Starting off the year with a meat-free menu

There are many compelling reasons in Jewish teaching that point to eliminating meat from our diets. In Proverbs 12:10, it says the righteous person regards (respects) the life of their animal. The Torah teaches us to treat animals humanely, yet most farms raise animals, including farmed fish, under cruel and miserable conditions.

We are also taught to respect and care for our bodies, yet over-consumption of animals is one of the factors in our country’s crisis-level obesity.

My husband and I have agreed on these points for 15 years, but we have included meat and fish because, frankly, it tastes so good. Our 12-year-old daughter, Violet, has been a vegetarian since last spring, and we find her conviction based on Jewish teachings the most persuasive argument. Violet has taught us to choose a way of living that is good for our environment, our health and our souls.

The following are some of Violet’s favorite dishes.

Lentil Salad | Serves 8

2 1/2 cups dried lentils, rinsed
3 carrots, peeled and quartered
1 small yellow onion stuck with 3 cloves
6 cups vegetable stock
6 green onions, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts
2 stalks peeled celery, sliced thinly
4 Tbs. chopped flat leaf parsley

1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 garlic cloves, pressed
1/2 cup walnut oil
1 tsp. each fine sea salt, black pepper, sugar

Place the lentils, carrots, onion, vegetable stock, bay leaf and thyme in an 8-qt. stock or soup pot. Place over moderate heat and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for about 30 minutes, or until lentils are tender but still hold their shape.

In a bowl large enough to hold the lentils, combine the dressing ingredients: vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, walnut oil, salt, pepper and sugar.

Drain the lentils, and discard the carrots and onion. Toss the lentils with the dressing and allow to cool. Add the green onion, walnuts, celery and parsley, and combine well. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Red Cabbage | Serves 8

4 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, shredded

1 clove garlic, pressed
1 small red cabbage, shredded
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. each fine sea salt, black pepper, sugar
1 green apple, cored and shredded
4 Tbs. crumbled organic goat cheese

Heat the olive oil in a skillet, add the garlic and onions, and sauté over low heat 5 minutes. Increase the heat and add the cabbage, tossing constantly. Sauté for about 5 minutes more, until the cabbage begins to soften.

Add the balsamic vinegar. Toss and add the salt, pepper and sugar. Place the cooked cabbage in a serving dish, and top with the shredded apple and the goat cheese. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Frittata with Spinach | Serves 6

4 Tbs. unsalted butter

1/2 pound spinach, cleaned and chopped coarsely
4 Tbs. chopped flat leaf parsley
8 eggs
1 tsp. fine sea salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Heat the butter in the skillet, and cook the spinach and parsley over medium heat for 3 minutes. Beat the eggs lightly with the salt and pepper; pour over the spinach mixture and cook over medium heat until mixture begins to set — 5 or 6 minutes. Place a plate upside down over the frittata, and holding the plate and pan together, turn pan quickly upside down over the plate. Slip the frittata, cooked side up, from the plate back into the frying pan and cook about 2 minutes longer to set the underside. Serve immediately.

Rebecca Ets-Hokin is a Bay Area cooking teacher and food professional. She can be reached at [email protected].