The Cooking Chronicles: More Vegetables with Mark Bittman

Though I know that one of the next cookbooks I’d like to conquer is Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything Vegetarian, given that I’m still working through Food Matters, it might be a while.

We tried a few more recipes from Food Matters this week, mostly unplanned. While I mostly shop at the farmers’ market having already mapped out our meal plan for the coming week, sometimes errant beauties find their way into my bag.

Vegetable Chips

A gorgeous bunch of golden jubilee beets from Sundog Organics was one such item, in spite of the fact that I am not the biggest fan of beets (probably because most of my childhood memories of beets are in the form of a concentrated soup my Mum used to make, one that caused my sisters and I to shudder).

I remembered a recipe for vegetable chips in Food Matters that employed beets (but could easily be adapted for other root vegetables). I thinly sliced the beets (I chose not to peel them), tossed them with some olive oil, and put them in the oven for ten minutes on each side, seasoning them with salt and pepper when I flipped the slices over.

Beet chips

Beet chips

The results were addictive. Though some of the larger slices could have used more time in the oven, most of the chips were crispy. Roasting also had the affect of somewhat neutralizing the beet flavour, which could be helpful in converting even the most ardent beet haters. These chips served us well as a mid-afternoon snack, but would be a healthy addition to any meal (especially in place of French fries!).

Vegetable Pancakes

Though incorporating zucchini into bison chili and cassoulet cut into our zucchini inventory this week, nearly half of the large beast we picked up from Kuhlmann’s on Saturday (for $1! The frugal side of me rejoiced) still remained.

Bittman’s recipe for vegetable pancakes seemed a good way to use up the rest of our zucchini. Grated vegetables squeezed of their water are combined with flour, an egg, herbs and seasonings to form the batter, then pan-fried in butter or oil. Bittman suggests serving them over lightly dressed greens, which we did (mixed heritage greens from Greens, Eggs and Ham, and a vinaigrette featuring Lola Canola honey), for a light supper.

Vegetable Pancakes

Zucchini pancakes and salad greens

Though our final products were edible (and fragrant, with the addition of fresh dill), they were unpleasant to eat, due to two errors we will not make again: 1) we didn’t take the time to adequately press all of the water out from the zucchini, meaning our pancakes did not crisp up as intended; and 2) we did not flatten the pancakes to the point where the thickness would allow them to cook through entirely (oh yes, there were bits of flour and soggy zucchini throughout our pancakes).

Lessons learned. But we will be making them again (correctly next time, we hope)!

The Cooking Chronicles: Chickpea Patties with Salad

I’m just about finished with Mark Bittman’s Food Matters, and I have to say, I’ve never been more inspired to cook with lentils and beans. Food Matters implores readers to reduce their overall meat intake, citing health benefits, the unacceptable conditions of industrial meat production, and the impossibility of the world to support the growing demand for meat. I respect Bittman’s philosophy primarily because he does not call for a radical shift – instead, he advocates for a gradual change, and a diet that can accommodate meat and other guilty pleasures – just in smaller and occasional quantities. It is an approachable method that doesn’t seek to alienate the public (or worse, be easily dismissed as “elitist”), and of course, it helps that the book contains both practical advice and actual recipes to follow.

I didn’t think I would be attracted to recipes without any photos, but I immediately bookmarked a handful of them, primarily the ones featuring chickpeas, which are my current ingredient-of-the-moment. Bittman’s recipes are also great because he lists dozens of substitutions – that knowledge is often assumed in cookbooks, and I appreciate that he spells it out for readers who need it like me.

I had printed off a recipe from Real Simple a few months ago, and didn’t get to it until this week. It coincidentally features, – you guessed it – chickpeas!

The chickpea patties were to be pureed in a food processor with garlic and seasonings, but as we are without a blender or a processor, we used Mack’s Magic Bullet instead. It worked all right, though for the consistency we were looking for, it was uneven (some too mushy, others left whole). We also ended up incorporating the additives by hand in a bowl, which seemed to work out fine. Our difficulty with the recipe, however, was actually forming the patties – they were on the dry side, and the flour dusting didn’t help. We imagined the patties would cook up crispy on the outside, pan-fried in olive oil, but the reality was that they were simply browned, and warmed through.

Chickpea patties with salad

Served with a fresh salad dressed in just olive oil and lemon, it was a light but filling supper. We are open to suggestions on how to improve the recipe though! Best of all, our supper also meant we were allowed to indulge in chocolate covered bacon without guilt, heh.