Ron asked Lauren:
I’ve been really enjoying this column. I have a question for you. We are not vegetarians and our entire family really loves meat. My wife and I would, however, like to cut back on our family’s weekly meat consumption. I also don’t want to eat an over abundance of pasta, for fear I’ll gain a lot of weight. We have two growing sons and we are all (me included) very hungry when at dinnertime. For us, although my wife would probably welcome it, looking at a bunch of leafy greens doesn’t really “do it” for the rest of us. Is there an easy and substantial “meaty-feeling” entrée that you could suggest? (Can it also be delicious??) Thanks.
Well, Ron, there are lots of ways to reduce your meat intake while still feeling fully satisfied. Often, we’ll eat a meal consisting of mostly great-tasting vegetables while incorporating a small amount of meat into one of the dishes. This can be as simple as adding chopped nuggets of leftover roast chicken, beef, lamb or cooked shrimp to freshly cooked rice, as well as using a corresponding broth (stock) to simmer the grains until tender. This allows you to enjoy an occasional comforting bite of meat without always making meat the major component of your meal.
A Meaty Choice, Without the Meat
Although there are lots of very substantial vegetables that add wonderful nutrients, fiber, vibrancy of color and diversity of texture, there is one vegetable, in particular, that’s been deemed “meaty.” Portobello mushrooms are not only easy to cook and readily available, they also give you a perfect reason to pull out your favorite steak knife! Large and toothsome, grilling, pan-searing or broiling is the simplest way to prepare and serve these dense, over-sized caps. Just carefully pull off the stems, wipe the caps clean with a damp paper towel and then brush them with a flavorful mixture of best-quality olive oil (or use my Garlic Confit oil). Herbs are an optional addition (minced thyme and rosemary are nice), as is minced fresh garlic. Season with some salt and pepper, then either grill, pan-sear or broil the seasoned caps on both sides until tender, 4 to 5 minutes.
And, if you want to make Portobello mushroom caps even more substantial, try stuffing them—my cheesy Spinach-Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms are certainly hearty enough for a meal—enjoy!