.  Maybe it's just in line with the spirit of Christmas, and the gift of giving, after all.

Here's to the holidays, and may your vegetarian Christmas be delicious!