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The Food Matters Cookbook: 500 Revolutionary Recipes for Better Living Hardcover – September 21, 2010
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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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Top Customer Reviews
Before others jump in with one star reviews (oops, too late). There are no pictures in this book (there are plenty of other cookbooks with pictures and probably some you can color in) and out of close to 600 pages I am sure there is the odd typo, although I have made several recipes and have yet to find one. This is a very good book of recipes, tutorials and some really interesting side dicsussions.
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. Also, the pages properly lay open, even in the front and back of the book, without the need to hold the thing open (which would be cumbersome while cooking - I only mention it because some books are very good at closing themselves).
The recipes were clear and easy enough to follow as I've come to expect of Bittman. So far the taste has been great although I can't speak for the whole book as I haven't been through all of it!
1. No calorie counts. I know, he isn't about calorie counts and it'd have taken a lot of time and money to do that for each of 500 dishes, but I still hoped it would be there. Not a deal breaker.
2. There is no single list of the recipes in the book or each section. Many other cookbooks I own have a list of recipes in the front of the book or each section and this one doesn't which is a little annoying for meal planning purposes. There *are*, however, 3 lists in the back of the book for 'Fast Recipes', 'Make-Ahead Recipes', and 'Recipes for Pantry Staples'. So at least I have those.
I'll continue to cook my way through this and let you know what I find in an update, but right now I'm thrilled with my purchase and would recommend this book to anyone.
UPDATE: I'm adding a couple photos of things I've made so far. Just snaps from my kitchen, so don't expect studio quality ;)
UPDATE 2: Within a week or two I'll probably add more details about other recipes I've tried. It's still going great, but I wanted to add a comparison for reference. Yesterday I was making a recipe from a recent weight watchers cookbook. In the past, I've found their recipes to be light and tasty, though sometimes a little weird. However, after spending a while eating this plant-heavy food, I was honestly a bit sickened when cooking one of the weight watchers cookbook's chicken recipes. It's funny, but I just felt like it had way too much meat, sugar and fat. I guess it's a good thing, but now I'm a little concerned I won't enjoy a juicy steak dinner ;)
This is a lifestyle change book that for once isn't super preachy. And most importantly, all of the recipes that I've made so far have been delicious and easy to tweak given personal preferences. I highly recommend this book to anyone who's looking to improve your overall diet and health by making every day changes and without going to any (ultimately unsustainable) extremes.