Since the beginning of year, the Meatless Monday movement has gained momentum, thanks to publicity from vegetarian Paul McCartney and carnivore Mario Batali. The Oprah Effect kicked in, with the former talk show queen offering meatless meals to her staffers on Mondays and encouraging the movement with viewers. Even Carol Blonder at our sister paper, Phoenix New Times, has taken the Meatless Monday pledge and posts what she's learned.
Browsing through the recipes at the New Times and Meatless Monday's website, the focus is rarely on soy-based protein replacements in recipes. Instead they're mainly using beans, protein-rich grains, eggs, and dairy - foods that are already familiar to meat-eaters.
Local soy product giant Solae, which makes soy protein isolates, concentrates and structured proteins that are used in many meat replacers, is looking to change that by encouraging the Meatless Monday crowd to grill their products this summer. In a press release Solae's research chef, Simon Lusky, gives tips on grilling their products.
But is it necessary? We talked to some local Meatless Monday participants about what they're eating.
KDHX DJ and artist Cat Pick has been chronicling her Meatless Monday dinners with recipes on her blog. With the exception of the occasional tofu dish, she mainly sticks to vegetables, grains and cheese, occasionally busting out the indoor grill for portobello burgers at her husband's request.
"If there was a suitable meat substitute, I would certainly grill it," said Pick. "Otherwise, the soy stuff isn't really conducive to grilling, except maybe a veggie burger. I don't really like to buy much processed stuff so I stay away from those anyway."
Kim Lowell of St. Charles County tries to go meatless on Mondays with her family of six. "I try but sometimes forget and when I do, it is often just cheese burritos or breakfast for dinner minus the bacon."
Freelance editor and writer Angela Downing of St. Louis County has been an on-and-off vegetarian for years. She hasn't eaten meat in over a year, while the other three members of her family are omnivores. She often writes about her quest for the perfect bean burger.
"As far as the Boca and the like stuff goes, I rarely buy it. Too expensive. With that said, I've been making a lot of bean burgers lately. They're baked, and they're pretty awesome. I cook them in the house, only because they would fall apart on the grill.
"If [husband] Jeff is grilling, I just throw a portobello on the grill. Also, I'm sort of a weirdo about not wanting my vegetarian stuff to share a grill with meat. - I know. I know! - I'm very selective about portobello placement. If adequate 'clean' grill space isn't available, I'm happy to let the meat-eaters take over and simply have side dishes for my meal."
Keri O'Brien, a city-dweller who's an editor with a local museum's publication, doesn't limit to Mondays, and embraces the grill. "I try to do meatless once or twice a week, but not necessarily Mondays. My favorite substitute is meatless meatballs from Trader Joe's."
"I also enjoy the Morningstar Farms Black Bean and Corn soy burgers. Grill it up, add a little sharp cheddar from Vermont and top it with some pico de gallo."
Some local producers of meat-free proteins shared some grilling ideas. Allison Burgess, the creator of Match Meat, promotes the grilling possibilities for her products, which Solae mentioned for their grill-ability in their press release. "With Match premium vegan meats, so much more is possible -- grilled chicken breasts, burgers and stuffed burgers, pork chops, sausages, all vegan, all delicious," she said. "Two caveats: grill times are a little shorter, and be sure and spray or oil the grill, as Match meats have no saturated fats.
"We grill burgers and chicken patties all the time at the farm. We sear them and then set them to the side of the fire, just so we don't over cook them."
Dan Brewer, the creator of Mofu Soy Beanery, advocates throwing his locally-produced tofu on the grill. "The most important thing when grilling tofu is to make sure the grill surface is clean, well oiled to prevent sticking, and not blazing hot to prevent burning. I recommend 450-550 degrees.
"The next important thing is to be gentle. You can't just flop it over like a steak because it will break, but at the same time Mofu does hold together much better than other tofus. You can either cook it quickly just to get some grill marks and to heat it through or you can leave it on for a while over low heat and baste it with sauces and allow it to get extra crispy. Either way is delicious," he said.
"Recently, Josh [Galliano] from Monarch made grilled Mofu marinated in olive brine served with pesto, picholine olives, and wilted lambs quarters. I recreated it at home and it was amazing! Olives and Mofu go very well together.
"I have also made grilled Mofu firm with salsa verde. Basically, grilling is a great way to eat Mofu and the chef's/cook's imagination is the only boundary. I give out recipe zines at the farmers market each week and last week I shared the grilled Mofu with salsa verde. People seemed very interested in it."