While I’d heard about Meatless Monday since 2003, when the movement truly began, I never embraced it until recently.
Meatless Monday is an international campaign aimed at improving health. Following nutrition guidelines set by the USDA, this movement encourages people to forgo meat every Monday. The idea is to kick start the week thinking healthy, perhaps after a weekend of rich foods.
But how could I expect my husband to subsist one whole day a week — without meat or poultry? David is a meat-and-potatoes guy. He calls vegetables and fruit “rabbit food.”
“Tofu — no way,” David said when I suggested it for breakfast. I promised him he could have two mini-muffins if he took just one bite!
I knew I had to ease David into Meatless Mondays gently, with one vegetarian lunch or dinner, before going full blast. I prepared ethnic food sprinkled with tasty spices. I relied on cheese or beans as protein, and offered filling side dishes, such as rice.
My strategy worked. I proved that a meat-loving man can be happy on plant food once a week — but no more than that.
Cinnamon Tofu Squares
Tasty for breakfast, lunch or dinner, instead of eggs.
1 package (14-oz) of firm tofu
1 Tbsp. salted butter, or more, if needed
1⁄4 tsp. cinnamon
1⁄8 tsp. sugar
Optional accompaniments: sliced bananas, strawberries, grapefruit halves or mini-muffins
Place the brick of tofu in a colander and drain. Pat dry with paper towels. Slice the tofu brick in half horizontally, then each half into 1⁄2-inch squares.
On a medium flame, melt the butter in a medium-sized skillet. Add the tofu squares. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Stir until squares are evenly coated. Do not stir constantly so squares can brown a little.
Add more butter, if needed. Saute until lightly seared on all sides, about 5 minutes.
Serve immediately with one or more accompaniments, if desired.
Serves 2 to 3.
Ziti with Fried Zucchini
(Dairy or Pareve)
The aroma of this Italian favorite sends meat lovers into ecstasy.
8 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
3⁄4 cup olive oil, or more, if needed
3 lbs. zucchini (about 3 to 4)
kosher salt to taste
1 lb. ziti pasta
Optional garnish: freshly grated Parmesan cheese, generously sprinkled on top
Accompaniments: salad with vinaigrette and a crusty Italian bread
Do ahead: Place garlic in oil inside a covered container. Leave at room temperature for several hours or refrigerate up to 3 days.
Bring oil to room temperature before preceding. Strain out the garlic from the oil. Reserve the garlic.
Slice the zucchini as thin as possible.
Divide the oil among 2 or 3 large skillets. Heat on a medium flame.
Slide the zucchini evenly into the oil among the skillets. (This may have to be done in batches.) Sprinkle generously with salt.
Saute zucchini until brown on both sides. Do not turn zucchini often as the slices brown better and faster when left to sizzle in oil. However, check zucchini often so it doesn't burn. Lower flame, if necessary.
As zucchini slices brown, move them to a plate. Do not drain on paper towels. Do not discard any oil. Slices will shrink while sauteing.
When all slices are brown, place them in one skillet. With a spatula, scrape oil from the other two skillets over the zucchini. Reserve.
Prepare the ziti according to package directions. When ziti is almost ready, heat the zucchini on a low flame. Drain the ziti and place in a pasta bowl.
Sprinkle the reserved garlic over the pasta, followed by the warmed zucchini slices. Grate a generous amount of Parmesan cheese over the top, if using.
Serve immediately with a salad and Italian bread.
Serves 4 to 6 as a main course lunch or dinner.
(Pareve or Dairy)
This zesty vegetable medley is filling for lunch or dinner.
3 Tbsps. cooking oil, or more, if needed
1 onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsps. curry
2 tsps. cumin
1⁄4 tsp. turmeric
3⁄4 tsp. paprika
kosher salt to taste
3⁄4 lb. string beans, ends trimmed off
1 bunch of carrots, peeled and cut into 1⁄2-inch chunks
1 cauliflower, cut into florets
1 box (32 oz.) of vegetable stock
2 potatoes, peeled and coarsely diced
Optional garnish: plain yogurt
In a large pot, briefly heat the oil on a medium flame. Add the onion and garlic, and saute until wilted, about 1 minute.
Add the curry, cumin, turmeric, paprika and salt. Stir for one minute until fragrant.
Add the string beans, carrots and cauliflower and stir until vegetables are coated with the spice mixture. Pour in the vegetable stock and add the potatoes. Stir until combined.
Cover the pot and bring to a simmer. Reduce the flame to medium-low to achieve a slow simmer.
As vegetables simmer, prepare the rice according to package directions. Simmer the vegetables for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the potatoes soften and are cooked through.
Serve immediately with rice and generous dollops of plain yogurt, if desired.
Serves 5 to 6 as a main course.
Open-Face Veggie Ricotta Sandwich
Most vegetarian foods entail significant prepping, but this is an easy lunch or light dinner.
1 large slice of sour dough or peasant bread
2 Tbsps. ricotta cheese, preferably freshly made, not commercially packaged
4 thin slices of tomato
6-8 thin slices of cucumber
4 fresh basil leaves or crumbled dried basil for sprinkling
1⁄2 tsp. chopped red onion
Optional: serve with a vegetarian soup, such as tomato, minestrone or black bean
Cut the slice of bread in half. Spread ricotta on each half. Cover ricotta with the tomato and cucumber slices. Sprinkle with basil and red onion.
Serve immediately with a vegetarian soup, if desired.
Linda Morel is a writer based in New York City. Email her at: [email protected] .