Meatless Mondays

Yes, you can reap health benefits from one small change—by going vegetarian one day a week. MARK BITTMAN offers delicious recipes that won’t leave you asking, “Where’s the beef?”

By Mark Bittman
meatless mondays, vegetarian, mark bittman
LIGHT AND LUSCIOUS Creamy polenta is topped with browned mushrooms and Brussels sprouts.
Photograph: Levi Brown

Menu

Polenta with Mushrooms and Brussels Sprouts

Fried Brown Rice with Shallots and Carrots

Pasta with White Beans and Escarole

Pizza with Spinach and Olives

Chiles Rellenos

Pasta with Spinach Pesto and Zucchini

Cauliflower, Chickpea and Potato Curry

 

AS Mark Twain might have said, everybody talks about eating less meat, but nobody does anything about it. Yet for people who like meat and aren’t ready to go whole hog (so to speak) by becoming vegan, there are many approaches to cutting back on red meat, poultry and fish, and just about anyone with any food disposition and lifestyle can find easy-to-stick-to strategies.

Meatless Mondays is a dead--simple strategy. Anyone can do it, and it doesn’t require major sacrifice. Even if you eat a typical American diet replete with processed, junk and fast food the other six days of the week, going meatless on Mondays will still cut your carbon footprint, improve your health and reduce demand for factory-farm meat.

Once you’ve tried a few easy, delicious, healthy and satisfying vegetarian recipes on Monday, you’ll probably be tempted to start making them Tuesday through Sunday as well. You just might change from someone who merely talks about improving your diet to someone who’s actually doing it.

POLENTA WITH -MUSHROOMS AND BRUSSELS SPROUTS

Prep time: 32 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Serves 4

1 pound Brussels sprouts,
trimmed and halved
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and black pepper
8 ounces mushrooms, preferably
a mixture, trimmed and
halved if large
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 cup coarse cornmeal
½ cup milk, preferably whole
½ cup chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
Grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish

1. Heat the oven to 450°. Put the Brussels sprouts on a rimmed baking sheet that can hold them in a single layer, and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms and garlic, toss, and continue to roast, shaking the pan occasionally, until the sprouts and mushrooms are quite brown and tender, 10 to 20 minutes more. Taste, and adjust the seasoning.

2. Meanwhile, put the cornmeal and a large pinch of salt in a medium saucepan; slowly whisk in 2½ cups water and the milk to make a lump-free slurry. Set the pot over medium-high heat; bring almost to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cook, whisking frequently, until thick, 10 to 15 minutes. If the mixture is too thick, whisk in a bit more water; you want the consistency of thick oatmeal. Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Divide the polenta among four bowls; top with the vegetables. Garnish with parsley and grated Parmesan, and serve.

 

FRIED BROWN RICE
WITH SHALLOTS AND CARROT
S

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 18 minutes
Serves 4

4 tablespoons peanut oil
4 shallots, halved and thinly sliced
4 carrots, julienned or shredded
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced ginger
Salt
4 cups day-old cooked brown rice, at room temperature
4 eggs
2 teaspoons sesame oil
4 teaspoons soy sauce

1. Put 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. When it’s hot, add the shallots, carrots, garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they are tender but not browned, about 10 minutes. Season with salt. Raise the heat to medium, and add the rice. Cook, stirring well, until heated through. Season to taste with salt.
2. In a nonstick skillet, fry the eggs sunny-side up in the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, until the edges are set but the yolk is still runny. Divide the rice among four dishes. Top each with an egg, and drizzle with ½ teaspoon sesame oil and 1 teaspoon soy sauce; serve.

 

PASTA WITH WHITE BEANS
AND ESCAROLE

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Serves 4

Salt
¼ cup olive oil, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 pound escarole, roughly chopped
½ cup dry white wine, vegetable
stock or water, plus more if needed
2 cups cooked or canned white beans, drained
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried Black pepper
8 ounces whole wheat pasta
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add salt. Meanwhile, put the oil in another large pot over low heat. Add the -garlic, and cook just until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the escarole and wine, raise the heat to medium high, and cook, stirring once or twice, until the escarole begins to wilt, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the beans, rosemary, a sprinkling of salt and pepper and, if the mixture is sticking, a little more wine. Cook and stir until -everything is hot, 1 to 2 minutes longer.

2. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in the boiling water until it’s tender but not mushy (start tasting after 5 minutes), then drain, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Toss the pasta and the cheese with the escarole mixture, adding just enough of the pasta water to keep it moist. Taste, and adjust the seasoning. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil.

 

PIZZA WITH SPINACH AND OLIVES

Prep time: 50 minutes plus time for dough to sit
Cooking time: 23 minutes
Makes 1 large or 2 small pizza
s

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose or bread flour, plus more as needed
½ teaspoon instant yeast
Salt
4 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing
1 medium onion, chopped
Black pepper
1 28- to 35-ounce can diced tomatoes,drained, with liquid reserved
6 cups baby-spinach leaves
½ cup pitted and chopped oil-packed black olives
¾ cup (about 3 ounces) grated mozzarella cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. Combine the flours, yeast and 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Stir in 1½ cups water. The dough should be relatively sticky and wet, like biscuit batter. If it isn’t, add a little water. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover, and put in a warm spot. Let the dough
sit for at least 6 hours or up to 12. (The longer it ferments, the more complex the flavor.)

2. Heat the oven to 500°. Generously oil a baking sheet or large ovenproof skillet. Dust your hands with all-purpose flour, and fold the dough over in the bowl a few times. It will be sticky, but resist the urge to use too much flour; dust your hands again only when absolutely necessary, and use a gentle touch. If you’re making small pizzas, divide the dough in half or quarters. Gently press the dough onto the baking sheet or into the skillet; the pizzas needn’t be perfectly round, but avoid tearing the dough.

3. Brush or drizzle the top of the pizza or pizzas with 2 tablespoons oil, cover, and let sit while you make the sauce. Put the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat; when it’s hot, add the onion, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, and cook until the mixture thickens a bit, 10 to 15 minutes.

4. Spread the sauce over the dough, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top
with the spinach, olives, mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake until the crust is crisp and the cheese is melted, usually 8 to 12 minutes. Let stand for several minutes before slicing so the cheese sets.

 

 

CHILES RELLENOS

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Serves 4

8 poblano chiles
½ cup chopped pumpkin seeds, almonds or walnuts
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing the chiles
½ cup fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels
½ cup chopped scallions
½ cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
Salt and black pepper
Lime wedges, for serving
Tomatillo or tomato salsa, for serving

1. Prepare a grill or broiler; the heat should be medium high, and the rack about 4 inches from the heat. Cut a slit down the length of each poblano, to allow you to stuff them without tearing. Remove as many of the seeds as you can, leaving the stems intact.

 

2. Put the pumpkin seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat. Toast, stirring or tossing frequently, until they are lightly browned and fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes; remove. Add the oil, and turn the heat to high. When it’s hot, add the corn, and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until it’s nicely browned, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, and stir in the pumpkin seeds, scallions, cheese, cilantro and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

3. Carefully stuff the corn mixture into the poblanos; there should be a little more than ¼ cup filling for each one. Brush each poblano with a little more oil, and grill or broil, turning as needed to cook them evenly, until they are soft and charred on all sides, 5 to 10 minutes total. Serve hot or at room temperature with the lime wedges and salsa.

 

PASTA WITH SPINACH PESTO AND ZUCCHINI

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 18 minutes
Serves 4

Salt
2½ cups loosely packed
baby-spinach leaves
1 small clove garlic, or to taste
2 tablespoons pine nuts or
roughly chopped walnuts
6 tablespoons olive oil, or to taste
1 pound zucchini, sliced
Black pepper
8 ounces any pasta, preferably whole wheat
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and salt it. Combine the spinach with a pinch of salt, the garlic, nuts and about 4 tablespoons of the oil in a food processor or blender. Process, scraping down the sides of the container if necessary.

2. Put the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the zucchini, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, turning occasionally, until the slices are very tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in the boiling water until it’s tender but not mushy (start tasting after 5 minutes). Drain, reserving some of the cooking liquid. Add the pasta to the skillet, and toss with the zucchini, pesto, Parmesan and a sprinkling of the pepper, adding cooking water as necessary to keep the mixture from drying out. (The pesto will stay green for about 20 minutes.) Taste, and adjust the seasoning. Serve immediately with extra Parmesan.

 

CAULIFLOWER, CHICKPEA AND POTATO CURRY

Prep time: 32 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Serves 4

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
8 ounces all-purpose potatoes, shredded or minced
Salt and black pepper
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 cups cooked or canned chickpeas, drained
1 small cauliflower, cored and roughly chopped
1 cup coconut milk
1 or 2 small dried hot red chiles (like
Thai) or a pinch of red chile flakes
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

1. Put a large, deep skillet over -medium-high heat. Add the oil, swirl, and add the onion and potatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened and beginning to brown,
3 to 5 minutes. Add the ginger and curry powder, and cook for 30 seconds or so.

2. Add the chickpeas, cauliflower, coconut milk and chiles, and reduce the heat so the mixture bubbles gently. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower and potatoes are tender and the mixture thickens, 10 minutes or longer. Taste, remove the chiles, garnish with cilantro, and serve.

 

Mark Bittman's latest book is The Food Matters Cookbook: 500 Revolutionary Recipes for Better Living

Find more vegetarian recipes from Mark Bittman here.

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First Published Wed, 2011-09-14 08:21

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