That is right. You are reading correctly. I am doing something here I haven't done before. I am posting a recipe with meat. Yup. I you have been reading for a while you know that I am a flexitarian, not a devout vegetarian. I do cook with meat, but not often. I didn't cut down on the meat overnight. There might have been uproar from the troops. Instead, I have made changes to our diet and my cooking slowly and over time. Like years. I know that the thought of going meatless more often sounds difficult. So take a breath and start slowly, just try to cut back, not cut out.
Here are some suggestions on how to eat less meat without at your house:
1. Use less. If a recipe calls of 1 pound of meat, try using 3/4 a pound and, and if that flies, switch down to a half a pound next time. I used to do this to save money when we were first married. And this is simple to do and chances are no one will notice. If the recipe need more bulk add in some extra vegetables to fill in the blanks. This works especially well in casseroles, sandwiches, and saucy dishes.
2. Cut it up. Instead of serving a piece of meat whole, try cutting it up. It tricks your eye to make a smaller portion seem larger and more satisfying. Slice on the diagonal and arrange it nicely on a platter. Presentation does count here. Instead of making a sauced chicken dish, with a large chicken piece per person, serve half the amount chicken, cut up, on a bed of grains or vegetable and then topped with the sauce.
3. Use it as a condiment. Try using less by changing how you think about meat. Instead of putting lots of bacon in a soup, simply crumble a lot less over the top as you serve. Flavor is more noticeable this way and you will use less. Think, " bean burritos with caritas" instead of "carnita and bean burritos."
4. Fresh, Seasonal Vegetables. If you use garden or market fresh vegetables at the peak of their season they will always outshine anything else you can offer. Honest. Use them with your meat and they will enhance each other, and you won't need as much meat. Hello, shish kebabs.
5. Serve it on Top. I mentioned this with the second tip, but serving over a bed or rice, quinoa, couscous, polenta, pasta or sauteed vegetables (I digress), stretches the meal and is a good way to use less. Plus it looks nice.
6. Cheeses. I adore good cheese. It makes the meal. Try out a new cheese and it will redirect the focus of the meal. Perfect for sandwiches, especially toasted or grilled ones or pizzas or on top of a salad.
7.Sides. Bulk up the other parts of the plate. Put a little more thought into the other components of the meal. If those are the best part, that is what everyone will enjoy most.
8. Salads. Back to that condiment thing. Instead of steak, think steak salad. Slice it on the diagonal and serve it over a bed of greens with green beans, new potatoes and a balsamic dressing with sliced onions. Try making the salad the main thing, not the meat.
9. Ethnic Recipes. Look at other cultures, because of the expense and for health reasons, many do not consume a lot of meat. Look to those recipes to get ideas of what new things you can try. We like curry, lots of delicious sauce and not a lot of meat.
10. Make dessert or a fun drink. When all else fails, incentive. My family loves it when I do something extra, like mango lassi with an Indian dinner or fresh virgin mojitos with a Mexican or Caribbean dinner. Or if I have made dessert for no good reason other than congrats on eating your dinner, everyone is happy.
Here is a recipe that is an excellent example of using some of the tips I mentioned. It is also my husband's favorite. Sadly for him, ramps, also known as wild leeks, are only available in the spring and usually only at the farmers market. If it isn't spring or you can't find ramps (which you should seek out if at all possible) substitute green or spring onions and add a minced clove of garlic at the beginning with the onion bulbs. Enjoy.
Yield: Makes 4 servings
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
1/2 pound hot Italian sausages, casings removed
12 ramps, trimmed; bulbs and slender stems sliced, green tops thinly sliced
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup dry vermouth
3 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for passing
Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add sausage. Cook until no longer pink, breaking up with spoon, about 5 minutes. Add sliced ramp bulbs and stems. Saut´ until almost tender, about 2 minutes. Add rice and stir 1 minute. Add vermouth. Simmer until liquid is absorbed, about 1 minute. Add 3 cups chicken broth, 1 cup at a time, simmering until almost absorbed before next addition and stirring often. Continue cooking until rice is just tender and risotto is creamy, adding more broth if dry and stirring often, about 18 minutes. Mix in green tops and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Season risotto to taste with salt and pepper. Serve, passing additional grated cheese separately.
How do you serve less meat?