Posted by: ThePseudotarian | November 24, 2010

Mark Bittman’s 101 Head Starts on the Day

Mark Bittman is one of my favorite cookbook authors and voices in current cooking and health conversations. You may know him, since he DID write this book called How to Cook Everything. Yep – that guy! Plus, I love the fact that he advocates for reducing our meat consumption for health. That’s not to say he wants everyone to go veg, but he constructs a sound argument that we do not need meat at every single freaking meal. Anyway, I think it’s a valid argument and I respect what he does.

I own How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, and it’s one of those resources I turn to over, and over again.

And now that it’s Thanksgiving, Mark Bittman once again comes through! As he did last year.

The Minimalist – 101 Head Starts on the Day

This is a great resource, for holidays and even beyond. The following recipes below (taken from his list) are my favorites and the ones I find most intriguing. Also, they’re vegetarian! The numbers correspond to the original list, to make it easier for you to find  =)

Relishes, Chutneys and Jams

5. Apple Chutney: Cook big chunks of peeled, cored apple with a little apple cider, Dijon or whole-grain mustard and chopped sage until the chutney thickens. Don’t cook it until it becomes apple sauce unless you want to.

6. Cranberry-Corn Sauce: Cook a bag of fresh cranberries with about a cup of corn kernels, some chopped scallions, 1/4 cup brown sugar (or to taste) and a splash of water, just until thick.

7. Cranberry-Orange Sauce: Cook a bag of fresh cranberries with orange and lemon zest, cut up (peeled) orange segments, 1/4 cup sugar (or to taste) and a bit of minced jalapeño or chipotle.

12. Garlic-Rosemary Figs: Soak dried figs, stems removed, in warm water until plump; drain and halve. Heat rosemary and lightly smashed (and peeled) garlic with olive oil on medium-low heat, until softened. Add figs, along with some fresh orange juice. Cook until saucy.

Soups

14. Steam or poach 2 cups of pumpkin cubes until tender. Meanwhile, sauté 1 cup sliced shiitake mushroom caps in vegetable oil with a few drops of sesame oil. Boil 4 cups water and whisk some of it with 1/3 to 1/2 cup of miso. Stir miso mixture, pumpkin and mushrooms into water and heat everything through, then serve, drizzled with more sesame oil.

17. Sauté chopped onion in butter, then chunks of sweet potato and stock or water to cover. Simmer until the sweet potatoes can be pierced with a knife, then add chopped kale and cook until wilted.

19. Sauté chopped onions, garlic, celery and carrots in olive oil, then add chopped tomatoes (boxed are fine) with their juice, lentils and stock or water to cover. When everything is soft, add a squeeze of lemon juice or a splash of red wine vinegar. Garnish with parsley. (M’s note: Remind you of anything?)

23. Sauté leeks in butter until soft but not browned, then add cubed waxy potatoes, a little sage and stock or water to cover. Simmer until tender, purée and finish with about a cup of cream for each 6 cups of soup. Serve hot or cold, garnished with chives (if cold, call it vichyssoise).

Stuffings and Grains

25. Dice fennel bulb and onions and sauté in butter or olive oil (or both) until softened. Add dried cranberries, with a hit of not-too-dry white wine or water. Stir in cooked rice, along with more butter or oil if necessary. Bake in an oiled dish or use as stuffing.

26. Chop corn bread into cubes. Sauté cherry tomatoes, scallions and corn kernels in butter or oil. Deglaze the pan with beer, then empty the pan over the corn bread. Bake in an oiled dish or use as stuffing.

27. Cranberry Polenta Cakes: Make polenta with half milk, half water; stir in chopped fresh or dried cranberries. When thick, pour onto a sheet tray and let cool. Cut into squares and sauté or broil until slightly crisp. Drizzle with honey. (M’s note: Matt and I are making this for our families!)

28. Toss cooked Israeli couscous with toasted pecans, orange zest and juice, chopped mint, cider vinegar and honey. Bake in an oiled dish or use as stuffing.

29. Toss cooked black rice with grated sweet potatoes (raw or sautéed in butter or oil), chopped dried apricots and a vinaigrette with honey and grated ginger.

Vegetable Side Dishes

38. Trim cremini or portobello mushrooms and chop stems. Sauté stems in butter or olive oil with chopped prosciutto, onions, chopped fresh herbs (rosemary, sage, parsley, etc.) and coarse fresh bread crumbs. Stuff spoonfuls of the mixture into mushroom caps; roast until tender.

40. Peel and trim pearl onions and toss them with a mixture of minced ginger, garlic, chilies and peanut oil. (A little sesame oil is good, too.) Roast until nicely caramelized, then drizzle with soy sauce.

41. Toss chunks of sweet potato and 2-inch lengths of scallion with neutral or peanut oil. (Again, a little sesame oil helps.) Roast, turning as necessary, until nicely caramelized; drizzle with soy.

45. Render some chopped bacon in a bit of oil, then add apple chunks; cook until nearly soft. Meanwhile, bake halved and seeded acorn, butternut or delicata squash until they start to soften. Fill squash with apple mixture and finish baking. (M’s note: Leave off the bacon and use smoked paprika to add the smokey flavor you need, and butter instead of animal fat. I like the idea of this recipe so much I had to include it!)

56. Cook lentils, thyme sprigs and chopped carrots in a pot with water to cover until tender; drain and remove thyme. Cook chopped onions in oil until soft; add chopped kale and allow to wilt. Add lentils, stir to combine and cook until kale is tender. Add chopped parsley.

Salads

67. Sprinkle shelled pumpkin or squash seeds with a little chili powder; roast, shaking occasionally, until lightly browned. Combine with grated sweet potatoes (raw or lightly sautéed in butter or oil), raisins and a vinaigrette made with red wine vinegar, olive oil, Dijon mustard, a touch of honey and maybe a little more chili powder.

70. Blanch, shock in cold water, then julienne green beans, daikon and carrots; chill. Whisk soy sauce with honey and lemon to taste; pour over vegetables.

73. Roast beets until tender, then peel and cut into chunks. Toss with olive oil, sherry vinegar, toasted chopped hazelnuts and crumbled blue cheese.

74. Trim and chop kale; salt and squeeze and knead until wilted and reduced in volume, about 5 minutes. Rinse, dry and toss with olive oil, lemon juice, chopped dried apples and toasted pine nuts.

80. Trim and coarsely chop chard (rainbow makes for a gorgeous salad) and combine with white beans and chopped scallions. Dressing is minced ginger, a suspicion of garlic, olive oil and cider vinegar.

Desserts

90. Baked Apples: Combine chopped pecans and chopped dried fruit (raisins, dates, figs, cranberries all work) and toss with maple syrup and a sprinkle of cinnamon, allspice or nutmeg or all three. Fill the cavities of cored apples with the fruits and nuts, dot each with butter, put into a baking dish and roast about 30 minutes, until tender. Better with vanilla ice cream.

91. Pears in Red Wine: Simmer 2 cups red wine with 1/2 cup sugar, 2 cloves, a cinnamon stick and a few slices of ginger in a pot for a few minutes, then gently poach peeled and cored pears (use a spoon to hollow them from bottom), until soft. Cool or chill, and serve with a bit of the poaching liquid.

92. Cranberry Truffles: Heat 1/2 cup simple syrup and 1/2 cup bourbon or water; add 2 cups dried cranberries and steep until soft, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain, reserving the liquid. Pulse the fruit in a food processor, adding just enough liquid so the mixture comes together. Roll spoonfuls of the cranberry filling into balls, then roll them in cocoa, mixed with pulverized nuts if you like.

I love these recipe ideas! Some may take a while, depending on simmering, baking, roasting etc, but they’re simple, elegant and the ones I’ve tried are absolutely delicious. I’ll let you know how to polenta goes, and stand by for tonight’s big cooking experiment: Grain Salad with Lemon and Asparagus …

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