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The Food Matters Cookbook: 500 Revolutionary Recipes for Better Living Hardcover – September 21, 2010

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Editorial Reviews Review

Mark Bittman’s Creamy Navy Bean and Squash Gratin with Bits of Sausage from The Food Matters Cookbook

I cook for the holidays the traditional way, though my definition of "traditional" might not be the same as yours. For me, "traditional" means going to the market, picking out what looks good and fresh, and ignoring the rest. It means starting with fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and beans and using meat as a seasoning or garnish, the way our ancestors did. It means looking to other people's culinary heritages for ingredients and seasonings—things like real Parmesan cheese, smoked Spanish paprika, or Thai fish sauce—that make the dishes I grew up with more interesting and exciting.

My holiday cooking isn’t rigid or static, nor is it innovative for the sake of being innovative. What it is is good for my health, good for the planet, and, most importantly, delicious. --Mark Bittman

Makes 4 servings
Time: 1 1/2 hours with cooked or canned beans, largely unattended


4 ounces Italian sausage, casings removed, optional
1/4 cup half-and-half or cream
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary, or 1 teaspoon dried
3 cups cooked or canned navy beans, drained, liquid reserved
Salt and black pepper
1 small butternut squash, peeled and seeded
1/2 cup vegetable stock or water, or more as needed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, optional


Heat the oven to 325°F. If you’re using the sausage, put a small skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the sausage and cook, stirring to break it into small pieces, for 5 to 10 minutes; don’t brown it too much. (If you’re not using the sausage, skip to Step 2.)

Combine the half-and-half, rosemary, and beans in a 2-quart baking dish; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Tuck the crumbled sausage (if you’re using it) into the beans.

Cut the butternut squash halves into thin slices. Spread the slices out on top of the beans, overlapping a bit; press down gently. Pour the stock over the top, drizzle with the oil, and sprinkle with more salt and pepper.

Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the top is browned and glazed, another 45 minutes or so. Add a little more stock if the mixture seems too dry. And sprinkle the top with the Parmesan if you’re using it for the last 10 minutes of cooking. Serve immediately or at room temperature.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Bittman, New York Times columnist and bestselling author (How to Cook Everything) provides a rational approach to eating that not only improves health but also helps the environment. Extolling the benefits of a plant-heavy diet, Bittman offers more than 500 healthful recipes that feature unprocessed fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grains and reduce all types of meat to backup players. In addition, he shares five basic principles for sane eating that are easy to implement and understand as well as an unusually helpful pantry section and handy charts for substituting produce and seafood by season. Recipes focus on flavor, such as lemony zucchini risotto, which uses brown rice, and curried chickpeas and cauliflower with chicken. His chapter on beans offers a particularly varied selection, like a lentil stir-fry with mushrooms and caramelized onions, white beans and shrimp burgers, and beer-glazed black beans with chorizo and orange. Bittman also provides a resourceful index of dishes that can be made quickly as well as meals that can be made ahead of time. Practical and balanced, this collection will shape the way we cook at home for years to come.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (September 21, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439120234
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439120231
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 1.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,991 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mark Bittman is one of the country's best-known, most widely respected food writers. His How to Cook Everything books, with one million copies in print, are a mainstay of the modern kitchen. Bittman writes for the Opinion section of the New York Times on food policy and cooking and is a columnist for the New York Times magazine. He is regularly featured on the Today Show in How To Cook Everything Today cooking segments. For 13 years he wrote "The Minimalist" column and now a "Minimalist" cooking show is featured on the Cooking Channel. The How to Cook Everything series is highly respected: the first edition of the flagship book How to Cook Everything won both the IACP and James Beard Awards, and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian won the 2008 IACP award. He is also the author of Food Matters, Food Matters Cookbook, Fish, and Leafy Greens.

Customer Reviews

All of the recipes I've made so far turned out delicious.
A. Scolar
Love this cookbook and really like how you can alter the recipes depending on the ingredients you have on hand.
Rochelle Phelps
The author writes nicely too - recipes are easy to understand.
Angela Lynn

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

279 of 284 people found the following review helpful By b on September 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
One day with the book, and I've made 3 recipes already and shopped for groceries to make several more. It's very encouraging and the 3 dishes I've made have blown me (and my picky housemates) away.

Breakfast: I tried the Anadama Waffles (p. 283). The flavor came out very hearty, wheat-y and otherwise ok. The texture was good and the flavor made a great base for what you typically put on a waffle. So I was happy and I'd make them again, although I might try another recipe before coming back.

Dinner: Corn and Sweet Potato Chowder with Chipotle. Amazing. I don't like veggie soup and I don't like corn chowder. My housemates don't like sweet potato or overly spicy foods in their respective peculiarities. However, we all love this dish so much that we had a little politeness war over who would have priority on the leftovers :) It's sweet and spicy and I'd make it again. This all coming from a household that loves pork pozolle!

Desert: I cheated a little. In his other book (the one with narrative and recipes), there's a nice recipe for fruit sorbet. I used chocolate and black cherry as the base and it turned out fantastic.

About the book in general:

I'm excited about the recipes I see and encouraged because I know they were built for healthy and responsible living. We'll just have to wait and see if we all magically lose weight.

The layout of the book is visually what you would expect. Information for prep time and yield is available and interesting descriptions appear above each recipe to tell you the background or whet your appetite and set your expectations.

The pages are white which makes the text much brighter than his big-red-book.
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120 of 122 people found the following review helpful By Kyle on October 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I am thoroughly enjoying this book. This is not a "health-food" cookbook. It simply looks at food through a slightly different lens, such that the emphasis is placed on fruits and vegetables, not meats and dairy. There is still plenty of meat and dairy for those of us who find meat and dairy quite satisfying.

We've been moving toward this kind of diet for some time now. I've lost 25 pounds over the last year by eating this way and by exercising. My blood pressure is at a record low, and my doctor is thrilled with the changes. However, while I'm a pretty decent home cook, I am not the most imaginative cook in the world; this book has given me plenty of fresh ideas.

We have tried enough recipes with success that I feel comfortable recommending this book to others. It's simple food, and my always-skeptical sweetheart has been cleaning his plate. It doesn't matter how healthy it is if they won't eat it.

I think this is a strong addition to any cookbook collection.

Edited 12/25/10: I just wanted to add that I've been using this cookbook for over two months now, and I still find it immensely useful and use it regularly. We've considered tweaking a recipe here or there, which is normal for us. Even though we had already been moving toward this kind of diet, we've made even bigger strides over the last two months. It was a bit of a surprise when we went grocery shopping for Christmas dinner and ended up with cart almost exclusively full of vegetables with half a turkey breast and nearly no simple carbs or processed foods. It's becoming more and more natural for us to eat this way, even on special occasions.
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69 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Steven A. Peterson TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Another in Mark Bittman's corpus of work. I have always enjoyed his cookbooks, and I have incorporated a number of his recipes into my cooking "cycle." This book focuses on healthier dishes. Early on, he notes (Page ix): "If you swap the basic proportions in your diet--increasing unprocessed fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grains--you'll wind up losing your weight and improving your overall health. . . ."

One thing that he aims to do in this cookbook is to reduce the percentage of calories coming from animal based food or highly processed food. The recipes come in several categories here: appetizers and snacks, soups, salads and dressings, pasta (and noodles and dumplings), rice and grains, beans, vegetables, bread (and pizza and sandwiches and wraps), and desserts and sweet snacks.

While Bittman's recipes cut the amount of meat, he does not present us with a vegetarian/Vegan cookbook. There is a provision of meat or seafood or poultry in a number of the recipes.

Some illustrative recipes: Cucumber-wasabi tea sandwiches; Olives, cucumbers, and tuna, Mediterranean style; Mini potato-parmesan rostis; Provencal soup (a play on ratatouille); Mushroom stew with beef chunks; Smashed potato salad with escarole; Thai beef salad; Pasta with asparagus, bacon, and egg (Odd, but yummy!); Black bean chili mac; Vegetable and shrimp fried rice; Chickpea tagine with chicken and bulgur; Scrambled tomatoes and herbs (easy and tasty); Grilled turkey hash with red wine glaze; Grilled tomato sandwich, with or without cheese.

All in all, an interesting cookbook if you wish to improve the quality of your diet. Recipes are doable. Some seem to me to be fairly bland. But it is a tradeoff--health versus our acquired taste for highly processed food and too much meat.
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