Go with less meat, more veggies

"More vegetables, less meat" describes my and my family's diet as we move into late spring and summer.

It's also part of the subtitle of a great new guidebook for making that shift: "Vegetables Please: The More Vegetables, Less Meat Cookbook."

Written by prolific British cookbook author Carolyn Humphries and just out from DK Publishing in March, the $25 hardback already has been used several times by my wife, who, especially this time of year when it's a bit easier, is always looking for ways to dial down the amount of meat we eat.

She particularly likes this book, because it gives options for making most recipes with no meat and with a little meat.

One of the oddest ones she tried was for homemade "hot dogs" made with oats, carrots, onion and Stilton cheese. They sounded and looked a little funny, but they weren't bad at all.

As with all the recipes, Ms. Humphries gives an "If adding meat..." option at the end -- in this case, you could add a pound of pork sausage meat instead of the oats, tomato paste, soy sauce, mushroom ketchup, parsley and eggs -- but the recipes really don't need the meat.

While some of the recipes are quirky, and you'll see beans and nuts in dishes where you might not expect them, this book avoids the off-putting-to-some vegetarian cookbook thing of calling for seaweeds and meat substitutes and other odd ingredients.

It's quite impressive how many veggies are packed into some of these recipes.

I really liked the Spring Vegetable Stew with Fresh Herb Dumplings, which we made without the optional chicken thighs. Nor did we add duck to the Snow Pea, Sweet Potato and Cashew Red Curry, though it might be nice to try it that way, too.

My wife's spring campaign turned up another great recipe, for a meatloaf with less meat in it.


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My wife said she had a little trouble with these dumplings, but the stew turned out great, and we didn't at all miss the optional chicken.

Carolyn Humphries puts the "If adding meat" information at the end of the recipes.

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • 1 tablespoon sunflower or vegetable oil

  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped

  • 2 leeks, cut into chunky pieces

  • 2 large red potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces

  • 4 young carrots, cut into chunks

  • 1 large turnip, cut into bite-sized pieces

  • 14-ounce can tomatoes

  • 2 cups vegetable stock

  • 14-ounce can navy beans, drained

  • 14-ounce can kidney beans, drained

  • 1 large bay leaf

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 head escarole, shredded

  • Grated cheddar or Gruyere cheese, to serve

  • Optional meat

  • 4 skinless chicken thighs

For the dumplings

  • 3/4 cup self-rising flour

  • Pinch of salt

  • 4 tablespoons butter

  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

  • 2 teaspoons chopped thyme

  • 2 teaspoons chopped sage

Melt the butter in a large saucepan with the oil. Add the scallions, leeks, potatoes, carrots and turnip and fry gently, stirring, for 5 minutes until slightly softened but not browned.

Add the tomatoes, stock, beans, bay leaf and some salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Discard the bay leaf. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary.

To make the dumplings, mix the flour with a pinch of salt in a bowl. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, then stir in the herbs. Using a butter knife, mix in enough cold water to form a soft but not sticky dough. Quickly roll the dough into 8 balls.

Add the escarole to the stew and press down well. Bring back to a boil, reduce the heat and drop the dumplings around the top. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes until the dumplings are fluffy and cooked through. Serve hot with grated cheese to sprinkle over.

If adding meat, brown the chicken thighs in oil and butter at step 1 [paragraph 1 of directions], then remove before frying the vegetables. Return the chicken to the pan at the beginning of step [paragraph] 2 before adding the tomatoes and stock. Cook as before, but omit one of the cans of beans.

Serves 4 to 6.

-- "Vegetables Please: The More Vegetables, Less Meat Cookbook" by Carolyn Humphries (DK, March 2013, $25)


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Carolyn Humphries says that you can substitute butternut squash or pumpkin for the sweet potatoes, and tofu for the cashews, which get subbed out if you're adding the duck. Batonettes are like matchsticks: She cuts young zucchini in half lengthways, then holds a half on its side and cuts it into 1/4-inch slices. Then she cuts across the slices to make 1/4-inch wide batonettes. This is one of the techniques illustrated in the back of the book.

  • 2 tablespoons sunflower or vegetable oil

  • 1 bunch scallions, cut into short lengths

  • 1 sweet potato (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into walnut-sized pieces

  • 1 garlic clove, crushed

  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger or galangal

  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped lemongrass (or lemongrass puree)

  • 2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste

  • 14-ounce can coconut milk

  • 6 ounces snow peas, trimmed

  • 2 zucchini, cut into batonettes

  • 12 cherry tomatoes

  • 4 ounces raw cashews

  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

  • Squeeze of lime juice

  • Jasmine rice, to serve

  • 1 fat red chile, seeded and cut into thin strips, to garnish

  • Optional meat: 2 to 3 boneless, skinless duck breasts, cut into cubes

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or wok. Add the scallions and stir-fry gently for 2 minutes until softened but not colored. Add the sweet potato and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Stir in the garlic, ginger, lemongrass, curry paste and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently for 10 minutes or until the sweet potato is tender.

Meanwhile, cook the snow pea and zucchini batonettes in boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes until just tender. Drain.

Stir the snow peas and zucchini into the curry with the tomatoes, nuts and cilantro. Spike with a squeeze of lime juice and simmer for 2 minutes until the tomatoes are softened slightly but still hold their shape. Spoon the curry over jasmine rice served in bowls and garnish with strips of red chile.

If adding meat, fry the duck cubes with the scallions at step 1 [paragraph 1 of directions] and omit the cashews.

Serves 4 to 6.

-- "Vegetables Please: The More Vegetables, Less Meat Cookbook" by Carolyn Humphries (DK, March 2013, $25)


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This is another excellent less-meat recipe, which we recently rediscovered in an older but keeper cookbook: 2009's "Almost Meatless: Recipes that are Better for Your Health and the Planet" by Joy Manning and Tara Matarazza Desmond.

It calls for a pound of ground turkey and a pound of tofu and it's full of vegetables; the sauce really makes it sing. We've already made it twice the spring, the last time making an extra loaf to tuck into the freezer.

The recipe calls for pressing some liquid out of the tofu by slicing it into 1-inch slabs, placing those between 2 clean tea towels or several layers of paper towel, and placing a large pot or baking sheet with something heavy on top of towels for an hour. It just makes the tofu firmer.

  • 1 tablespoon bacon fat, vegetable oil or butter

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

  • 1 medium onion cut into 1/8-inch dice (about 1 cup)

  • 2 medium carrots cut into 1/8-inch dice (about 1 cup)

  • 2 stalks celery cut into 1/8-inch dice (about 1 cup)

  • 2 cloves minced garlic (about 1 tablespoon)

  • 1/2 cup chicken or beef stock [the book gives recipes]

  • 2 eggs

  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

  • 1 1/2 cups (3 ounces) freshly grated parmesan cheese

  • 1/4 cup (about 1/2 ounce) dried porcini mushrooms, ground to crumbs in a food processor

  • 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs

  • 1 pound ground chuck

  • 1 pound extra-firm tofu, pressed and crumbled

  • 1/2 cup ketchup

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce

  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar

In a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium-low heat, combine fat, butter and/or oil, a pinch of salt, and onion.

Caramelize onion slowly for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and reducing the heat if it browns too quickly.

When onion is deep, dark brown, turn the heat up to medium-high, add the carrots, celery, and garlic, and saute for about 1 minute.

Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the liquid by half. Set aside and cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, Worcestershire, and mustard. Add the cheese, onion mixture, mushrooms, breadcrumbs, beef, tofu, 2 teaspoons salt and a few grinds of pepper.

Mix gently to form a loaf on a rimmed baking sheet.

Bake for 1 hour.

While loaf is baking, combine the ketchup, vinegar, hot sauce, 1/2 teaspoon salt and brown sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and lower heat to a simmer. Watch carefully so it doesn't burn. Cook for about 5 minutes until sauce reduces and resembles a syrup.

To glaze and serve, after the loaf has finished baking, remove from the oven, preheat the broiler and brush the loaf with the glaze. Keeping a close watch on it, broil for 5 to 8 minutes, until the glaze has browned. Let the loaf cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing.

-- "Almost Meatless: Recipes that are Better for Your Health and the Planet" by Joy Manning and Tara Matarazza Desmond (Ten Speed, 2009, $22.50).

Bob Batz Jr.: bbatz@post-gazette.com and 412-263-1930 and on Twitter @bobbatzjr.


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