The Portola Valley Forum (our version of Nextdoor) recently engaged in a fascinating thread about eating. My neighbor wants to eat less meat and was looking for ideas. The discussion quickly devolved into a who’s who about veggie burgers….and then more veggie burgers. Umm… but a well-rounded diet isn’t based on burgers, no matter what they’re made of. Or is it? We do eat a lot of burger. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that Americans eat 2.4 burgers per day! (50-ish billion burgers per year).
How is that possible? Why the burger fetish? Lack of inspiration probably - eaters don’t know what else to eat. And it’s all fits so well together you know, between those two (highly processed, white fluff) bread pieces - hold the lettuce, but hey, at least there’s a tomato…. and ketchup.
Get this. I heard an interview with Patrick Brown, the CEO of Impossible Foods. His studies show the younger generations don’t even care if their burger is animal, they just want the taste and texture they love.
Time to explore more ways around the kitchen. Cooking is all about tips, and the more you know, the faster, more delicious, more healthful your food and cooking will be. 39% of Americans want to eat more plants. Let’s figure out how to do that AND eat whatever burger we want.
Menus of Change, a joint initiative of The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health— Department of Nutrition, has been promoting plants too. Plant-forward it’s called - a style of cooking and eating that emphasizes and celebrates, but is not limited to, foods from plant sources—fruits and vegetables (produce), whole grains, legumes (pulses), nuts and seeds, plant oils, and herbs and spices—and reflects evidence-based principles of health and sustainability.”
Consider these statistics from their 2020 report Plant-Forward by the Numbers, a pre-pandemic snapshot of the plant-based/plant-forward eating trend:
More than 30 percent of Americans have meat-free days, more than 50 percent of adults drink nondairy milk and about 83 percent are adding more plant-based foods to their diets. - Baum and Whiteman report/ quoted in USA Today
70% of the world population reportedly is either reducing meat consumption or leaving meat off the table altogether. - Forbes quoting a GlobalData report
There’s been a 328% percent growth in the term ‘plant-based’ on U.S. menus since 2018. - Datassential Menu Trends,
Every four pounds of beef you eat contributes as much to global warming as flying from New York to London. - The New Yorker
Shifting to plant-rich diets would save $1 trillion in annual healthcare costs and lost productivity. - Project Drawdown
Among 80 solutions for reversing global warming, plant-rich diets is ranked #4. - Project Drawdown
“Nutrition scientists and medical experts now know that plant protein—in a diverse, well-balanced, whole foods diet—is more than sufficient to advance human health and longevity. “Less meat, better meat,” as it is referred to, or a shift away from animal protein towards plant-forward protein, still leaves room for five or six ounces of red meat per week,” writes the CIA. The idea is to use meat as a condiment rather than the main dish; two or three two-ounce portions per week, surrounded with yummy, caramelized vegetables and whole grains. Consider that suggestion for real or fake meat. You can still have your burger of choice every now and again, just please less often. Incorporate more veggies, whole grains, beans, nuts, fish and poultry, and further reduce the negative health and environmental impacts of red meat.
For ideas on how, videos and recipes, a good place to brush up on your plant-cooking skills (meat or no meat) is at Plant Forward Kitchen, a creative project hosted by the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and their Menus of Change initiative.
One important technique the school emphasizes is discovering seasonings and preparations from international plant-based dishes, or world cuisine as it is known. Plant Forward Kitchens offers inspiration from chefs the world over including Israel, Baja, Thailand, and Korea.
Find ideas, main dishes and unique ingredients that incorporate well into your current cooking style. I like adding new condiments from the Mediterranean Sauce series, such as Moroccan Zaalouk, to my tried-and-true recipes (it’s a perfect topper for a house staple - Lemon Pepper BBQ Tofu). Download the entire sauce recipe book here.
For chefs and food professionals looking to deepen your understanding, the ==I Global Plant-Forward Culinary Summit, ==hosted live at The CIA at Copia in Napa, CA, returns for its fourth year, April 26 – 28th, 2022. Attendees learn the current science and trends shaping this new style of eating, and have an opportunity to get into the kitchen and cook alongside some of the top plant-forward chefs in the world, including Christina Arokiasamy (Chef, Author, The Malaysian Kitchen; Kent, WA), Kyle Connaughton (Chef and Co-Owner, SingleThread Farm-Restaurant; Healdsburg, CA, and David Tanis (Chef-Partner, Lulu; NY Times food columnist; and author; Los Angeles, CA. Find out about registration and fees here. The general sessions of the conference will be livestreamed and available here. Videos of panel sessions will be available for public viewing a few weeks after the conference.
One of the best things you can do for your health, and the health of the planet begins on your dinner plate. Take an Earth Day pledge this year to adjust your diet toward more environmentally in -groove. Add spice and energy to your life by eating more plants and learning how cook and season them well. Earth Day is every day, but officially April 22nd, 2022.
Let’s change the world with great tasting food!
Yield: 4 -6 Portions
Originating from Morocco, this smoky roasted eggplant and tomato dip is seasoned with garlic, cumin, cilantro, lemon, paprika and olive oil. Find the video, and more recipes here.
3 globe eggplant
1/4 cup plus extra Extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, medium, minced
4 garlic cloves, large, minced
1 tsp. cumin seeds, toasted, ground
3/4 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. Aleppo pepper
3 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, diced
1 tsp. lemon zest
2 T cilantro, chopped
Salt, pepper, lemon juice to taste
1. Preheat a grill. Place the eggplants on the grill and cook until the flesh is soft and the peel is charred. Turn the eggplant periodically during the cooking process so it cooks evenly. Once it is soft all over, place on a baking sheet and let rest until cool enough to peel. (you can also roast the eggplant whole, in the oven, 400 degrees about 50 minutes depending on size)
2. Peel the eggplant and roughly chop in ½” pieces and let drain in a non-reactive strainer to remove any excess liquid.
3. Heat a saucepan with olive oil. Add the onions and sweat over low heat until translucent, approximately 15 minutes. Add the garlic and spices and let cook for 1 minute or until aromatic. Add the tomatoes and let cook for 30 minutes or until the tomatoes have reduced to a paste like consistency.
4. Add the eggplant, gently mix and cook over low heat for 20 minutes or until the flavors meld.
5. Add the lemon zest, and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, and lemon juice.
6. Let cool. Stir in the cilantro and a little more extra-virgin olive oil. Refrigerate overnight.
7. Serve at room temperature or cold.
Note: Serve as a sauce or dip. Would be delicious with grilled fish, lamb or poultry. Can also be served as a side salad for a mezze.
Recipe from: The Culinary Institute of America, The Plant Forward Kitchen