Meatless Monday: Earth Day Looks at Forty

Meatless Monday: Earth Day Looks at Forty
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

This Thursday, April 22, marks the fortieth annual Earth Day. Forty, as you know, is the new thirty, so Earth Day is sleek, chic and fun but more sophisticated than it was in its earliest incarnations. The advent of the internet and social networking means you can find an Earth Day party march, gathering or event wherever you are in the world. It's global, viral, bigger by far than the 20 million estimated participants its fledgling year.

Once dismissed as a hippie happening, now everyone's on board for Earth Day. It's just good business. Many companies are featuring Earth Day give-backs and tie-ins, so you can celebrate by giving yourself a present, as long as the earth gets a cut, too. One that's got some special oomph to it is a deal by FRESH natural skincare products. Ten percent of all FRESH Earth Day sales will go to Wholesome Wave, the nonprofit run by chef Michel Nischan who believes, as I do, that "human health, societal health, ecological health and the health of the economy are all equal" and they all depend on a healthy food system.

Parties and presents are great, but at forty, it's time to seek substance as much as style. The food choices you make impact the planet and matter more than the grand Earth Day gesture.

Go meatless. It's not a new concept -- Einstein and Gandhi ate plant-based diets and the Dalai Lama says, "From a Buddhist point of view it is very important to be a vegetarian." If you want to be enlightened or lighten up your carbon load, you should, too. What, after all, is the goal of Earth Day but to protect our fragile environment? According to Bard College physics professor Gidon Eshel, "However close you can be to a vegan diet and further from the mean American diet, the better you are for the planet."

Plant-based never means deprivation, especially this time of year. It's spring, the start of local harvest, when farmers markets around the country set up selling fresh, peppery arugula, succulent strawberries, juicy, ripe tomatoes, glossy eggplants, slim green beans and more. Don't hold back. This is seasonal eating at its best, an indulgence you can feel good about. Chances are, there's farmers market near you. According to the USDA, we've got a bumper crop of them, more than 5,000 local markets, up more than 80 percent from when Earth Day was thirtysomething.

Local produce lightens your carbon load and guarantees you'll be eating fresh, vibrant produce. Studies indicate locavores eat healthier. They also eat cheaper, because food grown where you live costs less than food that has to be flown in from elsewhere,

Earth Day may be older, but at heart, it's not so different as it was the year it was born. The first one happened at a time of war, social upheaval, and the world waking up to the threat to the environment. Here we are -- different wars, different social upheaval, in the post-Copenhagen days of drill, baby, drill, and Earth Day matters more than ever. Hit the Earth Day sales or take to the streets on Thursday, but to make Earth Day's impact last all year, eat seasonally, locally, mindfully and above all meatlessly.

Earth Day Tibetan Stew

Suitable for Earth Day and every day, a seasonal, local, plant-based stew the Dalai Lama and you can enjoy. Tibetan cuisine bridges the geographic gap between China and India. Asia's soy sauce marries with classic Indian spices Unlike both India and China, there's little rice in the Tibetan diet -- it's not widely grown there. Like us, though, they love pasta -- not long and delicate rice or bean thread oodles but good chewy buckwheat noodles, because buckwheat grows beautifully throughout the country. Substitute whole wheat pasta, also chewy and easier to come by here. Feel free to substitute the vegetables here for what's fresh and local at your local farmers market.

2 cups whole wheat or buckwheat pasta
4 tablespoons canola or peanut oil
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons coriander
4 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspooon cardamon
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped

1 bunch of bok choy, chopped
1 head broccoli, stems and florets, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
OR 8 to 10 cups chopped vegetables of your choice

6 ounces (1/2 cake) firm tofu (optional)
1 tomato chopped or 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved or left whole, your choice
4 tablespoons soy sauce
1 cup water or vegetable broth

Fill a large pot halfway with water and bring to a boil. Add past and cook according to package directons until just al dente. Pasta will be tossed with vegetables, cooking further. You want it firm, not mushy. Rinse, drain and set aside.

Heat oil in wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add cumin, coriander, paprika and cardamon and stir for about three minutes, until dried spices turn dark and fragrant. Add garlic, ginger and onion, and continue cooking until they turn tender and fragrant, about 5 minutes.

Add the bok choy, broccoli, pepper, carrots and celery OR mixed chopped vegetables or your choice. Stir and continue cooking until all vegetables are tender but retain good color and shape, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add soy sauce, broth and tomatoes. If using optional tofu, press to drain it of water and dice into cubes. Add to vegetable mixture, stirring gently.

Add pasta and toss to combine.

Serves 6 to 8.

Popular in the Community