The Whole Story

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Whole grains, whether truly “whole” or not, have gone mainstream.

You can’t mention quinoa without hearing about the plight of the Bolivians who can no longer afford to buy their crop because we’re willing to pay so much for it. The word “rice” has become loaded: there are more colors (red? black?) and types (extra-long brown Basmati?) than those of us who grew up knowing only Carolina and Uncle Ben’s could have ever imagined. The other day I heard half a talk show devoted to what couscous really is. (Pasta, and I don’t know why it was so hard to figure out.)

It gets more complicated. Manufacturers claim processed foods are, or contain, whole grains when it isn’t true. Debates rage about the relative benefits of “whole grain” pasta versus the real thing. Then there’s the “are whole grains even good for you?” thing.

Feh. You shouldn’t care. They’re fantastic.

Read the rest of this article, here.

 

Posted in Recipes

Too Hot to Grill? Try the Slow Cooker

Screen Shot 2013-07-01 at 3.43.23 PMWhen I told a friend that I was working on an article about slow-cooker recipes for summer, she gave me a concerned look and asked if I was in full possession of my faculties. I may not be, but I do know this: In addition to being nearly foolproof, slow cookers don’t heat up your kitchen. They don’t even require you to be in your kitchen — or your house, for that matter — while they do their thing. I’m not saying, “Stop grilling.” But I am saying that when the temperature starts to climb, you might break out the crockpot.

While slow cookers are best known for their meat-braising prowess, they also work wonders on dried beans, rendering them almost impossibly creamy inside while leaving them completely intact. Throw some liquid, seasonings and meat in the bottom, vegetables on top, and you’ll wind up with slow-cooked stews that take advantage of summer ingredients.

Read the rest of this article, here.

Posted in Recipes, Slow Food

With the Grain

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Grains bring different characters to different seasons. When it’s cold, they’re mostly porridge, or beds for stews and stir-fries. But as spring turns to summer, it’s time to think about grains in salads. And these salads make for a terrific transition to the time, which will be here soon enough, when you wish you didn’t have to use the stove at all.

Grain salad is more of a concept than a “dish” — there are virtually infinite variations. But the current season could not be more ideal, replete with late-spring and early-summer vegetables that require only chopping, slicing or grating. All that you’ll need to cook are the grains, which neither demand very much of your attention nor heat up very much of your kitchen.

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Posted in Recipes

The VB6 BBQ

Nutty Falafel

Summer is an interesting season if you’re trying to be VB6. While the bounty of fresh summer produce can all-but make you forget about meat, the smell of backyard grilling makes you crave it. Striking a balance is the key. With that in mind, here are my favorite summery recipes from VB6, some with meat, most without, all delicious.

Baked Falafel with Tahini Sauce

Makes: 8 servings

Time: 45 minutes, plus up to 24 hours to soak chickpeas

Falafel is easy: just soak raw chickpeas until they’re soft enough to grind in the food processor, combine with some spices, shape, and bake. The baking makes lighter falafel, but they’re just as crunchy as deep-fried. This makes a big batch, which is fine, since you can refrigerate the leftovers for several days, or freeze them for a couple of months. To reheat, wrap them in foil and bake at 350°F until they’re hot throughout, 15 to 30 minutes depending on whether they were frozen. Here are some serving suggestions: Make a sandwich with half a whole wheat pita, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and other raw vegetables, then drizzle with sauce. Or add lemon juice to the sauce and eat on top of a green salad, using the tahini for dressing.

1¾ cups dried chickpeas
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small onion, quartered
1 tablespoon cumin
Scant teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
1 cup chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
1½ teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
½ teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup tahini

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Posted in Mark Bittman Books, Recipes, Uncategorized

Make Peace With Meat

Screen Shot 2013-05-31 at 10.01.16 AM                   I probably eat a third as much meat as I used to and, on the not-rare (three times a week?) occasions that I do indulge, I eat less of it.

I’m reminded of a really good plate of slow-roasted lamb shoulder I had in Seattle two weeks ago; there were about six ounces on the plate, and I ate half. It was delicious, and it was enough. This is no longer a conscious thing but a new habit.

The new habits, I suppose, come from new attitudes. The vast majority of Americans still eat meat at least some of the time. Statistically, most of us eat it in unwise, unsustainable and unhealthful quantities.

I’m betting that you eat meat more consciously (and less of it) than you once did. The health, environmental and ethical concerns affect the attitudes of almost everyone I encounter, and although our priorities differ, few people I know indiscriminately fill their supermarket carts with shrink-wrapped meat and leave. Not long ago, almost all of us did that.

Read the rest of this article, here.

Posted in Food Politics, Recipes

What Can’t You Make With Chickpeas?

Screen Shot 2013-05-31 at 10.06.13 AMI’m partial to chickpeas — or garbanzo beans, if you prefer — and not because they were among the first legumes I ever ate. (My mother would open a can and put them out at parties, with salt and pepper; you can do better than that. Sorry, Mom.) They have what to me is an irresistibly robust and nutty flavor, and a texture that can run from crunchy to tender.

In addition to canned, you may see fresh chickpeas; peel them and cook them quickly, as if they were favas or peas. Increasingly you can find chickpea flour, also called besan or gram flour, in Indian markets, where it’s most common, though it’s also becoming more popular as a flour substitute for the gluten-intolerant.

But dried is the most common form. Dried chickpeas take longer to cook than other beans (two hours is a likely cooking time); use enough water, and the process is stress-free. One major benefit to cooking chickpeas yourself — aside from the superior flavor and texture — is that the water you cook them in becomes particularly rich and flavorful by the time they’re done. Save it for soups like the cold one here, which is a refreshing riff on hummus.

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Posted in Recipes, Vegan

Come and Get ‘em: Recipes from VB6!

Photo Credit: Daniel Meyer

Eggplant Un-Parmesan

Makes: 4 Servings

Time: about 1 hour

This take on eggplant Parmesan proves that (a) you don’t need a lot of oil to cook eggplant, and (b) you don’t need gobs of cheese to make it delicious. Try using zucchini or portobello mushrooms as variations, or serve the vegetables and tomato sauce over polenta or a more sub-stantial meal. If you can’t fnd whole wheat breadcrumbs (panko-style are best), make your own by pulsing lightly toasted whole-grain bread in the food processor or blender.

2½ pounds eggplant

5 tablespoons olive oil

1¼ teaspoons salt, plus more to taste

Black pepper to taste

1 onion, chopped

2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes, with their juice

1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

1 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs, preferably coarse-ground

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Posted in Recipes

Operation: Mother’s Day

Screen Shot 2013-05-31 at 10.11.17 AMAttention, significant others of mothers: Breakfast in bed is a thoughtful, time-honored gesture for Mother’s Day. There is, however, an alternative to a precariously balanced tray of eggs, orange juice and coffee, all of which she eats by herself while the kids hang around watching. That alternative is a simple but wonderful dinner, cooked by you and those same adorable children, eaten together at an actual table.

Here’s a three-course meal, easy enough for novice cooks to pull off and impressive enough so that those who know how to cook will be pleased. It features a chicken dish that may become a lifelong standard and a can’t-fail version of Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s warm, soft chocolate cake.

I’ve also included a comprehensive battle plan — a timeline for everything you’ll need to do in the kitchen with suggestions for the tasks to delegate to your kids. (If they’re the better cooks, they can delegate to you.) Just remember: Even though you cooked, you still have to do the dishes.

Read the rest of this article, here.

Posted in American, Recipes, Uncategorized

I Heart Artichokes

Screen Shot 2013-05-31 at 11.25.04 AMTrue story, from the wedding of two friends, circa 1977: The bride’s father, a louche sophisticate, and perhaps needless to say an alcoholic, asked of the groom’s grandmother, a Russian immigrant of peasant stock, “Isn’t eating an artichoke just like sex?” There was, as you can imagine, no reply.

The artichoke has always inspired such lyrical flights. Is it not the most versatile of vegetables as well as the most miraculous? Is it not incredible that this thistle keeps its treasure so well hidden and protected that people can spend their lives blissfully eating only the outer leaves, never getting past the choke to the heart?

Rhetorical questions, I recognize. But once you know how to handle an artichoke, it will pretty much do your bidding, providing you with salads, sautés and remarkable centerpieces that are unique in just about every respect.

Read the rest of this article here and see the video here.

Posted in Produce, Recipes

Pollan Cooks!

The seven most famous words in the movement for good food are: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” They were written, of course, by Michael Pollan, in “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto,” the follow-up to “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.”

Now Pollan might add three more words to the slogan: “And cook them.” Because the man who so cogently analyzed production and nutrition in his best-known books has tackled what he calls “the middle link in the food chain: cooking.”

But Pollan isn’t about to become a cookbook writer, at least not yet. In “Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation,” out Tuesday, he offers four detailed recipes, used as examples to explore how food is transformed: for Bolognese, pork shoulder, sauerkraut and bread, each an illustration, he says, of the fundamental principles of cooking.

Read the rest of this column here.

Posted in Recipes