Tag Archives: Mark Bittman

Beyond Meat: A New Meatless Product

IMG_8365About a year ago, for environmental reasons, Clif and I decided to stop eating beef and pork. In addition, we don’t eat much fish or seafood—even though we love it—because we have come to believe that there is no way the oceans can sustainably feed so many people on this planet. (For more on this, watch Mission Blue, the terrific documentary about the oceanographer Sylvia Earle.) We do eat some chicken, often organic but at the very least antibiotic free.

We also eat some dairy and eggs, but mostly what we eat are plants, many of which are grown by our own Farmer Kev. Because I have long been interested in a plant-based diet, I have a repertoire of vegetarian dishes, some that I’ve developed on my own and some that come from other sources, including the inimitable Mark Bittman and his How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. (America‘s Test Kitchen, the polar opposite of Mark Bittman but excellent in its own way, has recently come out with The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook. I don’t have it, but this book is on my wish list.)

Most of the time Clif and I are more than happy with our plant-based diet. He could eat my vegetarian fried rice once a week, and my bean burgers, based on a Mark Bittman recipe, are pretty darned good if I do say so myself. Nevertheless, at times we do miss the texture and taste that ground beef brings to such dishes as chili, spaghetti sauce, or tacos. We could certainly use ground turkey or chicken, but we don’t want to eat too much poultry, either. Besides, nothing can really compare with the umami of ground beef.

We’ve tried texturized vegetable protein (TVP), and it’s about as appealing as the name suggests. TVP has a blah flavor, and it brings nothing but, well, texture to chili and spaghetti sauce. We scratched that one from our list long ago.

More promising have been MorningStar Farms crumbles. While they don’t have the smooth and mellow taste of ground beef, these crumbles aren’t as tasteless as TVP. They are fairly expensive, and for those who live on a modest budget, the crumbles would have to be a once in a while kind of thing. Unless, of course, you can find coupons for them.

Not long ago, I learned about other meatless meat products made by a company called Beyond Meat. On a recent show, Tom Ashbrook, of On Point radio, featured Ethan Brown, the CEO and founder of Beyond Meat, which manufactures fake chicken and beef¬† made from pea protein and soy.¬† While doing the show, Tom Ashbrook munched on one of Beyond Meat’s burgers, and he indicated that he liked it pretty well.

Naturally, Clif and I were curious about Beyond Meat, and we were eager to try it, too. We had a coupon for the product and a very good thing as Beyond Meat is not cheap—an 11 ounce package costs $4.99 at Target. Therefore, with coupon in hand, Clif duly picked up a package of Beefy Crumble, and last night I used it with a jar of spaghetti sauce.

The results? So-so as far as I was concerned, and I thought the MorningStar Farms crumbles had a better flavor. While the Beefy Crumble wasn’t as bland as the TVP, it was certainly bland enough. The texture was good—I’ll give it that—and the Beefy Crumble had a satisfying chew. But other than that, it didn’t bring much to the sauce, and I would rather have mushrooms, peppers, and zucchini to add taste and texture. Clif understood my point of view, but, to him, the pleasing texture more than compensated for the bland taste, which he said he liked.

What next? As long as I have some coupons, which I do, I would be willing to try some of Beyond Meat’s other products—the chicken, the meatballs, maybe even the Feisty Crumble. However, after eating the Beefy Crumble, my expectations are not high.

In the end, I expect Clif and I will stick with our simple homemade meals made directly from vegetables.

 

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Beet Gratin at the End of a Gray Week

IMG_7117Since Tuesday the skies have been gray. There has been sleet followed by rain—lots of it—now capped by a bit of snow. I’m not complaining, mind you, especially when I consider what we might have had—an ice storm that could have knocked out our power for days or more. Then I think of the deluge the West Coast is dealing with, the floods and the landslides, all just before the holidays.

But it would be nice to see blue sky and sun. It would be nice to not have another storm until after the New Year. It would be nice to have bare roads for the holidays. All right. Maybe I am complaining. Just a little.

On a more positive note…I made a beet gratin last night from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. I’ve been wanting to make this gratin for a while, but I was afraid Clif wouldn’t like it, and we would be left high and dry for our supper. But Farmer Kev keeps bringing us beets, and it was time to do something with them.

Bittman suggesting cooking the beets whole in a covered roasting pan in a 350 degree oven, and that’s just what I did. It took a long time—almost an hour—for the beets to cook, but there was no fuss and little mess. (The beets were scrubbed but not peeled.)

When the beets were done, I let them cool and cut them into slices, which I then arrayed in the bottom of a 9 x 12 baking dish. I sprinkled salt, pepper, and dried thyme on the beets. Then I crumbled an eight-ounce log of goat cheese on top and covered the whole thing with fresh bread crumbs—I used three slices of homemade bread.

Bittman suggested broiling the gratin until the crumbs were brown and the cheese was melted. I followed his advice, but unfortunately the top became too brown before the beets were heated through.

However, the overall taste more than made up for the lukewarm dish. The tangy cheese was a perfect compliment to the sweet beets, and the overall effect could even be called elegant.

“Pretty darned good,” Clif said, going back for seconds.

I nodded, relieved we wouldn’t have to resort to scrambled eggs and toast.

“But you might want to bake it next time rather than just broil it,” Clif added. “If need be, you can broil it a little at the end.”

I agreed, and next time I make beet gratin, I will bake it so that everything is piping hot.

Still, I was pretty pleased with the way the dish turned out, especially after such a long, gray week.