The idea of The Food Matters Cookbook is simple: eat fewer animal products and processed foods; eat more whole grains, nuts, legumes, fruits and vegetables. There are lots of reasons you might want to eat this way, and Bittman mentions a few in his introduction (health, ethics, environment), but this really is a cookbook, not a polemic. I checked it out from the library in December and have been renewing it since—either no one else wants it, or there are enough copies that no one’s got holds on it—but I hadn’t actually looked at it much, and it was starting to make me feel a little guilty. So on Friday night after dinner I sat down with a glass of pinot noir and this book and started exploring.

I wasn’t thrilled by a big chunk of the “Appetizers and Snacks” section: I want to cook meals, not finger food. But some of the recipes are pretty exciting. It’s not green bean season where I live, but if it were, I’d totally be making the Spicy-Sweet Green Beans with an almond/garlic/dried chile/olive oil paste, honey, and soy sauce. Having a nut + dried fruit mix on hand for snacking seems like a good idea, and I love the sound of Chile-Cherry Gorp (peanuts, dried cherries, chili powder, cayenne) and Coconut-Curry Gorp (pistachios, golden raisins, unsweetened coconut, and curry powder). And roasted cooked chickpeas topped with five spice powder sounds like a perfect side dish to have on hand for adding to packed lunches—my poor lunchbox has been neglected since early December because I’ve been buying lunch out or else just bringing soup + fruit, rather than four different delightful things. Chipotle-glazed squash skewers sound too fussy for me, but I could just make the squash and the glaze, no skewers, right? And baked mushroom-sesame rice balls sound great. Conclusion: maybe I like the idea of some finger food, when it’s reasonably simple and seems like the kind of thing that would be just as good as leftovers as when just-made.

Next up: soups. Back in December, I made a butternut squash + bacon + apple + sage chowder from this book, and it was delicious, with roasted onions making a rich brown broth, like French onion soup. Other soups from this book that caught my eye: Curried Tomato Soup (with coconut milk)! Vegetable-Lentil Soup with Fragrant Broth (which Bittman describes as being based around “onion and garlic, cooked until they nearly melt together”)! Black Bean and Rice Soup with Carrot Relish! Creamy Carrot and Chickpea Soup (which includes orange juice and chopped almonds)! Please pardon all the exclamation points—as I’ve mentioned, soup is one of my favorite things to make.

Today (Sunday), I actually started cooking some of these things. First up was the roasted butternut squash, which is quite satisfying to prepare: after putting your cubed squash on a cookie sheet greased with olive oil, you make the chipotle glaze. This involves fishing some chipotle peppers out of a can and chopping them, then mixing them with a mortar and pestle with some of the adobo sauce from the can, more olive oil, honey, and salt and black pepper. (This is the really fun part, because the mixture is liquid enough that it’s quick to mix together, and watching everything combine is exciting.) You then put this on the squash, put it in the oven, and roast it for an hour-ish, during which time your kitchen is filled with the heavenly smoky-sweet smell of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. Mmm. Next, since I already had the oven on, I figured I’d make the roasted chickpeas. If you’re using canned chickpeas—which I did—then this couldn’t be any easier: you rinse your chickpeas, drain them, combine them in an oven-proof skillet with some olive oil, and roast for 15 minutes, then toss them with a tablespoon of one of a number of spices Bittman suggests (I used five spice powder).

Later, after a walk through the park/to the library/to get a cortado, I made soup for dinner: the Curried Tomato Soup, to be precise. It’s got a carrot and some potatoes in it, and garlic and ginger and jalapeño, and coconut milk, tomatoes-from-a-carton, and cauliflower, and you garnish your bowl with hard-boiled egg, and it’s quite delicious and satisfyingly full of vegetables. The last recipe of the day was Crisp Marinated Brussels Sprouts, except there were no Brussels sprouts at the farmers market yesterday, so I used broccoli instead, which Bittman suggests. Again, easy: boil some broccoli, drain it, shock it in ice water, drain it again, then toss it in a vinaigrette made of olive oil, red wine vinegar, and Dijon mustard, with some chopped red onion. Bittman instructs you to taste the vinaigrette as you go, adding more vinegar to taste; I did, and added significantly more mustard, too.

Now I’ve got a bunch of food in the fridge for lunches this week, and I’m feeling quite pleased, both with myself and with this cookbook. Bittman’s instructions are always straightforward, and I like that he gives plenty of variations (for sauces/dressings with different flavor profiles) and substitutions (so if a given vegetable isn’t available, you have a sense of what might work instead).

Leave a Reply

Subscribe without commenting