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All or Nothing?

July 2nd, 2011 - By Lari Robling

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We’ve been told most Americans eat too much meat. Tara Desmond says there’s a middle ground between abstinence and that big 12 ounce steak. It’s called Almost Meatless and she wrote the book along with her co-author Joy Manning. Discover how to use meat as a garnish while bulking up on healthy plant-based foods.


Featured slideshow photo by Flicker user Aleksandr Slyadnev / CC BY-NC 2.0

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Almost Meatless: Recipes That Are Better for Your Health and the Planet

“First Lady Michelle Obama helped Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack unveil the new MyPlate icon, which is designed to help Americans make better food choices. This is a quick simple reminder for all of us…”

As you’ve heard, the new USDA dietary guidelines suggest eating less meat. Easy to say, but there’s more in the doing. Tara Desmond has some ideas. She wrote Almost Meatless: Recipes That Are Better for Your Health and the Planet with co-author Joy Manning. Desmond says, “this whole concept of using meat as a condiment rather than the center of the plate is really the way the rest of the world eats and Americans are sort of just starting to get on the bandwagon.”

In addition to increasing plant based foods, Desmond suggests eating meat that is raised without hormones. Some studies suggest that animals that are grass fed and live out in the open provide our bodies with better nutrition. “So we encourage cooks to opt for better quality meat and better quality meat is undeniably more expensive. The bonus with ‘almost meatless’ cooking tho, is that you are stretching it in a way that is budgetarily advantageous. So you are spending about the same or less ultimately on these recipes.”

If you spend $6 per pound of meat, but it goes twice as far with vegetables that cost 99 cents a pound and some grains you’ve cooked for pennies, well, you’ve trimmed your budget and your saturated fat! It’s a matter of simply rethinking that meat, potatoes, vegetable portion. Still, there’s that expectation, “so in the summertime people love to grill. And when you are grilling you generally think of a giant hunk of meat with the sizzling flames all around it. So, today, we are going to make Chimichurri Fajitas. And fajitas are a really great ‘almost meatless’ meal. Because we can use a small quantity of meat and an abundance of vegetables. In this case we are going to use zucchini and red onions, and it will all come together in a way that you are not going to miss the hunk of meat.”

Chimicurri sauce

To show me how this new portioning works with less meat, we headed for the kitchen — about a pound and a half of flank steak will feed 8 in this recipe. First, Tara toasted cumin seeds in a sauté pan over medium heat.

Next, she set about making the rest of the chimichurri sauce that will be used at the table as well as a marinade for the meat and vegetables. “We’re going to add fresh parsley, some garlic, fresh cilantro, jalapeños, salt and pepper, and some olive oil, and red wine vinegar. And now I’m going to add the olive oil and process it until it’s not quite smooth. It’s still a little bit chunky. So, for the zucchini, we’re going to take it and slice it lengthwise, in about a ¼ to a ½-inch slices. It should be nice and thick because it is going to go on the grill.” The meat and vegetables marinate separately in some of the chimichurri for about 30 minutes. Enough time to set the table and then it’s outside to cook. “Grill the zucchini slices about 2 minutes on each side, until they are tender but not super soft. You can add the meat to the grill just about the same time as the zucchini. So, once the meat has rested for a couple of minutes, slice it really thin, add it to a big platter with your zucchini, and your flour tortillas that you’ve grilled, and more chimicurri sauce on the side!”

It may be almost meatless, but it’s definitely all delicious!


More Almost Meatless, with co-author, Joy Manning, in an interview with Chef Jim Coleman.


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Photo by Flicker user Chiot's Run / CC BY-NC 2.0

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High Tunnel farming caught my eye because its extended growing season adds to the amount of local produce we get. While farm manager Aviva Asher was tidying up the winter crop to make way for spring, I discovered another benefit of local growing: use what you’ve got.

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