Our 2008 resolution: a meat-free home

The New Year brings new resolutions for our family, and 2008 has inspired us to be more environmentally conscientious. We’re committed to one car-free day a week for each of our three drivers; we’re drawing our electricity from solar panels; and we’ve declared our home a meat-free zone.

As our resources disappear at alarming rates, mostly being consumed by Americans, I’ve become more determined to set a positive example in my community. Eliminating meat from our home seems like an easy step in the right direction.

Seventy percent of the grain grown in our country goes toward feeding livestock. A 2006 report by the United Nations says “raising livestock for human consumption is one of the top two or three significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.”

In addition to repairing the world, tikkun olam, our vegetarian house is now kosher, so it’s a double mitzvah for the New Year! The following are hearty, winter dishes for an environmentally friendly January!

White Bean and Wild Mushroom Ragout

Serves 8

1 lb. small white beans, soaked at least 6 hours

3 cups vegetable stock

1 medium onion, peeled

2 carrots, cut in half

2 stalks celery, cut in half

3 Tbs. olive oil

1/2 lb. fresh mushrooms, cut into quarters

1/2 Portobello or shiitake mushrooms, cut in half and sliced

1/2 oz. dried porcini, soaked in hot water for 1 hour

2 medium yellow onions, sliced

2 tsp. fine sea salt

1 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. pepper

1 bay leaf

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped

1/2 cup dry white wine

In a large pot, simmer the beans, stock, the whole onion, carrots and celery until the beans are tender, about 60 to 90 minutes. Drain the beans and discard the vegetables.

Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet. Add the sliced onions, and sauté until they begin to brown. Drain the softened dried mushrooms, and save the soaking liquid. Add the fresh mushrooms and the softened dried mushrooms to the sautéing onions. Pour the soaking liquid through a fine sieve and continue cooking the mushrooms until all the liquid is absorbed. Add the salt, sugar, and pepper.

Place the cooked beans in an oven-safe casserole, add the onions, mushrooms and herbs. Deglaze the skillet with the wine, and add this to the beans. At this point, the casserole may be put in the oven or refrigerated for up to two days.

Bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 to 45 minutes, making sure there is plenty of liquid. If necessary add more wine or stock. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Broccoli with Lemon and Pine Nuts

Serves 8

2 lbs. cooked broccoli, chopped

zest of 2 lemons

1/4 cup lemon olive oil

1/2 cup pine nuts

2 cloves garlic, peeled

Heat the olive oil in a small sauté pan. Add the pine nuts and garlic, and allow to cook until browned. Discard the garlic. Toss the olive oil, pine nuts and lemon zest together with the broccoli. Serve at room temperature.

Moroccan Spinach

Serves 8

3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, through the press

1/2 cup pine nuts

2 lbs. washed baby spinach OR

3 lbs. spinach, stemmed, washed and rinsed

1/2 cup raisins, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes, then drained

2 tsp. fine sea salt

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add the garlic and pine nuts and sauté until the nuts just barely begin to brown. Add the spinach to the pan and cover. Allow to sizzle over medium heat for 2 minutes. Remove the lid and toss the spinach until it is all wilted. Add the raisins and salt, stirring well. Serve warm.

Rebecca Ets-Hokin is a certified culinary professional. Visit her Web site at www.GoRebecca.com. She can be reached at [email protected].