The second week of our cooking through Almost Meatless was just as tasty as the first. Maybe even more so?
We started with Shabu Shabu Soup. Traditionally this soup is served as a flavorful broth and a tray of thinly sliced meats and vegetables that cook almost instantly in the hot soup. It’s the sound of the add-ins sliding through the soup that gives the soup it’s name, according to the authors.
Tip for this recipe: to get the thinnest slices of steak without a deli slicer, slice the steak when still partially frozen. Just watch the finger-tips, they tend to go a bit numb doing this sort of thing, increasing the possibility of an ouchie!
This version of Shabu Shabu soup has all ingredients cooked before arriving at the table but it was another excellent choice for a summer meal. Not too heavy and an amazing flavor. The bok choy leaves do lend a bit of bite, along the lines of mustard or turnip greens, but any chance to use soba noodles in a dish makes me very happy (even if I had to check 3 grocery stores before finding them).
Next we skipped ahead to the eggs chapter and tried out the Springtime Spaghetti Carbonara. What could go wrong with fresh asparagus, peas and bacon? I’m not entirely sure but there was something just a touch off. Maybe it was the whole-what pasta we used? Maybe it needed more bacon (though, you know, that’s pretty much a given)? Or, maybe it just wasn’t what we were after that day. Who knows. It was fine as far as a pasta disk goes but it wasn’t the best thing we tried from the book.
Finally, it was time for the Albondigas. I just love saying that word: al-BON-di-gaas. Lamb and Irish-oat meatballs, a little spicy from the chipotle pepper, cooked in a rich tomato (or, in our case, roasted red bell pepper sauce). I had a pound of ground lamb and only needed half that so I made a double batch with plans for the leftovers already brewing.
One of the few recipes that came with serving suggestions, instead of lime rice we made lime quinoa and served it with the suggested flour tortillas. It was a nice little accompaniment to the spicy meatballs and helped dampen some of the fire. The steel-cut oats really added to the texture of the lamb and kept in a significant amount of moisture for the lean lamb.
The leftovers? Well, I’d been craving a meatball sub for quite some time and saw this as my opportunity to act on it. Picking up a load of french bread and provolone cheese, we spread the split loaves with mayonnaise (adds a wonderful creaminess to the acidic sauce on the meatballs) and lined them with provolone before popping them under the broiler to melt the cheese. The meatballs and sauce were added, another half slice of provolone on top and back under the broiler until the cheese melted again and the edges of the bread crisped.
Mom taught me that pickles make a lovely counterpoint to the rich taste of both tomato sauce on a meatball sub as well as barbecue sandwiches, so I added a little relish to my sandwich as well. Oh, so, yummy. A little extra grated Parmesan on top and these sandwiches totally cured my craving. In fact, a little queso fresco on top of the standard albondigas wouldn’t go amiss should we make these again!
And, hey, I got to drag my baguette pan out of storage–it makes the perfect holder for toasted subs to get maximum crispiness on the edges without spilling any of the filling!
After working our way through the cookbook (selected recipes, that is), did it fulfill those cover-flap promises?
Eating less meat is…
- healthier? Probably. I mean we did eat less meat and more veggies. Did we, like, lose any weight in the process? Nope. If anything I felt heavier after some of these recipes than some of the balanced and properly portioned meaty meals we’ve eaten in the past.
- cheaper? Definitely not. My grocery bill was the same if not more for 7 days of eating out of her book. Mostly from the vegetable requirements and specialty items that needed to be tracked down. I’m betting if you had a farmer’s market nearby (one that isn’t open only during workdays, for instance–sometimes it seems like you have to sacrifice a “normal” workday for access to healthy eating) or access to smaller portions of meats you might actually be able to save some cash. Keep in mind, too, that we already had several items so the higher bill came with the somewhat-shortened list.
- eco-friendly? This one’s harder to say, for sure, but we definitely used less packaged items, created less trash and all that. It would take much more than a week, though, to really create any sort of environmental change.
All in all I enjoyed trying these recipes and look forward to making others at another time. I just don’t think I’ll be using this as my meat-adjusted bible any time soon.