"We should go vegetarian for the month of May," Kevin said.
I laughed. He looked at me.
"Oh, are you being serious?"
We talked about it a bit, and decided that while we do eat mostly vegetables for many of our meals, going vegetarian for a month might make us be a little more creative with our protein sources. We also want to see if it makes a difference in how we feel, and we want to make the most of the excellent spring/early summer produce that comes on the market during the next month. And so.
I was a vegetarian for about seven years. That stint was brought on by a particularly fly-ridden and bloody visit to a Grecian meat market in Athens. For the rest of the trip, I ate eggplant.
Then one day in college, I really, really wanted a turkey sandwich. And that was the end of it. Not that I eat a lot of meat now. Especially when I lived alone, I rarely cooked meat for myself. I’m slowly becoming slightly more resigned to handling bloody chunks of flesh, but I’ve never been fond of meat preparation. A few weeks ago, we cooked whole branzino and the whole experience scarred me so badly I could barely watch Iron Chef last night. Scaling a fish is one of the most horrible things I’ve ever done. EVER. And there are still fish scales stuck in the nooks and crannies of the kitchen. I digress.
Oh, how I love meat, though. A good steak. Roasted chicken. Bacon. Salami. Pork, pork and more pork. This month will be difficult.
We are, however, making some concessions. Eggs and cheese are OK. We’ll still use butter and milk. We haven’t come to any conclusions regarding those “meat replacement” substances (frighteningly real-looking hot dogs and chicken nuggets? is that cheating?).
Yesterday, after a lovely brunch at Argyll (where we said goodbye to our cherished meat products via eggs Benedict and corned beef hash) we decided to take a little trip to Middle East Market, down on South Colorado Blvd. Never been there? Yeah. Neither had we. But now we’ll go all the time! Great place to find reasonably-priced whole and ground spices (even hard to find ones, like fenugreek). Plus all sorts of baked goods, specialty cooking ingredients (pomegranate molasses) and preserves. Also, lots of hookas.
We loaded up on some dried chickpeas, tahini and a mysterious spice blend labeled “falafel seasoning.” Then we finished up our shopping at the grocery and went home to prepare our Middle-Eastern feast.
While we quick-soaked the chickpeas for the falafel and hummus, we decided it was cocktail hour. The result:
- Gin (I don’t know, about an ounce per person)
- Tonic (we love Q Tonic, about 4 ounces per person)
- Half a clementine per person
- One inch-square cube of watermelon per person
- Muddle the watermelon with a mortar and pestle, or in the bottom of a glass.
- Add a few ice cubes. Pour the gin over the ice.
- Squeeze the juice from half a clementine in the glass.
- Top it off with the tonic. Stir.
We made the hummus and tzatziki first, so the flavors would have time to develop before we ate. Hummus is easy, and basically doesn’t vary much from preparation to preparation, so it doesn’t matter what recipe you use. It DOES matter that you have a really good food processor. Or a stick blender. Or both, as the case may be.
Tzatziki (Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce)
- One cucumber (sliced, salted and drained and patted dry to reduce moisture)
- about 10 oz of Greek yogurt
- about 1 T fresh chopped dill
- 1 large clove garlic
- Juice of one lemon
- A few grinds of black pepper
- Put all of the above into a food processor (again!)
- Pulse until incorporated; it should still look a bit chunky
- Taste and adjust salt and pepper
- Refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours before serving
Poor little food processor. It worked so hard.
For the falafel, we used this recipe from the New York Times, but we left out all the seasoning aside from salt and pepper, and added about 3 tablespoons of the falafel seasoning mix we bought earlier. We suspect it contained most of the same things. In any case, t was delicious. We also found the falafel fried better and cooked more evenly if we formed then into discs or patties - that way they browned on both sides and we could flip them over instead of rolling the balls around the pan hoping for uniform color. Someday, when we have a deep-fryer…
Chopped cucumber, tomato and olives graced the table, along with some pita. I can honestly say this little meal ranked up there with some of the best falafel and tzatziki I’ve had. Course, everything seems to taste a little better when you make it yourself.
And we barely even missed the meat.