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May. 31 2010 - 1:43 pm | 545 views | 1 recommendation | 1 comment

Mega Meat Eater Reflects on Meatless Week

Last Monday in this space, we met Seattle food writer Lorna Yee, a devout meat lover about to embark on a personal first: a week without meat. Yee, who’s been chronicling her meatless journey in her blog, The Cookbook Chronicles, not only met her challenge; she’s planning another bacon-less stretch later this summer. Our “after” Q/A follows.

Lorna Yee's Curry Udon With Roasted Tofu. Photo: Lorna Yee.

Lorna, it’s seven days later.  How are you doing both physically and emotionally after a week without your beloved meat?
I’ll be honest — the first four days were seriously tough. My energy was low, even though I was paying close attention keeping my caloric intake high since I’m a runner. I normally run about 9 miles a few times a week, and on Day 4, I could only manage 2 miles before I gave up and went home because I felt utterly exhausted. On Day 5, my body somehow adjusted to the lack of meat, and the brain fog cleared. I felt as energetic as always. On Day 6, I breezed through a 9 miler with the same ease as when I was eating meat.

Was there ever a moment you thought you might cave and not make it to the meatless finish line?
We had dinner with a big group of friends at my favorite Thai restaurant, on Wednesday. I had been looking forward to the meal for a long time, and it was a little hard sitting through the meal with only a few permissible items on the table. Still, the food was so incredibly fresh and flavorful that I didn’t feel deprived at all. I thoroughly enjoyed my fried tofu “King of Garlic”, my vegetarian summer noodles and a spicy/sour tofu dish called “Ayyuthya Garden.”

And what about plant-based protein? Any new discoveries?
Well, I’ve discovered that maybe tempeh is not for me. I didn’t quite enjoy the texture of the product I bought as much as I thought I would, though some kind commenters on my blog have suggested that steaming the tempeh first before frying makes it more delicious. I’ve had quinoa before in restaurants, but cooked it for the first time at home this week. (KOD note: Yee needs to take a few tempeh cues from my T&T comrades Bryant Terry, Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Mollie Katzen. See links at the bottom of this page.)

I’ve grown up eating tofu, though it wasn’t until this week that I learned that you could cube up firm tofu, drizzle with oil, and roast it in the oven until crisp. I tossed the roasted tofu in a sauce made with sambal oelek, soy sauce, Chinese black vinegar, ketjap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce), minced garlic, ginger, and scallions, and a bit of sesame oil. I served that over curry udon (recipe details below), and it was one of our favorite meals this week. I also made falafel at home for the first time!

How did your husband manage?
My husband was great and very supportive–I didn’t originally ask him to join me in Meatless Week, since I know he’s a die-hard pork fan! But he joined on his own accord, and went four straight days without meat. On the fifth day, we had dinner at our friend Mardi and Dion’s house and they made smoked chicken, and he had some. (I ate a cheesy kale gratin I bought to share, and our friends did a wonderful platter of smoked butternut squash, fingerling potatoes, and purple potatoes for me. Heaven!) He went meatless again on the 6th day. So in the end, he didn’t do the entire week with me, but he did eat far less meat than he normally does. I am very proud of him.

Has this week-long experiment changed your relationship with meat, and if so, how?
After four days, I began to realize that I didn’t really need to have it for every meal. The dinner at our friend’s house on Day 5, when they made me that plate of smoked squash and potatoes, was the first meal when I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything. We all ate salad, and bread, and enjoyed various beers that evening, and the only two items I couldn’t touch were the cured meats on the pre-dinner nibbles platter, and the smoked chicken. (My husband assures me it was delicious, though!) I had such a good time at our friends’ house, laughing and eating and drinking. We finished the night with some Nutella blondies (Recipe is on my blog).

Dare I ask:  Will there be another meatless week in your future anytime soon? Or some variation?
Yes! I have already planned my next meatless week for August 16-22. In the late summer, the farmers’ markets in Seattle are really at their full potential. I am looking forward to heirloom tomato and burrata salads, and baba ghanoush, and roasted veggie pasta salads. It’s my wish to get as many bloggers involved in Meatless Week as possible. Meatless Monday is a very worthy idea, and I plan to continue with that, but Meatless Week does, in theory, even more for the environment, and I really enjoy the challenge of going a full week without meat.

Lorna Yee’s Curry Udon With Roasted Tofu
Ingredients: Curry Udon
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 medium onion, sliced thinly
1/4 cup peas
2 blocks of Japanese curry, like Vermont Curry (KOD note: No Japanese curry available? Use 2-3 tablespoons of Indian-style garam masala.)
1/2 cup hot water
2 packages frozen udon noodles (KOD note: available in frozen noodle section of Asian markets; dried udon noodles not as chewy or thick, but will work in a pinch)

Method
In a skillet, heat the oil on medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until golden brown and softened, about 7 minutes. Add the peas. Add the curry and the water, stirring until the curry has dissolved into a thick sauce. Set aside.

Cook the udon according to package directions. Add the udon to the curry sauce, and toss with tongs until well coated.

Ingredients: Asian Roasted Tofu
1 package firm tofu, drained and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely minced
1 tablespoons scallions, finely minced
few thin slices of jalapeno or your favorite pepper (optional)
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce)
2 teaspoons Asian chili oil or hot sauce (optional)
2 teaspoons Chinese black vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

Method
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Toss the tofu in the oil, and spread out the pieces on the parchment. Roast for 30 minutes, until golden brown and crisp.

Meanwhile, add the remaining ingredients to a bowl, and whisk to combine. When the tofu is cooked, toss the tofu in the sauce, and serve over curry udon. Top with additional hot sauce if desired.

Makes 2-3 entree-size servings.


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  1. collapse expand

    Congrats, Lorna-you adjusted and broke thru all the messages that tell you you need meat to run. Your dish looks delish!

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    About Me

    You might know me from The Washington Post, where for a dozen years I dished up cooking content, both as Web chat hostess ("What's Cooking") and daily blog minx ("A Mighty Appetite").

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