Bittman by the Cooking Bug

That would be Mark Bittman, New York Times food columnist, blogger, and cookbook writer. He didn’t get me started cooking, but he and his How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (all 1,008 pages of it) have certainly helped keep me cooking. His recent writing has also started venturing more and more into the food opinion and politicky realm of my inspirational former colleague Tom Philpott. Take this excerpt from the Times:

…we don’t spend enough time discussing what happens to food once it’s in the home. Or what doesn’t happen. Which is cooking. And that part is pretty simple.

Not long ago, cooking was a common topic. Weekly food sections of newspapers were filled with it. Churches self-published cookbooks by the pile. There were even real cooking shows and cookbooks.

Now, if it weren’t for the vibrant but dwindling community of bloggers, we’d hardly see actual cooking discussed at all. There are but a fraction of the food pages there once were in newspapers, and most cookbooks are offshoots of TV “cooking” shows, almost all of which are game shows, reality television shows or shows about celebrities.

Like many professional urbanites with grown children, I often succumb to the temptation to work late and eat out with friends.

I agree, with the following edit: Like many professional urbanites with who act like grown children, I often succumb to the temptation to work late and eat out with friends.

cherry jam

My first, hopefully botulism-free, cans of cherry jam. Time of photo: Approximately 11:30pm.

This is probably one reason when I do cook, I so often end up eating at 9 or 10pm. I can blame my time in Spain, but really, I don’t pretend I’m not writing this blog post at midnight or that I started canning cherry jam for the first time at 9:30pm on a Monday. Or that my former roommate and I gave ourselves the befitting moniker “Midnight Gardeners.”

If you’re looking for a church-published cookbook, I recommend anything the Mennonites put out, particularly Simply in Season. Back to Bittman, though: recipes of his I’ve already used this week:

  • caramelized onions
  • pan-fried tofu
  • steamed sweet corn
  • fruit pancakes (I added the cherries and chocolate chips)
  • pizza dough

Basic while also being basically delicious (and affordable–and healthy!). I feel like I’ve progressed enough in my cooking skills that I can improvise a pretty tasty meal with a little inspiration and whatever fresh produce I have in my fridge or garden. Case in point: Tex-Mex Stew on Quinoa. A Mexican-Bolivian-esque dish with a name I made up just as quickly as the ingredient list:

Ingredients
olive oil
1 cup quinoa (a tasty, wholesome grain; complete protein; and producto de Bolivia)
1 medium-sized onion, chopped
1-2 cups summer squash, chopped
1 ear fresh sweet corn, cut from the cob
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes (or fresh tomatoes, if you live in a place other than slow-to-ripen Seattle)
1/2 of 1-15 oz. can black beans
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon fresh oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
Top with avocado and grated extra sharp cheddar cheese

Lightly toast the quinoa in a saucepan over medium heat until it smells nutty, fragrant, and something like popcorn. Then add a tablespoon or so of olive oil and 2 cups of water. Cover with a lid, bring to a boil, and then turn down the heat so the quinoa simmers and absorbs the water (about 20-25 minutes).

Meanwhile, sauté the onion in  olive oil until translucent and add the chopped squash to cook down. Next, add the can of tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, and oregano, and bring to a simmer. Once the squash is starting to cook through, add the sweet corn and black beans and simmer again until everything is cooked through and smells delicious. Season to taste with salt and pepper. I think adding a little cinnamon might be good too. Serve the stewed vegetables over quinoa and top with fresh avocado and extra sharp cheddar.

Look at me; I made (and ate) that up!

(Find more culinary creativity at the venerable and photoriffic food blogs: 101cookbooks.com and smittenkitchen.com.)

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