The Colours of Summerby Michael, posted July 14, 2013
At Christmas, we received a copy of Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything Vegetarian. Just reading the opening pages, I could tell that I really liked Bittman’s philosophy about vegetarian cooking and meal construction. Although a heavy tome, Bittman’s approach is very empowering and accessible—to me, it’s in many ways the opposite of a book like Moosewood, which I find overwhelming.
I’ve probably only made a handful of the actual recipes from Bittman, but I feel that it’s impacted a lot how I make and think about our meals, especially the following points:
- Abandon the notion of an “entree” and “sides”. Trying to come up with a vegetarian entree has one reaching for substitute meals, like vegetarian chili, vegetarian lasagne, etc. There are some great veggie entrees out there like quiche, but instead of thinking this way, imagine a veggie meal as several items presented on equal footing. This way, your bean salad can simply complement the other items at the table, rather than needing to be main dish.
- It’s okay to serve some or even most of a meal out of the fridge. Some of these meal components can be more time consuming to make, so make lots, chuck it in the fridge (or even freezer), and serve it several times.
- Vegetarianism is not an all-or-nothing deal. Bittman himself is “vegetarian before 6pm”, and whether your concern about animal products is health, ethical issues, sustainability, or a combination, even a partial reduction makes a difference.
For last little while, I’ve been using weekend meals as an opportunity to put some of these ideas into practice. We’ve had tubs of hummus and mayonnaise in the fridge, Tara’s made garlic-scape pesto, and I’ve served home-baked rolls, salads out of the garden, pesto pasta dishes, and a variety of market veggies (especially beets, in various configurations). The picture up there was this evening’s dinner on the barbecue, including locally-made sweet chili sausages from the market, zucchini, and a small stir-fry with peas from the garden. This was served with rice from the stovetop.
In garden news, we’ve had lots of peas, and some of the tomato plants are now taller than their 4′ stakes. The lettuce and spinach is pretty much done, and I’ll be sad to see it go: I’ve eaten a ton of the lettuce on my sandwiches at work. It’s so convenient to be able to just grab and wash a few leaves in the morning, with stressing about not eating up a whole head of it fast enough.
Anyhow, I’m excited for these to ripen:
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