Mark Bittman is one of the most thoughtful of food writers. He calls himself a Flexitarian, which he defines as a “moderate, conscious eater” whose goals are “a diet that is higher in plants and lower in both animal products and hyper processed foods, the stuff that makes up something like three-quarters of what’s sold in supermarkets.” The term “Flexitarian” goes back to 2004 when it referred to vegetarians who, while eating mostly vegetables, began incorporating meat or fish. And it also included people who were moving in the other direction, away from meat-heavy diets into a more vegetarian-focused one. Bittman expands that to included whole grains and grains. I think “Flexitarian” describes exactly what I try to do in our home kitchen. And I think it incorporates ideals that most of our readers try to achieve. I’ve already taken some further steps in this direction. I haven’t cut pasta out of our diet but I have changed the amount of it I cook in a single meal. We are down to the equivalent of ¾ cup of dried pasta per serving. Do we miss it? Not for a minute. You get more sauce this way. We also eat meatless meals with some frequency. Now Bittman makes the point that when you do eat meat, you owe it to yourself, and your conscience to find meat that represents the best of the best in every way: From the way the animals are raised, to what they are fed and how they are brought to market. It’s vital to know where your food comes from. In this case, national brands like Neiman Ranch may be twice as expensive as supermarket pork, but by cutting back portion size, you may find them equal in cost and un-equaled in value. So today’s post, while hardly meatless, cuts way down on the amount of meat per serving. And what takes its place?
As in many vegetarian dishes, the meat substitute is the mushroom. In this case, the giant Portobello comes into play. Truthfully, all by itself, the Portobello makes a great ‘meaty’ burger. We almost always include them in any Burger Party we have. They’re a huge hit just simply grilled alongside the hamburger patties. But here they’ve been elevated, that is if you are a meat lover. 4 ounces of ground pork, seasoned with garlic and your choice of rosemary, fennel seed or parsley are tucked into a mushroom that’s been ‘de-gilled’. You grill them exactly the same way as you’d do any burger. They can go onto a grill pan or a barbecue grate or even into a skillet. You can then serve them on regular hamburger buns or, as I did, on whole grain Kaiser rolls. The toppings are left up to your imagination but all the old favorites can be pressed into use—tomatoes, onions, mayo, mustard, ketchup, pickles—whatever you’d put out with regular hamburgers. It’s a wonderful way to cut back on meat without giving it up altogether. Here’s the recipe: