The Food Matters Cookbook Is Almost Here

Picture_2_08-29-34

I’ve been eating like Food Matters – the title of The Food Matters Cookbook‘s predecessor – for more than three years. During that period I’ve met scores of people – and heard about hundreds of others – who’ve either come to similar diets on their own (it’s not that complicated, after all) or read Food Matters and been inspired by it to change their diets.

The result of my own and just about everyone else’s experiences (as well as most of the research studies that have been published in recent years), have confirmed the conclusion I reached in the first place: If you swap the basic proportions in your diet—increasing unprocessed fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grains—you’ll wind up losing weight and improving your overall health while also improving more difficult-to-measure situations like global warming, the environment in general, and animal welfare.

By some calculations, at least 80 percent of the calories most Americans eat come from food that is either animal based or highly processed. That leaves less than 20 percent that come from what we used to call natural or whole foods –meaning fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. We consume 200 pounds of meat per year (that’s about 8 ounces a day, twice the global average), 237 pounds of dairy, and 32 pounds of eggs. That’s more than 469 pounds of animal products per capita, over a pound a day.

Continue reading

Posted in Behind The Scenes, Mark Bittman Books

Sunday Supper: Braised Tofu with Eggplant and Shitakes

A different kind of braising for a lazy Sunday evening. Recipe adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

Braised Tofu with Eggplant and Shiitakes

Makes: 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes

A more-or-less traditional Sichuan preparation, creamy and delicious with soft-cooked eggplant, made crisp by the addition of sautéed shiitakes. Substitute green beans for the eggplant if you like.

1 /4cup peanut oil or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn

1 cup sliced shiitake caps (reserve stems for stock or discard)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger (optional)

11/2 pounds eggplant, trimmed, cut into 11/2-inch chunks

1 tablespoon Chile Paste (optional)

1 /2 cup vegetable stock or water

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 pound tofu, blotted dry and cut into 3/4-inch cubes

1 tablespoon dark sesame oil for garnish (optional)

Chopped fresh cilantro leaves for garnish (optional)

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds for garnish (optional)

2 tablespoons minced scallion for garnish (optional)

1. Put half the oil in a deep skillet or shallow saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the shiitakes and some salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are crisp, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

2. Add the remaining oil and, a few seconds later, the garlic and the ginger if you’re using it. As soon as it sizzles, add the eggplant. Cook, stirring every minute or so, until the eggplant browns, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the chile paste if you’re using it, along with the stock. Stir, scraping the bottom of the pan if necessary to release any stuck bits of eggplant. Cook until the eggplant is really tender, 10 to 15 minutes more, adding a little more liquid if necessary (unlikely, but not impossible).

3. Stir in the soy sauce and tofu and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tofu is heated through, about 5 minutes; stir in the reserved shiitakes and turn off the heat. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then garnish as you like and serve.

 

Posted in Chinese, Produce

Food Matters Cookbook: Sneak Preview Recipe

Plum_chicken_salad

Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook. Pre-order the book today or pick up a copy when it’s released on September 21st.

Plum Chicken Salad

Makes: 4 servings                                                                                                       

Time: 30 minutes with leftover cooked chicken                                                                                    

Firm plums are perfect here, but chicken tastes good with almost any fruit, so if plums aren’t available, try peaches, apples, pears, berries, or even tropical fruit. You can vary the nuts too (check out the variation).

About 8 ounces fresh plums, pitted and thinly sliced

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

3/4 cup chopped almonds

Salt and black pepper

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried

1/4 cup olive oil

2 celery stalks, thinly sliced

1/2 red onion, chopped

8 ounces roasted or grilled boneless, skinless chicken, chopped or shredded (about 2 cups)

6 cups mixed greens (like mesclun), torn into bite-size pieces

1. Toss the plums with the vinegar in a large salad bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes and up to 2 hours.

2. Meanwhile, put the almonds in a dry skillet over medium heat and toast, shaking the pan frequently, until they are aromatic and beginning to darken, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.

3. Sprinkle the plums with salt and pepper and add the oregano, oil, celery, onion, and chicken; toss to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. (The salad can be made ahead to this point and refrigerated for up to an hour.) To serve, divide the greens evenly among 4 plates and top each with some of the plum-chicken mixture, or add the greens to the salad bowl and toss everything together. Garnish with the toasted almonds.

Fig Chicken Salad. Substitute fresh figs, quartered, for the plums and use hazelnuts instead of almonds.

 

Posted in Behind The Scenes, Recipes

Yesterday: My Life

Justfood_savethedate_2

Yesterday was the very unofficial launch of The Food Matters Cookbook. Phone interviews have begun in earnest (“Hello, Pittsburgh!”), and plans for two tv appearances for next week fell into place (“Today” will be Wednesday, probably 8.45am or thereabouts, and that’s as official as this launch will get).

Last night, however, I was honored to be given some kind of good guy award at the Let Us Eat Local event put on by JustFood. I don’t like sounding all gee-whiz, but it really was incredibly cool: a massive thunderstorm (which all but destroyed Brooklyn, evidently, and shook the NYT building as if World War I were happening down the block) left behind some heavy, humid air, but the atmosphere in the big tent at Water Taxi Beach was friendly, happy, and optimistic. I have been to literally scores of similarly organized events – chefs cook behind tables, put food on plates, people swarm and eat, etc. – but never one with better vibes.

Or better food. If there is a problem with these kinds of things, it’s that chefs feel obligated (or are guilt-tripped) to show up, and then put less than their best food forward, offering their and most easily and inexpensively produced food, thus making for a sad state of affairs.

This one was completely the opposite. At least half of the chefs were absolutely stoked, really psyched to demonstrate their commitment to local food and their ability to cook with it. I’m going to leave some people out, and I’m sorry, but special kudos to Northern Spy, Back Forty, Angelica, and Palo Santo (freshly made tortillas with fried fish and various relishes, simply perfect).

I did get an award, for doing what I’m not quite sure, but I was happy to speak, however briefly, to this crowd of committed people and their supporters. I said something like this, which is about as succinctly as I can put the message I’m going to be trying to get out there all Fall:

 ”Here’s why we need JustFood, and why it’s important to support this organization  and others like it: If you believe in society, the banding together of humans for our common good, if you believe in our obligation to support and care for one another – not just our families or coreligionists or neighbors or compatriots but everyone – then you believe in the human right to eat food that is raised ethically.

“What does this mean? This means food that is grown – or raised – with respect – not only for the earth, but for the people who eat it and the people who work the land and tend the animals. That is sustainable and ethical food, which will also necessarily – and not unimportantly – be delicious food. That’s our goal.”

I said something too about the food kicking ass. Also got interviewed by NBC Niteside (sic), but I’m afraid to watch it.

Afterwards, stopped by Nick Bilton’s book party. Very cool, as is his book.

Posted in Behind The Scenes, Events

London’s Most Exclusive Couscous

There’s nothing new about couscous with tomatoes and, perhaps, herbs, served either cold as a salad or hot as a side dish. So I was a little surprised at my delight when I had a particularly delicious version the other day. I guess I was surprised mainly because this was at a private club in London, one of those leather-bound places that began to admit women as members only ten minutes (or fifteen years) ago. Clubs like this aren’t supposed to serve decent food, only excellent booze, including ancient Bordeaux at less-than-liquor-store prices. I won’t mention its name, because if I do a notice will appear on the bulletin board, beginning “Members are reminded….” Not that I’m a member, but one must play the game.

Continue reading

Posted in Middle Eastern

Food Matters Cookbook: Sneak Preview Recipe

Crispy_noodle_cake_2

Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook. Pre-order the book today or pick up a copy when it’s released on September 21st.

Crisp Noodle Cake with Stir-Fried Greens and Shrimp

Makes: 4 servings                                                                                                       

Time: 45 minutes                                                                                                        

A noodle cake makes a fantastic side dish, snack, or base for a stir-fry, where it soaks up all of the savory juices. You don’t need much else to call this a meal, though a beer alongside wouldn’t hurt.

11/2 pounds bok choy, gai lan (Chinese broccoli), tatsoi, or other Asian green

Salt

8 ounces any rice, buckwheat (soba), or wheat noodle, preferably whole grain

3 tablespoons soy sauce, plus more to taste

2 teaspoons sesame oil

4 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more as needed

1 tablespoon minced ginger

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 fresh hot chile (like jalapeño or Thai), seeded and minced, or to taste

Black pepper

8 ounces shrimp, peeled

1/2 cup chopped scallions

1/2 cup chopped peanuts, optional

1. Cut the leaves from the stems of the bok choy. Trim the stems and cut them into 1-inch pieces; cut the leaves into bite-size pieces or ribbons. Rinse everything well.

2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Cook the noodles until tender but not mushy. Check them frequently: The time will vary from a minute or 2 for thin rice noodles, to 5 minutes for soba, or up to 12 minutes for wide brown rice noodles. Drain them and rinse with cold water. Toss the noodles with 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce and 1 teaspoon of the sesame oil.

3. Put 3 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a large nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the noodles and press down a bit. Cook, pressing down occasionally, until brown and crisp on the bottom (adjust the heat so the noodles brown but do not burn). Carefully put a large dish over the skillet and flip it to turn out the cake. Add a little more oil to the pan, swirl it around, and gently slide the cake off the plate and back into the skillet, uncooked side down, all in one piece. Brown the other side, then slide it onto a platter. (At this point you can cut the cake into 4 wedges, or wait and roughly break it apart after topping.)

4. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet. Add the ginger, garlic, and chile and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the bok choy stems, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the stems just lose their crunch, about 3 minutes.

5. Add the shrimp to the pan along with the bok choy leaves, scallions, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, and 1/2 cup water. Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid evaporates and the stems are very tender, about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more soy sauce if necessary. Serve the stir-fry over the noodle cake, topped with pea- nuts if you like.

 

Posted in Chinese, Recipes

The Food Matters Cookbook is Almost Here

Picture_2

I’ve been eating like Food Matters – the title of The Food Matters Cookbook‘s predecessor – for more than three years. During that period I’ve met scores of people – and heard about hundreds of others – who’ve either come to similar diets on their own (it’s not that complicated, after all) or read Food Matters and been inspired by it to change their diets.

The result of my own and just about everyone else’s experiences (as well as most of the research studies that have been published in recent years), have confirmed the conclusion I reached in the first place: If you swap the basic proportions in your diet—increasing unprocessed fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grains—you’ll wind up losing weight and improving your overall health while also improving more difficult-to-measure situations like global warming, the environment in general, and animal welfare.

By some calculations, at least 80 percent of the calories most Americans eat come from food that is either animal based or highly processed. That leaves less than 20 percent that come from what we used to call natural or whole foods –meaning fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. We consume 200 pounds of meat per year (that’s about 8 ounces a day, twice the global average), 237 pounds of dairy, and 32 pounds of eggs. That’s more than 469 pounds of animal products per capita, over a pound a day.

Continue reading

Posted in Behind The Scenes

This Week’s Minimalist: The Food Processor Rules!

Your food processor is the king of the kitchen. If you’re letting it collect dust under the counter read this column immediately. No joke, it can change the way you cook.

Posted in Behind The Scenes

Stuffed Indian Eggplant

4940182587_25066fd11f4940182385_457bc50135_z4940769344_bd470e2a64_z

By Andrea Nguyen

There are many kinds of eggplants in Asia and the egg-shaped Indian variety is particularly wonderful. It peaks during hot months and as the season winds down, I make this terrific Indian recipe, which I learned from Ruta Kahate’s 5 Spices, 50 Dishes. You’ll find the Indian eggplants at South Asian markets as well as at some farmer’s markets where they’ll be sold by Asian farmers. In California where I live, Hmong farmers are my summer time go-to source for eggplants. They have a medium-thick skin and creamy flesh, and are much smaller than the regular globe variety. You can certainly grill them, but better yet, stuff them with a rich mixture of ground peanuts and sesame seeds and let them get kind of crusty. Serve warm or cold.

Continue reading

Posted in Indian, Recipes

Politics of the Plate

Transova_geneticsclonebeefcalves_bovance1
By Barry Estabrook

All’s Fair: Cloned Cow Wins Iowa 4-H Competition

One of my favorite events at our rural county’s annual agricultural fair is when the youthful 4-H club members show their prized cattle. Well-scrubbed teenagers clad in white shoes, white pants, and white shirts proudly lead their well-groomed bovines into the arena where they are judged and ribbons awarded. You almost expect to see a pipe-puffing Normal Rockwell peering from behind his easel on the sidelines.

I don’t think I would have gotten the same warm, nostalgic feeling at Iowa State Fair  a few weeks ago. Tyler Faber, age 17, took home the blue ribbon in the “Big Steer” category for a 1,320-pound behemoth named Doc. The beefy steer, it turned out, was a clone.

Continue reading

Posted in Farming, Food Politics