BY Bill Walsh
Going meatless one day a week is a painless dietary adjustment
Heart disease diabetes stroke and certain types of cancer are killing us at an alarming rate despite some scientists believe our ability to prevent a huge number of these deaths. We are dying of “lifestyle diseases ” they argue and our diet high in saturated fat is the biggest culprit.
It’s an argument difficult to refute. Americans eat more meat than any other country downing a mind-boggling 8 billion animals a year mostly chickens but also including 100 million hogs and 35 million head of cattle. The average American male eats 160 percent of the government’s recommended daily intake of meat; the average female isn’t far behind eating nearly 140 percent.
Dr. Robert Lawrence of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health proposed reducing our consumption of animal fat by 15 percent which we could accomplish simply by forgoing meat one day a week. To that end he launched the Meatless Monday Campaign in 2003. Other public health schools — and countless individuals and families across the nation — have subsequently signed on in support of the campaign.
When it comes to beneficial dietary adjustments it doesn’t get any easier than this. That said here are a few recipes from readers and staff to help get you started on reducing the amount of meat you consume.
Main dish: Fried Eggplant
Side: Oyster Mushrooms with
Soy Fig Fried Rice
Main dish: Grilled Portabella Burgers
Side: Sweet Potato Salad
Main dish: Lentil Loaf
Side: Grilled Old Bay Okra
We selected these recipes because the eating experience is so meat-like; the lentil loaf the Portabella burger and the fried eggplant all have the right mouth-feel and the condiments with which they are often served complete the illusion. Giving up meat one day a week? What a snap.
Fried eggplant is delicious hot and crispy but leftovers placed on a paper towel covered tightly then chilled are fabulous cold as a snack or on a sandwich on thick bread with mayonnaise and mustard.
Sicilian or Japanese eggplants (for their nuttier flavor)
34 ounces extra virgin olive oil
24 ounces Progresso bread crumbs Italian style
1 pint Half and Half
2-3 brown eggs
2 tablespoons fine whole wheat pastry flour
½ cup dry Italian seasoning
1-2 tablespoons Herbamare seasoning
Healthy dash black pepper
Dash cayenne pepper
1. Wash eggplant and slice with sharp knife into thin rounds.
2. Beat eggs and 2/3 of the Half and Half in medium-sized bowl.
3. Place dry ingredients in a large bowl with ¾ of the breadcrumbs Italian seasoning flour Herbamare seasoning black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste. Mix well. 4. Place about half the oil in a large skillet heat to hot adjusting the heat so that it doesn’t smoke. 5. Double dip the eggplant first in the dry mixture then egg then finish with dry mixture again. Place rounds in hot oil taking care not to splash oil. 6. Turn each round with a slotted spoon or spatula when brown on one side and fry until golden brown. 7. Drain well on paper towels layered over brown grocery bags. Whenever frying salt and other seasonings to taste. The heat may need adjusting and between batches you may need to add oil to the skillet and return to hot. — Pat Bradford editor and publisher
Oyster Mushrooms with Soy Fig Fried Rice
Figs are a good source of dietary fiber calcium and potassium a mineral that helps to control blood pressure. Savoy cabbage has a milder flavor and usually provides a better taste to dishes wherein it replaces green cabbage.Cabbages of all types are loaded with vitamin C fiber and possibly cancer-fighting compounds.
4 cups cooked and cooled jasmine rice
½ cup chopped dried black mission figs
1 red onion julienned
2 carrots julienned
1 tablespoon grated ginger
2 cups Savoy cabbage
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb. oyster mushrooms
½ lb. shitake mushrooms
1 teaspoon sambal oelek (chili paste)
1. Cook rice as directed and set aside to cool. 2. In a hot pan sauté mushrooms until golden brown. 3. Deglaze pan with sambol oelek and 1 teaspoon soy sauce. 4. In a wok or large frying pan add olive oil red onion carrots figs and ginger. Sauté for 2 minutes. 5. Add rice and cabbage. Sauté for 2 more minutes and deglaze with a little of the soy sauce. Serve with mushrooms on top. — Rob Essa personal chef Wilmington
Grilled Portabella Burgers
4 Portabella mushrooms
1 medium or gallon Ziploc bag
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1. Mix thoroughly and add mushrooms. Marinate in Ziploc bag 2 – 6 hours. 2. Grill for 4 minutes on each side. 3. Serve on burger buns with your favorite condiments — Joshua Curry staff photographer
Sweet Potato Salad
“This is our signature sweet potato salad ” the co-op’s marketing department told us when we asked about this delight. “We get requests for the recipe all the time.”
In 1992 the Center for Science in the Public Interest compared the nutritional value of sweet potatoes to other vegetables. Considering fiber content complex carbohydrates protein vitamins A and C iron and calcium the sweet potato ranked highest in nutritional value. Not only that you can support local farmers at the same time: North Carolina is the leading U.S. producer of sweet potatoes providing 40 percent of the annual U.S. production.
5 lbs. sweet potatoes (about 8)
8 oz. pineapple
½ cup raisins
½ cup toasted finely chopped walnuts
1 cup diced celery
1 red onion diced
¼ cup roasted red peppers
1 cup Veganaise (eggless mayonnaise)
1. Bake sweet potatoes at 350 degrees until tender but still firm. 2. Cool peel and dice. Place in a large bowl. 3. Combine remaining ingredients and stir until Veganaise is thoroughly combined. — Tidal Creek Co-op
Lentils have a short cooking time and a distinctive earthy flavor and have been part of the human diet since the Stone Age. It is the vegetable with the second-highest level of protein (25 percent) trailing only soybeans and is an excellent meat substitute.
Lentils provide protein and cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber as well as about twice as much iron as other legumes. They are high in most B vitamins and folate which is especially important for women of childbearing age because folate reduces the risk of birth defects.
¾ cup lentils
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 onion chopped
1 cup perhaps slightly more breadcrumbs
1 egg beaten
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
Salt and pepper to taste
1 ‑teaspoon dried herbs — sage thyme or whatever you like
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 1-pound loaf pan. 2. Wash the lentils twice in cold water and drain them well. 3. Cover them with twice their volume of cold water in a large saucepan cover and bring to a boil. 4. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or more until the lentils are quite soft. 5. Mix the cheese onion salt pepper and herbs in with the cooked lentils. Add the breadcrumbs egg and butter and stir well. Add more breadcrumbs if the mixture is too wet. 6. Press the mixture into the loaf pan. Bake for 40 — 45 minutes.
½ cup ketchup
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
Stir all ingredients together and spread on the lentil loaf during the last 10 minutes of baking. — Cissy Russell graphic artist
Grilled Old Bay Okra
String beans are good and ripe tomatoes
And collard greens and sweet potatoes
Sweet corn field peas and squash and beets —
But when a man rears back and eats
He wants okra.
— Roy Blount Jr. “Song to Okra”
Need we say more?
1 ½ lbs. whole okra
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 ‑tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic cut in half
1. Toss all ingredients into a large bowl and coat evenly. 2. Grill whole okra for four minutes on both sides. — This recipe is provided by personal chef Rob Essa Wilmington.
If giving up meat is not a snap for you there is a whole range of other options. A variety of manufacturers are cranking out chickens and hot dogs and roasts barbecue and burgers and spaghetti sauce stews and chili steaks and deli products that they claim look like meat smell like meat have the right mouth-feel and the right taste — all without the sacrifice of a single animal.
The secrets are seitan and a fermented soy — don’t be alarmed it’s not tofu — known as tempeh.
Soy is the granddaddy of meat analogs and the source of much of the products’ bad reputation. Soy-based meat analogs started showing up in mainstream supermarkets about 30 years ago and producers hadn’t quite perfected either taste or texture. Many consumers tried them once never to return.
Seitan and tempeh to the rescue. “Seitan is derived from the protein portion of wheat ” nutritionist Jill Nussinow explains. “It stands in for meat in many recipes and works so well that a number of vegetarians avoid it because the texture is too ‘meaty.’” Seitan covers a number of bases: It is high in protein very low in fat and absorbs the flavors in which it is marinated like a tasty sponge.
Tempeh is made by culturing and controlling the fermentation process that binds soybean particles into a cake form. Unlike tofu tempeh is made from whole soybeans giving it different nutritional characteristics and textural qualities including higher protein content dietary fiber and vitamins as well as firmer texture and stronger flavor. It shines as a substitute for meat in sauce dishes — spaghetti chili stew — but does less well on its own.
Tidal Creek Co-op deli manager Deb Lovan says she prefers seitan over tempeh which has a more distinctive stronger taste that perhaps takes a little getting used to. Sandwiches using a bacon-like tempeh are very popular she added. “Both products depend on proper preparation ” according to Lovan.
My wife and I brought some meat analogs from a recent shopping trip to Harris Teeter. She was a little more critical than I. Jake the canine gave all these products very high marks but we’re not sure he has the most discriminating palate. We’re not sure he has ever actually tasted any food in his haste to swallow.
Morningstar Farm’s breakfast sausage is as hugely disappointing now as it was when last we tried it oh so many years ago. Meatless meatballs were good in spaghetti one night and made excellent subs for football watching the following afternoon. We tried Morningstar Farm’s Herb roasted Chik’n patties for dinner and they were good if a bit on the crunchy side. Their real spot we decided is on a bun with all of the condiments normally served with a for-real chicken sandwich.
We didn’t try making either seitan or tempeh though there are recipes aplenty on the Web. The process seems more than a little laborious though the same might be said of many recipes until you actually roll up your sleeves and get into them. The products — seitan is often sold as “wheat meat” — are available at most mainstream grocery stores and are gaining in popularity in organic and health-food shops such as Tidal Creek. — Bill Walsh