1.06.2013

Going Meatless

Could you do it? Could you remove meat from your diet? Before you answer, consider the holidays and those invitations to dinner parties from your carnivorous friends and family where meat is sure to be on the menu. Consider the discipline it would take to forever ban beef, poultry and fish from your daily meals.

For as long as meals have been prepared, meat has held a central place of reverence. It is almost always the star: a golden turkey holding center court at the Thanksgiving table, a juicy steak on the barbecue next to thick hamburger patties and succulent sausages, or a beautifully steamed piece of fish, drizzled with lemon.
I am not a vegetarian but I rarely cook or eat meat anymore. This is not so much a conscious choice as it is a preference. I now consider meat to be an indulgence, a treat. I will always eat meat if it is served to me at a gathering and I love to make the occasional meatloaf, but more often than not I am not interested enough in meat preparation to go the distance. I also find meat to be extremely filling, not to mention increasingly expensive to buy, and my appetite for it has diminished.

My partner, Tomas, is vegan. This is yet another reason why meat is a rarity in our household. Because of a cardiovascular condition, Tomas gave up meat and dairy several years ago leading up to a scheduled heart operation. In the months before the operation, he felt so good about his health and his body, he decided to continue to leave all meat and dairy behind for good. It's been three years and he has never deviated, insisting he has better digestive health and more energy.
 For the first time ever, Martha Stewart Living has issued a vegetarian cookbook. It is called Meatless and it is out on January 8th. Showcased as the follow-up to Power Foods, a Whole Living cookbook that espouses nutritional value, Meatless offers over 200 vegetarian recipes (each with its own full-colour photograph) to try at home, making it an essential volume for any household with a vegetarian and an alternative cookbook for anyone interested in trying their hand at preparing meatless meals. While the book is not a vegan cookbook, there are numerous vegan recipes in the book as well as gluten-free recipes.

More than just a cookbook, Meatless is also a roadmap to embracing a vegetable-based lifestyle. There are dozens of versatile recipes that can be easily adapted, such as pizza with a variety of toppings, salads made from different whole grains, and pestos with unexpected flavors and ingredients. You’ll also find advice on stocking your pantry with vegetarian essentials (dried beans, pasta, herbs and spices), a collection of basic recipes and techniques (vegetable stock, tomato sauce, polenta), and make-ahead flavor-boosters (caramelized onions, roasted peppers, and quick pickles). Here is a breakdown of the book's sections:

-Small Plates to Mix and Match: Smashed Chickpea, Basil, and Radish Dip with Pita Chips; Roasted Baby Potatoes with Romesco Sauce; Stuffed Marinated Hot Red Chili Peppers; Grilled Polenta with Balsamic Mushrooms

-Stovetop Suppers: Frittata with Asparagus, Goat Cheese, and Herbs; Spring Vegetable Ragout; Farro Risotto with Wild Mushrooms; Southwestern Hash

-Soups, Stews, and Chili: Tomato Soup with Poached Eggs; Bean Chili; White Cheddar Corn Chowder; Chickpea Curry with Roasted Cauliflower and Tomatoes

-Casseroles and other Baked Dishes: Ricotta and Spinach Stuffed Shells; Italian Baked Eggplant with Seitan; Black-Bean Tortilla Casserole; Apple, Leek, and Squash Gratin

-Substantial Salads: Raw Kale Salad with Pomegranate and Toasted Walnuts; Avocado, Beet, and Orange Salad; Arugula, Potato, and Green Bean Salad with Creamy Walnut Dressing; Roasted-Tomato Tabbouleh

-Sandwiches, Burgers, and Pizzas: Quinoa Veggie Burgers; Grilled Asparagus and Ricotta Pizza; Chipotle Avocado Sandwich; Portobello and Zucchini Tacos

-Pasta and Other Noodles: Fettuccine with Parsley-Walnut Pesto; Roasted Cauliflower with Pasta and Lemon Zest; Soba and Tofu in Ginger Broth; No-Bake Lasagna with Ricotta and Tomatoes

-Simple Side Dishes: Mexican Creamed Corn; Cabbage and Green Apple Slaw; Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Pecans and Mustard Seeds; Baked Polenta “Fries”

In the foreword to the book, Martha Stewart writes about her own love of vegetable dishes and her increasing reliance on fruits and vegetables as the key to healthy aging. She mentions her daughter, Alexis (a vegetarian) as being instrumental in her appreciation for meatless meals. She also discusses the treatment of farm animals at feed lots and her growing dismay at the often brutal conditions these animals are forced to endure before they are slaughtered. I highly recommend this book - to vegetarians and to meat-lovers who are looking for some creative alternatives to meat-based meals.

ALSO RECOMMENDED
1000 Vegan Recipes by Robin Robertson is a vast tome of vegan knowledge. It includes wonderful tips and guidelines for keeping a vegan pantry and offers hundreds of delicious recipes. My only complaint about the book is that there are no photographs. But at more than 600 pages in length as is, photographs would have doubled its size! 

Tomas and I have been using this "vegan bible" for quite some time now. 1000 Vegan Recipes  (1996) by Robin Robertson is considered the best vegan cookbook ever published. At more than 600 pages, the book is filled with essential information on the vegan diet and recipes that you will return to again and again because they are actually extremely delicious. (Take it from a self-proclaimed meat and dairy consumer!) So far we've made a hearty sweet-potato and mushroom shepherd's pie that was to-die-for, a vegan pizza topped with fried potato slices, roasted tomatoes, carmelized onions, sage, oregano and grilled shiitake mushrooms, a chocolate coffee rum cake, a vanilla pound cake, delicious tomato sauce and various smoothies.

I have to attest that there really is nothing like eating fresh, healthy food. You just feel good after you've prepared and eaten nutritious meals. The more you take part in this sort of meal preparation, the more eager you are to continue.

7 comments:

Sunflowerrae said...

Thanks for the recommendation Andrew! Have you guys tried Moosewood Cooking for Health? It is one of the best cookbooks I have ever used. I was surprised how tasty the food was while being low calorie and super nutritious. I highly recommend any of the Moosewood Restaurant Cookbooks. I really hope Martha's new book is comparable. I've got some of Linda McCartney's books on hold at the library and looking forward to those too.

Pru said...

I don't eat much meat now and I'm very picky about where it was bred and in what conditions. If the book makes an appearance in the UK then I'll have a look. I loved the more personal style of this post Andrew.

Mary said...

Do you know how the recipes in Martha's book rate in terms of calorie/fat content? I know I've oftentimes correlated vegetarian eating as "healthy" eating, but when I take a look at the actual calorie and fat counts of some of the recipes in my vegetarian cookbooks, those counts are no better (and sometimes much worse) than meat dishes, especially when the recipes are heavily reliant on dairy foods or oils. I would love a vegetarian cookbook that really showcases fresh vegetables as opposed to "cook a grain and then throw an egg on it" or "cook some vegetables, mix some cheese in, and then wrap it up in a flour tortilla." I suppose I am a bit of a jaded vegetarian when it comes to vegetarian cookbooks by more mainstream cookbook authors. I'm hoping Martha comes through with healthy vegetarian recipes, but am waiting for the reviews before I purchase her new cookbook. :)

Rowaidaa said...

Hi Andrew, interesting and very healthy post, love it. My daughter is vegetarian, but eats fish and my husband barely eats meat. The book Meatless looks interesting with lots of delicious recipes, I ordered it now from Amazon UK. 1,000 Vegan Recipes looks really good, I should check it, thank you. Have a great week

ANDREW RITCHIE said...

Mary, yes, the calories are listed at the end of each recipe in Meatless. Many of the recipes are very low. This is a "Whole Living" cookbook, so the focus is definitely on health and fitness.

Mary said...

Excellent, thank you! :)

Vanessa said...

Hello,

This book looks very well-done and I just ordered a copy to add to my cookbook collection. Thanks for your post--I enjoy your blog and work.