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Monday, February 14, 2011

Mindfully Meatless Monday: Seth's Bean Burgers from Ukraine

In my last post, I wrote about some of my favorite meatless meals. I was happily surprised at the response of my friends and readers who seemed to be inspired by the post and excited to see some meat-free options that look tasty and easy to put together. I started thinking more about the idea of meatless meals. Eating vegetarian or even vegan meals is totally normal for my family, but I realize that it isn't for others. Skipping the meat has become unconscious for us as my culinary repertoire has expanded and as I've become more interested in eating locally, seasonally, and with minimal environmental impact. That said, I realize that this isn't the case for most of us. Many people still plan their meals around the large hunk of protein, and the vegetables are relegated to side dishes. Meatless Monday is a simple campaign based on these premises: meatless is good for your body and it's good for the Earth. I do not have an ethical problem with eating animals, but I do think there's plenty we can do if each of us eats meatlessly one day a week.  It also gives me great satistfaction to take some cash out of the pockets of the meat industry.  The Des Moines Register wrote about Soedexo's participation in this recent article.  The US government continues to recommend a specific diet for Americans, but they refuse to suggest that we eat less meat.  The latest guidelines suggest we replace some of our meat with seafood for heath reasons, but stops short of suggesting simply reducing meat consumption.  I think this quote is telling of the influence the meat industry has on our government:

'When a reporter demanded to know why the government didn't just say, "Eat less meat," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack responded that the seafood recommendation was "a way of saying what you're saying." '

To help you be mindful about eating less meat, and to give you a little inspiration and some simple, family-friendly ideas for meatless meals and snacks, I'm starting my own little campaign of Mindfully Meatless Monday.   I'd appreciate any requests or suggestions in the comments, and look forward to sharing these satisfying eats with you.

To begin the series, I'd like to share my friend Seth's photos and story about making his own version of my bean burgers.  Seth is doing research in Ukraine and reports that fresh foods are scarce.  He did a great job of cobbling together some delicious-looking pinto burgers on his first try with limited resources.

If Seth can make tasty food when he's in Ukraine and it looks like this outside, can't you? (This view is out his window, of the Kiev caves and monastery!)

Weather

He ran to the nearest market and grabbed a load of goodies, including fennel, chili, and something called 'musk seed' (?)

Groceries

I'm going to use his words, because they're pretty much perfect.

"I went to the market and made a pretty good haul.  It turns out they do have spices here but you have to go to the "Oriental" section.  They assumed I was Turkish.  Anyway, I got some good stuff, two packets of spice for about a dollar.  The main problem was that I had to get pinto beans instead of black beans.  Also I forgot ketchup and buns.  I was too excited to wait a day so I didn't soak the beans, I just boiled them longer."

He is totally right that soaking the beans isn't really necessary, and I think the pinto beans are just fine. I've used a mix of black and pinto beans before with good success.

Seth added half of a small onion and 1/4 of a carrot to the batter, which I think is an excellent idea, and a great way to increase your veggie servings, especially if you have kids that don't like raw vegetables.

Here are his burgers, frying up.  I commend his use of cast iron, the best and cheapest of cookware!

Frying

He served them up on slices of bread.

Finished Product

Final notes:
"They were really good!  Burgery.  Sort of like a flat falafel.  In retrospect I would have used more chili, more salt, garlic, pickles instead of cucumbers but I was happy with how the mustard here went with it (it's more like horseradish). Lastly, I would like to point out that I cut the carrot with the axe."
Seth has inspired me to keep up the effort to be mindful about reducing my meat consumption, and I hope his dedication and enthusiasm has inspired you, too.
I look forward to many more MMM's in the future, and can't wait to see what we come up with together.

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