July Fourth makes two great declarations—America's independence, and the start of barbeque season! Normally, people dust off the grill and throw any and every piece of flesh over a crackling flame. But is high cholesterol really worth a few ribs? Here are three tips that will help you trade traditional BBQ meat for plant-based substitutes, without losing the satisfaction.
1. Take advantage of Umami
The human tongue was previously known to have the ability to taste four main flavors: sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. But in 1908, Japanese scientist, Kikunae Ikeda, discovered the fifth flavor, or in this case, sensation, Umami. Loosely translated to “delicious,” Umami is responsible for the satiability of the food. Ikeda found that foods containing higher amounts of glutamate tended to be more flavorful and satisfying. Perhaps you have heard of MSG, the devil-like substance added to many Asian dishes. Although monosodium glutamate is a processed version of the flavor enhancer, glutamate is naturally occurring in many foods, especially plant-based! A few of the top umami-containing foods include:
- Mushrooms—especially shitakes and porcinis
- Tomatoes—sun-dried, tomato paste, and ketchup
- Fermented foods—soy sauce or tamari, liquid aminos, vegan Worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar, umeboshi plum vinegar, miso, wine, beer and tempeh
- Potatoes—our Breakfast Burrito with potatoes is perfect for the grill
2. Bulk up on protein
A common misconception regarding vegetarian or vegan meals is the inability to include enough protein to sustain the body. While it may be more challenging to find substitutes for meat, once the assortment of plant-based protein foods become known, incorporating them into meals becomes near effortless. Take lentils, a fiber-filled favorite. The ancient grain, with the appearance somewhere between a bean and a grain of rice, is loaded with the muscle-building macro-nutrient. Just one cooked cup delivers an astounding 18 grams of protein!
Another protein-packed grain imposter (actually a seed!) would be the Incan superfood known as quinoa. Slightly less than lentils, quinoa contains around 9 grams of protein per cup, cooked. Quinoa makes a great side dish as a cold or hot salad when mixed with vegetables and dressings, but it can also serve as a great base for a veggie burger! Try our new Beluga Lentil Braise for the ultimate combo of black beluga lentils, red quinoa, and veggies.
And of course, we have to include tofu. At 10 grams of protein per half a cup, tofu is packed with protein and is an extremely versatile food. You can marinate it, coat it, fry it, grill it, sauté it, stir fry it, the list goes on. Tofu, being the firm block of soy that it is, can easily stand in for meat texture-wise, and can be prepared in similar ways.
3. Spice up the flavor
Part of what makes charred meat so delicious is the deep and intense smoky flavor from the grill. To compensate, use spices such as paprika, smoked salts, and liquid smoke. Remember, beans and grains soak up flavors, so don’t be afraid to get creative with marinating and soaking in dressings.
Another seasoning to utilize in vegan cooking is salt. Veggies can often possess a natural bitter taste, and salt is the best compliment. Depending on the composition of the dish, vinegar can also aid in combatting bitterness. The acidity plus the sweetness from a dressing like balsamic vinegar can add loads of flavor to meatless dishes while cutting bitterness.
Lastly, nutritional yeast can be added to mimic a rich, cheesy flavor. Don’t let the name scare you. While this strange, dry, flaky topping is indeed a form of yeast, it is inactive and very different than what you would use to make beer or to bake bread. Nutritional yeast contains a slew of vitamins and minerals including B-vitamins, folic acid, selenium, zinc, and protein. It is also low in fat, gluten-free and contains no added sugars or preservatives. Sprinkle over dishes as you would have grated cheese, add to mash potatoes, grits or mac and cheese, or create your own creamy sauces out of it.
Happy Fourth of July!