Turn Your Favorite Meals Vegetarian with Mark Bittman’s “Dinner for Everyone”
After the release of a number of recent climate change reports and health studies that recommend we eat less meat, being a full time or even part-time vegetarian is suddenly gaining more traction. But for prolific food writer Mark Bittman, it’s been a way of life for more than a decade. He adopted a flexitarian diet more than six years before writing his 2013 cookbook, “Vegan Before 6,” in which he suggested eating meat-free until dinner, aka VB6. The book’s popularity helped spread the idea that reducing meat intake not only has health benefits, but is also better for the environment.
In today’s health-and-environment conscious climate, Bittman’s new cookbook “Dinner for Everyone,” answers the question that so many meat eaters ask their vegetarian friends: “But what do you eat?” Without sacrificing flavor or cuisine, Bittman offers three suggested recipes for 100 dinner concepts: an easy version, a vegan version and a fancier version that’s great for entertaining or when you want a weekend recipe project. By re-thinking classic favorites —like BLTs, meatloaf and coq au vin — Bittman shows that eating meat-free is possible, and often easy, even with your most beloved dishes.
Is your favorite dinner mac and cheese? Bittman has a vegan swap for that. Or do you love bolognese? Try his ratatouille version. Whether you are a dedicated VB6er, cooking meatless on Monday or just starting to cut back on meat, here are a few of the veggie-fied dishes from “Dinner for Everyone” to get you started.
For Chicken Salad Lovers
Although Bittman offers three modernized recipes for “chicken” salad, only one actually includes chicken. His “easy” recipe combines cubes of chicken with a miso dressing and corn, while the “over the top” version gets an grown-up twist swapping in duck and a chile and cherry sweet-and-sour marinade. And how does Bittman make a vegetarian chicken salad? By tossing grated jicama with grapes, tarragon and a mustardy sauce, that’s how. Not only does the mixture look suspiciously like chicken, but chopped red onion, celery and romaine help give it even more of that classic chicken salad crunch. Don’t have jicama? Bittman also says other vegetables, including parsnips, celery root or turnips, will work for the veggie version.
When You Want Seafood
Seaweed doesn’t require the inputs that farmed plants usually need (such as fertilizer and fresh water) and it naturally removes nitrogen and contaminants from the ocean, making it a great, sustainable ingredient. When you are in the mood for something briny but you’re not eating seafood, Bittman suggests his seaweed salad. He combines a variety of dried seaweeds, such as kombu, arame and wakame (which can be found in Asian grocery stores or online), into a crisp salad with chopped carrot, radish and a sesame oil dressing. And if you’re really craving actual seafood salad, Bittman suggests using sustainable fish, like sardines, in his nicoise salad.
Instead of Indian Takeout
Along with Americana classics, Bittman’s book also includes a variety of international flavors, including recipes inspired by Indian tandoori cooking. His tandoori-style shrimp and tandoori chicken satisfy the meat-eaters, but when you are itching for Indian cuisine, his charred whole cauliflower is not only super easy, it’s also beautiful to look at and delicious. Simply roast the cauliflower whole (Bittman gives a great technique that combines roasting and steaming to get the cauliflower properly cooked through), then drizzle with a spiced oil for that tandoori flavor.
For Those Crispy Cravings
Let’s admit it, schnitzel is, in essence, grown-up chicken nuggets. “Cooking for Everyone” caters to those childhood cravings with recipes for both Wiener schnitzel, the classic German, breaded veal chop, and katsu, the Japanese, panko-crusted pork. But Bittman’s veggie rendition, squash schnitzel, is the real star here. Rather than simply breading and baking the squash slices, Bittman purees tofu and spices into a smooth consistency, then dips roasted squash pieces into the mixture before breading. Not only does this add filling protein to the dish, but it also infuses the squash with extra flavor.
When Those Bacon Cravings Hit
Bittman admits that describing mushrooms as “meaty” is a bit cliché. Nonetheless, he does just that when describing his shiitake bacon. Slices of shiitake mushrooms are tossed in spices, then roasted until crispy for a smoky, chewy bite. Mixed into a brown rice pilaf with Brussels sprouts, the mushrooms add that “meaty” flavor to the dish that will make anyone — or should we say everyone? — happy.
Recipe: Brown Rice and Brussels Sprout Pilaf with Shiitake Bacon
Mark Bittman, “Dinner for Everyone”
Makes: 4 servings
Time: about 1 hour
6 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
Salt and pepper
12 ounces Brussels sprouts, trimmed
1 small onion, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1½ cups long-grain brown rice (preferably basmati)
½ cup apple cider, white wine, or water
2½ cups vegetable stock (opposite) or water
¼ cup chopped fresh dill
- Heat the oven to 400°F and position 2 racks toward the center with a few inches in between them. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with foil and smear each with 1 tablespoon oil. Remove the stems from the mushrooms and save them for another use (like stock, opposite). Slice the caps crosswise as thin as you can manage.
- Spread the mushroom slices on the prepared pans in a single layer (it’s okay if they overlap a bit) and sprinkle with the paprika, salt, and pepper. Transfer the pans to the oven and bake, switching racks and rotating the pans halfway through, until the mushrooms release their water and the pan is almost dry again, 20 to 30 minutes. Lower the heat to 325°F and continue to cook the slices, rotating again to ensure even browning, until they dry and shrivel a bit, and release easily from the pan, another 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Meanwhile, use the slicing blade on a food processor or a knife to thinly slice the Brussels sprouts.
- Put 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until the onion softens, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the rice, lower the heat to medium, and stir until the rice is glossy, completely coated with oil, and starting to toast, 3 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, then add the apple cider. Cook, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until the cider has mostly evaporated, just a minute or 2. Turn the heat down to low and add the stock and Brussels sprouts. Bring to boil, lower the heat to a steady, gentle bubble, stir once or twice, then cover.
- From this point, the rice will take about 40 minutes to become tender; check after 30 minutes to make sure there’s enough liquid and, if not, add about ¼ cup more. When the rice is tender, turn the heat to the absolute minimum (if you have an electric stove, turn the heat off and let the pan sit on the burner), and let rest, covered, for another 15 to 30 minutes. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and the dill and fluff with a fork. Taste and adjust the seasoning, fluff again, garnish with the mushroom bits, and serve.
Cut into chunks: 4 carrots, 2 onions (don’t bother to peel), 2 all-purpose potatoes, and 2 celery stalks. Put them in a pot with 5 or 6 garlic cloves, a good-sized bunch of parsley, 3 quarts water, and some salt and pepper. (Add tomatoes or fresh or dried mushrooms if you’d like.) Bring to a boil, then adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles gently. Cook until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes. Strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing on the vegetables to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 6 months. Makes 2 quarts stock in 1 hour.
Reprinted from Dinner For Everyone. Copyright © 2019 by Mark Bittman. Photographs copyright © 2019 by Aya Brackett. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.