The Edgy Veggie

Kudos to South Miami for adopting Meatless Monday

Portobellos over Pasta with Greens, Tomatoes and Chickpeas
Portobellos over Pasta with Greens, Tomatoes and Chickpeas
Ellen Kanner / For the Miami Herald

Main dish

Portobellos over Pasta with Greens, Tomatoes and Chickpeas

Here’s quick and comforting pasta dish dressed with tomatoes, fresh greens and protein-rich chickpeas. It’s even good without the portobellos, but they’re here in honor of the mayor of South Miami and Meatless Monday.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, diced

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 pinch red pepper flakes

2 portobello mushrooms, sliced

1 pint grape tomatoes, halved, or 15-ounce can chopped tomatoes, drained

1/3 cup white wine

1 bunch kale or broccoli raab, chopped into bite-sized bits

1 cup cooked chickpeas (about half a 15-ounce can)

8 ounces whole-wheat angel hair pasta

Juice of 1 lemon

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Handful kalamata olives (optional)

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes, until onion softens and gets a nice gloss from the oil. Add the garlic and pepper flakes, and stir for another minute or so, until the garlic becomes fragrant.

Without crowding the pan, add the portobello slices. Cook about 5 minutes, until the bottoms brown. Turn slices and cook another 3 to 5 minutes. Remove mushrooms to a plate.

Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet, then add the tomatoes. Cook for a minute or two, stirring. Stir in the wine, greens and chickpeas. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook about 10 minutes, until greens are very tender.

In a large soup pot, bring water to boil and cook pasta according to package directions, until al dente and not mushy. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta.

Return the pasta to the pot, and pour the tomato mixture on top. Mix gently, adding the olives. Add the pasta cooking water in quarter-cup increments until you have the pasta-to-sauce ratio that’s perfect for you.

Squeeze in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Toss again and top with the portobello slices. Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 400 calories (18 percent from fat), 8.7 g fat (1.3 g saturated, 4.8 g monounsaturated), 0 cholesterol, 15.7 g protein, 67 g carbohydrate, 9.4 g fiber, 41 mg sodium.

The City of South Miami, population 12,000, has joined the ranks of Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and San Francisco. It has passed a resolution proclaiming Mondays to be Meatless Mondays.

“I am an omnivore but I’m cognizant of animal welfare and carbon emissions,” says South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard.

Relax, South Miamians, you won’t be busted for eating a hamburger on Monday — or any other day. Meatless Monday is an alliterative oath taken by cities, restaurants, schools and individuals, including chefs Marcus Samuelson and Giada de Laurentis and celebs like Oprah Winrey and Emily Deschanel. It’s reminder that eating less meat has big personal and global impact.

“This is not legislation, it’s not a mandate, it’s an urging. I just want the citizens of South Miami to think about these important choices that they make,” says Stoddard, who, in addition to his elected position is a zoologist and a professor of biology at FIU.

When animal rights advocate Jessica Spain approached him with the Meatless Monday initiative, “she handed me an opportunity on a plate. I’ve been reading over the years of the carbon costs of meat production. It’s become an increasing concern of mine.”

Not all council members share his concern. At the Dec. 3 council meeting, Meatless Monday was voted in with three in favor, two opposed. Stoddard cast the tie-breaking vote.

Compared to Los Angeles, where animal rights and environmental awareness is been there, done that, Miami is “emerging,” says Spain, who moved here from Los Angeles. “It’s really open with possibility.”

Will more local municipalities follow South Miami’s lead? The mayor says it’s easy to do. He and his omnivorous family regularly enjoy meatless meals like portobellos over pasta, whether it’s on “Meatless Monday or Carbon Footprint of the Stuff You’re Eating Wednesdays,” says Stoddard who has posted a YouTube video on composting.

“What I’m trying to do is get people to think,” he says. “That’s how change comes about.”

And that’s just what Meatless Monday is geared to accomplish. Spain, who volunteers with vegan and animal rights organizations, says, “As a vegan advocate, it’s gratifying to hear one person say, through education, they will try to make some changes.”

Miami writer Ellen Kanner is the author of “Feeding the Hungry Ghost: Life, Faith and What to Eat for Dinner.”

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