Hi everyone - this is my first time posting about something I think is very important: taking that next step after doing meatless Mondays: saving meat for the weekend.
The Whys are the easiest to understand: the way industrial food is produced today is very energy intensive, and that means fossil fuel intensive. As Michael Pollan wrote:
After cars, the food system uses more fossil fuel than any other sector of the economy — 19 percent. And while the experts disagree about the exact amount, the way we feed ourselves contributes more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than anything else we do — as much as 37 percent, according to one study. Whenever farmers clear land for crops and till the soil, large quantities of carbon are released into the air. But the 20th-century industrialization of agriculture has increased the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the food system by an order of magnitude; chemical fertilizers (made from natural gas), pesticides (made from petroleum), farm machinery, modern food processing and packaging and transportation have together transformed a system that in 1940 produced 2.3 calories of food energy for every calorie of fossil-fuel energy it used into one that now takes 10 calories of fossil-fuel energy to produce a single calorie of modern supermarket food. Put another way, when we eat from the industrial-food system, we are eating oil and spewing greenhouse gases. This state of affairs appears all the more absurd when you recall that every calorie we eat is ultimately the product of photosynthesis — a process based on making food energy from sunshine. There is hope and possibility in that simple fact.Physics professor Tom Murphy recently explained why he has significantly cut back on eating meat, and in his usual style explained it with plenty of numbers if you're curious. But one downside, he said, is that doesn't like vegetables:
Several years back, I engaged in a broad spectrum of energy reduction strategies. I had learned enough to know that our energy future was not likely to follow an ever-growing trajectory. The back-side of the fossil fuel age could bring with it challenges unimagined by our many-generation boom society. Technology can play an important role over the long term. But tech solutions generally do not hold a candle to voluntary reduction when it comes to having enormous short-term impacts. I was curious to know how life would be if I reduced energy use by something like a factor-of-two across-the-board. As a result, I not only have the personal satisfaction of knowing that it can be done without drastic changes in lifestyle, but I am also much better-prepared to adapt to a world where energy reduction may not be as much a choice as an imposition foisted on us by failing supply.When I read that I though: hey, that's just like me! Or just like I used to be. I never used to like vegetables, squashes, greens, etc. Even among fruits I was picky.
I had heard from multiple sources that eating meat carried a large energy tax, amounting to as much as 8× for beef, 5× for pork, and something like 2× for chicken and fish.
I have to admit that I have never been a big fan of vegetables themselves. But somehow I really like being a flexitarian.
It took a few years for me to adjust away from eating meat. For a while I was eating pretty much anything and everything. Then I cut out everything but fish. After watching some talks by eminent Scripps oceanographer Jeremy Jackson I stopped eating fish too. But the process was a slow one, and I'm still learning a lot about how to eat as a vegetarian and be satisfied.
What I'd like to cover here is some of the basics of making tasty vegetarian food and some staples that can go a long way towards easing the transition to a meatless weekday.
Let's start with something simple: how to make cheap, fresh cooked beans from dry beans. The benefit here is that it's cheap, tastes good, makes a lot, and doesn't have weird additives and plastic liners (with BPA and the like).
How to cook dry beans in the oven:To make this into a nice quesadilla, just heat up some tortillas (both sides) on a (preferably cast iron) pan, add some sharp cheddar or jack cheese and melt it on, then add the beans, avocado and a hot sauce of your choice. (Our favorites include the original California style pepper plant sauce and Sriracha sauce, both of which you can make your own of if you're up for it.)
Heat the oven to 325°. Put 1 pound of beans in a 3-quart (or larger) Dutch oven or pot with a tight-fitting lid. A clay pot is ideal. Add 2 teaspoons of salt. Add enough water to cover the beans by about 1 inch. Put on the lid and bake for 75 minutes. Check the beans and stir them. If they are tender, take them out of the oven. If they aren't done, put them back in for 15 minute intervals until they are, adding a cup of hot water if they seem to be drying out. This will take at most 2 hours, but will probably take less than 90 minutes.
You can add aromatics like a bay leaf, chipotle pepper, or a few cloves of garlic, but do remember that fresh heirloom dried beans have enormous flavor all on their own. They are not the bland mush of canned beans.
Let's try something a little more fancy, but still simple: Kale Lasagna.
The recipe has you make the sauce with tomato sauce, garlic and spices, we sometimes just substitute store bought pasta sauce. Also, we use cottage cheese instead of ricotta to make it a lighter, lower calorie dish. To save further on prep time, you can use fresh lasagna noodles, or buy oven ready lasagna noodles that don't require boiling:
Kale Lasagna Diavolo
Warm up a winter evening with a spicy lasagna that gets hearty texture from chopped kale. Goat cheese mashed into traditional ricotta gives it a flavorful tang.
1 tsp. olive oil, plus more for oiling pan
1 8-oz. bunch kale, stems removed
1 15-oz. pkg. fat-free ricotta cheese
4 oz. chèvre or soft goat cheese, softened
2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)
2 cups prepared tomato purée
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
6 lasagna noodles, cooked and drained, or 6 no-cook lasagna noodles
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat 8-inch square baking pan with oil.
2. Cook kale in large pot of boiling salted water 2 minutes. Drain, and rinse under cold water until cool enough to handle. Thoroughly wring out kale, then chop. Season with salt and pepper, if desired, and set aside.
3. Mash together ricotta and chèvre in bowl, and set aside.
4. Heat 1 tsp. oil in small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add garlic, and cook 15 seconds, or until fragrant. Add tomato purée and red pepper flakes; simmer 5 minutes, or until thickened.
5. Spread 1/4 cup sauce in prepared baking pan. Place 2 lasagna noodles on top of sauce. Top with half of cheese mixture, half of kale, and 1/3 cup sauce. Top with two more noodles, remaining cheese, and remaining kale. Top with remaining lasagna noodles, and cover with remaining sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan, and bake 40 minutes, or until cheese has melted and lasagna is bubbly.
Next time I'll go into my recipe for a really simple and tasty do-it-yourself veggie pizza.