Feast Without The Beast

The art of matching palate-pleasing wines with vegetarian dishes is soaring to new heights as the Meatless Monday trend sweeps into America’s restaurants.

Whether for personal or political reasons, giving up meat one day a week is taking hold in the culinary world. It appeals to both fine-dining restaurateurs and foodies alike, with more than 200 restaurants in the United States embracing the trend.

“We’ve made Meatless Monday easy, fun and doable,” says Sid Lerner, founder and chairman of The Monday Campaigns, the nonprofit organization behind the Meatless Monday movement.

“One day a week, cut out meat from your diet for your health—and the health of our planet,” he says. “If you do, you’ll join millions of people in the U.S. and around the world, including celebs like Mario Batali, Sir Paul McCartney and Oprah.”

In addition to dreaming up delicious dishes, creating your own meat-free menu at home affords an opportunity to explore intriguing wine-and-food combinations.

“Vegetable-based dishes offer sommeliers the opportunity for unique wine pairings,” says Jaime Kaloustian, beverage director at Dovetail. “A fino Sherry really complements some vegetables otherwise considered difficult to pair, such as asparagus and Brussels sprouts.

“A textured saké works particularly well with dishes that utilize tofu as one of the main components,” she says. “Plus, tart or acidic vegetable dishes are mellowed by a sweeter style of saké. Belgian white ales are also very vegetable-friendly, they uplift salads with citrus and vinegar components.”

Smoked Beets,Cashew Dill Cream, Orange Segments

Recipe courtesy Rob Dalzell, executive chef at The Ranch at Live Oak in Malibu, California

Smoked Beets

4 beets, peeled

1 cup applewood chips

½ cup raw cashews or cashew pieces, soaked 12 hours, rinsed and drained

¾ cup almond or hemp milk

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon raw agave nectar or sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon chopped dill

6 orange segments

Roast beets in a tabletop smoker (or an outdoor barbecue grill) for approximately 1 hour at 350˚F, or until you can cleanly insert a paring knife. Let cool, then dice.

Combine the cashews, milk, citrus juice, vinegar, nectar or sugar, salt and dill in a blender and process until smooth. Pour mixture into a small saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring with a whisk until thickened. Cool in the pan, stirring occasionally to release steam.

Scrape the cream out of the pan into a glass container with a lid. Seal and store in the refrigerator until cold.

To serve, spoon the cream onto a plate, top with the orange segments and smoked beets. Garnish with dill leaves. Serves 2.

Wine Pairing:

For the smoked beet salad, Dalzell looks to Duckhorn Vineyards’s 2009 Napa Valley Sémillon. “This bottling shines a spotlight on Sémillon’s silky texture and enticing stone-fruit flavors of pear and nectarine,” says Dalzell. “The grapes were grown on a prized one-acre block of a small Napa Valley vineyard, and the wine was fermented and aged in 100% French oak. The smokiness of the beets plays off very nicely with the notes of French oak in the wine.”