That's what seems to be in the air - restlessness. Maybe it means we're all ready for spring. Maybe it's a rut. I'm not sure what else to say about that.

So I'll talk about food for a bit. Even though it's not Friday.

There have been some great food posts lately - ok, there are always great food posts. But they've got me thinking more about lifestyle changes, which are a good thing.

After reading an awesome endorsement of Mark Bittman's new cookbook over on HowChow, I ordered it. I have Bittman's How To Cook Everything, and I've found it to be an essential resource. Unlike many books in my collection, HTCE is rather battle-worn. The hazard of being in the kitchen while I'm at work, flinging ingredients across the cutting board and occasionally setting things on fire (you would think having a Fire Marshal around would help with this, but not really).

(You're welcome.)

We cracked open Food Matters the other night, and it's gotten some wear already, although I'm trying to keep it nice. Oh well.

Over the weekend we made a stop at Harris Teeter, which had wild caught Alaskan salmon for 6.99/lb. It looked really good, so I picked some up, and after flipping through the book for a recipe we made a quick meal with spinach, soba, fish, and sesame seeds.

What I liked:

  • The recipe was simple - I had every ingredient on hand already.
  • About half a pound of fish was stretched to four servings - although I could see this serving two if we were really hungry, or not serving the meal with other items
  • A simple sear of the fish with salt and pepper made for fish that, as Matt noted, tasted like salmon, not a thick sauce or heavy seasoning.
  • Also, this recipe gave me a chance to really sear something. I used to be more timid, until I read a criticism in Heat that home cooks can be just that. Scared. So I jacked up the heat, seasoned the fish, and tossed it in with NO FEAR. The result was a win - no stickage, just a beautiful color and crust.
  • The flavors were clean ("delicate"?) But...

What I didn't like:

  • I did think this was missing something - I'm not sure if it's scallion, ginger, a little chile, etc, but the flavor was almost too mild. Maybe I feel this way because I tend to make spicy food.
  • The fish broke up into smaller flakes and separated from the skin, which in turn got a bit soggy when I added the cooking water. I think I would add the salmon last, to the top, or add the crispy skin separately next time.
  • A "My Own Fault" item... I didn't really have myself totally set up when I started cooking. Fail. Definitely prep every item beforehand to avoid a scramble.

This recipe was really nice, though, and can be done with tofu as well - something I'm likely to try, given my recent habit of tossing several cartons of extra firm in the cart every time I'm at H-mart or the local TJ's.. 

What appeals most to me about this book is that it seems to tout a different way of eating - meat as a flavoring or smaller portion of the meal. I've been wanting to limit consumption of meat to local sources for a while, but honestly... this isn't a trivial thing on a student's budget. So maybe recipes in this book will help me make compromises to accomplish local/seasonal eating more effectively than I have in the past.

Either way, I think this type of change will be pretty tasty.


  1. I've made two meals from the Bittman book(Artichoke & Pasta; Vegetables au Vin with Coq). Jane thought the first one was a little bland (I agree), but the Au Vin was fantastic. On HowChow's recommendation, I will be trying the Super-Lemony Kidney Beans next. (I feel like we are all in a cookbook club of sorts -- maybe we should have a Bittman pot luck?)

  2. That would be a great way to sample a bunch of recipes from the book. :) I could totally be on board with that.

    The Au Vin recipe looks great - let me know how the kidney beans turn out!

  3. How to do you like Bittman's cookbooks? I've heard ravs but don't own any myself.

  4. I just picked the book up from the library... this might be one I buy.