Meatless Monday’s


Meatless Monday PartyI haven’t given much thought to becoming a real vegetarian. Part-time, yes, maybe… At some point during my youth, I just did not like the taste of red meat. In the Caribbean chicken is not considered meat, but just chicken! After many attempts to become a vegetarian because of the taste, the horrible cruelties done to animals, to reading Skinny Bitch, followed by The Skinny Bitchy Bun in the Oven, to becoming anti-tuna I have given up the ideal vegetarian.

Fact is: I Love Food! I love eating good food, and the greatest part of it all is that I can have endless talks about my favorite foods. Regardless whether these include meat dishes or a combination hereof.

I am grateful to my friend Miriam, who actually forced me into cooking more vegetarian dishes. Miriam loves to have dinner with us, and at a certain point claimed the Monday as Meatless Monday. It is thanks to her that I feel we have to de-carnivore ( from time to time. Maybe because of the taste, because of these cruelties, but most of all to make us conscious about the food choices we make every day, and that meat, or fish and even chicken aren’t ingredients we can take for granted!

Being a vegetarian isn’t for everyone, period. When push comes to shove it’s hard and even though the will-power is there, how do I say goodbye to that juicy steak or those crispy fried chicken wings?  I decided not to become a vegetarian but rather to be more conscious about the food choices I make. Here are some tips that can help you decide to what extent you are a vegetarian.

The Truth about Tuna

Perhaps the most iconic of endangered species is the Blue Fin tuna. It is even chosen by the WWF as the sixth most threatened species in the world!  As an executive of Pepsico Asia once said during a conference about the future of hospitality: if the rest of the world will eat sushi, with any type of fish, in the same amounts as Western part of the world, in a couple years time from now all fish will be extinct! Knowing that tuna is high on the list of endangered species, I refuse to eat my tataki or sashimi.

What about Beef?

I love my beef from time to time, especially a nice côte boeuf or New York strip are not likely to stay on my plate! However, I am much more conscious of the size of our meat portions. We all know that the less meat we eat the better it is for nature and for our bodies. (red) Meat has a lot of fat and by cutting down on meat in your diet this will improve weight loss. I prefer to eat 100% organic meat. Not the kind you find in a stuffy eco-supermarket. Organic is cool! And cool organic supermarkets and markets exist. When was the last time you visited a butcher, a real one, and bought a cut that you picked out rather than buying pre-packaged and frozen meat? You will notice that good meat tastes much better and even if the portion is smaller the taste will be very pure.

To make the transition easier I put together a couple of vegetarian recipes which are very easy to make and serve as excellent entertainment pieces. Mind you, that the last time I made these dishes I had 3 thirty-something men including Miriam and myself for dinner! Neither of them (openly 🙂 ) complained about the lack of protein…!

Grilled Portobello Mushrooms with Taleggio Cheese

Take 1 portobello mushroom per person clean and take about 2 nice slices of Taleggio cheese. Grill on the barbeque or in a grilling skillet for about 4 minutes until the cheese has melted and the mushrooms slightly cooked.

Quinoa salad with green asparagus

This recipe is inspired by a recipe from Ottolenghi. Bring 1 cup of quinoa and 2 cups of water to a boil. When the water is boiling cover the pan with a lid and let simmer on low heat until all the water is absorbed. Place the cooked quinoa in a salad bowl to prevent from overcooking. In a separate small bowl mix juice of half a lemon with 1 tablespoon honey, 1 teaspoon of Raz-Al-Hanout, and a generous amount of olive oil. Mix well and pour over the quinoa. Season with salt and pepper. For more taste you can also add blanched green asparagus, diced scallions, and green pepper. Can be eaten as a cold salad but is also delicious served warm with some stewed pumpkin!

Pumpkin Raz Al HanoutStewed Pumpkin

 

This is one of my favorite (vegetarian) dishes. I love to eat the pumpkin with some brown steamed rice or just by itself. Cut the pumpkin in cubes, this makes the peeling of the skin easier. In a large pan sauté some chopped shallots once caramelized add some diced garlic, smother for a couple of minutes and add half a diced tomato, seeded. When the tomato is soft add the pumpkin cubes. Add salt and pepper to taste and 1 teaspoon of Raz-Al-Hanout and also a bit of sugar. Let the pumpkin simmer until cooked and soft with the lid on the pan.

Easy Melanzane

I think everyone loves a homemade Melanzane. This recipe is so easy you can make it 1 hour before serving! Cut 3 large eggplants in thin slices. Sprinkle with salt and let rest for a while. Doing so to withdraw as much moisture from the eggplant before grilling. Brush with some olive oil and grill on a barbeque or grilling skillet.

Make a basic recipe for Béchamel sauce:

Ingredients:

60g butter, chopped

1/3 cup plain flour

4 1/2 cups milk

75g parmesan cheese, finely grated

1/4 teaspoon salt

good pinch ground nutmeg

MelanzaneMelt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until foaming. Add flour. Cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes or until bubbling. Remove from heat. Slowly add milk, whisking constantly, until mixture is smooth. Return to heat. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, for 10 to 12 minutes or until sauce comes to the boil, thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from heat. Stir in parmesan, salt and nutmeg.

Arrange a nice layer of the grilled eggplant in an oven dish, add some organic cherry tomatoes, cover with a thin layer of Béchamel, a thin layer of basic tomato sauce and grated Parmigino Romano until the oven dish is full and you created a multi-layer dish. Make sure that the top layer is Béchamel with some cheese to add a nice brown color.

 

Wild Spinach salad, with figs, artichoke hearts, toasted walnuts and Parmigiano Romano shavings

In a large salad bowl toss some rinsed wild spinach leaves, sliced fresh figs, toasted walnuts (unsalted) and Parmigino Romano shavings together. Serve with your favorite salad dressing! The Bluecheese dressing from Brianna’s really complements the herby flavor of the spinach and the honey-sweetness of the figs.

 

And if you must have protein, try this! 

Grilled Mackerel & KangkongGrilled Mackrel with Kangkong (water spinach)

Although going veggie is what Meatless Monday means, sometimes you may crave some protein. That’s why I like to add loads of fish to my daily menu’s. I vist the fish market Van Tel on the Nieuwmarkt weekly and never go there with a predetermined idea of what kind of fish I would like to have. The great thing about going to a fish market is that you get the freshest catch and it’s always in season! mackerel is a nice option because it’s a very tasty fish available June through March. When grilled the smokey flavour enhances the tender fish. One of my favorite dishes is Grilled Mackrel with Kankong. Kangkong is a tropical plans that is grown as a leaf vegetable, it is also referred as water spinach or river spinach.  You can find Kangkong at any oriental or exotic supermarket. Make sure the vegetable is packaged in a plastic bag ensuring its freshness and pay attention that the leaves are not browned, or at least minimally also indicating freshness.

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