Like so many folks these days, my husband and I have been trying to reduce the amount of meat we eat. We were both raised in families for whom animal protein was nearly always at the center of the plate and so this shift has required some retraining. We’ve had to change our understanding of mains and sides, and learn how to transform basic vegetable preparations into dishes that are both satiating and satisfying.
Happily, there’ve have been a number of cookbooks published in recent years that focuses on helping meat-eaters learn these skills and tricks. One author of such cookbooks is Kim O’Donnel. In 2010, she published The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook: Vegetarian Recipes Carnivores Will Devour and, last month, followed it up with The Meat Lover’s Meatless Celebrations: Year-Round Vegetarian Feasts (You Can Really Sink Your Teeth Into).
This new book is particularly welcome this time of year, as we head into the holidays. It is full of recipes that will lighten your holiday table without losing any of the satisfying indulgence of the season. I particularly enjoyed her Hot Brussels Sprouts Slaw (such a tasty, bright take on the humble sprout) and the Lentil Pate (it tastes nearly identical to my Aunt Doris’s famous chopped liver. I’m tempted to try and fool my family this Hanukkah).
Kim took the time to answer a few of her questions about her new book, eating meatless around the holidays and her meatless pantry staples.
Q: For people who are entirely new to meatless eating, what’s a good starting place?
A: A good rule of thumb is to start incrementally. For some, that might translate into one day off from meat, along the lines of a Meatless Monday. For others, smaller portions of meat may feel less daunting. One thing I’ve learned over the past few years, as I’ve dialed back on meat is that there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. We all have to figure out what makes sense within the context of our schedules, budgets, lifestyles and readiness.
Change only sticks when we’re ready and willing, and one way to get going is to start gradually and incrementally. Over the past four years, I’ve gone from being a daily meat eater to a 70 percent vegetarian. It’s the kind of change that has allowed my husband (who’s also a meat eater) and me to create a new normal without ever feeling like we’ve made drastic changes.
Q: What’s been the best new ingredient you’ve discovered in the process of adding meatless meals to your weekly rotation?
A: I cook seasonally, so my first point of reference is the farmers’ market to see what’s happening in my own food shed, what’s fresh and at its peak. So I’ve got favorites depending on what Mother Nature is offering. But for meat eaters, getting seasonal isn’t going to be enough to convince them that vegetarian food is not rabbit food.
That’s when the whole concept of umami – the lingering finish in the mouth that makes you want to smack your lips – is absolutely key, and there are lots of ingredients from the plant world that do the job, including smoked paprika, roasted vegetables (try roasting cauliflower, broccoli, kale, green beans, asparagus, winter squash), mustard, soy sauce or tamari, avocado, nuts. One of our new favorite fall suppers is a head of roasted cauliflower cut into slabs, tossed with tahini sauce and some fresh chopped parsley. Serve with a side of quinoa or brown rice, and you’re in business.
Q: What are some of the staples you keep in your pantry for easy meatless meals?
A: We eat a variety of beans several times a week – lentils, chickpeas, black beans, white beans – and do everything from soup and chili to chickpea patties and pasta and bean combos. Although I prefer dried beans, I always make sure we have a few cans of chickpeas and black beans on hand for last-minute by the seat of your pants suppers.
Lentils don’t require soaking and cook in 35 minutes, the ultimate fast food, and there’s always a variety of grains, from brown rice to quinoa, bulgur to barley, for mixing and matching. Beans and rice can go into tortillas, can be mixed with raw or cooked greens, can be topped with a fried egg – there are tons of possibilities
Q: What’s meatless dishes will be on your table this Thanksgiving?
A: I’ll be traveling to promote my new book right up to Thanksgiving, so I’m not sure what our menu will be this year. We haven’t decided if there will be a locally pastured turkey or not, but I can pretty much guarantee some of the goodies from the new book: Maple cranberry sauce, dairy-free mashed potatoes, probably a gravy made from caramelized onions or roasted root vegetables, a raw kale salad and an apple-rosemary-walnut pie with my newfangled 50-50 olive oil/butter pie dough.
Should we decide not to do the bird, I bet we’ll be feasting on my roasted delicata boats with red rice stuffing. Thanksgiving, after all, started out as a harvest meal and is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the bounty of autumn produce.
De Capo Books has given us three copies of The Meat Lover’s Meatless Celebrations to give away. This time, enter by tweeting to us @_tablematters and using the hashtag #meatlesscelebrations. We’ll pick our three favorites tweets to win on Friday, November 9 at noon, so get your tweet out there before then!
Hot Brussels Sprouts Slaw
- 1½ pounds Brussels sprouts, washed and stem ends trimmed
- 1 medium-size apple of choice
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
- ¼ cup of a white wine you enjoy drinking
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¾ teaspoon dried thyme
- Juice of ½ lemon
With a sharp knife, cut the Brussels sprouts in half, then into think slices. Some pieces will already look shredded; others will remain leafy and will need to be sliced further. Remember, you’re looking for the makings of slaw. Peel the apple and thinly slice off its top and bottom. Using the core as your focal point, visualize the apple as a four-sided object. Place the blade of your knife on the fleshy edge of the core and slice from top to bottom. You should have four equal pieces, with only the core remaining. Slice each piece into thin matchsticks and set aside.
Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the Brussels sprouts in batches, along with the garlic, constantly turning with tongs to coat with the oil and facilitate wilting. This will take about 8 minutes.
Pour in the wine, stirring the vegetables for even coverage. Allow the wine to come to a quick boil, then lower the heat, add the smoked paprika, salt, and thyme, and turn to coat the vegetables with the seasonings. Stir in the sliced apple and let it mix with the other ingredients, about 2 minutes.
Squeeze the lemon juice over the slaw, stir, and transfer to a serving bowl. Eat hot.
Makes 6 servings
- 1 cup dried brown or green lentils
- 3 cups water
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
- ½ to ¾ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup peeled and thinly sliced shallot (about 4 bulbs)
- ¼ cup bourbon or cognac (booze-free option: apple cider)
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary (from at least 2 sprigs)
- ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- Freshly ground black pepper
Place the lentils, water, and garlic in a medium-size saucepan. The water should be about 2 inches about the lentils. Add more as needed. Over medium-high heat, bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook at a simmer until tender to the bite, 30 to 35 minutes. Season with ½ teaspoon of the salt.
While the lentils cook, melt the butter in a 9- or 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallot, stir to coat with the butter, and cook until thick, jamlike, and caramelized, 20 to 25 minutes. Lower the heat if the shallot begins to char. Increase the heat and add the booze (or apple cider), allowing it to evaporate, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the rosemary, nutmeg, and the remaining ¼ teaspoon of the salt, then turn off the heat.
Drain the lentils and transfer to a baking sheet to cool in a single layer for 10 minutes. Make sure you bring along the cooked garlic.
Transfer the shallot mixture to the bowl of a food processor or stand blender and blend, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the lentils and garlic, and blend until you have a creamy mixture with as few lumps as possible.
Season with the black pepper to taste (and more salt, if needed), and scoop into a 4-inch ramekin or four-edged dish.
(This spread looks more pate-like in a shaped dish than freestyle in a cereal bowl.) Place in the refrigerator for at least 45 minutes; the pate deepens in flavor when slightly chilled.
Serve with toast points or baguette slices, or with carrot, celery, or jicama sticks, or endive leaves.