Organization: Richard serves on the Executive Committee for Slow Food International as the Meatless Monday Ambassador.
When you think of Meatless Monday, what’s one word that comes to mind?: Adventure.
Tell us about something going on in your country or city addressing meat reduction:
In Italy, the Ministries of Health and the Environment are concerned that families, who used to purchase meat through traditional channels (and therefore also from local sources), are now unable to distinguish how and who raised their meat. They have entrusted Slow Food to launch communications to inform consumers how to make better purchasing decisions. Beneath the banner of Meat the Change, Slow Food is encouraging families to reduce their meat consumption by embracing Meatless Monday, especially by rediscovering the vast array of Italian beans and legumes that are specific to particular valleys, bioregions, and farms.
If you could give one piece of advice or an easy step people could take to reduce their meat consumption, what would it be?:
Reducing meat consumption should not mean you have to abandon flavor. On the contrary, this is an opportunity to explore new flavors and textures. Intimidating as it may be to shift from the familiar terrain of using animal protein to deliver umami — that earthy savory flavor usually associated with meat — learn how to find it elsewhere. Mushrooms are often cited as a good source, I also encourage you to become acquainted with miso. Backbone for much of Japanese cooking, this fermented soy bean and grain (rice, barley, etc.) paste, is handy to have in the fridge at all times. Add it to roasted carrots, DIY salad dressings, and butter pasta.
What’s your favorite plant-based dish?:
In keeping with the idea that Meatless Monday should kick off the week with culinary adventures, here’s a simple one that relies upon an important ingredient: miso. While plant-based cooking provides opportunities to rediscover traditional (largely peasant) dishes, it also opens up an entirely new world of cross-cultural innovation. No dish does this better than Butter Miso Pasta.
Japanese cooks are fixated with Italian cooking. Throughout Japan, you will encounter fabulous and strange interpretations of Italian cooking, using local ingredients. My favorite is the Butter Miso Pasta I encountered in Yamagata (in the mountains of Northeast Japan). As exotic as it may sound, it is so easy to prepare.
Ingredients (Serves 4):
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 Tablespoons red miso
- 8 Ounces uncooked fettuccine
- 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
- 1 Pint cherry tomatoes (roasted)
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- ½ Cup roasted sunflower seeds
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
Prepare tomatoes: In a small mixing bowl, combine 1 pint fresh cherry tomatoes, 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, 1 tablespoon olive oil, ½ cup of sunflower seeds, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Transfer the ingredients to a baking sheet and either broil for a few minutes or roast at 400F for 30 minutes (or until puckered). Turn off oven (or keep on a low heat) and let stay warm until the final plating up.
Prepare pasta: Cook pasta in a pot of salty water at rolling boil, until al dente. Remove from heat, and drain pasta. However, save a cup of the hots, salt, starchy water for final preparation. Using the same pot and over a medium heat, add the miso and butter. Stir the two ingredients, adding the pasta water in order to blend into a creamy concoction. Add the pasta and combine the ingredients, adding the remaining water. The end result is a creamy pasta, covered with miso and butter.
To serve: Place the pasta in a shallow bowl, top with the roasted tomatoes, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle what’s left of the fresh parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot