‘The Food Matters’: A look at sane eating with Mark Bittman

‘The Food Matters’: A look at sane eating with Mark Bittman

Those of us who love reading about food and recipes should find Mark Bittman’s new book, “The Food Matters Cookbook: 500 Revolutionary Recipes for Better Living,” (Simon & Schuster) a cookbook worth reading. It is a follow up to his 2009 publication, “Food Matters,” a look at sane eating not only for health but also for the preservation of the environment. His new cookbook gives you a rundown on “Food Matters” and then gives you the tools — recipes — to get you to think about and eat food differently.
Bittman, the New York Times columnist of “The Minimalist” in the weekly Dining section, has also authored other books on food and cooking, including one of my favorite’s, “How to Cook Everything.”
In a telephone interview with Bittman on Tuesday, I confessed to some serious stealing — or borrowing, from his simple approach to eating and cooking — for this column, but always give him credit. Appreciation of credit noted.
The success of cooking shows on television has raised America’s consciousness, Bittman said, but sometimes “you get the impression it’s [cooking] difficult.” But complicated recipes are at odds with what he stands for: eat less meat and animal products, less junk and eat more plants. Not only would we help with global survival, we would all improve our health.
In other words, reverse the typical order of American eating habits and consume 90 percent of your diet with plants and knock yourself out with the remaining 10 percent.
This recipe — in response to a request for a Shabbat dinner suggestion — is from Bittman’s new book.

The Chronicle Cooks with Mark Bittman

Eggplant Mash with Seared Lamb Chops
Makes: 4 servings
Time: About 45 minutes

1 1⁄2 pounds large or small eggplants, halved lengthwise
4 tablespoons olive oil, or more as needed
1 bunch scallions, chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 or 2 fresh hot chiles (like Thai or serrano), seeded and minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried
Black pepper
4 lamb rib or loin chops (about 12 ounces)
1⁄2 cup red wine or chicken stock
Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

1. Put the eggplants in a steamer above about 1 inch of salted water. Bring the water to a boil and cook the eggplants until very tender, anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes depending on their size. Let the eggplants cool until you can handle them.

2. Meanwhile, put 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the scallions, garlic, and chiles and cook, stirring occasionally, until they soften a bit, 3 to 5 minutes.

3. Cut the eggplant into pieces and put them in a large bowl with the scallion mixture. Add the oregano, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roughly mash the mixture, adding more oil if you like. Taste and adjust the seasoning. (The mashed eggplant can be made ahead to this point and refrigerated for up to day; gently reheat before proceeding.)

4. Wipe out the skillet, add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, and put it over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the lamb chops and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until they are well browned and release easily from the pan, 2 to 3 minutes; turn and cook the other side until they are done how you like them, just another 2 to 3 minutes for rare or medium-rare. Remove the lamb from the skillet. Add the red wine and stir to scrape up all of the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. When the wine gets syrupy, turn off the heat. Serve a lamb chop on a spoonful of the mashed eggplant with the pan juices drizzled over all. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Eggplant Mash with Grilled Lamb Chops and Zucchini. A whole meal. After making the eggplant mash, prepare a grill to medium-high heat and put the rack about 4 inches from the fire. Cut 2 zucchini lengthwise into slices. Brush the lamb and the zucchini with a little of the oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and grill, turning once, until the meat is done as you like it and the zucchini is tender and well browned, 2 to 5 minutes per side.

Want to see Mark Bittman?
Bittman will appear at the Habitat restaurant with Executive Chef Andrew Morrison, Tuesday, Sept. 28, at the Fairmont Pittsburgh hotel to prepare a tasting menu, inspired by his cookbook. Morrison and Bittner will also discuss ingredients, preparation and their philosophies for better living. For reservations, call Habitat at (412) 773-8848.

(Angela Leibowicz can be reached at angelal@thejewishchronicle.net.)