There’s nothing new under the sun, and Meatless Mondays are no exception. What may seem like a new trend actually dates back all the way to World War I. In order to aid the war effort, families were urged to reduce their consumption of important staples like meat, wheat, sugar, and fats. More than 13 million families signed a pledge to take part in these conservation efforts. The campaign was instituted again during World War II.
Meatless Monday as we know it today was revived in 2003 thanks to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future. It’s now a public health campaign that encourages Americans to reduce their meat consumption to lower their risk of preventable conditions like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
A study by the National Cancer Institute found that people who ate significant amounts of red meat daily were 30 percent more likely to die during a 10-year period than those who ate very little. The Mayo Clinic reports that vegetarians generally weigh less and have a lower risk of heart disease than those who eat meat.
There are also environmental benefits to reducing meat consumption. Meat has a high carbon footprint because it is energy intensive to produce. An average meat eater’s 2,000 Calorie diet results in twice as many greenhouse gas emissions as an average vegan’s 2,000 Calorie diet. Therefore, reducing meat consumption is one of the most efficient ways to reduce your carbon footprint. Eating less meat is also easier on the wallet when you hit the grocery store.
If you’re considering joining the Meatless Monday movement, not to worry – skipping meat doesn’t mean sacrificing flavor or protein. Chef Todd Gray of Equinox and Chef Doron Petersan of Sticky Fingers and Fare Well are two of the city’s most respected authorities on cooking without meat, and they shared their expertise with us.
Why do you personally choose to avoid meat?
Todd Gray: I still eat meat, but less than I used to. My wife, Ellen, was a big influence on me. She hasn’t eaten meat in 22 years.
Doron Petersan: Avoiding animal products keeps me from adding to the harm being done to the environment and to each animal. I can make a difference at every meal by choosing to eat “without harm.” Selfishly, I also enjoy gloating after my yearly physicals. It's the only report card I've ever received with all As. I put my body through the ringer running two restaurants (while keeping up with my five-year-old). My doctor credits my vegan diet for helping me keep up with my lifestyle.
How can vegetarians and vegans get enough protein?
DP: Nuts, peas, leafy greens, broccoli, legumes, and tempeh all pack more than enough complete proteins, and provide added benefits like soluble fiber, b-vitamins, antioxidants, and unsaturated fats.
For people who are hardcore carnivores, what are some of the best ways to find satisfaction and umami without meat?
DP: My magic ingredients often include garlic, onion, porcini powder, and powdered sun-dried tomatoes. I make bases for most dishes with some combination of the above, and then layer vegetables that pick up flavors or complement them, such as cauliflower, mushroom, quinoa, or cannellini beans.
How do you ensure that meat-free dishes are just as delicious and flavorful as meat dishes?
TG: Chefs who consume meat understand the depth of flavor that animal protein can provide, so they can recreate those textures and flavors. I use good, concentrated vegetable stock, miso, lots of rich spices and seasonings (like fresh turmeric root), seaweed, potato and tapioca starch to emulate eggs, nuts and nut milk or cream, flax seed, and nutritional yeast. Also, bananas are great for baking — they add sweetness and viscosity.
DP: Think of all the things you enjoy eating and why. Oftentimes the enjoyment is much more about the seasonings and sauces rather than just the meat.
What are some of the best meat substitutes that don’t sacrifice flavor?
TG: Mushrooms are very hearty texture-wise. I like to reconstitute dried morel mushrooms. A lot of the ancient grains, like bulgur, couscous, and farro. Beans are also very versatile and hearty.
DP: My favorite brand of meat substitute is Field Roast. They never disappoint.
Where can home cooks go to find inspiration for meatless dishes?
What are some tips for adapting a meat recipe to make it veg-friendly?
TG: It really depends on the recipe, but my top tip is to use good quality vegetable stock—and homemade if possible. To get things crisp and juicy, we use an air fryer. If it is an egg recipe, you can use silken tofu instead of the eggs. If it’s your favorite meat recipe, you can use hearty root vegetables and roasted cauliflower. If it’s a Mexican dish, you can use all the same spices and seasonings and use cauliflower instead of chicken. Or you can use a firm or extra firm tofu.
Todd Gray and Doron Petersan also shared meatless recipes they love. Take one for a spin the next time you want to whip up a flavorful, delicious meal without the meat.
Doron Petersan’s Chickpea Melt
Chickpeas are a nice alternative to tuna in this take on a classic. This can be enjoyed hot in a sandwich, as a dip with crunchy veggies, or as a spread for crackers. To adjust the flavor, try adding fresh chopped basil or diced bell peppers.
- 1 15-ounce can chickpeas; drained
- 3/4 cup dairy-free mayo (like Just Mayo or Vegenaise)
- 1 tsp. lemon juice
- 1 tsp. mustard
- 1 tsp. brown miso
- 1 Tbsp. pickle relish
- 1 tsp. dried dulse or wakame; reconstituted until soft (optional)
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 carrot; shredded
- 2 slices bread
- dairy-free cheese (like Daiya Cheddar Style Slices)
- canola oil spray
- Drain the chickpeas and pour into a mixing bowl. Using your bare hands, mash and crush the chickpeas until they are smooth. Mix in the shredded carrots and set aside.
- Is a separate bowl, measure the rest of ingredients and mix with a whisk or fork until evenly blended. Add to the chickpeas and carrots and mix with your hands until evenly blended.
- Refrigerate and enjoy as a dip or spread, or as a “too-no” melt:
- Spread 1/2 cup of the chickpea salad on a slice of your favorite bread. Top with dairy-free cheese, and top with another slice of bread. Using a frying pan or grill, spray with canola oil and grill on medium heat until cheese is melted and bread is toasted to your desired crunch. Enjoy!
Todd Gray’s Green Garlic Falafel with Pickled Turnips, Romaine Lettuce, and Minted Lemon Yogurt
- 3 cups dried chickpeas; covered in water and soaked overnight
- 3 shallots; peeled and sliced
- 1 bunch fresh green garlic; chopped
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 cup fresh fava beans; peeled and blanched
- 1 tsp. cumin powder
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp. marjoram powder
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- Heat olive oil in medium sauté pan. Add shallots, garlic, green garlic, and spices. Sauté over medium heat until translucent (shiny).
- Drain chickpeas. Place into food processor and add sautéed vegetable mixture. Puree until finely chopped. Use a rubber spatula to help mixture come together. Transfer to an appropriately sized mixing bowl.
- Add flour and breadcrumbs and adjust seasoning as necessary. Place falafel mixture in refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
- Take chilled falafel mixture and form small patties the size of silver dollars, approximately 1/2 inch thick. Preheat a tabletop fryer or pot of oil to 350 degrees. Deep fry falafel to golden brown approximately 2 minutes. Remove, drain and season with salt and pepper.
PICKLED VEGETABLE SALAD WITH MINTED LEMON YOGURT Ingredients
- 3 cups water
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 star anise
- 12 black peppercorns
- 1 tsp. coriander seeds
- 1 tsp. fennel seeds
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 garlic cloves
- 6 baby turnips; quartered
- 6 baby beets; quartered
- 1 head fennel; thinly sliced
- 1 small red onion; peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 hearts of romaine lettuce; chopped
- 1 small cucumber; halved and sliced
- 2 ripe heirloom tomatoes; cut into 1-inch cubes
Minted Lemon Yogurt:
- 1 cup plain or vanilla low-fat yogurt
- 3 mint leaves; finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
- 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp. honey (if using plain yogurt)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Combine the water, vinegar, sugar, peppercorns, coriander, fennel, bay leaves, thyme, and garlic in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Immediately remove from the heat and set aside to cool at room temperature.
- In small pot, simmer baby turnips and baby beets in pickling liquid until tender, approximately 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow vegetables to cool in liquid. For onions and fennel, bring pickling liquid to a simmer. Pour over fennel and beets and cool vegetables in liquid.
- Chop romaine lettuce and combine with pickled vegetables.
- Whisk together yogurt, mint, lemon zest, lemon juice, honey (if using), salt, and pepper in a small bowl until combined.
- Place salad in bowls and top with falafel. Serve with minted lemon yogurt.