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Almost Meatless

Recipes That Are Better for Your Health and the Planet

Written by Joy ManningAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Joy Manning and Tara Mataraza DesmondAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Tara Mataraza Desmond

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Synopsis|Excerpt|Table of Contents


A Little Meat Can Go a Long Way

We all know that eating less meat is healthier, cheaper, and more environmentally friendly, but how do we cut back without sacrificing flavor or resorting to a carb-heavy diet?

For today’s health-, budget-, and eco-conscious omnivores, Almost Meatless offers ingenious ideas for creating delicious, nutritionally balanced meals in which meat is an enhancement rather than the centerpiece. From all-American comfort food to global favorites, you’ll find more than 60 satisfying, easy-to-prepare main dish recipes that go light on the meat, including:

Beefed-Up Bean Chili
Eggplant and Chicken Puttanesca Stacks
Shrimp and Slow-Roasted Tomato Risotto
Sweet Potato Chorizo Mole
Tofu-Turkey Sloppy Joes

Almost Meatless also presents guidelines for buying poultry, meat, seafood, and other animal products responsibly, to ensure the best quality, flavor, and value. No matter what your reasons are for reducing your meat consumption, you’ll discover versatile cooking solutions that maximize flavor while minimizing your grocery bill.




Chicken is a dinnertime staple, prized for its versatility and ability to complement other ingredients.

The average American eats 80 pounds of chicken a year. That’s substantially more than the roughly 65 pounds of beef and 60 pounds of pork we also consume. For decades, people ate around the same of amount of beef and chicken, but during the past 25 years, as the media began to report extensively on the obesity epidemic and other health risks associated with the consumption of red meat and saturated fats, shoppers became more and more inclined to choose boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

But the way we eat chicken isn’t always healthful. Fried chicken, the most commonly enjoyed kind in the United States, certainly doesn’t help reduce cholesterol. Replacing beef with chicken works only if you eschew the fried stuff and choose the leanest (and least flavorful) chicken options. And those lean and mean recipes, based on poached boneless, skinless chicken breasts, offer little culinary excitement. Blah meals don’t benefit your health if you don’t eat them.

There’s another way to think about and cook with chicken. Instead of focusing on the fat grams in every portion, cut back significantly on the total amount of chicken you eat. We strongly recommend against ordering chicken at a restaurant, where it is almost surely from a factory-farmed bird. It’s easy to enjoy homemade, high-quality chicken dishes with these recipes.

Chicken marries wonderfully with a wide variety of flavorful vegetables and grains. Meals that offer different flavors and textures can be extremely healthful and much more enjoyable than a slab of bland white meat. Starting with a whole chicken is a secret weapon in the battle for big flavor. Chicken bones, rich in gelatin, add depth and body to dishes. Skin creates fond (the foundation of a great soup, stew, or sauce), lends a satisfying layer of flavor, and protects delicate white meat from the direct heat of cooking. It’s also easy to discard before the dish is served.

Finally, we want to encourage you to seek out the best chicken you can find. In Philadelphia, where we live, we have terrific farmers’ markets, where you can get truly free-range, organic birds directly from the farmer who raises them. Wherever you shop, don’t be afraid to grill management on the provenance of the chickens. Today’s commercial poultry industry, exempted from the USDA’s humane slaughter act because chickens are not legally considered livestock, raises birds in generally abhorrent conditions. Taglines like Òall naturalÓ and Òfree rangeÓ have become all but meaningless in the market. The designation Òfree rangeÓ now simply means that chickens have some limited and often unused access to the outdoors. You can look for the Òcertified humaneÓ label that goes on some products that conform to the Certified Humane Raised & Handled program’s standards.

The reality is that these better chickens are much more expensive–sometimes more than twice as expensive–than their factory-farmed counterparts. But the cost reflects the farmers’ own expenses. They forgo the cheap corn-based, chemical-laced feed that fattens the birds in a matter of weeks in favor of more natural methods. Savvy shoppers pay premium prices for farm-raised, organic birds, but they get chicken chock-full of robust flavor. You can maximize your investment by learning how to get more flavor from less chicken, how to cut a whole chicken into parts, how to freeze poultry for later use, and how to use the bones to make flavorful stock (page 131).

Asian Lettuce Wraps

These wraps are the perfect appetizer for a small, casual dinner party or an exotic entrŽe for two or four. Dark meat chicken thighs won’t dry out in the high heat of the wok, and they take on the intense flavors of this recipe’s homemade marinade and stir-fry sauce. What’s more, the recipe can just as easily become a salad. By tearing up the lettuce leaves and tossing them with the slaw, you’ll make a crunchy, cool bed of greens for the chicken and peanut toppings.

Serves 4


1 teaspoon fish sauce

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons orange juice

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoonsvegetable oil

1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced (about 1 tablespoon)

2 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)

1/4 teaspoon dried chile flakes

1 scallion, green and white parts, sliced

8 to 12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 4 thighs, or 2 thighs and 2 legs), cut into small cubes or strips


3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons orange juice

1/4 teaspoon dark (Asian) sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1 thick carrot (about 4 ounces), cut into 1/8-inch strips

1 cucumber, cut into 1/8-inch strips

2 stalks celery, sliced 1/4 inch thick diagonally

2 to 3 scallions, white and green parts, sliced on the diagonal

16 lettuce leaves (romaine, Boston, Bibb, or green or red leaf)

2 tablespoons roasted salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

to marinate the chicken, make a marinade by combining the fish sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, orange juice, the 2 tablespoons oil, the ginger, garlic, chile flakes, and scallion in a medium bowl. Add the chicken and stir to coat the meat. Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator, letting the chicken marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, to prepare the slaw, whisk together the vinegar, orange juice, sesame oil, salt, and ginger in a large bowl. Toss the vinaigrette together with the carrot, cucumber, celery, and scallions. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.

to prepare the lettuce, rinse and pat the leaves dry. Transfer to the refrigerator until ready to use. (If you choose romaine, use the leafy top part of the lettuce for the wrappers. You can tear off the stiffer bottom stem half, chop it up, and add it to the slaw for extra crunch if you like.)

to cook the chicken, heat the 2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the marinated chicken and marinade and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring often, until firm to the touch and beginning to brown. Stir in the peanuts.

to assemble and serve, set out the slaw and chicken in bowls along with a platter of the lettuce. Wrap a scoop of slaw and chicken in each lettuce leaf. Have a napkin handy!

Table of Contents


Acknowledgments 1
Introduction 4

A Bit of Chicken 11
Asian Lettuce Wraps 13
Buttermilk Chicken and Portobello Salad 14
Chicken and Curried Cauliflower Salad Sandwiches 17
Tortilla Soup 18
Thai Coconut-Curry Soup 19
Chicken and Biscuit Pot Pie 20
Penne with Chicken Sausage and Broccolini 23
Eggplant and Chicken Puttanesca Stacks 25
Chicken Pizza with Arugula Pesto and Sun-Dried Tomatoes 27

A Taste of Turkey 31
African Peanut Stew 35
Turkey BLT with Chipotle Avocado 36
Tofu-Turkey Sloppy Joes 38
Turkey Verde Soup 40
Turkey and Pinto Bean Corn Bread Pie 41
Smoked Turkey Nachos 42
Vegetable Ragu Lasagne 43

A Little Fish and Seafood 45
Whitefish and Herbed Cream Cheese Sandwich 47
Tuna Tartine 49
Smoked Trout Chowder 50
Roasted Salmon Citrus Salad 51
Shrimp and Slow-Roasted Tomato Risotto 52
Shrimp and Pineapple Fried Rice 54
Crab Pad Thai 56
Corn and Cod Cakes 59
Fish, Bean, and Avocado Tacos 60

With a Little Less Pork 63
Roasted Pork Shoulder 64
Croccante Signore: The Crispy Mister 65
Antipasto Salad 67
Sausage and Pepper Sandwiches 68
Lentil Soup 69
Lyonnaise Salad 70
Potato Corn Chowder 72
Tomato Pancetta Linguine 73
Barley Pilaf Stuffed Squash 75
Posole Burritos with Escabèche Slaw 76
Red Beans and Rice 77
Sweet Potato Chorizo Mole 78
Pork Pot Stickers 80

Beef In Moderation 83
Beefed-Up Bean Chili 85
The B4 (Beef Bulgur Bean Burger) 87
Caramelized Onion Meat Loaf 88
Philly Cheesesteak 90
French Onion Soup 91
Steak Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing 92
Chimichurri Fajitas 94
Butternut and Oxtail Stuffed Poblanos 96
Spinach and Chickpea Pouches 99
Shabu-Shabu Soup 100

Light on Lamb 103
Almond Gnocchi with Lamb Ragu 105
Shepherd’s Pie 106
Spiced Lamb and Vegetable Stew 109
Stuffed Grape Leaves 110
Ful Madammas Gyros 111
Albóndigas 112

Just Enough Eggs 115
Stracciatella 117
Springtime Spaghetti Carbonara 119
Deviled Eggs 120
Oeufs en Meurette 121
Grits Roulade 122
Grecian Frittata 123
Chilaquiles 124
Pizza Strata 126

Flavorful Stocks and Broths 129
Basic Chicken Stock 131
Roasted Turkey Stock 132
Simple Fish Stock 134
Beef Stock 135
Ham Stock 136
All-Purpose Vegetable Broth 137
Mushroom Broth 138

Resources 139
Index 141
Joy Manning|Tara Mataraza Desmond

About Joy Manning

Joy Manning - Almost Meatless
Erstwhile vegetarian JOY MANNING is the restaurant critic for Philadelphia magazine. Her writing has also appeared in Cooking Light, Relish, Inked, and GOOD magazines. She lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

About Tara Mataraza Desmond

Tara Mataraza Desmond - Almost Meatless
TARA MATARAZA DESMOND is a food writer and recipe developer. She has contributed to television productions for the Food Network and to several cookbooks, including those for Philadelphia restaurants Fork and Vetri. Her writing and original recipes have appeared in Philadelphia Style magazine and the Philadelphia Inquirer.


“Meals that are both tasty and filling without having a slab of meat as the overbearing star ingredient”
—Publisher’s Weekly
“The authors of the new book Almost Meatless make a satisfying case for eating less meat and more vegetables and grains...The resulting dishes are healthier, less expensive and beautifully balanced.”
—Chicago Sun Times
“The recipes look good enough for carnivores to enjoy as well”
—Tampa Tribune
“This way of eating makes sense not just for saving money, but, as the authors say in the subtitle, for the planet.”
“Show[s] that a less meatcentric diet than the typical American one can still be satisfying and delicious”
—Library Journal
“Filled with recipes that use only a small amount of meat in each dish, a flavorful accent rather than the star of the show”
—Boston Globe

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