Weeknight Vegetarian: Going vegan, for the day, with Mark Bittman

By Joe Yonan for The Washington Post

Screen Shot 2013-05-28 at 3.43.15 PMIt’s the first day of the season at the 14th and U Farmers Market in the District, and I’m looking at asparagus, turnips, herbs, kale, arugula, strawberries and more with Mark Bittman. We’re doing what so many shoppers do at markets like this one across the country, week in and week out: comparing one farmer’s produce with another’s, and trying to decide what would make a good lunch and maybe an even better dinner.When I tell Bittman I have carrots and kale at home, he proposes a stir-fry. “Is your kale nicer than this guy’s kale, or not as nice, or about as nice?” he asks. I try to envision the crisper drawer of my refrigerator back in my apartment, where we’re headed next, and feel comfortable in choosing Option 3. Even though it’s several days old, it’s just about as nice, I figure.

VIENNA, VA, JANUARY 9, 2013: Winter salad of shaved cucumber, radish and endive with lemon vinaigrette. Dishware courtesy of Crate & Barrel. (Photo by ASTRID RIECKEN For The Washington Post)He asks because he knows that for any cooking, but especially the kind of off-the-cuff dishes that helped make him famous, the key is to start with excellent ingredients — a strategy that bears repeating for those of us who take it for granted. And for the kind of lunch we’re going to make, one without any animal products, the tactic might be even more important. The stir-fry won’t have, say, the smoky fat of bacon to hide any blandness in those vegetables. If the turnips he wants to mash don’t have enough flavor, cream and butter won’t be able to rescue them.

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