Three recipes to change your life. I originally came across the concept in this past Sunday’s New York Times. The Week in Review section contained a series of articles with the theme “Sustainable Life.” In one piece, Mark Bittman offered a compelling argument for cooking at home (it’s cheaper, healthier, and sometimes faster than eating out), along with three recipes that he believes can change the way we eat and live. It’s a simple premise – cook and eat real food. And Mr. Bittman shows us how to start.
Each includes an extensive list of variations and substitutions so that, should decide to embark upon a cooking adventure, you’ll be able to stretch three meal ideas into a few dozen.
As Mark Bittman said to Meredith Viera on this morning’s Today Show, “What you need is not so much a diet as a way to eat.”
Amen to that.
Published: December 31, 2010
Yield: 4 servings.
2 tablespoons good-quality vegetable oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
4 scallions, chopped
1 pound broccoli, trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces, the stems no more than 1/4-inch thick
8 ounces button mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and sliced
8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch chunks or thin slices and blotted dry
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Freshly ground black pepper.
1. Put a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add half the oil, swirl it around, and immediately add half the garlic and ginger. Cook for 15 seconds, stirring, then add the broccoli, mushrooms and all but a sprinkling of the scallions. Raise heat to high, and cook, stirring, until mushrooms release their water and broccoli is bright green and beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes.
2. Sprinkle with salt; add 1 cup water. Stir and cook until almost all liquid evaporates and broccoli is almost tender, another minute or two more, then transfer everything to a plate.
3. Turn heat to medium, add remaining oil, then remaining garlic and ginger. Stir, then add chicken and turn heat to high. Cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken has lost its pink color, three to five minutes.
4. Turn heat to medium. Return broccoli, mushrooms and juices to the pan, and stir. Add soy sauce, sprinkle with more salt and some pepper; add a little more water if mixture is dry. Raise heat to high and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced slightly and you’ve scraped up all the bits of chicken. Taste and adjust seasoning, garnish with remaining scallion and serve.
Stir-fries work with virtually any combination of vegetables; protein-dense food (meat, poultry, fish, tofu, etc.) is optional. Use pork (like shoulder), shrimp, beef (like sirloin), or tofu instead of chicken; slice the meat thinly or the tofu into cubes.
Use cabbage, cauliflower, asparagus, green beans, snow peas, carrots or spinach in place of either the broccoli or the mushrooms or both. Or use other mushrooms.
Use fish sauce instead of soy sauce and finish with a squeeze of lime to give it a Southeast Asian flavor.
Use olive oil, skip the ginger, use onion instead of scallion, and substitute 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary or thyme to give it a Mediterranean flavor profile.
Use coconut milk instead of stock; 1 tablespoon curry powder instead of soy sauce to give it an Indian flavor
We’re getting into the heart of it, the time of the year when farmers markets are bursting with produce and just about everything is in season.
Corn, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, lettuce, summer squash, tomatoes.
Apricots, blueberries, cantaloupe, kiwi, peaches, plums, raspberries, strawberries, watermelon.
Summer Squash – I came across a recipe for Sauteed Zucchini on 101 Cookbooks. I’ve yet to try it, but love that it can be served as a side dish, or with some hearty pasta, like faro, or even as the topping of a frittata.
Corn, Tomatoes – Meanwhile, Smitten Kitchen has posted a fabulous Summer Succotash recipe.
Blueberries, Raspberries, Strawberries – And the Today Show has a healthy, delicious, minimal-cooking-required dessert, courtesy of Joy Adams, James Beard award-winning chef and owner of Boston’s Rialto Restaurant and Bar. Her Greek yogurt with berries, blueberry honey sauce and pistachios is my idea of the perfect summer dessert. I have included it below.
Greek yogurt with berries, blueberry honey sauce and pistachios
Jody Adams, from her Rialto Restaurant and Bar
- 1 cup thick Greek-style yogurt
- 1/2 pint blueberries
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons rum
- Juice of one lime
- Zest of 1/2 lime
- 1/2 cup cold heavy cream
- 1 quart assorted berries, including raspberries, strawberries (halved, quartered, or sliced depending on the size) and blueberries.
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped pistachios
- 4 mint sprigs for garnish
If you do not have thick Greek-style yogurt, start with 2 cups of regular yogurt; put the yogurt in a cheesecloth-lined colander over a bowl and drain for two hours in the refrigerator. The volume should have reduced to 1 cup, resulting in nice, thick yogurt. Refrigerate. Discard the liquid.
Combine 1/2 pint blueberries and 1/4 cup honey with the rum in a small saucepan and cook eight minutes over medium-low heat, to cook the berries. Puree with the lime juice. Strain to remove skin and seeds. Chill.
Mix the yogurt with 2 tablespoons honey and the lime zest. Whip the cream until it holds stiff peaks. Fold the cream into the yogurt. Chill.
Toss the berries with the sugar. Mix the berries with the mint.
Put a spoonful of the yogurt cream in each of 4 bowls. Drizzle with blueberry sauce, top with berries and sprinkle with pistachios.
Makes six servings
The temptation is no doubt great. You take your large knife, slice off the woody stems of a bunch of beets, and toss them, along with their leafy greens, into the trash. Before you do so, I strongly encourage you to reconsider.
When cooked properly, not only are they delicious, but they’re nutritious as well, “Beet greens are emerging as a nutritional powerhouse, rich in potassium, magnesium, iron, calcium, betacyanin (a potent antioxidant), leutin, thiamin, riboflavin, folate and vitamins , A, B6, C, E, and K. In fact, researchers discovered that beet greens are even more nutritious than the roots!”
Having purchased a couple of bunches of beets at the local farmer’s market, I thought I’d give the greens a try. After searching for, and finding, a number of recipes that seemed tasty and easy to prepare (and gluten-free), I settled on Sauteed Beet Greens with Garlic, Olive Oil and Persian Lime by Heidi on Melissas.com. I loved them, even the leftovers, which I proceeded to eat cold the next day.
If this particular recipe doesn’t appeal to you, I came across two others that might: Beet Greens from Simply Recipes (bacon, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, sugar, and cider vinegar) and Sauteed Beet Greens With Garlic and Olive Oil (garlic, olive oil, and red pepper flakes) from the Fitness and Nutrition section of The New York Times.
Try them. You just might like them.
A quick addendum – in case you’ve never previously cooked the beets themselves, here’s what I do and it works like a charm. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees ( a bit higher if your oven runs cool). Trim the beets (keeping the greens, of course!) and wash, skin on, under cold water. Place the beet roots in aluminum foil, making a tent. Drizzle with a quarter-cup of water, and then fold the foil over, creating seal. Place on a cookie sheet (or another piece of foil) to catch any juices and then into the oven for 60 minutes. You’ll smell the beets cooking. Test with a fork to see if they’re done – the fork should go in easily (larger beets will take longer to cook). If they’re done, re-fold the foil and let cool on top of the stove. Then open the foil and peel the beets – the skin should rub off. If it doesn’t a paring knife should do the trick. Slice the beets and serve with goat cheese, walnuts, olive oil, salt, and pepper, alone or on a bed of arugula or spinach.
Meatless Monday. The concept is simple – one day a week, don’t eat meat. The impact is profound.
This is a movement that is organized and gaining momentum. “Meatless Monday is a non-profit initiative of The Monday Campaigns, in association with the Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health. Our goal is to reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”
What is the impact of a reduction in the consumption of meat? From a health perspective, you reduce your risk of heart disease and maintain a healthier weight. As you substitute lentils, beans, peas, nuts, and seeds for meat, your diet becomes more well-rounded and provides an increase in the variety of vitamins and minerals you take in. From an environmental perspective, you “reduce your carbon footprint,” “minimize water usage,” and “help reduce fossil fuel dependence.” As individuals and as a society, these are meaningful changes.
Visit the web site. It contains a wealth of information – dozens of recipes, articles, tips, data, book and film suggestions – everything to help you make Monday (or any other day of the week) meatless.
Recently, Gwyneth Paltrow became a convert. She announced the launch of a Meat Free Monday movement in the U.K in her GOOP newsletter. Sir Paul McCartney, a vegetarian for over 30 years, penned the rationale. He cites a United Nations report issued in 2006, “which stated that the livestock industry as a whole was responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the whole of the transport sector put together.” He then details facts from the report, including the harmful effects of methane and nitrous oxide, two main gases produced by the livestock industry, and the amount of water and land the industry consumes. It is a compelling argument. On a lighter note, the newsletter includes a few recipes from famed London restaurant Mr. Chow and a list of vegetarian cookbooks.
One day a week: of oatmeal with berries, or a whole wheat pita stuffed with a scrambled egg and veggies for breakfast; lentil soup with a crusty roll and a piece of cheese, or pasta with marinara sauce and a green salad for lunch; and a hearty spinach salad with canned tuna and chickpeas, or vegetarian chili for dinner.
Feel better, look better, do better. What a difference a day makes.