From the award-winning champion of conscious eating and author of the bestselling Food Matters comes The Food Matters Cookbook, offering the most comprehensive and straightforward ideas yet for cooking easy, delicious foods that are as good for you as they are for the planet.
The Food Matters Cookbook is the essential encyclopedia and guidebook to responsible eating, with more than 500 recipes that capture Bittman’s typically relaxed approach to everything in the kitchen. There is no finger-wagging here, just a no-nonsense and highly flexible case for eating more plants while cutting back on animal products, processed food, and of course junk. But for Bittman, flipping the ratio of your diet to something more virtuous and better for your body doesn’t involve avoiding any foods—indeed, there is no sacrifice here.
Since his own health prompted him to change his diet, Bittman has perfected cooking tasty, creative, and forward-thinking dishes based on vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Meat and other animal products are often included—but no longer as the centerpiece. In fact the majority of these recipes include fish, poultry, meat, eggs, or dairy, using them for their flavor, texture, and satisfying nature without depending on them for bulk. Roasted Pork Shoulder with Potatoes, Apples, and Onions and Linguine with Cherry Tomatoes and Clams are perfect examples. Many sound downright decadent: Pasta with Asparagus, Bacon, and Egg; Stuffed Pizza with Broccoli, White Beans, and Sausage; or Roasted Butternut Chowder with Apples and Bacon, for example.
There are vegetarian recipes, too, and they have flair without being complicated—recipes like Beet Tartare, Lentil “Caviar” with All the Trimmings, Radish-Walnut Tea Sandwiches, and Succotash Salad. Bittman is a firm believer in snacking, but in the right way. Instead of packaged cookies or greasy chips, Bittman suggests Seasoned Popcorn with Grated Parmesan or Fruit and Cereal Bites. Nor does he skimp on desserts; rather, he focuses on fruit, good-quality chocolate, nuts, and whole-grain flours, using minimal amounts of eggs, butter, and other fats. That allows for a whole chapter devoted to sweets, including Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies, Apricot Polenta Cake, Brownie Cake, and Coconut Tart with Chocolate Smear.
True to the fuss-free style that has made him famous, Bittman offers plenty of variations and substitutions that let you take advantage of foods that are in season—or those that just happen to be in the fridge. A quick-but-complete rundown on ingredients tells you how to find sustainable and flavorful meat and shop for dairy products, grains, and vegetables without wasting money on fancy organic labels. He indicates which recipes you can make ahead, those that are sure to become pantry staples, and which ones can be put together in a flash. And because Bittman is always comprehensive, he makes sure to include the building-block recipes for the basics of home cooking: from fast stocks, roasted garlic, pizza dough, and granola to pots of cooked rice and beans and whole-grain quick breads.
With a tone that is easygoing and non-doctrinaire, Bittman demonstrates the satisfaction and pleasure in mindful eating. The result is not just better health for you, but for the world we all share.
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.