You would have to be living under a rock if you haven’t noticed the plant-based trend that seems to be sweeping the country. I have always been a meat and potatoes girl myself, blame my UK roots.
Truth is, lately I have been more receptive to the idea of eating less meat, and caring a whole lot more about where my meat comes from. Since we are now into September, a month where we all crave routine, I figured this would be a great time to challenge myself to eat a predominantly plant based diet. While I’m not prepared to go all-in on the vegan trend, below are 3 ways I plan to cut down on my meat intake.
Look for the Vegetarian or Vegan Options at Restaurants
Cutting out meat and dairy when you eat out, especially in big cities is fairly easy. Due to the high number of vegans in Toronto most restaurants have additional menus, or clearly mark their vegetarian/vegan options. There have been a number of new vegan restaurants that have popped up recently and even my skeptical meat loving friends are able to find options they enjoy. Even when visiting your favourite local restaurant ask the server about their vegetarian options, you might be pleasantly surprised at the number of dishes you’ve never noticed before.
Stock Your Fridge, and Find New Recipes
Whenever I try out a new diet, or routine I find I’m more motivated to stick with it when I stock my fridge and pantry with the right ingredients. Second up is recipe planning and meal prepping. I usually try to find 5-10 new recipes at a time and plan out my week. I connected with Toronto based chef, Ivana Raca, owner and partner at Ufficio and Resto Boemo in Assembly Chef’s Hall for some vegan recipe inspo. One of the biggest misconceptions of eating plant based is that you don’t feel full or satisfied without including meat on your plate. That’s not true at all, it’s just about finding alternative proteins to incorporate into your diet. Below are two recipes which i had the pleasure of testing out. Vegan approved and delicious, which brings me to my next point…
Plan a Dinner Party with Wine Pairings
I love hosting dinner parties, but always tend to focus on the meat, whether its veal medallions or chicken piccata. I’ve excepted this as a way to challenge myself to cook vegan for my non-vegan friends. And while I’m no wine sommelier, I do know the basics. Red meat pairs well with full bodied robust reds, and fish and light pastas go better with crisp whites. According to new data, 43% of Canadians are trying to get more plant-based proteins into their diets, so its time the wine rules are extended. Most recipes online include suggested wine pairings. If they don’t, print off your dinner menu and take it to your local liquor store, I guarantee someone there will be more than willing to help.
Now back to my dinner party prep, here’s hoping I can pull this off, it went pretty well in the test run!
Try out Chef Raca’s recipes below!
VEGAN BUCKWHEAT PASTA, YELLOW FOOT CHANTERELLE MUSHROOMS, TUSCAN KALE, CHARRED ASPARAGUS, CARAMELIZED PEARL ONIONS PEDALS & SMOKED VEGAN CHEESE
Serves 4. Total Time: 1 Hour.
By: Chef Ivana Raca
Suggested Wine Pairing: Tom Gore Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
“The blackberry and blackcurrent notes in Cabernet Sauvignon will come to life on the palate when enjoyed alongside the earthy flavours of so many plant-based dishes.”
2 cups “00” flour
1 cup buckwheat flour (light)
¼ tsp Kosher salt
1 cup Tuscan or baby green kale
1 bunch, green asparagus tips
12 pearl onions, blanched and halved
1 cup chanterelle mushrooms
16 tbsp water
¼ cup grated smoked vegan cheese (Miyoko’s vegan mozzarella cheese)
2 cloves, garlic
¼ cup olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/6 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup Tom Gore white wine
In a stand mixer using a paddle, mix “00” flour with buckwheat flour and a pinch of salt. Mix at a low speed and slowly start pouring in water at room temperature. Add water gradually one tablespoon at a time and bind until the dough has formed – it shouldn’t be sticky or dry. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge for at least an hour.
Once the dough has rested, flour your surface and the top of the dough with more wheat flour and begin rolling out the dough into a ¼ inch thickness. Use a sharp knife or a pizza cutter to cut the dough into thick strips.
In a medium pot, bring 8 cups of water to a boil, adding 2 tbsp kosher salt. Cook the pasta until it surfaces to the top. Strain immediately and pour out pasta on a sheet tray to stop the cooking. Oil the pasta with vegetable oil. Set aside.
In a medium non-stick pan, add olive oil and cook the slivered garlic, chanterelle mushrooms and kale. Once the mushrooms, kale and garlic are cooked, deglaze with the wine. Season with kosher salt and fresh black pepper. Set aside.
In a small griddle at high temperature, cook the asparagus tips until they are charred black but still maintain a crunch. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Create a foil pouch, and place pearl onions inside. Braise onions in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes (to enhance the flavour of the onions you can also add another half cup of Tom Gore white wine).
Heat a large non-stick pan over medium heat. Add all the ingredients together and slowly bring up to a hot temperature. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper and add lemon juice. Grate the smoked mozzarella cheese on top of the pasta. Place pearl onions on top for garnish. Serve hot.
SUN GOLDEN TOMATO GAZPACHO WITH ENDIVE SPEARS
Serves 4. Total Time: 1 Hour.
By: Chef Ivana Raca
Suggested Pairing: Tom Gore Sauvignon Blanc 2017
2 yellow peppers
2 orange peppers
2 English cucumbers
3 lbs yellow & orange field tomatoes
12 heirloom mini tomatoes
1 jalapeno pepper
1 yellow zucchini
1 stem mint
8 pcs Basil
1 tsp tabasco sauce
1 garlic clove
Edible flowers (for garnish)
4 sprigs, Sorrel (for garnish)
2 tbsp Olive oil
2 tsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp Kosher salt
¼ lime juice
8 endive spears
Place the bell peppers on a baking tray and broil, turning every 5 to 6 minutes, until the skin is blackened and blistered on all sides. Roughly 25 to 30 minutes.
Transfer peppers into a bowl, cover and let steam until the skin loosens, about 15 minutes. When cool enough to handle, uncover the peppers and remove the skin. Discard the stems, seeds and ribs of the peppers. Set aside.
Sliver the garlic and shallots and cook together in 2 tsp of vegetable oil until soft. In a juicer, juice the zucchini, half the field tomatoes and cucumber. Set aside to chill in the refrigerator.
In a blender, puree the rest of the field tomatoes with the roasted pepper, garlic, onion and season with kosher salt. Mix the puree with the cold press juice and stir to combine. Season with lime juice, tabasco and fresh black pepper. Chill the soup for at least an hour.
Make small “x” marks on top of the heirloom tomatoes and plunge into boiling water for 30 seconds. Shock them in an ice bath for 5 minutes.
Remove from the water and peel the skin off the tomatoes. Thinly slice the tomatoes using a mandolin or a serrated knife. Place the thinly sliced tomatoes on top of the soup and garnish with mint, sorrel, basil, edible flowers and freshly ground pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and serve with endive spears.