My family has been eating a lot less meat over the past few years. Oh, we still get nice steaks to throw on the grill, and when they show up on the table with oven-roasted potatoes and a mound of dressed arugula, the meal is cause for celebration. But more often than not, dinner will be an amply tricked-out salad with a loaf of bread, a bowl of farro topped with vegetables and a fried egg, or a spicy tofu stir-fry with rice.
Maybe we’ve evolved. Maybe we’ve just changed. We don’t eat this way because we’re trying to cut meat out of our diets; partial vegetarianism is our new normal.
So I’m guessing we no longer qualify as “meat lovers” in the traditional sense. We’re certainly nothing like the fictional “Mr. Sausage” whom my friend Kim O’Donnel had in mind when she wrote The Meat Lover’s Meatless Celebrations: Year-Round Vegetarian Feasts (De Capo, $18.99). Mr. Sausage is that dude who would laugh if you even mentioned the words “kale salad.”
The book is a follow-up to O’Donnel’s 2010 The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook: Vegetarian Recipes Carnivores Will Devour, which was a cornerstone text for people who climbed on board the “Meatless Monday” train.
The new book is geared toward festive meals and get-togethers. There are some simple recipes but many more that rise to the occasion, whether it’s Thanksgiving or an Easter dinner. They can take a little more time than, say, that salad I dump everything into.
We decide to modify her recipe for lentil “meatball” subs — losing the hoagie rolls and cheese, but keeping the “meatballs” and marinara sauce.
The meatballs are a bit of a project, albeit an easy and fun one. You cook brown rice and lentils separately, let them cool and mash them together with all the typical meatball seasonings. You then shape and refrigerate the balls, fry them in batches, then keep them warm in the oven while you assemble the meal. You end up with a tender, full-of-flavor meatball with a fantastic crisp crust.
And when these “meatballs” come to the table, they taste nothing like clean-out-the-fridge tofu surprise.