Articles / A "New" Way of Eating: Fauna-to-Flora

A "New" Way of Eating: Fauna-to-Flora

Published January 16, 2023

Really, a pretty way of saying you’re doing less meat and more vegetables

Mid-month into the whole new-year-new-you ritual, it’s time to take stock. Like most people, I’ve scored a few points in the resolution game and lost just as many. But one big change has been easy to sustain for more than a decade—tipping my diet away from animal products and more toward vegetables. 

The beauty of this goal is that it’s free of judgment and big on flexibility: You learn to visualize what you eat as falling on a spectrum with plants on one end and meat/poultry/fish/dairy on the other. (Think of it as a fauna-to-flora spectrum—so pastoral!) As your awareness increases, the easier it becomes to adjust shopping lists, recipes, snacking habits, and even the way you order from restaurant menus.

When Mark invited me to join him researching the book that would become Food Matters in the late 2000s, we hoped that changing the way we ate would last forever, but honestly wouldn’t know until we tried. And now, after Mark has published numerous books and articles on the topic—including VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 and the follow up cookbook; the stories and recipes here at The Bittman Project; and a groundbreaking text-based interactive guide aptly titled “How to Eat Less Meat” (right now 25% off with code NEWYEAR)—he’s got all the tools you need to help make the important steps to improve your health while having a positive impact on the environment. 

Whether you’re just starting on this journey or are well on your path up the fauna-to-flora spectrum, we’ve put all the tools in one box, starting with the recipes that follow. Or you could start with this piece, “How to Replace Meat.” The books that unpack Mark’s eat-less-meat approach are here, here, here (as a start). Watch the TED talk that spawned a movement—now more than 5 million views strong—here. Or try the definitive interactive guide. Join us!

The recipes, below:

  • Vegan: Bulgur Pilaf with Something Hefty and Something Green

  • Less Dairy, More Vegetables: Pasta with Broccoli Rabe and Ricotta

  • Less Meat, More Vegetables: Gingery Winter Stew

  • Fewer Eggs, More Vegetables: Pane Cotto


Bulgur Pilaf with Something Hefty and Something Green

This completely plant-based recipe demonstrates how well bulgur—which is partially cooked cracked wheat—works with all sorts of flavor profiles. Instead of steeping this bulgur in plain water, you get all the other ingredients and seasonings going in a big pot first, then let the grains steep and soak in all that flavor while you set the table. Edamame and bok choy provide the example, then build in the variations that follow and your own ideas.


Pasta with Broccoli Rabe and Ricotta

Stir a cup of ricotta cheese into hot pasta, add a splash of cooking water, and you’ve got a rich and creamy sauce that took you 30 seconds to make. Pleasantly bitter broccoli rabe is the perfect vegetable to cut through the richness of the cheese. But you could also use kale, radicchio, or even cabbage. And if you use whole wheat pasta here, all the better nutritionally and flavor-wise.


Gingery Winter Stew

Makes: 4 servings
Time: At least 1 hour, largely unattended

Any hard winter squash—butternut, pumpkin, acorn—will work perfectly in this satisfying and attractive cold-weather braise. If you see kabocha, grab it; it’s got unique flesh, which is silky, meaty, and pleasantly tender all at the same time. And it’s the kind of dish that’s easy to change with the season simply by changing the vegetable and adjusting the time so it cooks to the tenderness you want. A scoop of brown rice is the perfect accompaniment here all year round.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 pound pork shoulder, sirloin, or loin chops; cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks

  • Salt and pepper

  • 1 large onion, chopped

  • 2 apples, peeled and chopped

  • 1/4 cup minced ginger

  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock, or water, plus more as needed

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 2 pounds any winter squash, cut into 1-inch chunks

Instructions:

1. Put the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the pork, sprinkle with the salt and pepper, and cook, turning the pieces as they release easily from the pan, until they’re well browned on all sides, 10 to 15 minutes. If necessary work in two batches to avoid crowding. As the meat finishes cooking, remove it from the pot.

2. Add the onion, apples, and ginger to the pot and cook until they begin to soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the stock, soy sauce, and lemon juice and bring to a boil, stirring to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the browned pork and adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles gently but steadily and cover.

3. After 30 minutes, begin to check the meat every 15 minutes. When the meat is tender enough to fall easily from a fork, stir in the squash. Cook, stirring occasionally and adding enough more stock to keep it from sticking, until the squash is tender but not mushy, 10 to 15 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning and serve.

More Ideas:

  • Go green: Substitute chopped chard or kale for the squash. Start checking for doneness after 5 minutes.

  • Instead of soy sauce, use half the amount of fish sauce. Try lime instead of lemon juice.

  • Use a different meat. This would also be fantastic with either beef chuck or lamb shoulder or shank.

  • Or try pears instead of apples.

– Recipe from The VB6 Cookbook


Pane Cotto

Makes: 4 servings
Time: About 90 minutes

We love the strangely pleasant texture of bread after it sits in flavorful liquid. “Cooked bread” (literally) and its cousins panzanella and papa pomodoro are part of a family of classic Italian recipes that work this simple magic. Use pane cotto as a base for poaching eggs, and it quickly becomes a one-dish meal. Add a salad, and you’re all set. To make this in the oven, or for a larger group, see the variations that follow.

Ingredients:

  • 4 thick slices whole-grain bread (stale is fine), cubed

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 pound button or cremini mushrooms, chopped

  • 1 onion, chopped

  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic

  • 2 carrots, chopped

  • 1 red or green bell pepper, chopped

  • Salt and pepper

  • One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes with their juice

  • 4 eggs

  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil, or 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley or basil (optional)

Instructions:

1. Heat the oven to 400°F. Put the bread on a baking sheet and toast, turning once or twice, until golden and dry, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the bread from the oven as soon as it’s ready.

2. Meanwhile, put the oil in a large pot over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they release their liquid and the pan is becoming dry again, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring until they become fragrant, just 1 or 2 minutes. Then add the carrots and bell pepper, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the carrots and bell pepper start to get soft, 3 to 5 minutes.

3. Add the tomatoes, bring the sauce to a boil, then adjust the heat so it bubbles steadily. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down, the vegetables become very soft, and the mixture thickens, 10 to 15 minutes.

4. Add the bread and stir to coat it with the sauce. If the mixture looks too thick or is sticking to the pan, stir in a splash of water—you want it to be about the consistency of thick soup. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Bring to a gentle bubble, make indentations with the back of a spoon for the eggs, then crack them into the pan. Cover and simmer until eggs are as soft or as firm as you like them, 2 to 5 minutes.

5. Scatter the cheese on top, followed by the basil or parsley, if using it, and serve.

– Recipe from The VB6 Cookbook


Links to More Eat-Less-Meat Recipes in The Bittman Project Archives