While vegetables have been around forever, vegetarianism as a force in this country is perhaps 20 years old. Now, the number of vegetarians may be as high as 20 million and millions more eat meatless dinners several times a week without even thinking about it.

The number of natural foodsstores in the country has increased almost eightfold, to more than 8,000, and more than 2,000 supermarkets have natural foods sections.

This revolution has brought us foods we never heard of before, such as the new-old soyfood, tempeh. Serve tempeh a la king over brown rice, and pass a generous salad bowl. TEMPEH A LA KING (4 servings)

2 cups vegetable broth

2 ounces tempeh

1 medium onion, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper or 1/4 cup drained canned pimientos

1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms

3 tablespoons whole-wheat flour

1 teaspoon light miso

2 tablespoons sherry

Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup blanched, slivered almonds

Bring broth to a boil. Cut tempeh in small cubes and simmer in broth for about 10 minutes. Drain, reserving liquid and set aside.

Saute' onion in oil until clear, then add bell pepper and mushrooms and continue to saute' over low heat, stirring often, until mushrooms are tender. (If you use pimientos, add them after mushrooms are cooked.)

Stir flour into saute'ed vegetables and continue to cook and stir a minute or two. Meanwhile, add water to the reserved vegetable stock to bring mixture back up to 2 cups liquid and stir gradually into saute'ed vegetable-flour mixture. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir together miso and sherry and add to sauce along with pepper and cubed tempeh. Simmer briefly, adding almonds just before serving. Serve over brown rice or on triangles of whole-grain toast.

SESAME SALAD (4 servings)

1/4 cup freshly toasted sesame seeds, ground in blender

1 tablespoon oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice (or more to taste)

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup orange juice

1 large or 2 small oranges

3 or 4 scallions

6 cups washed, dried fresh spinach leaves

Combine in a blender sesame seeds, oil, lemon juice, salt and orange juice; then blend.

Peel the orange and slice it crosswise, then cut into manageable pieces. Slice scallions thinly.

Toss spinach with oranges, scallions and dressing and serve immediately.