Meatless Monday Recipe: Mushroom-Stuffed Squash, Leek and Fennel Soup

Reader Contribution by Jessica Kellner

Today the New York Times reports that our global carbon emissions jumped by the largest amount on record last year, bad news for those of us concerned about the wide-ranging potential effects of global warming. Although it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by these numbers, it’s important to remember that we all have the power to reduce our individual carbon output (while we campaign the government and use our votes and dollars to support larger, industry and government initiatives that will help humans live more sustainably on this planet). One of the surest ways you can reduce your carbon footprint is as close as your dining room table: Eat less meat. As Planet Green reported a couple of years ago, switching from the average meat-eating U.S. diet, wherein 47 percent of calories come from animal products, to a lacto-ovo (dairy and eggs allowed) vegetarian diet wherein 25 percent of calories come from animal products would reduce your individual carbon emissions by about 1 ton a year. If you’re not ready to make the total commitment, becoming a weekday vegetarian and consuming meat only a couple times a week  would still reduce your carbon by .7 tons (or about 1,400 pounds). But even if it’s just one day a week, choosing vegetarian is a concrete way you and your family can choose to reduce your environmental impact.

In that spirit, here are a couple of delicious meatless Monday recipes featuring produce that’s likely in season near you: Delicata Squash Stuffed with Wild Mushrooms and Herbs and Fennel and Leek Soup.

Delicata Squash Stuffed with Wild Mushrooms and Herbs
Medicinal mushrooms such as maitake (Grifola frondosa) and shiitake (Lentinula edodes) contain polysaccharides known as beta glucans, which may be responsible for the fungi’s immune-stimulating benefits, ranging from fighting colds to thwarting cancer. Bulgur, a nutritious whole grain, may help reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.
1/2 cup bulgur
1 cup shiitake mushrooms
1/2 cup maitake or portobello mushrooms
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
1 cup finely diced green beans
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup finely minced parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
3/4 cup vegetable stock
2 delicata squash
1/2 cup water

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place bulgur in a medium saucepan. Add 1 1/2 cups boiling water and soak for 1 hour. Drain through a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl.
2. Clean mushrooms by wiping them with a damp paper towel. Dry thoroughly, slice, and set aside. Lightly oil a sauté pan with olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of water. Add celery, green beans, and mushrooms and sauté over low heat for 4 to 5 minutes. While sautéing, add lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Continue to sauté for 5 minutes more, then remove from heat, and set aside in a large bowl.
3. Add bulgur, parsley, oregano, paprika and 1/4 cup vegetable stock to sautéed mixture. Toss well.
4. Cut squash in half lengthwise, scooping out seeds and membrane. Place squash in shallow baking dish, mounding squash cavities with mushroom-bulgur mixture. Add 1/2 cup vegetable stock and 1/2 cup water. Cover with foil and bake for approximately 1 hour or until squash is tender.

Fennel and Leek Soup
1 heaping cup finely chopped fennel bulb (finocchio)
1/2 cup grated carrot 
 2 medium leeks, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 vegetable bouillon cube
3 cups water
2 teaspoons butter
2 teaspoons flour
1 cup milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Sauté the fennel, carrot, leeks, and garlic in the oil, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, dissolve 1 vegetable cube in 3 cups boiling water.
2. Add the vegetables and simmer, covered, for 40 minutes.
3. In a small skillet, melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Gradually whisk in the milk and heat until smooth and boiling.
4. Whisk this mixture into the vegetable broth and simmer 5 minutes longer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot, topped with grated cheddar cheese and finely chopped fennel tops.