Earlier this week, my Post on Low-Carb, High-Animal Protein ("Paleo") Diet drew a lot of reactions. What I heard most frequently was a need for ideas on how to shift from a meat-heavy plate to healthier plant-based recipes.
This is a new way of thinking (and eating). Many of us grew up with the standard Meat, Carb, Veg plate as typical dinner, and we can still visualize the image: Piece of steak, mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli. I think one of the reasons that so many people are willing to adopt a low-card/high-animal-protein (ie Paleo) kind of diet is that it is still somewhat familiar. In 1967, one of the first low-card diets to become popular in the United States was the “Stillman diet”, promoted by Dr. Irwin Stillman in his book The Doctor’s Quick Weight Loss Diet. Dr. Atkin’s own book was released in 1972, over 40 years ago. We’ve had 40 years to wrap our heads around the image of plates that omit bread, potato, rice, beans, and pasta. That’s 4 decades to accept the normalcy of ordering bun-free burger, to stigmatize sweet potatoes as “fattening” and to casually refer to all pasta as bad carbs. I find it ironic that it’s normal for my friend to go to a restaurant and order “a burger, without the bun” but I still sometimes get confusion when I ask for the vegetable enchiladas “without the cheese or sour cream”.
As we shift away from the low-carb tradition, it might take a little while to learn a different way of eating.
One trick I’ve developed is to “plantify” a recipe. Instead of seeing an animal protein in a recipe, I see a plant. Mario Batali’s Spicy Sausage with Three Peppers and Fennel becomes Chef Katie’s Braised Cannellini Beans with Peppers and Fennel. The Whole Foods Market Moroccan Chicken Salad that I cooked for months becomes my Moroccan Chickpea Salad. Watching an episode of “Mexico, One Plate at a Time”, I see Chicago Chef Rick Bayless make a pork loin with a beautiful roasted tomatillo salsa verde and red skin potatoes. For Chef Katie, the pork gets swapped out for giant corn to become my comforting Giant Corn Salsa Verde Stew. Seeing Chef Emeril Lagasse stuff zucchini with Italian sausage inspired me to take that same zucchini and stuff it with wholegrain bulgur, flavored with the same spices found in your typical Italian sausage.
One of the beautiful aspects of the plant world is the diversity of options we have. We can choose from a wide variety of colors, textures, shapes, and sizes for plant-based options. For instance, I love using chickpeas for a firmer texture, similar to using diced chicken breast in a salad. Bulgur has the crumbly texture of ground meat, helpful for recipes like chili and tacos. Creamy cannellini beans are a great go-to for stews, as they soak up the rich broth in which they simmer.
Sometimes a recipe gets a bonafide “bean-ified” treatment.
Sometimes it receives a gratifying “grain-ification”.
Either way, it’s time to start “Plantifying” our plates and getting used to a new way of eating.
My challenge to you: “Plantify” one of your favorite recipes: try replacing the animal protein with either beans, grains, or some other plant-based option.
Chef Emeril Lagasse's Provencal-Style Stuffed Zucchini with Sausage...
Traded the Sausage for some quick-soaking wholegrain Bulgur
Mario Batali's Spicy Stewed Sausage and Fennel...
Swapped out the sausage for Cannellini Beans and it became:
An Italian classic of Wild Boar Ragout over Creamy Polenta "Plantified" into Wild Mushroom Ragout on dairy-free Polenta:
Rick Bayless's Roasted Pork with Tomatillos and Potatoes "Plantifies" into Giant Corn Salsa Verde Stew
A creamy Moroccan Chicken Salad recipe that I made often at Whole Foods inspired a "Plantified" Moroccan Chickpea Salad: