This week I got an awesome early birthday present from my aunt, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman, who I’ve mentioned before. He’s a very well-known food journalist and author. He’s apparently “just a home cook,” but he’s mastered everything your average or even some ambitious home cooks would want to know.
He’s written cook books like my new one, and he also writes very eloquent op-eds in the New York Times on matters of food politics, which I now read religiously. Anyway, if you want to learn how to cook, and want to make meatless meals (which I highly suggest), this book is amazing and will probably become my bible. Its recipes don’t get incredibly sophisticated, but that’s kind of the point. I used the book for the first time on Friday night. I bought fresh string beans from the farmer’s market where I volunteer, and my mom had wanted to make a three-bean salad (usually has string beans, chickpeas, and kidney beans tossed in a vinaigrette). I found a recipe for a broiled three bean salad in Bittman’s cookbook, which is basically the traditional recipe but you broil the beans first. It was quite tasty and easy, pictured below next to salmon and couscous.
Tonight for Meatless Monday, I chose a recipe from this really cool Mediterranean cookbook of my mom’s for a summer vegetable risotto with green beans, peas, and summer squash. I used farro (a tougher grain like barley) instead of rice to make it a little more nutritious, but with 6 tablespoons of butter and half a cup of parmesan cheese it was still quite decadent. My mom thought risotto and a vegetable might not seem like enough food, so I made Mark’s recipe for marinated tofu and my mom grilled it. The marinade was very simple, and the tofu could have been a lot more flavorful. Oh well–we’ll do better next time. My mom also roasted asparagus with garlic–I don’t know how she does it, but it comes out amazingly crispy, so good it’s like candy.
So tonight, instead of giving you a reason to eat less meat, I thought I’d offer you a great way to eat less meat, a thought child of Mark Bittman’s, since I’m featuring him in this post anyway. Bittman adheres to what he calls the “Vegan Before 6” or VB6 diet. It’s not a diet like how the word has generally come to be used, as in a temporary restriction until you lose however many pounds. It’s a permanent change in your eating pattern. The biggest rule is that you don’t eat any animal products until 6 pm. For some people, I think this would make a lot of sense. It still allows you to eat meat and dairy at dinner, which is in our culture usually the biggest, fanciest, and/or most involved meal of the day. He also stipulates that you eat mostly whole foods and avoid processed foods (THUMBS UP). If it makes more sense for your “free” meal to be a different one, then you work it around your schedule. And obviously if you slip up every now and then it’s no big deal.
If you’re one of those people that thinks “I could never be vegetarian or vegan,” this idea is a great compromise! You could eat meat every day! But by reducing your animal product consumption to once a day, you’re probably removing oodles of animal cruelty and carbon footprint and negative health consequences from your diet. His cookbook Vegan Before 6 gets you started with plenty of vegan and “flexitarian” recipes. I’ve tried to adhere to this idea lately for the most part, and it works out great for me. Of course, if you’re used to eating meat and dairy multiple times a day, it will take some effort and open-mindedness to change, but the benefits are so worth it.
What do you think? Is this a lifestyle more people could adopt? Would you go vegan before 6?