|Mark Bittman, “The Flexitarian”|
Mark Bittman calls himself “The Flexitarian”. He writes about his food philosophy in The New York Times Dining Out Section once a month. I am happy to report that from the start Bittman promised that, first and foremost, his new column would be an ode to great-tasting food. What he offers too is food for those of us who are moderate in our eating habits—certainly not strict vegans or vegetarians–but omnivores making conscious choices about what we eat. His recipes are for all of us trying to incorporate more good-for-you plants and fewer animal proteins into our diets. For all their hullabaloo, vegans and vegetarians make up a scant 5 percent of the population. But a lot of us are working hard to assimilate healthier grains, fish, legumes, fruits, and vegetables into our diets more often. And that’s where Bittman’s recipes come in. They offer truly flavorful food that I can only describe as even tasting healthy, a sensation I had as I dug into this Ribollita, a cheesy, vegetable-rich stew with its giant ‘crouton’ of whole-grain bread.
|Tuscany, so beautiful it’s impossible
This Ribollita recipe is based on a famous Tuscan soup. It acquires stew status when you add to its essential ingredients: Leftover bread, cannelloni beans, and carrots, onions, celery and tomatoes. This version is perfect for yet another dip by the Polar Vortex and ideal for a Meatless Monday. It’s pure peasant food and dates back to the Middle Ages when the servants gathered up the remains of their feudal lord’s banquets and boiled them for their own dinners. Ribollitameans ‘reboiled’ in Italian. I didn’t follow Mark Bittman’s recipe to the letter. I actually followed his advice when he wrote: “even vegetable stews could have more vegetables” and upped their quantities. I did, however, use what he described as “a boatload of kale” to which I added baby spinach. I used a Dutch oven on the stovetop because the dish goes into the oven for the final 10 to 15 minutes. That’s when its parmesan topping gets its crunch. The Dutch Oven works too because there’s quite a volume to this recipe. The end result was luscious, brimming with flavor and texture. And there’s something so smug about eating like this: You feel positively glowing with health. And the next morning, I even weighed less than the day before, a nice side effect of heating so well! Here is the recipe: