You might ask why I was eating a burger at all last night, and the answer is that simply, in this lovely little restaurant I was taken to in Toronto, the fish had no appeal – simply none. (And later, when I tasted that of one of my co-guests, I recognized that that had been the right decision, anyway.) I could have ordered vegetables but I had been eating them faithfully all day, and I was cranky. I could’ve ordered a big piece of meat but it felt hypocritical and wasteful. Maybe I should’ve gone to bed.
But after sharing a few unpromising appetizers, I begged the waitress for a really rare burger and she said, “When you ask for rare they make it medium rare,” and I said, “I know, that’s how it often is, and though I’d prefer it rare I don’t mind it medium rare, but if it’s medium I’m going to be unhappy,” and she said, “Then you’ll be very happy.” And it came out well done. And I wasn’t unhappy at all, I just didn’t eat much of it. I ate fries and roasted beets.
By Freya Bellin
[Starting this very moment I’ll be posting a recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook every Monday afternoon. Some of these recipes will include “less meat” than we might be used to, and others no meat at all. In conjunction with these postings, Freya Bellin has gallantly volunteered to (slowly) cook her way through the book while photographing the recipes and commenting on them. Without further ado, let Less-Meat Mondays begin. MB]
I know it’s now officially fall, but with the farmer’s market still overflowing with peaches and tomatoes, I couldn’t help but turn to gazpacho, a traditionally summery soup. For this gazpacho, I used a combination of about 4 cups watermelon, 2 heirloom tomatoes, and 2 peaches. The recipe says you can substitute peaches for the tomato or the watermelon, but I figured, why not use all three? Good thing I did: it ended up being one of the lightest, most refreshing dishes I can remember eating.
You can’t exactly taste the individual fruits in this non-traditional gazpacho, but the watermelon lends its texture and the peach its sweetness. Make sure you include the toppings and garnish with this one. The salty feta adds great texture and super-fresh basil offsets everything beautifully. If you’re entertaining, make sure not to garnish too far ahead of time, as the feta starts to sink. Recipe adapted from The Food Matters Cookbook.
Watermelon and Tomato Gazpacho with Feta
Makes: 4 servings
Time: 20 minutes, plus time to chill (optional)
The combination of cool watermelon and tomatoes with feta is as good as it gets in the summer, and just about as easy. One simple variation: use peaches instead of the watermelon or the tomatoes—it’s great either way.
1 garlic clove
1 small watermelon, or a section of a larger one, about 3 pounds, flesh removed
from the rind, seeded, and cut into large chunks
2 ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into wedges
2 tablespoons lemon juice, or to taste
Salt and black pepper
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
1⁄4 cup olive oil
1⁄2 cup chopped fresh basil or mint, for garnish
1. Put the garlic in a food processor and pulse a few times to chop it. Add the watermelon, tomatoes, and lemon juice, with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. You have two choices here: chunky or smooth. It all depends on whether you turn the machine on and leave it on, or just pulse a few times. Add a few ice cubes, one at a time, just enough to keep the machine working, and blend or pulse until smooth or chunky. Put the gazpacho in the fridge to chill a bit if you like, up to several hours.
2. Just before serving, taste the gazpacho and add more salt, pepper, or lemon juice as needed (remember you’ll be adding feta, which is usually salty). Pour the gazpacho into 4 bowls, top with the feta, drizzle with a few drops of olive oil, garnish with the herb, and serve.
Seems like mac’ and cheese weather (more or less). Recipe adapted from How to Cook Everything.
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Makes: 4 to 6 servings
Time: About 45 minutes
One of the most popular recipes in the original How to Cook Everything, which I attribute to too many people growing up with what the Canadians call “Kraft dinner.” The real thing is rich, filling, delicious, and dead easy. You can change the type of cheese you use: Try blue cheese, goat cheese, smoked Gouda, or even mascarpone. Or mix in some crisp-cooked chunks of thick-cut bacon or pancetta, about 1/2cup.
2 1/2 cups milk (low-fat is fine)
2 bay leaves
1 pound elbow, shell, ziti, or other cut pasta
4 tablespoons (1/2stick) butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
11/2cups grated cheese, like sharp cheddar or Emmental
1 /2cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
1 /2cup or more bread crumbs, preferably fresh
1. Heat the oven to 400°F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it.
2. Heat the milk with the bay leaves in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. When small bubbles appear along the sides, about 5 minutes later, turn off the heat and let stand. Cook the pasta in the boiling water to the point where you would still think it needed another minute or two to become tender. Drain it, rinse it quickly to stop the cooking, and put it in a large bowl.
3. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter; when it is foamy, add the flour and cook, stirring, until the mixture browns, about 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaves from the milk and add about 1/4cup of the milk to the hot flour mixture, stirring with a wire whisk all the while. As soon as the mixture becomes smooth, add a little more milk, and continue to do so until all the milk is used up and the mixture is thick and smooth. Add the cheddar or Emmental and stir.
4. Pour the sauce over the pasta, toss in the Parmesan, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Use the remaining 1 tablespoon butter to grease a 9 ×13-inch or like-size baking pan and turn the pasta mixture into it. (You can make the dish to this point, cover, and refrigerate for up to a day; return to room temperature before proceeding.) Top liberally with bread crumbs and bake until bubbling and the crumbs turn brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve piping hot.
Recipe adapted from How to Cook Everything.
Warm Chickpea Salad with Arugula
Makes: 4 side- or 2 main-dish servings
Time: 20 minutes with precooked beans
Chickpeas frequently get the salad treatment throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East. My version is a panorama of these recipes that includes ginger, garlic, and cumin. After the seasonings are cooked and the beans warmed, the dressing is finished in the pan and tossed with arugula leaves, which wilts them just slightly. Serve small portions as a side salad or appetizer or add the optional hard-cooked egg and make this a light meal.
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups cooked or drained canned chickpeas
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
4 cups arugula leaves
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
4 hard-cooked eggs, quartered (optional)
1. Put the olive oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the ginger, garlic, and cumin and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant and the ginger and garlic are soft, 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then stir in the chickpeas until hot and coated in the oil and seasonings, about 3 minutes more.
2. Remove from heat and with a fork, stir in the vinegar, honey, and 1 tablespoon water. Mash a few of the chickpeas as you stir to add texture to the dressing. Put the arugula and red onion in a large bowl and toss with the warm chickpea dressing. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve immediately, garnished with hard-cooked eggs if you like.
Starting this afternoon I’ll be posting one of my recipes every weekday at 4:30 (New York time). I’m calling it “Dinner with Bittman.” While it’s not always dinner (breakfast, desserts, breads, you name it, are all fair game), it’s always good.
Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook. Pre-order the book today or pick up a copy when it’s released on September 21st.
Roast Turnips and Duck with Pear Jus
Makes: 4 servings
Time: About 1 hour
Even though duck is no more difficult to prepare than chicken, it always feels much more elegant. Braise it with turnips, and it’s a classic; with the addition of a pear-brandy sauce, it becomes sweeter, more complex, and downright luxurious. Simply cooked leafy vegetables or a green salad are all you need on the side.
1 or 2 boneless duck breasts (about 1 pound), with the skin
Salt and black pepper
1 pound turnips or rutabagas, cut into large chunks
8 fresh sage leaves
1 bay leaf
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2 pears, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup vegetable or chicken stock, or water
1/4 cup brandy
Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
1. Heat the oven to 400°F. Score the skin of the duck breasts, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and place them skin side down in a large, ovenproof skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown thoroughly on both sides, rotating and turning as necessary, 10 to 15 minutes total. Remove the duck from the pan and pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat.
2. Add the turnips, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast until they are nicely browned on the bottom and just getting tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the sage, bay leaf, and garlic and return the duck to the pan. Roast until the turnips are tender and the duck is cooked to your liking, about 15 minutes for medium-rare. Put the duck on a plate or cutting board to rest, and transfer the turnips to a serving platter.
3. Put the pan on a burner over medium-high heat. Add the pears, stock, and brandy and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring to loosen any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until the pears are soft and the pan juice is slightly thickened, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaf. Thinly slice the duck. Serve a few slices on top of a pile of the turnips and spoon the pear sauce over the top. Garnish with parsley and serve.
Matt Lauer an FMC convert? Almost.