Meatless Mondays: Celebrity Chef Support

Last Monday, Satish and I choose to have dinner at Mario Batali’s Pizzeria Mozza in West Hollywood because of his signature “MM” dishes. He is among the few chefs who has embraced the campaign and encourages Americans to make vegetables more of a “star” on their plates. I’ve read many (negative) comments and opinions on Chef Batali’s MM promotion as vain. I think he is genuine and understands the point of MM. Quoting Batali, “Most people in the U.S eat way more meat than is good for them or the planet. Asking everyone to go vegetarian or vegan isn’t a realistic or attainable goal, but we can focus on a more plant- based diet…that’s why I’m such a big believer in the Meatless Monday movement.”

Pizzeria Mozza is understated in the world of glamorous and over the top restaurants in Los Angeles. It’s a place you would go to have a relaxing meal with your friends or family, or just by yourself. Our servers were very kind, knowledgeable, and accepting of MM. My expectations were at best neutral I didn’t think the staff would care that we practice MM. I was expecting one vegetarian option and a nonchalant response. Not that we were looking for accolades or a badge, but it’s rare to find people who actually understands the whats and whys about our request. We unfolded the large paper menu and were overwhelmed by all the options. We just let our server tell us what the vegetarian options for the day were (usually at any resto there are only 3-4 things). He started out by apologizing that the signature MM dish was all sold out and then rattled off at least 10 vegetarian options!  We ordered the Cauliflower Friti and Squash Blossom (obsession) Pizza, wanting to save room for dessert. To be honest, if it weren’t so late at night and if we didn’t have an appetizer at Rick BaylessRed O Restaurant beforehand, I would have ordered at least 3 other things. How can I say this without using childish words like delicious or yummy?! The pizza crust was perfect, the squash blossoms laid out beautifully, the mozzarella impeccable. The friti was delicious and hearty. The best part was the Mozza Caprese that the chef brought out for us: slow roasted tomatoes on the vine with mozzarella and pesto. It was the best tomato dish of its kind I have ever had. I would put it in the top 1o list of the best things I’ve ever ate. I was so inspired that the next day I bought all of the ingredients and tried to replicate it for the family. I would like to thank Nancy Silverton for introducing me to a new way of pairing mozzarella and tomatoes.

Mozza Caprese- high quality mozzarella, tomatoes on the vine, basil peso

My mouth is watering just looking at these pictures!

Cauliflower Friti- a bit oily, but still delicious

Squash Blossom Pizza- embracing local flavors and seasonality

Squash blossoms, tomato & burrata- scrumptious and sensual

Many of Batali's restaurants will designate dishes as Meatless Monday options using his new MM logo

I highly recommend Pizzeria Mozza and they offer plenty of healthy options (vegetarian and non-vegetarian) to keep you on the track of wellness and support local farms.  Club Dine In! approved.

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Meatless Mondays: Who’s Doing It

The Hollywood Sign as it appears from a trail ...

Image via Wikipedia

In honor of us being in Los Angeles on a Meatless Monday, I would like to highlight a few celebrities who have embraced the movement to give up meat one day a week for better health,  and ecology. Celebrities have always been important in using their fame and power positively to raise awareness about social and environmental issues. Since MM is a national campaign that encourages Americans to incorporate more vegetables and less meat into their diet, many celebrities have taken it upon themselves to better our eating habits. (Celebrities are infamous for their crazy diets and personal chefs, so don’t mimic their dietstyle completely!)

1. Mario Batali, famous for his meat-centric restaurants and Iron Chef title on the Food Network, has pledged to offer more vegetarian options at all of his 14 restaurants. Batali has taken it upon himself to send a powerful message to other chefs and restauranteurs to adopt to more sustainable practices, by supporting farmers who raise their animals humanely and focusing on a more plant-based diet.

2. Gwyneth Paltrow, beautiful and talented Hollywood actress, has joined the movement after learning about the environmental impact of raising livestock for consumption. The Livestock industry produces gases that are extremely dangerous for the future of our environment, since the gases produced are more harmful than CO2 and livestock production is land and water intensive. Also, a third of all cereal crops, and well over 90% of soya, goes into animal feed, not food for humans.

3.  Simon Cowell, the controversial former America’s Idol judge, has signed up for the cause after long-time vegetarian Leona Lewis asked for his participation.

4. Michael Pollan, professor and food activist,  is an obvious promoter of a more plant-based diet. Besides helping the environment, Michael says “meatless Mondays” have a bonus benefit. “To the extent we push meat a little bit to the side and move vegetables to the center of our diet, we’re also going to be a lot healthier,” he says.

5. Kate Moss might still don fur coats and decorate her house with animal-hair rugs, but has embraced MM with bff Stella McCartney.

Check out Homemade Dosas below!

Meatless Monday Meals: Dosas

Indian food is super easy to eat delicious, filling, vegetarian meals. Today, I have the absolute pleasure of eating homemade dosas made by my sister-in-law. Dosas are not super hard to make, but require planning and is time-intensive. Traditionally, dosas are rice and lentil crepes stuffed with spiced potatoes and coconut chutney that are eaten in South Indian households for breakfast. However,  in America, most people eat dosas for dinner. If eaten without being cooked in tremendous amounts of butter/oil and filled with a variaty of vegetables, dosas can be very healthy and nutritious. Since, dosas are made with only rice and urad daal (high protein lentils), they are gluten/wheat free. Unfortunately, most of the dosas from restaurants are drenched in butter/oil. I normally buy freshly made dosa batter from a local Indian store and make non-traditional filling myself. (By non-traditional I mean -avocados, tomatoes, spinach, eggs, pulled chicken, etc.) However, today my sister-in-law has made everything from scratch in the traditional manner.

The Masala Filling:

Boil, let cool, peel, and roughly chop the potatoes for the filling
Add the potatoes, lemon juice, and salt to mixture of sauteed onions, green chilis, black mustard seeds, urad daal, chana daal, cumin, and curry leaves.
Stir mixture on medium heat for 5 minutes and transfer to serving bowl.

The Sambar:

Sautee black mustard, cumin, curry leaves, and red chilis in oil.
Sautee sliced onions in spice mixture until translucent
Add fresh, chopped tomatoes and tamarind to the mixture and cook for 5 minutes
Once tomatoes are 1/2 done, add Sambar powder (optional).
Add pressure-cooked toor daal and water to the sambar pot. Add more water if it’s too thick.
Usually, Dosas are dipped into Sambar, a soup of lentils and tomatoes. Keep warm.

The Chutney:

Blend green chilis, cilantro with stems, shredded coconut, almonds, roasted chana daal, salt and lemon juice.
Transfer to serving bowl and garnish with cilantro leaves and roasted chana daal

The Dosa:

The dosa batter is made by soaking rice and urad daal for six plus hours in a warm place then grinding them to make a smooth paste. After adding salt, let the batter sit for an additional 12 hours until it has fermented. Once fermented, stir the batter and add just enough water to make it a thick batter of pouring consistency.

On a hot taava, spread dosa dough quickly to make a thin crepe. Cook each side for 2 minutes each until crispy and golden brown. Or, once both sides are done, spread chutney all over one side of the dosa while still on the taava. Then add two spoonfuls of the masala potato mixture and fold the crepe in half. Serve hot with a cup of hot Sambar.

Plain dosa: Serve on the side of Sambar, potatoes, and chutney.

Video coming soon!