Got Milk? You Don’t Need It?

Drinking milk is as American as Mom and apple pie. Until not long ago, Americans were encouraged not only by the lobbying group called the American Dairy Association but by parents, doctors and teachers to drink four 8-ounce glasses of milk, “nature’s perfect food,” every day. That’s two pounds! We don’t consume two pounds a day of anything else; even our per capita soda consumption is “only” a pound a day.

Today the Department of Agriculture’s recommendation for dairy is a mere three cups daily — still 1½ pounds by weight — for every man, woman and child over age 9. This in a country where as many as 50 million people are lactose intolerant, including 90 percent of all Asian-Americans and 75 percent of all African-Americans, Mexican-Americans and Jews. The myplate.gov site helpfully suggests that those people drink lactose-free beverages. (To its credit, it now counts soy milk as “dairy.”)

There’s no mention of water, which is truly nature’s perfect beverage; the site simply encourages us to switch to low-fat milk. But, says Neal Barnard, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, “Sugar — in the form of lactose — contributes about 55 percent of skim milk’s calories, giving it ounce for ounce the same calorie load as soda.”

Read the rest of this column here.

Posted in Vegan

Eat Less Meat. Save the World.

A few weeks ago, in “The Ethicist,” Ariel Kaminer asked readers of this paper’s Magazine to explain why it’s ethical to eat meat. The contest generated around 3,000 submissions, and as a judge I read about 30 of them. (Here are the responses from the winner and the finalists.)

A fascinating discussion. But you need not have a philosophy about meat-eating to understand that we — Americans, that is — need to do less of it. In fact, only if meat were produced at no or little expense to the environment, public health or animal welfare (as, arguably, some of it is), would our decisions about whether to raise and kill animals for food come down to ethics.

The purely pragmatic reasons to eat less meat (and animal products in general) are abundant. And while I’ve addressed them before, I’ll continue until the floods come to Manhattan.

Read the rest of this colum here.

Posted in Vegan

Finally, Fake Chicken Worth Eating

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IT is pretty well established that animals are capable of suffering; we’ve come a long way since Descartes famously compared them to nonfeeling machines put on earth to serve man. (Rousseau later countered this, saying that animals shared “some measure” of human nature and should partake of “natural right.”) No matter where you stand on this spectrum, you probably agree that it’s a noble goal to reduce the level of the suffering of animals raised for meat in industrial conditions.

There are four ways to move toward fixing this. One, we can improve the animals’ living conditions; two (this is distasteful but would shock no one), we might see producers reduce or even eliminate animals’ consciousness, say, by removing the cerebral cortex, in effect converting them to a kind of vegetable (see Margaret Atwood’s horrifying description in her prescient “Oryx and Crake”); three, we can consume fewer industrially raised animals, concentrating on those raised more humanely.

Or four, we can reduce consumption, period. That is perhaps difficult when people eat an average of a half-pound of meat daily. But as better fake plant-based “meat” products are created, that option becomes more palatable. My personal approval of fake meat, for what it’s worth, has been long in coming. I like traditional meat substitutes, like tofu, bean burgers, vegetable cutlets and so on, but have been mostly repelled by unconvincing nuggets and hot dogs, which lack bite, chew, juiciness and flavor. I’m also annoyed by the cost: why pay more for fake meat than real meat, especially since the production process is faster, easier and involves no butchering? And, I have felt, if you want to eat less meat, why not just eat more of other real things?

Read the rest of this column (and watch the video) here.

Posted in Vegan

No Meat, No Dairy, No Problem

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Among your other resolutions — do more good? make more money? — you’ve probably made the annual pledge to eat better, although this concept may be more often reduced simply to “lose some weight.” The weight-loss obsession is both a national need and a neurotic urge (those last five pounds really don’t matter, either cosmetically or medically). But most of us do need to eat “better.”

If defining this betterness has become increasingly more difficult (half the diet books that spilled over my desk in December focused on going gluten-free), the core of the answer is known to everyone: eat more plants. And if the diet that most starkly represents this — veganism — is no longer considered bizarre or unreasonably spartan, neither is it exactly mainstream. (For the record, vegans don’t simply avoid meat; they eschew all animal products, including dairy, eggs and even honey.)

Many vegan dishes, however, are already beloved: we eat fruit salad, peanut butter and jelly, beans and rice, eggplant in garlic sauce. The problem faced by many of us — brought up as we were with plates whose center was filled with a piece of an animal — is in imagining less-traditional vegan dishes that are creative, filling, interesting and not especially challenging to either put together or enjoy.

My point here is to make semi-veganism work for you. Once a week, let bean burgers stand in for hamburgers, leave the meat out of your pasta sauce, make a risotto the likes of which you’ve probably never had — and you may just find yourself eating “better.”

These recipes serve about four, and in all, the addition of salt and pepper is taken for granted. This is not a gimmick or even a diet. It’s a path, and the smart resolution might be to get on it.

Get the recipes here.

Posted in Recipes, Vegan

North African Chopped Cauliflower Salad

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By Freya Bellin

Cauliflower is a perfect salad vegetable, as it’s full of nooks and crannies that simply drink up the flavors in a dressing or sauce. This North African style spice mixture adds a warm, sweet element to the zesty lemon juice dressing. It sounds simple enough, but the flavor combinations are really unexpected. The salad is full of textural variety: tender-crisp cauliflower, soft red onions, and leafy parsley. The result is a light, fresh-tasting, complexly spiced salad that could be a lovely side dish alongside a sandwich or some well-seasoned beans, or even a pasta/grain topper. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

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Posted in Recipes, Vegan

Bulgur with Spinach

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Makes: 4 servings

Time: 45 minutes

A good use for leftover spinach if you have it. Other grains you can use: couscous; quinoa, cracked wheat, or millet, cooked until tender in Step 3; precookedwheat berries or hominy.  Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

About 8 ounces (1 pound before trimming) spinach or chard leaves, well washed

2 tablespoons butter or extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion, minced

Pinch ground cloves

1 cup medium- or coarse-grind bulgur

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 3/4 cups chicken, beef, or vegetable or water, heated

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Posted in Recipes, Vegan

Zucchini and Dill Soup

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By Alaina Sullivan

There comes a time around the end of August when I feel an urgency to take advantage of the produce that, come autumn, will cease to overflow at farmers markets. It is during these dwindling days of summer that I crave the season’s fruits, vegetables and abundant herbs in their pure, unadulterated states. Meet a simple soup that embodies the freshness of summer: pureed zucchini, delicate and light, hosts handfuls of freshly chopped dill—it’s a combination that highlights the strengths of its core ingredients without unnecessary frill.

Though mild in taste, zucchini, especially grated, has a texture well-suited to soup – its natural moistness is further softened by a quick simmer with onion and vegetable broth, and a final puree brings it to a light, pulpy consistency. Dill supplies the flavor – simple, clean and savory – it is a perfect herbal companion to the zucchini. I found the soup most delicious served cold—a cooler temperature emphasizes the freshness of the zucchini and elevates the flavor of the dill.

Though simple in its ingredients and preparation, it is the type of soup that can be infinitely tweaked according to personal taste. A few dollops of Greek yogurt provided an added creaminess in my version, and, as someone who craves a crunch in my pureed vegetable soups, I garnished the bowl with toasted pistachios before diving in. As with most simple recipes, the quality of ingredients is key. When the zucchini and dill are fresh, this soup makes the impending arrival of fall feel more distant with each spoonful. Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express.

Zucchini and Dill Soup

Add fresh ricotta, sour cream, or yogurt while pureeing, for richness.

Grate a couple of zucchini. Cook a chopped onion in butter until softened, then add the zucchini and stir until softened, five minutes or so. Add vegetable or chicken stock and bring to a boil; simmer for about five minutes, then puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and lots of fresh chopped dill.

 

Posted in Produce, Vegan

Stir-Fried Tofu with Scallions

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Makes: 4 servings

Time: 20 minutes

The most basic stir-fry you can make and one you can build on indefinitely. Master this and you master the world, at least the world of stir-frying tofu, which is not insignificant.  Recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

1 1/2 to 2 pounds firm to extra-firm tofu, blotted dry

3 tablespoons peanut oil or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn

1 tablespoon garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon chopped peeled fresh ginger (optional)

2 dried chiles (optional)

1 or 2 bunches scallions, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths, white and green parts separated (about 2 cups total)

1/3 cup vegetable stock or water

2 tablespoons soy sauce, or to taste

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds (optional)

1. Cut the tofu into 1/2-inch or slightly larger cubes. Put the oil in a large skillet or wok, preferably nonstick, over high heat. When hot, add the garlic and the ginger and chiles if you’re using them and cook, stirring, for about 10 seconds. Add the tofu and the white parts of the scallions; cook, stirring occasionally, until the tofu begins to brown, a couple of minutes. Add the stock and cook, stirring, until about half of it evaporates; add the green parts of the scallions and stir for about 30 seconds.

2. Add the soy sauce, stir, taste and adjust the seasoning, garnish if you like, and serve.

 

Posted in Recipes, Vegan

Grilled Pineapple and Onion Salsa

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Makes: About 2 1/2 cups

Time: 20 minutes

Grilled fruit makes a fabulous base for salsa; its caramelized sweetness is offset perfectly by the tang of lime juice and the heat of chiles. Use this to dress a green salad, as a dip for tacos, or alongside grilled or broiled chicken or huevos rancheros. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

1 pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into thick rings (canned rings, drained of excess juices, are also okay)

1 large red onion, cut into thick slices

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon minced fresh hot chile (like jalapeño or Thai), or to taste, or hot red pepper flakes or cayenne, to taste

1 stalk lemongrass, peeled, trimmed, and minced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh Thai basil or mint leaves

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat a charcoal or gas grill fire to fairly low heat, and put the rack about 4 inches from the heat source. Brush the pineapple and onion slices with the olive oil; if you’re worried about the slices falling through the grate, thread them on soaked wooden skewers. Cook, turning once or twice, until soft and slightly charred, about 8 minutes total. Remove the slices as they finish cooking. When cool enough to handle, discard the skewers and chop into bite-sized chunks, saving as much of the juices as possible.

2. Put the pineapple and onions in a medium bowl with the chile, lemongrass, basil, and lime juice. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Let sit for about 5 minutes, then taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more chile, lime, or salt as needed. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to an hour.

Grilled Apricot and Onion Salsa. If you can get good apricots—and that’s a big if—this is terrific; but it’s not bad with good dried apricots, soaked in water or wine to cover until soft: Substitute about 8 halved fresh or dried apricots for the pineapple, a tablespoon of minced fresh ginger for the lemongrass, and lemon for the lime juice.

Grilled Peach and Corn Salsa. A nice midsummer salsa: Replace the pineapple with 3 or 4 ripe peaches, halved, and use a tablespoon of minced fresh ginger instead of the lemongrass; add 1 or 2 cobs’ worth of corn on the cob, grilled or roasted and 2 chopped scallions. Use lemon or lime juice.

 

Posted in Produce, Vegan

Balsamic Strawberries with Arugula

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Makes: 4 to 6 servings

Time: 15 minutes

In the original How to Cook Everything, I featured these strawberries as a peppery, slightly sweet compote in the fruit chapter. In Italy, where balsamic vinegar originated, strawberries with balsamic are served as a dessert. But the combination is equally fantastic in a savory salad.  Recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

3 cups strawberries, hulled and halved or quartered

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, or more to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

4 cups arugula leaves

Salt

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1. Toss the strawberries with the vinegar and black pepper in a large salad bowl and let sit for 10 minutes.

2, Add the arugula, sprinkle with salt, and toss again. Drizzle with olive oil and toss gently one last time. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve.

Balsamic Strawberries with Arugula and Goat Cheese. Before the final toss in Step 2, crumble 4 ounces of goat cheese over the salad.

Posted in Produce, Vegan