This week is meat free week in Australia and the UK; as a Food Revolution Ambassador I found out about this week from chef Jamie Oliver, and I was eager to jump on board. Meat free week's slogan is: "Eat Less, Care More, Feel Good." While not vegetarians in practice, our family is always thinking about where our food comes from and the quality of the food we put into our bodies. Eating less meat is something we actively think about from both a socially responsible and health perspective, and the truth is we do feel better when we limit our meat intake.
Sometimes, especially in the summer, it can be tempting to buy a couple of steak tips or chicken breasts to throw on the grill (especially when you have a high quality meat store in your town). But not this week. This week we're challenging ourselves to find new and delicious vegetarian options that will please adult and kid alike.
The garden is flourishing, the beans are soaking, and cookbooks and cooking magazines are sprawled across the coffee table. Let's do this.
Want to joins us for the week, or just a few nights? Here are some of the dishes we'll be trying.
1. Swiss Chard a la Catalana. We made this is variation on a recipe from Seamus Mullen's recipe book Hero Food last night. Based on the premise that delicious food can also be food that makes us feel better, this cookbook seems an apt fit for this week. While Mullen uses pea tendrils in his recipe, we had chard on hand and it worked delightfully as a substitution; the traditional dish uses spinach. Likewise, we substituted sunflower seeds for pine nuts and dried cranberries for golden raisins. Hey, you gotta use what you have on hand!
Here's a similar recipe I found online. Based on Mullen's recipe we added about a cup of cooked garbanzo beans (chickpeas) when we added the raisins. This made it a more complete meal, and it was delicious. Our six-year-old is not a huge fan of sauteed greens but he ate this down and - I kid you not - asked for two more servings!
Tip - try this simple method from Alton Brown for preparing dried chickpeas instead of using canned. I swear they taste better, and all you have to do is throw them in a crock pot with some water and baking soda.
2. Vegetable and Legume Frittata. There is absolutely nothing wrong with making breakfast for dinner, and frittatas are an exceptionally easy and healthy option with the added bonus of using very few dishes. We are lucky enough to get eggs from our neighbor down the lane, so I can't wait to showcase her eggs and our garden produce in a dish where almost every ingredient comes from within 200 yards of our house!
A basic frittata recipe can be found here and you can add practically anything to it. We'll be combining this recipe with some ideas from the June 2016 edition of Vegetarian Times. We'll use some more of the chickpeas from the large batch that we prepared this weekend, whatever leafy green is ready in the garden (chard, kale, or collard greens), some zucchini, and fresh basil. We'll round out dinner with a batch of red potato homefries.
Tip - do you own a pan that can go from stovetop to oven? If not, I highly suggest you check one out. Our favorite is a trusty old cast iron pan that like this one that we use for frittatas as well as a number of winter stews and one-pot meals. This pan can also go straight to the table for a rustic presentation.
3. Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches. Last summer we learned the amazing trick of grilling eggplant before marinating and we were sold. This recipe from Epicurious serves as our base for our sandwich. We add grilled zucchini, fresh tomatoes, a slice of mozzarella, and some garlic mayo to round out a delicious and filling dinner sandwich. Serve in on a nice ciabatta or crusty bread that will hold up to the marinated vegetables but not be too hard for the kids to eat.
Tip - we love this King Arthur "Blitz Bread" recipe - it makes a quick, easy, and delicious focaccia. If you use it for these sandwiches be sure to split and toast it first so it doesn't get too moist from the grilled veggies.
4. Corn and Black Bean "Succotash". This is a bit of a cheat since I actually made this last week, but the leftovers have lingered into this week, especially as a great salad topping. Succotash is basically a mixture of sweet summer corn and some type of shell bean, with other additions like tomatoes, onions, or peppers. Basic succotash often includes bacon, but we were going meat free so instead I went for more of a Latin American flavor. I used black beans, added cumin, and served it with salsa (sour cream would have also been great, but we didn't have it on hand).
Tip - when corn is in season do not hesitate to buy as much as you can get your hands on. Corn that is cooked using the traditional stovetop steaming method can be easily cut from the cob and frozen for use in all sorts of recipes all year round.
5. Veggie Burgers. Homemade veggie burgers are delicious and, in our opinion, a great changeover from meat. We love mixing up our recipes so that we don't get sick of the same old burger. If you've never made veggie burgers, start by following a recipe like this one from Jamie Oliver for black bean burgers. Another favorites of ours is the "Dixie Burgers" recipe in the Moosewood Restaurant New Classics cookbook.
As you get used to making veggie burgers you'll come up with your own variations and favorite additions. You'll also get used to finding the right balance of "wet" and "dry" ingredients to achieve the texture you desire. When you find a recipe you love, you can always double the batch and keep a second meal's worth in the freezer.
Tip - in our experience, veggie burgers always benefit from being made ahead of time and getting at least a good 20 minutes in the fridge or freezer. This helps them to hold their shape when cooked.
What are your favorite meat free recipes??