from Fine Cooking #106 (Aug/Sept 2010), pp.54-61.
There are lots of good reasons to eat a little less meat these days. But who knew that what’s good for the environment, good for your health, and good for your wallet could be so much fun for the cook, too? Once you cook with (and eat) less meat, you’ll find yourself adding a great new lineup of dishes to your weekly repertoire. Here are ten delicious stratagies with a half dozen recipes for each to help you get started.
Strategy #1: Use Meat as a Condiment
Sometimes all you need to turn a vegetable side dish into a satisfying main course is just a little bit of full-flavored meat, such as bacon, ham, salami, pancetta, or sausage. All add big flavor in small amounts. A seasonal gratin gets even heartier with the addition of bacon.
|Indian Summer Gratin with Butternut Squash, Potatoes, Corn & Bacon||Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower, Arugula & Prosciutto||Yukon Gold Rush Grilled Pizza|
|Warm French Lentil Salad with Smoked Sausage||Summer Corn Chowder with Scallions, Bacon & Potatoes||Creamy Chickpea Soup with Crisp Chorizo|
Strategy #2: Have Breakfast for Dinner
Eggs have a lot going for them: They’re a great source of protein, they’re almost always in the fridge, and they’re the basis for many different dishes. An omelet of smoked Cheddar and sautéed leeks, a savory bread pudding with roasted late-summer vegetables, or a frittata with pasta and summer greens—do any of these sound like they should be relegated to breakfast? You get the point.
|Spaghetti Frittata with Arugula and Fresh Herbs||Smoked Salmon, Goat Cheese & Artichoke Quiche||Garlic & Herb Fried Eggs on Toast with Prosciutto Crisps|
|Chive & Gruyere Omelet||Tuscan Poached Eggs||Summer Vegetable Strata|
Next Strategies: Give Veggies Top Billing and Turn Salad Into Supper
Strategy #3: Give Veggies Top Billing
Change the way you think about portions and make a larger-than-usual amount of roasted or sautéed vegetables. This way, you can serve a smaller amount of meat and the plate will still feel abundant. Try using vegetables as a bed for that smaller portion of meat.
|Corn, Sweet Onion & Zucchini Sauté with Fresh Mint||Roasted Ratatouille||Sweet and Spicy Roasted Vegetables|
|Jewel Roasted Vegetables||Grilled Vegetable Salad with Feta||Curried Chickpea and Summer Vegetable Stew|
Strategy #4: Turn Salad into Supper
Dinner salads are, by their very nature, less-meat meals—and they’re incredibly versatile. The secret to making a dinnerworthy salad is a generous mix of interesting ingredients: lots of greens, plenty of satisfying add-ins (like nuts, cheeses, and avocado), and flavor-packed vinaigrettes. Then you need only a small amount of protein—a few shrimp or scallops, or several slices of chicken.
|Southwestern Grilled Chicken Salad with Tomato and Black Bean Salsa||Spinach Salad with Chicken, Cashews, Ginger & Fried Wontons||Watercress Salad with Steak, Sauteed Shalltos & Stilton|
|Wilted Arugula Salad with Crip Potatoes, Feta & Warm Black Olive Vinaigrette||Vietnamese Style Chicken Salad||Romaine, Bacon & Tomato Salad|
Strategy #5: Discover Grains
Hearty grains are filling foundations for (nearly) meatless dinners. The grains section of your supermarket is packed with varieties you may not have tried, from wheat berries and bulgur to quinoa and millet. Many of these grains are good sources of protein, easy to prepare, and can be made ahead.
|Provencal Wheat Berry Salad with Shrimp and Mustard-Caper Vinaigrette||Risotto-Style Heirloom Farro||Quinoa and Avocado Salad|
|Barley Risotto with Mushrooms and Gremolata||Wehani Rice & Barley Salad||Bulgur Salad with Wilted Chard & Green Olives|
Strategy #6: Add "Meaty" Flavor
There are some ingredients with such satisfying flavor (what the Japanese call “umami,” or the fifth flavor) that they can make a dish without meat taste meaty. Use any of these with vegetables, grains, legumes, or pastas, and you won’t miss the meat:
• sautéed or dried mushrooms
• roasted or sun-dried tomatoes
• roasted eggplant
• toasted nuts and nut butters
• caramelized onions, leeks, or shallots
|Broccoli & Shiitake Stir-Fry with Black Bean Sauce||Miso-Mushroom Soup||Eggplant and Tomato Gratin with Mint, Feta & Kalamata Olives|
|Oven-Roasted Eggplant||Sesame, Snow Pea & Shiitake Pasta Salad||Orecchiette with Caramelized Onions, Green Beans, and Fresh Corn|
Strategy #7: Try Tofu
You don’t have to be a vegetarian to eat tofu. Extra-firm tofu is meaty and filling, making it a fine addition to summer kebabs on meatless nights. The great thing about tofu is that it absorbs the flavors of the ingredients it’s cooked with. Try adding it to summer veggie soups, stir-fries, and grain pilafs.
|Sesame-Ginger Tofu and Shiitake Kebabs||Seared Baby Bok Choy with Tofu||Thai Red Curry with Tofu|
|Vegetables and Tofu with Spicy Peanut Sauce||Udon with Tofu and Stir-Fried Vegetables||Red-Cooked Tofu|
Strategy #8: Be a Vegetarian By Day
Meat can sneak into every meal of the day if we let it, so try going meatless for two out of three meals. Make a yogurt, blueberry, and granola parfait for breakfast. For lunch, have an avocado, tomato, and Cheddar sandwich or a bowl of vegetable soup with croutons. Save the daily meat for dinner.
|Artichoke, Leek, and Taleggio Frittata||Grilled Portobello & Goat Cheese Sandwiches||Toasted Pita and Herb Salad|
|Open Face Brie, Apple, & Arugula Salad||Autumn Vegetable Soup||Black Bean Soup with Sweet Potatoes|
Strategy #9: Consider Shellfish
When deciding what’s for dinner, shellfish is rarely the first thing that comes to mind. But since mussels, oysters, clams, and scallops are smart, sustainable buys, why not put a steaming bowl of mussels or a shellfish chowder on your menu?
|Steamed Mussels with Bell Peppers, Watercress, and Herbed Toasts||Grilled Mussels, Clams & Oysters||Clams with Basil Broth|
|Spicy Steamed Mussels with Lemongrass, Chile & Basil||Seared Scallops with golden Shallot & Grapefruit Sauce||Butter Roasted Oysters|
Strategy #10: Keep it Varied
On meatless nights, have a repertoire of versatile recipes at the ready. Try homemade pizza dough with a variety of meatless toppings, or fried rice with a range of meatless add-ins. Baked pastas and simple fresh tomato pan sauces for pasta are also endlessly variable. Use FineCooking.com's Recipe Makers to create thousands—yes, thousands—of your own custom recipes.
|Create Your Own Frittata Recipe
||Create Your Own Pasta Salad Recipe||Create Your Own Baked Pasta Recipe|
|Create Your Own Grilled Pizza Recipe||Create Your Own Risotto Recipe|