Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Whoa - a topically relevant blog post, or A review of Mark Bittman's Food Matters

I suppose it's high time that I actually write about something that's relevant to the title of my blog.

In January I bought Mark Bittman's new book, Food Matters: A Conscious Guide to Eating with More than 75 Recipes. You can watch him hawking it on The Colbert Report... lol

The first 100 pages or so describe WHY food matters. If you've read any of Michael Pollan or Marion Nestle, you've heard all this before - the industrial complex of agribusiness, our unsustainable meat-loving life-style, the dangers of refined carbs and high fructose corn syrup, etc. etc. Then there's a discussion of how Mark Bittman lost 35 pounds by adopting a "vegan until 6pm" lifestyle.

I skipped it most of it.

What makes this book stand out from the others is that it provides recipes. Yay! Many are purely vegetarian while the others are "flexitarian" - meat or fish is optional. These flexitarian recipes are different than most other recipes because they feature meat/fish in smaller proportions than is traditional in the US.

I also like how he gives lots of options and variations on his recipes. So for example, the recipe for Impromptu Fried Rice has suggestions to substitute grated cabbage, chopped carrots, minced hot chilies, snow/snap peas, shrimp/squid, bits of smoked sausage or ham, or chooked pork or chicken. Instead of the rice, he suggests using other grains like quinoa, cracked wheat, oat groats, or barley.

All in all the recipes are pretty practical. I've also made the layered caprice salad - Bittman suggests using jicama, daikon, or Asian pair and using an avocado in place of the mozarella cheese. The lunch recipes are lighter - salads, soups, ideas for sandwiches, stirfrys - and the dinner recipes are hearty.

Here's one such dinner recipe. It reheats wonderfully - in fact, it tastes even better as leftovers.

Chickpea Stew with Roasted Chicken
Makes 4 servings. Time: About an hour with cooked chickpeas


  • 4 cups cooked or canned chickpeas (drained but reserving liquid)
  • 2 cups bean cooking liquid, any stock, or water
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 T of olive oil
  • 4 chicken pieces (about 1 lb), preferably legs or thighs
  • 1 or 2 small eggplants or medium zucchinis, chopped
  • 1 lb fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 T minced garlic
  • 1 t fresh ginger
  • 1 t ground coriander
  • 2 t ground cumin
  • 2 cups seeded chopped tomato (canned is fine)
  • chopped fresh cilantro or parsley to garnish

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Warm beans in large pot with liquid, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Adjust heat so mixture bubbles slowly.

2. Put 3 T olive oil in large deep skillet over medium heat, add the chicken, sprinkle with salt and pepper and brown on all sides, for about 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a small roasting pan and set aside.

3. Pour off all but 3 T of fat and return the pan to medium heat. (I only kept about 1 T) Add eggplant or zucchini and the mushrooms, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Put chicken in the oven. (I added about a tablespoon of freshly chopped thyme to the chicken)

4. Add another tablespoon of oil to the skillet. Still over medium heat, add the onion, celery, and carrot. Cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin and tomato and cook for 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any brown bits. Add the mixture to the simmering beans along with the reserved eggplant or zucchini and mushrooms.

5. When the chicken has cooked for about 15 minutes, check for doneness (the juices will run clear if you make a small cut in the meat near the bone). When it is ready, remove it from the oven. When the vegetables are tender, put the chickpeas and the vegetables on a large deep platter; top with the chicken, and drizzle with its juices; then garnish, and serve.

1 comment:

Grace said...

I like reading Mark Bittman's column in the NY Times, but I haven't read his books yet. I will have to check one out soon.