We know there are several reasons to shift from a diet relying on animal products to eating mostly-plant-based foods, including sustaining a viable plant and giving ourselves the health benefits that accrue from such choices.

“Flexitarianism” or “semi-vegetarianism” are terms coined to describe the growing number of people who want to eat more whole grains and veggies but don’t necessarily wish to give up meat entirely.

Unlike the strict rules applying to a vegan or entirely vegetarian diet, this approach is more flexible, allowing small amounts of meat, poultry or fish in combination with grains, legumes and other plant-based foods. Tofu is all-plant, but here it’s dredged in sesame seeds, sauteed and served on a bed of crispy vegetables.

A beans-and-greens gratin can stand alone without any meat, but is also delicious with a bit of smoky ham added.

SEARED SESAME TOFU WITH CRISPY VEGETABLE GARNISH

A brown rice or rice and lentil pilaf would be the perfect side dish here.

Servings: 3 to 4

1 pound extra firm tofu

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup sesame seeds

1 1/4 cups bean sprouts

1 cup slivered scallions

1 cup slivered red or yellow bell peppers or a combination

6 tablespoons peanut or other vegetable oil

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger

1/3 cup rice wine vinegar

Cut tofu into 1/2-inch-thick slices and dry thoroughly on paper towels. Sprinkle slices with salt and pepper, and dredge in sesame seeds to coat all sides.

In a bowl, toss together the bean sprouts, scallions and peppers. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add tofu, reduce heat to medium and cook, turning once, until tofu is a rich golden brown on both sides, about 6 minutes total. Transfer to a plate, leaving any sesame seeds in the pan to become part of the sauce.

Add remaining 3 tablespoons oil to the skillet. Add ginger and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, for 1 minute. Add vinegar, bring to a boil, and remove from the heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Mound vegetables on plates or a platter, lean tofu against the vegetables, and drizzle with the pan sauce.

WHITE BEANS AND GREENS GRATIN

White beans and greens are a particularly pleasing combo. If you’d like to include some meat, add 1/2 to 3/4 cup diced ham before transferring the bean mixture to the baking dish.

Servings: 4

 

PEPPERY CRUMB TOPPING:

1 cup fresh bread crumbs (see note)

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper

 

BEAN AND GREENS:

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 pound chopped kale, turnip or mustard greens (see Note)

1 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth

2 cups drained cooked white beans such as cannellini, rinsed

1 large tomato, seeded and chopped

1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage

1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, or to taste

Salt

In a small bowl, toss crumbs with the olive oil and pepper.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add garlic and cook over medium heat for 1 minute. Add greens in handfuls, stirring until slightly wilted. Add broth, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook covered until greens are about half-tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Add beans, tomato, sage and pepper flakes, and mash about 1/4 quarter of the beans against the side of the pan to thicken the mixture. Simmer uncovered over medium heat until slightly reduced and thickened, about 10 minutes. The mixture should be quite soupy, as it will absorb liquid as it bakes. Season with salt. Transfer to a 2-quart baking dish and sprinkle with the crumbs.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake the casserole uncovered until crumbs are crusty and lightly browned and gratin is hot throughout, 25 to 35 minutes. If crumbs are not brown enough, run gratin under broiler for a couple of minutes. Serve directly from dish.

NOTE: Tear good bread into pieces and whir in the food processor to make crumbs. For greens, you can substitute one thawed 10-ounce package of frozen greens. Add them with the beans.

 

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently “The New England Clam Shack Cookbook” (Storey 2008). She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula.