Chef Hermant Mathur is well known in New York for guiding high-end Indian restaurants to rave reviews and Michelin stars. GQ magazine recently referred to him as one of the tip five Indian chefs in America.
Now he’s taken on a new challenge: opening a series of mostly casual Indian restaurants that each focus on the cuisine of a different region of India. With a twinkle in his eye, he tells us that he wants Americans to know there’s much more to Indian food than just chicken tika masala.
Several of the restaurants are in the Murray Hill neighborhood, known as Curry Hill because of the predominance of Indian eateries. Chef Mathur is introducing Meatless Monday menus in two of them: Haldi and Chola.
Haldi celebrates the cuisine of Eastern India, specifically the city of Kolkata, formerly Calcutta. “From the palace to the street cart, a culinary tour of India’s cultural capital,” is how the menu describes it.
Chef Mathur explained that there are three communities who influence Kolkata cuisine, and Haldi’s menu includes dishes from each group: Jewish, Bengali, and Marwari, with the latter being the more vegetarian-focused of the three.
“There are a variety of vegetarian dishes on the menu,” said Chef Mathur, “and they’re flavored mostly with mustards. Many leafy vegetables, potatoes seasoned with poppy seeds. My favorite vegetable I’m making here is okra, julienned and fried so it’s similar to French Fries.”
While fish and shrimp are staples in this region Chef Mathur pointed out many ways to get plenty of protein from vegetarian dishes, with ingredients like lentils, chickpeas, peanuts, and the homemade cheese they feature at Haldi and Chola.
When asked about how to get Americans to eat and enjoy more vegetables, he said rather than just sautee them and adding salt & pepper we should use mustards, chutneys, and other ways to add more flavors. His Begun Bhaja (eggplant and tomato chutney) is an excellent example. “India is very famous for vegetarian food and if you haven’t eaten food from this Eastern region it is very tasty.”
Near Haldi are several other restaurants where Chef Mathur is at the helm and they each focus on a different region: Kokum features kerala cuisine; Dhabha serves Punjabi-style food; and Chote Nawab showcases Hyderabadi cuisine. Chola is his other restaurant that will feature a Meatless Monday menu, and it’s where North meets South. Vegetarian dishes are particularly popular in the south, which is also famous for its spices as well as coconuts and fish.
In addition to being an amazing chef, Mathur is also a delightful person who you can see takes great pleasure in introducing people to foods and flavors they haven’t tried before. In that way he’s a perfect match with Meatless Monday. If you’re in New York don’t miss the chance to sample his Meatless Monday menu at Haldi or Chola. For those who live too far away for that, he has graciously shared two of his recipes:
Indian cuisine is rich with vegetarian offerings, making Indian recipes a perfect option for Meatless Monday. This Monday, why not explore one of these 10 recipes from our bloggers and friends? Many of these recipes call for specialty ingredients, such as garam masala, curry leaves, ghee and chilis, so planning a vegetarian Indian meal also provides a great excuse to take a trip to an ethnic market in your city or town.
The historic Orme School is an international prep school set on 300 acres in rural Arizona and surrounded by a 32,000 acre cattle ranch. According to Patti Marrs, Director of Food Services, “we literally meet our meat on the road.” The school began Meatless Mondays this past January.
In many ways, joining Meatless Monday fits with the values set forth in their mission statement of creating a supportive and diverse community, and encouraging “inner resourcefulness, integrity, respect and accountability for self and others.’ In addition to rigorous classroom instruction (the student to teacher ratio is 3 to 1) they emphasize “hands-on learning and both environmental and aesthetic awareness.” Patti Marrs, graciously answered all of our questions via email. Here are some excerpts.
Q: Who Initiated Meatless Mondays at Orme?
I made the suggestion to our administration staff to go meatless on Mondays because it fits our program and mission to create a more sustainable school community and to protect our planet. We decided together to introduce the concept for the new year. We have an all school formal dinner 2 times a month and chose the first one in January to be meatless and “sold” the idea to our community that night.
Q: How do the students feel about it?
Reaction was mixed at first. Our students involved in sports were very worried about “protein” and where they were going to get it. Education was key in winning them over. Because we serve each student one at a time this type of information was passed at the serving line. All students have most definitely learned alternative sources of protein other than meat.
Q: How about faculty?
The faculty and staff can be tough nuts. Most for the skepticism came from that direction. These folks are much more set in their ways and are a bit more reluctant to try new things as well as experience different tastes. They ask a lot of questions as they pass through the serving line and most will end up with something new on their plate.
Q: Sometimes Meatless Monday inspires people to try new things. Has that been the case at your school?
Yes. We try to serve the most nutrient dense food possible. This means our population is served purple flesh potatoes, purple carrots, yellow flesh watermelon, blood oranges, quinoa, farro, and chia seeds to name a few. We are very lucky and are in a unique situation that allows us to be full circle. Our students start plants from seed, plant and maintain the school’s garden… prepare the harvest, compost the waste and return the composted matter to the soil. We have access to 100% grass beef (no finishing on grains) and a beautiful 3/4 acre state certified “Approved Source” vegetable garden, an orchard with 200 assorted fruit trees, and are in the planting stage of a new vineyard. We are in a mild climate surrounded by many small family farms that are supported by the Verde River that provide fresh produce to us as well. We are truly a “Garden to Table, Farm to Table, Orchard to Table, Ranch to Table” dining hall.
Q: So is Meatless Monday a success so far?
As an International boarding high school our kitchen (Founders Kitchen) serves 1,590 meals per week. I figure after being meatless for the past 17 Mondays, we have not eaten 680 pounds of chicken and 420 pounds of beef. So yes!
We thank Patti Marrs for her thoughtful answers, for sending lots of great photos, and for initiating Meatless Monday at Orme School. See more about Founders Kitchen on facebook.
Join us on Monday, May 11th at 8pm ET for a Twitter chat with Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, author and photographer of The Vegetarian Flavor Bible!
The Vegetarian Flavor Bible is NOT your average cookbook. The heart of the book is an A –Z guide of ingredients (Acai to Zucchini blossoms) and the produce, spices, herbs, and other seasonings that best pair with and enhance their flavors. Not sure what to do with those ramps you scored at the farmers market? Consult The Vegetarian Flavor Bible and you’ll learn that they go well with asparagus, peas, eggs, parsley and cheese. Sounds like the beginnings of a Meatless Monday Spring Frittata to us!
Monday’s Twitter chat is not only your chance to share your favorite vegetarian flavor pairings, but also to confess what stumps you in the kitchen and get some advice from the experts! Plus, two lucky participants will win copies of The Vegetarian Flavor Bible.
To join the conversation, log on to Twitter at 8pm ET on Monday, May 11th. Follow @MeatlessMonday for the chat questions and use the hashtag #MeatlessMondayChat in all of your responses. Hope to see you there!
It’s true, Cinco de Mayo does not fall on a Monday this year. But if your May 4th Meatless Monday leaves you so inspired that you want to continue it into Tuesday, we have several delicious suggestions for meatless Mexican dishes.
Cinco de Mayo is also known as the Anniversary of the Battle of Puebla. For those who like their Meatless Mondays with a side of history, here’s the backstory: on May 5, 1862, the outmanned Mexican army defeated the French in the Battle of Puebla. Though the French would capture Mexico City one year later and take control of the country for several years, the Battle of Puebla, and the Cinco de Mayo celebrations that began cropping up almost immediately in Puebla and in American towns, became a celebration of Mexican unity and patriotism.
A good argument can be made that Cinco de Mayo is essentially an American holiday that honors Mexican culture and heritage. From the time of our own Civil War and until the 1980s, Cinco de Mayo was a relatively low key celebration marked primarily in cities with large Mexican-American populations, such as Los Angeles, Houston and Chicago. But in recent decades–especially as food and beverage marketers have increased their Cinco de Mayo budgets–the day has grown exponentially in popularity, including weekend long celebrations in cities such as Denver and Phoenix. Here at Meatless Monday, we mark the day by embracing and sharing Mexico’s rich culinary traditions.
If you think about it, Mexico has been meatless for centuries. The foundation of native Mesoamerican food dating back thousands of years includes corn, beans and a range of chili peppers. These ancient–and meatless–items remain Mexican staples. Corn, for millenia, has remained the basic starch of Mexico. The strong, essential flavors of chili peppers define all Mexican cooking, and can take a epicurean up and down the Scoville scale. With generous helpings of indigenous beans, vegetables and flavors such as tomatoes, squash, avocados, cocoa and vanilla, plus regional foods like bananas, guava, mangoes, pears and pineapple, and you have all the ingredients for a colorful Mexican meal.
Below are six mouthwatering meatless recipes that can be part of your Cinco de Mayo celebration. Corn & Black Bean Burritos; 2 ways to make Tostadas with vegetables; a Huevos Rancheros recipe that’s a spin on the classic Mexican breakfast; a green salad with fruits and
sunflower seeds; and Chimichurri Quinoa Stuffed Artichokes.
A frozen margarita is not a Mexican drink. And if you think Mexicans love to shove slices of lime into their beer, think again. Likewise, when it comes to Mexican food, our popular American conceptions bear little resemblance to the actual Mexican diet. That was certainly the conclusion of Dos Caminos Chef Ivy Stark who recently traveled south of the border for inspiration.
“I want to dispel the myth that melted cheese and sour cream are authentic Mexican food,” she said.
You don’t find nachos with beef and cheese whiz, or giant burritos filled with meat and cheese. What you do find is cuisine that’s rich in vegetables and sauces made with roasted vegetables, spices and sometimes nuts.
Following her trip, Chef Stark created a new ‘Healthy Mexican’ menu for Dos Caminos, with dishes like Spring Vegetales Tacos, Grilled Mexican Street Corn and a grapefruit, jicama and watercress salad.
Chef Stark worked with nutrition and sustainability consultants SPE, who offer third-party certification to foodservice establishments who are committed to nutrition, sustainability, and their customers’ well-being. Like Meatless Monday, SPE encourage more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains and smaller portions of red meat, as well as limiting processed foods.
The inspiration for SPE came from the Latin phrase Sanitas Per Escam, which literally means “Health Through Food.” Their holistic approach focuses on sourcing (selecting ingredients seasonally, locally and sustainably) preparing (using specific cooking techniques that preserve the integrity and nutritional qualities of the ingredients) and maximizing the nutritional impact through balanced menus and optimal ingredient combinations.
For example, SPE recommended Chef Stark not put proteins on the grill since charring can cause carcinogens to form, but they were fine with her grilling vegetables like corn and asparagus.
Said Chef Stark, “Grilling is also a really good technique, especially if you’re looking to not use any fat. It’s really delcious for corn, squash – everything tastes good on the grill because you get that smokiness against the sweetness of the vegetables. And it’s easy!”
Dos Caminos and SPE have generously provided one of the recipes from the certified Healthy Mexican menu, which you can access here. Happy Authentic Cinco de Mayo!
You often hear that people would eat healthier if it was cheaper and easier – if healthy food was as accessible as fast food. Two years ago, author and columnist for the NY Times, Mark Bittman, wrote an article titled, “Yes, Healthful Fast Food is Possible. But Edible?” He profiled several budding restaurant chains who were looking to close that gap between fast food and healthy (even vegan) food produced with sustainability in mind.
It appears two years later that there’s progress if not yet perfection.
One chain Bittman focused on was Veggie Grill. Greg Dollarhyde, the CEO (Chief Energizing Officer in his parlance) recently described what the typical consumer wants.
“Make it better for me, but I don’t want to give anything up. I want less salt, no antibiotics, no trans-fats, more fruits, more veggies. I don’t go out to restaurants to give stuff up; I go to restaurants to be tantalized.”
The Santa Monica fast-casual restaurant chain, which serves exclusively plant-based food, was launched in 2006 and has grown to 28 restaurants on the West Coast. They purposely avoid labels like ‘vegan’ or ‘vegetarian.’ In their manifesto they say about their diners,
“We see you with eyes wide open. As one of us. Not as a diet, but as a person, as someone seeking out the vegetable. We think of you as veggie positive.”
Veggie Grill says that their biggest growth has been among typical meat-eating consumers and semi-vegetarians who are looking to eat more whole grains and fresh vegetables.
The founders of Sweetgreen were still in college when they opened their first restaurant, in past because they just wanted a healthy place to eat. They’re popular ‘build a bowl’ concept has spawned locations in six states as well as eleven stores in the District of Columbia. There are vegan options but also bowls featuring chicken and salmon, bowls full of green leafy vegetables and also full of grains like organic while rice and quinoa.
Sweetgreen core values emphasize ‘authentic food,’ thinking sustainably, and connecting with people through food – helping you live the sweet life. To that end they’ve held music festivals with healthy food and 20,000 fans They want to make eating healthy easy, fun, and approachable. Long lines can undermine the ‘fast’ food concept, but they may not think that’s a terrible problem to have.
Bittman also looked at Lyfe Kitchen, saying, “Lyfe has the pedigree, menu, financing, plan and ambition to take on the major chains. The company is trying to build 250 locations in the next five years and QSR has already wondered whether it will become the “Whole Foods of fast food.”
‘Lyfe’ has begun in six California cities as well as Chicago, New York, Boulder, and Dallas, so they certainly seem on their way to fulfill their mission of bringing delicious, healthy and socially responsible dining options to people across the country. When they tell their ‘Lyfe story’ on their site, they emphasize that there is something for everyone from carnivores to vegans, and that every dish has fewer than 600 calories. They strive for organic whenever possible, locally-sourced produce and responsibly raised meats.
According to data from Technomic, sales at healthy fast-casual chains totaled about $384 million in 2014, up almost 30 percent from 2013. The National Restaurant Association does an Industry Forecast every year and for 2015 the top five menu trends they cited for Tableservice restaurants include: Locally grown produce; Environmental Sustainability; Healthful kids’ meals; and Natural ingredients/minimally processed food.
Hudson Riehle of the National Restaurant Association’s research and knowledge group said that consumers, “want to be able to follow their personal preferences and philosophies no matter where or how they choose to dine. So, it’s only natural that culinary themes like local sourcing, sustainability and nutrition top our list of menu trends for 2015.”
In a recent article titled, “Vegetables take center plate as fast food chains expand,” AP reporter Kelli Kennedy asked, “The chains might be prospering, but is the Meatless Monday crowd strong enough to give these healthy chains staying power on a national scale?”
Harry Balzer, of the Chicago-based consumer research firm NPD Group, believes, “It will be harder for them to become McDonald’s. I don’t think it will be harder for them to survive.”
All have gained popularity on the coasts, but are far from being accepted nationally. There are also many operational challenges. Sustainability takes time and effort, and serving fresh unprocessed foods and organic ingredients is expensive and more difficult than deep frying or microwaving frozen food.
One thing is certain – those practicing Meatless Monday have more and more options, and the demand their creating is making more possible than ever before.
As part of Earth Week, Access Hollywood Live co-hosts Kit Hoover and Billy Bush invited Chef Ayinde Howell, founder and publisher of the award-winning iEatGrass.com. to show how he creates delicious meatless versions of traditional meals for Meatless Monday.
Chef Ayinde began by cooking up a traditional meatloaf using tofu, with lentils added for texture, and oats to bind it together, plus onions, dijon mustard catsup, and a few other ingredients for flavor. One smart tip he suggested was shaping them into mini-meatloafs to make them more attractive to kids. Billy Bush, a self-proclaimed ‘heavy carnivore’ decided to be the guinea pig and took the first taste. He gave the meatloaf top marks, as did Kit Hoover. You can see the recipe here.
Chef Ayinde said the simple recipe would be about 40% less expensive than if you used beef. While the savings are significant, the focus of the segment was how Meatless Monday benefits the planet, and Billy Bush shared an important statistic:
Over a year, if your four-person family skips meat once a week, it’s like taking your car off the road for five weeks.
Chef Ayinde, who is from Los Angeles and is living through the terrible drought there also reminded viewers that going meatless one day a week is a little known way to save thousands of gallons of water, given that it takes over 1800 gallons of water to produce a single pound of beef.
In addition to the meatloaf he also whipped together another traditional favorite, chicken pot pie, using seitan , a wheat protein.
Just last year Chef Ayinde co-authored a cookbook with Zoe Eisenberg with the provocative title, The Lusty Vegan. It features 80 recipes as well as tips on how to create vegan meals that even meat-eaters will love. That’s the ‘vegan’ part.
The ‘lusty’ part is light, witty advice on navigating the challenges of vegans dating non-vegans. Both authors are vegans who have dated omnivores and they have plenty of experience to share. How often can you get delicious recipes and dating advice in one book? Be sure to check it out. And watch the Access Hollywood Live segment here.
Over a decade ago, The Meatrix, an animated parody of The Matrix movie, spread like fire over the internet, entertaining and educating millions regarding, ‘the lie we tell ourselves about where our food comes from.’
“Much more than a comical redux,” said Colicchio of the sequel, “it’s an important benchmark in the evolution of the sustainable food movement and compels us to look back at how far we’ve come over the last decade — and how far we still have to go. A decade ago, concepts like “sustainable farming,” “animal welfare” and “organic food” were considered fringe.”
The Meatrix series began in early 2003 when Free Range Studios awarded a grant to the Sustainable Table program to create an animated movie. The studio was impressed that Sustainable Table not only informed the public about factory farming but also offered simple solutions to support sustainable food and agriculture. They created The Meatrix, spoofing The Matrix movie while educating viewers about heinous corporate farming practices.
Based on the overwhelming success of the original, Sustainable Table and Free Range Studios launched a sequel: The Meatrix II: Revolting. In November 2006, The Meatrix II 1/2 was released to help promote the social action campaign around the Fast Food Nation movie and to show what happens inside a meat processing facility. All the films feature Moopheus, a trench-coat-clad cow who’s the leader of the Resistance, as well as Chickity, the feathered defender of family farms and Leo, the young pig who wonders if he is “the one.”
The Meatrix Relaunched was created, in part, to publicize the Eat Well Guide, a free, online directory of 25,000 sustainable farms, restaurants, food co-ops and farmers’ markets that, in the words of Colicchio, “allows consumers to make better choices about the food they eat and provide for their families.”
At the end of the movie, viewers are encouraged to, “Join the Revolution. Take action and get the facts at SustainableTable.org.” One of the actions Sustainable Table recommends is adopting Meatless Monday. You don’t have to be Moopheus to know that’s an excellent idea.
April 22nd is Earth Day, and if you’re wondering what you can do to show your love for our planet, joining the global Meatless Monday movement is a great place to start. The more we find out about the strain meat production is putting on the environment, the more significant skipping meat once a week becomes.
Freshwater depletion is one of the ecological concerns raised by industrial meat production. According to the Center for a Livable Future at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg Schools of Public Health, an estimated 1,600 gallons of water are involved in producing just one pound of feedlot beef. The info graphic below puts it in a more individualized context.
So if you’ve been showering under a trickle to conserve water, well good for you…but perhaps you should also look at how eating meat is impacting your water “footprint.” A great resource for this is the water footprint calculator available at Watercalculator.org.
Climate change is another area of concern impacted by meat production. Globally, livestock production is responsible for an estimated 14.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. Put another way, less meat, less heat.
As this other info graphic shows, if everyone in the world signed on to do Meatless Monday it would have the same impact on greenhouse gas emissions as taking about 240 million cars off the road each year.
Deforestation is also a consequence of high meat consumption. Over 18 percent of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest has been cleared since 1970, primarily for cattle ranching. Then there’s nutrient pollution. Waste from animal feeding operations can pollute waterways, dramatically altering aquatic ecosystems.
In addition to going meatless on Monday, there are many other things you can do to be kind to our planet. Purchasing locally grown food is a great way to not only get delicious seasonal produce but to cut down on the fuel used to transport food. You can use the The Eat Well Guide to help you find farmer’s markets, as well as grocery stores and restaurants that support local farmers.
Join all those on 6 continents and in 35 countries who have taken the pledge to go meatless on Monday. Whether it’s called Lunes Sin Carne (Mexico) or Luntiang Lunes (Philippines), skipping meat once a week is a small, simple step that can have a big impact. So give back to our wonderful planet that gives so much to us.
Happy Earth Day!