Saving the Earth one vegetarian Shabbat at a time

Inspired by my oldest daughter’s recent seventh-grade science project on the detrimental effects of the human consumption of animals on the environment, I’d like to pursue the idea of Jewish vegetarianism. Raising and slaughtering animals causes water pollution, excessive water usage, soil erosion and destruction of Amazon rainforest at 1 1/2 acres per second.

The reality is that meat just tastes so good. Grilled steak, juicy hamburgers and succulent leg of lamb are pleasures we enjoy for our celebrations.

We’re often presented with the concern that meat-free diets don’t contain enough protein. Eating a varied diet will provide plenty of protein, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.

But imagine: If you forego meat or poultry just three times per week, you could cut your destruction of the environment in half. You also fulfill the mitzvah of observing the laws of kashrut — so you’re killing two birds with one stone, metaphorically speaking of course. Try this vegetarian Shabbat dinner, sharing multiple mitzvot with your friends and family. My daughter Violet suggested this menu, and I think it’s a winner.

Sautéed Green Beans and Bell Peppers | Serves 8

2 lbs. green beans, cut into 2-inch lengths and blanched
3 Tbs. olive oil
2 red bell peppers, seeded and cut into 3-inch strips
2 green bell peppers, seeded and cut into 3-inch strips
2 tsp. fine sea salt
2 Tbs. chopped flat leaf parsley

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the bell peppers and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the green beans and sauté until heated through. Stir in the salt. Remove from heat and toss well with the parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Mexican Rice | Serves 8

1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cup long grain rice
2 large tomatoes, cored and diced
1/4 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
3 cups water
1 tsp. fine sea salt

Heat the oil in a pot over a medium high heat. Add the rice and sauté for 5 minutes, or until rice is golden in color.

Stir in tomatoes, onion and garlic and stir 30 seconds until well blended. Add the water and salt. Cover and cook at medium low heat until the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.

Caramel Flan | Serves 8

1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbs. water
12 oz. evaporated milk
14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
5 large eggs
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 Tbs. vanilla extract

Combine the sugar and water in a small pot. Over high heat, melt the sugar and cook until it is light brown. Remove from heat and pour the caramel into eight individual custard molds, tilting the molds so the caramel covers the bottom.

In a bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, cinnamon and vanilla.

Pour the custard into the molds, put them in a water bath, cover with foil and bake in a pre-heated oven at 325 degrees for about 40 minutes, until custard tests done. Allow custard to rest about 30 minutes before taking out of the mold.

Rebecca Ets-Hokin is a Bay Area cooking teacher and food professional. Her columns alternate with those of Louise Fiszer. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to [email protected].