Saturday, February 6, 2010

Mark Bittman loves Vegetables

I really liked Mark Bittman’s simple yet interesting approach to cooking.  His How to Cook Everything Vegetarian has become one of my favorite cookbooks, because it captures in fundamental and also detailed ways the fact that vegetables, along with other healthy ingredients, provide essentially limitless possibilities for delicious eating.

I was especially glad to see another book he came out with last year - Food Matters: a Guide to Conscious Eating.  This book wrestles with food in the larger contexts of health, the health of the planet, and ethical living in general. Quite ambitious, but right on the mark.

I’ve included here a clip of a talk he gave at a TED conference a year or so ago, entitled "What's Wrong with What We Eat". If you're not familiar with TED, it's a platform where innovative people speak on a wide variety of important issues. The speeches are free on the web.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

An Earthy, Delicious Pasta Sauce

This ruby colored sauce is a lot more than it may appear. It has a rich peppery flavor, with lots of lycopene and vitamins, and a good amount of protein.

Red Pepper-Lentil Pasta Sauce

2 red bell peppers, chopped well
2 large cans of diced tomatoes, in tomato puree
2/3 cup dried red lentils, ground (it's easy - use a coffee grinder)
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp chile flakes
2-3 T of brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste
2 T olive oil

In a large, fairly deep saucepan, saute the the chopped red peppers in 3 Tablespoons of olive oil on medium high heat for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the ground lentils to the pan and stir often for about 2 minutes, making sure nothing sticks to the pan.

Add the canned tomatoes to the pot along with the minced garlic, chile flakes and brown sugar. Stir everything together well, then cover and simmer the sauce for about 15 minutes on medium-low heat. Check the sauce often, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot, and add a bit of water if it starts to get a bit too thick.

Serve this wonderful sauce over pasta or polenta. It makes great leftovers, and can also be turned into a delightful soup, if you feel like going in that direction.

Great Vegetarian Meals Made Easy

As I’m sure you know, vegetables are really good for you. As time goes by, the studies on them are more and more conclusive. But while there are dazzling displays of vegetables in farmers’ markets and supermarkets these days, it’s still not always so easy to get them into meals.

Time and inspiration are often hard to come by at the end of a long day, and you may also be facing vegetable skeptics at the table. At lunchtime, fast food beckons, - and at the moment may seem more appetizing than the raw carrots and dip you packed in your lunchbox.

I decided to figure out a way around this a few years back, and started creating all kinds of delicious and interesting yet simple, nutritionally complete main dishes that centered around vegetables. I was determined to do this using only a few other ingredients besides the vegetable itself, to make shopping and pantry stocking easy and affordable.

And I wanted these meals to be flexible enough to serve for dinner, pack in a lunchbox or grab for breakfast before running out the door in the morning.

So began my culinary adventures, and they continue to this day. I've seen so many benefits, including the fact that I've kept off the 7 pounds that disappeared when I started cooking and eating this way.   I hope my ideas will inspire you to include more vegetables in your own meals.