I think that my pitch of a completely meatless Lent sounded like a bad idea to Matt for two reasons: Firstly, his Russian Orthodox bodybuilder coworker has been subsisting on fake meat, "tofurkey" et al, so far this Lent... and I definitely understand Matt's reaction of "that's not real food." Secondly, in the modern Western diet, "meat" is often conflated with "protein" to the point that on a subconscious level, "meatless meal" as an abstract concept means "meal where you are leaving out the meat/protein," ie, a light meal that won't be filling unless you load it heavily with starches.
I can't do anything about the first one--like I said, I share his aversion to fake meat--but the second? That's fixable.
To clarify, I'm not trying to convince my husband that he's wrong! We came to a decision together, and I respect that decision and his thoughts on the subject. However, I am enjoying the chance this Lent to dig into cookbooks from other cultures with less of a traditional reliance on meat as the primary protein source, and find new filling, healthy, meatless options that we will all enjoy.
So far this week I've attempted two meals waaaay outside my normal cooking comfort zone, and both went over very well. Tuesday I made an Asian-inspired Noodles and Vegetables in Peanut Sauce from a Russian Orthodox Lenten cookbook; I threw a chicken breast in the oven for Matt to have on the side, and after supper he said that the next time I make it, it would be fine as a full meal in its own right without the chicken! And Little Bear loved the broccoli with the peanut sauce, so it's a keeper.
Yesterday, we had falafel patties on pita with tzatziki. A larger food processor would have helped: I wound up using the potato masher after the food processor gave up, and I eventually got frustrated and just left some of the chickpeas more or less whole. It tasted good, though! Little Bear was more interested in the tzatziki than the falafel, unless he could have bites of ours, but he did pretty well with it.
Tomorrow, the plan is eggplant Parmesan... It's one of my favorite Italian dishes, but I've never cooked eggplant before; we will hope for the best. Any tips would be greatly appreciated!
Noodles & Vegetables with Peanut Sauce
1 lb short pasta
3 carrots, julienned
16 oz frozen broccoli florets
4 Tbsp creamy peanut butter
8 Tbsp very hot pasta-cooking water
7 Tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp lime juice
4 Tbsp brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, diced finely
Cook the pasta according to package directions.
While pasta water comes to a boil, begin steaming carrots. After carrots have had 5 minutes, add broccoli to pot and continue cooking.
In small saucepan over low heat, whisk together peanut butter and hot water until smooth. Whisk in remaining ingredients.
After draining pasta, combine everything in the pasta pot. If necessary, allow to continue cooking until sauce has thickened to desired consistency.
Falafel Patties with Tzatziki
2 15-oz cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 slice onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely diced (or grated, if you have the patience it takes to get garlic mush off a grater)
3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 tsp cumin
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp pickle or pickled-pepper brine
In food processor, grind together chickpeas, onion, garlic, breadcrumbs, cumin, and half of the cilantro. Form into four patties, less than 1" thick. Heat about 2 Tbsp vegetable oil in a large non-stick skillet and cook patties 3-4 minutes per side. Add more oil when you turn them if necessary.
In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt, brine, and remaining cilantro.
Serve on pita with sliced tomato, lettuce, and sliced pickled peppers. Serves 4.