spring-ragoutWHAT CAN HELP REDUCE WORLD HUNGER and pollution, protect animal rights, improve health, and even save the planet? Sounds like a job for Superman, while in reality it’s as easy as every man and women forgoing meat one day per week.

Sir Paul McCartney and his daughters Stella and Mary started the Meat Free Monday campaign in the United Kingdom in June 2009 after reading a report that linked the meat industry to the global climate change crisis. The three McCartneys, who have long been vegetarian or, in Stella’s case, vegan, teamed with chef and author Annie Rigg, and the campaign to create The Meat Free Monday Cookbook: A Full Menu for Every Monday of the Year.

“The meat-and-two-vegetables way of eating is now an outdated notion,” says Rigg, who has enjoyed cooking since childhood and trained at London’s prestigious Leith’s School of Food and Wine. “Most people are now aware that they need to eat more fresh produce and to reduce their consumption of meat. Starting by going veggie for one day a week has to be the easiest way to do this.”

Rigg, in addition to working as a food stylist and cookbook author, has cooked on tour for rock ‘n’ roll royalty such as The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, and McCartney.

“I worked with Sir Paul for a year on one of his world tours, traveling to Latin America, Europe, North America, and Australia,” Rigg says. “Four other cooks and I provided three meals a day to a crew of around 100 and all the band members, including the McCartney family. This involved feeding a majority of meat eaters and providing them with delicious vegetarian food that made the most of local produce while usually working from makeshift kitchens on site
at stadiums and arenas.”

The aim in creating The Meat Free Monday Cookbook, says Rigg, “was to develop recipes that would appeal to those who wouldn’t ordinarily eat a vegetable-saladvegetarian dish. We wanted to show that it’s possible to eat a meatless meal and not feel as if you’re missing out on anything.”

To accomplish this, Rigg kept the recipes as simple as possible and used a wide variety of seasonal produce. For example, asparagus, zucchini, and fresh peas are the main ingredients in a Spring Vegetable Tart. There’s a fresh Nectarine Smoothie for summer, and root vegetables such as parsnips and carrots in a wintertime Tangy Roots side dish. She also chose to use interesting ingredients such as spelt, quinoa, and unusual pastas. Fregola sarda, tiny beaded pasta from Sardinia, for example, is tossed with key fixings such as tomato, basil, garlic, and Parmesan cheese to make a simple box lunch entrée.

Finally, Rigg made sure to create dishes that were full of flavor by using spices and fresh herbs to illustrate, as she says, “that going meat free doesn’t have to mean dull, brown food.” A Basil and Mushroom Tart, Black-Eyed Bean Casserole With Cilantro, and Gingerbread Cake flavored with ground ginger,
nutmeg, and cinnamon are delicious examples.

Numerous recipes in the book were developed with the McCartney family, Rigg says. “They gave me lists of food they like and combinations they enjoy and I developed recipes around that.”

A sampling of these recipes include Spinach, Ricotta, and Parmesan Gnocchi topped with tomato sauce; Sicilian Cauliflower Pasta flavored with raisins, pine nuts, and a pinch of saffron; and a hearty Spelt Risotto With Butternut Squash, Spinach, Chestnuts, and Goat Cheese.

Also included are a few of the McCartneys favorite recipes. There’s Sir Paul’s straight-forward Refried Bean Tacos and Stella’s Summer Coleslaw spiked with hazelnuts, poppy seeds, and a baby mustard sprouts topping.

Famous vegetarian friends also donated a recipe or two to the book. Actor Kevin Spacey shared his Lentil Stew With Pan-Fried Halloumi Cheese and Pomegranate Molasses. Singer Pink’s Strawberries With Mascarpone and Cream is included as is 1960s model Twiggy’s Mozzarella Pasta. Celebrity chef Mario Batali shares his Linguine With Almonds and Caciocavallo Cheese.

To make going meat free on Mondays easy, The Meat Free Monday Cookbook provides main and side dish recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and even dessert to serve two, four, or more people. Snacks are included, too—for example, Marinated Olives, Spiced Pea Dip, and Cassava.

All these ideas between two covers means each Monday you won’t have to think too hard to come up with a tasty meat-free recipe or be tempted to put the same old roast or chicken in the oven.

CAROL M. BAREUTHER, RD, is a U.S. Virgin Islands-based freelance writer who has written for a variety of regional and national publications, including Cooking Light, Vegetarian Times, Veggie Life, Caribbean Travel and Life, and Shape.

Creamy Broccoli Soup1photo
Recipe by Laura and Woody Harrelson

Serves 8

It’d be hard not to love any recipe devised by Woody Harrelson, star of Cheers and numerous Hollywood movies. This soup comes highly recommended. It’s creamy but it doesn’t have any cream in it and it’s incredibly easy to make.

11⁄2 pounds red potatoes, diced into cubes
2 pounds broccoli, chopped into small florets
2-3 leeks, trimmed and roughly chopped
1 garlic clove
8 cups water
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 vegetable stock cubes
2 teaspoons Himalayan salt (or table salt if you can’t find this)
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Prepare the vegetables and steam the potatoes and broccoli until tender (approximately 15-20 minutes).

Cook the leeks in a small amount of water until tender. Place half the vegetable mixture, 4 cups of the water, and the rest of the ingredients (except the olive oil) in a high-powered blender. Build power up to the highest level. At that point, slowly pour 2 tablespoons of the olive oil into the mixture.

Blend until smooth. Pour the mixture into a large pot and start warming it over low heat. Blend the remaining vegetable mixture and water and repeat the slow addition of the oil while blending at the highest speed. Add to the pot, and stir every few minutes while warming the soup to the desired temperature. Serve hot.

TD&N Nutrient Analysis: Calories: 174; Total Fat: 7 g; Saturated Fat: 1 g; Polyunsaturated Fat: 1 g; Monounsaturated Fat: 5 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 895 mg; Carbohydrates: 25 g; Fiber: 5 g; Protein: 5 g