Friday, January 7, 2011

Three Basic Recipes for Everyone

You've heard me rave about Mark Bittman before. I make no bones about the fact that I love him, his food philosophy, and his very simple "anyone can do it and everyone should" approach to cooking.

Well here's another example of why. He recently wrote an article about how few people in the U.S. actually cook, or even know how, and how that is a national problem that needs fixing. If we want healthier Americans, lower healthcare costs, healthier food systems, and a healthier planet overall, we're going to need to teach each other to cook.

He acknowledges the truth that most of us, these days, are not being taught how to cook or even about food by our parents. That idea of passing down recipes and cooking lessons from generation to generation has mostly gone the way of the Dodo bird. Maybe some of us are lucky to get one or two recipes from our parents, but that's about it. It's not like we grow up knowing how to instinctively put together a menu or shop for the right ingredients or throw an impromptu dinner together at the last minute.

So Mark is making an attempt to right that wrong, but giving us three very basic recipes that we all ought to know how to make -- WITHOUT a cookbook. And I agree with him: that once you have a few recipes (be they these or others) that you can confidently cook consistently on your own, you're well on your way to being a home cook. You can extrapolate and make your own recipes and dishes by riffing off what you already know. You will no longer need to order takeout or make a run for the nearest fast-food "restaurant."

As he puts it:

Make these three things and you’re a cook. And with luck and perseverance, these foods will crowd out things like (to single out one egregious example from hundreds of its competitors) KFC’s Chicken Pot Pie, which costs about $5 (so much for the myth of cheap fast food; a terrific meal for four can be put together for $10); contains nearly 700 calories, more than half of which come from fat; and has well over 50 ingredients — most of which cannot be purchased by normal consumers anywhere — including things like “chicken pot pie flavor” and MSG.

By becoming a cook, you can leave processed foods behind, creating more healthful, less expensive and better-tasting food that requires less energy, water and land per calorie and reduces our carbon footprint. Not a bad result for us — or the planet

So without further ado, here are Bittman's Three:

1. Simple Stir-Fry (and really, the variations on this are truly ENDLESS)

2. Lentils and Rice (or very easily beans and rice; my Black Beans & Rice is ridiculously simple)

3. Chopped Salad (check out Robin's School Garden Salad for the most divine dressing ever)

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