Oh lovely eggplant sliced thickly, marinated in olive oil and garlic, breaded in an herbed panko and baked to crispy perfection, let me top you with some shaved parmesan at just the last moment! Come hither my dear brussel sprouts, allow me to slice you in half and toss you in a touch of lemon scented olive oil and roast until crispy. Beloved baby bok choy, let my wok cradle you in a delicate saute of fresh ginger.
It’s Meatless Monday, haven’t you heard?
Well, at least in my world tonight where I’ll be teaching an adult school class in Westfield NJ. Why go meatless once a week you may ask. As my students will learn this evening, it’s better for your health to eat less red meat, reducing the risk of certain diseases like cancer, diabetes, stroke, heart disease and obesity. If you’re even a teeny bit environmentally concerned, eating meatless is also good for our planet. We use less water and other natural resources when growing fruits and vegetables versus raising cattle and other meat. So, eating meatless will reduce the greenhouse effect and make us less reliant on fuel. Of course we need a lot of us to make this change to make a difference but why not start! Finally, there’s a cost benefit to eating less meat and one that’s beneficial for your personal wallet — veggies cost less than meat and will lower your grocery bills as well as keeping medical costs down when you’re that much healthier.
Have I convinced you yet? Well, if I haven’t yet, just think about how good a meatless meal can taste. The distinct and colorful flavors inherent in the endless array of vegetables will never get dull. There’s bountiful creativity and variety in the veggie department which will never cease to tantalize your taste buds. Take Dirt Candy, Amanda Cohen’s hot vegetarian restaurant on Allen Street in NYC. One of the only Michelin-recommended vegetarian restaurants in America, this tiny restaurant is so popular that it turns down celebrities! Gourmet magazine says: “…so good it’ll stop your heart…we should be thankful for Dirt Candy…”Good luck getting a reservation on a Saturday night! I’m still trying.
Back to Meatless Monday! There are some ways to ensure that it will be a satisfying addition to your lifestyle. First, make sure to change the veggies to make a new interesting meal every week. Veggie chili can take on a whole new personality with only the change of a few vegetables, for instance adding cauliflower, eggplant or mushrooms to your veggie chili. Second, incorporate lots of beans — Black, garbanzo, black eyed peas, red, white, split, lentils — which will provide the protein and heartiness of your meatless meal. Don’t forget the whole grains which are high in fiber like quinoa, faro and brown rice to make it a filling meal. Change up the seasoning by varying the spice blends (curry, garam masala, chili powder), incorporating various ethnic influences and of course adding some heat. Finally, make sure to use what’s farm fresh and local to give it the richest flavor.
In tonight’s class, I’ll be teaching my all-time favorite meatless meals which which don’t miss the meat. These include my famous veggie burger, crispy falafel, quinoa fried rice and veggie chili corn bread casserole. Here’s my veggie burger which should convince you that you can live without meat at least one day a week! Enjoy.
Southwestern Quinoa Burger
This low fat veggie burger is packed with protein and loaded with flavor. It holds together well in patty form and can be pan seared, broiled or grilled. Serve on a bun or without and if you like, spice it up with some chili lime mayo.
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 ¼ cups Italian bread crumbs
1 onion, diced finely
1 (or 2) garlic cloves, chopped finely
1 cup cooked quinoa (in vegetable or chicken stock)
1 ear of corn, cooked and kernels removed
1 can black beans, rinsed and roughly chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced finely
¼ cup cilantro, washed and chopped
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons Garam Masala
1 tablespoon olive oil plus more for sautéing
In a small skillet, heat one tablespoon of olive oil and then sauté the onions and garlic for five minutes, turning a few times. Set aside. In a medium sized bowl, mix together the eggs, quinoa, bread crumbs, onion and garlic, corn, black beans, pepper, cilantro, salt and Garam Masala.
Using your hands, mix until all ingredients come together well and patties can be formed. You can form the patties and then lay on parchment paper to freeze or cook immediately. To cook, heat a non-stick skillet. Melt 1 tablespoon butter with two tablespoons olive oil. Cook veggie burgers for about 5 minutes per side. Serve with chili lime mayonnaise.
Chili Lime (or Cajun) Mayonnaise: For every two tablespoons of mayonnaise use one lime wedge and ¼ teaspoon chili or Cajun powder.