Vegetarians wouldn’t stay vegetarians long if salads were all that were on the table.

Reed Faitak, who helms the kitchen at Austin Daily Press, is one of those creative cooks who conjures up meat-free dishes that appeal to just about anyone. At his restaurant at 1900 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Faitak created this fried carrot rice dish for fall that’s part savory cake, part arancini.

Faitak softens and then purees ginger, carrots and garlic, and then he mixes that bright, aromatic paste with just-cooked rice. Once that mixture cools, you can cut it into rectangles, triangles or cubes and then fry them in a small amount of oil in a pan, bake them on a sheet or, if you’re really going for audience appeal, deep fry them. At the restaurant, they serve these fried rice cakes on a Piccolo sandwich, topped with sesame oil, sriracha vinaigrette, mango curry puree, pickled mushrooms and a zucchini and Thai basil salad.

Fried Carrot Rice Cake

Fried carrot rice cakes are a hearty, flavorful, meat-free filling for sandwiches or an entree to serve with sauteed vegetables or a salad. Photo from Austin Daily Press.

These “cakes” consist of extra-starchy rice that’s been beaten into a glutinous, near-paste consistency. Because the rice is only bound together by this stickiness, it’s important to boil the rice unrinsed and beat it together with the carrot and ginger puree while it’s still warm.

1/2 lb. carrots
1-inch piece ginger
4 garlic cloves
6 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 cups uncooked white rice
6 green onions

Peel carrot and ginger. Roughly chop carrots, ginger and garlic, and combine in a sauce pot with 1/2 cup water. Bring to a simmer, then cover. Cook on low heat for about 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Remove cover and increase heat to evaporate any remaining water. In blender, combine vegetables and rice vinegar. Puree to smooth paste and set aside.

Bring one quart water to a boil with a generous pinch of salt. Add rice and stir to prevent lumps from forming. Bring to a low simmer and cover. Cook on low heat for about 10 minutes, until all water has evaporated, and remove from heat. Let stand covered for 5-10 minutes.

While rice is still hot, combine with puree in stand mixer and beat on medium high speed for about 2 minutes (or until pasty). Finely chop green onion, and fold by hand into beaten rice.

Line a loaf pan or small baking dish with plastic wrap, leaving enough on the sides to cover the dish again. Press rice mixture into pan, and cover with extra wrap. Cool completely in refrigerator, about 1-2 hours.

Lift the cooled rice mixture out of the plastic, and cut into small squares, triangles or rectangles, or portion into tater tot-style cylinders. Pan fry in a few tablespoons of oil (recommended) or lightly oil a baking sheet and bake at 425 degrees for about 10-12 minutes, until golden.

— Reed Faitak, Austin Daily Press