Bits of Bittman


First thought for our first sister:

KK in situ

Happy Birthday, darling KK.

You are the soul of grace and elegance,

and we miss you everyday and especially today.


It’s a gorgeous Saturday morning here in Chicagoland.

After worrying our way through a record warm April—yes, warm weather concerns us—May arrived with “unseasonably” cool temps. Weather progs don’t like to use terms such as “unseasonably” as they are hard to quantify. But five April days with temps above 80 degrees evidently qualify for a quantifiably unseasonably warm Chicagoland April.

The first half of May has been wet and cold. Like check-the-sump-pump-every-20-minutes wet and cover-the-tender-vegetation cold. So it felt like a benediction to wake this morning to clear skies and promising temperatures.

It’s cycling weather! Booyah.

But first: Oatmeal with walnuts and dried cranberries and the online edition of the New York Times.

When did all the newspapers get together and agree to publish special sections on certain days of the week? Why is Wednesday the food section day, whether you get the Times or the Trib or the Post? This I don’t know, but last Wednesday the Time’s Dining section had a great recipe from The Minimalist, Mark Bittman. What a surprise that a column called “minimalist” appeals to me.

What appeals to me is Bittman’s approach to food. His recipes stress simple but flavorful ingredients with an emphasis on vegetables and quick preparations. And his tagline says that he is a vegan.

Until 6 p.m.

I find this compartmentalization incredibly, well, enlightened. If you are a vegan for ethical reasons, you would certainly quibble with such a temporally-limited conviction. But in nutritional terms, I think it makes a lot of sense. If you restrict your intake of animal proteins to one high-quality meal per day, you had better emphasize healthy vegetable sources the rest of the day.

Take for example the incredible recipe for Chana Saag, an Indian dish Kara posted this week on An Hour in the Kitchen. She had me with this dish’s chickpea foundation (6 g. of protein in every 130 g. serving!) but then she threw in garlic, spinach and garam masala?

So good for my tastebuds and the planet.

Another recipe I urge you to try: the recipe from Bittman’s column last Wednesday, Asparagus Pesto. It includes all the classic basil pesto flavors, but uses steamed asparagus as the base. This lovely uber-condiment will be sitting-pretty atop a nice piece of grilled fish at our house tonight.

So Bittman had already been hanging out in my kitchen this week, when he re-entered this morning with a profile of ultra-marathoner Scott Jurek. Who knew it was possible to be an elite-level athlete and a vegan? Is it really possible to consume enough calories entirely from plant-sources to train for and run races of 100 miles or more? It’s a great article that deepened my awe for what the human body can accomplish when partnered with an equally disciplined mind.

Way to go, team homo sapiens!

Okay, our 30 mile bike ride is feeling pretty tame about now. Time to commit to more.

It’s gut check time!


5 Responses to “Bits of Bittman”

  1. Donna Says:

    Someone must have declared this pesto week. The new issue of the Williams-Sonoma catalog has a wonderful looking recipe for grilled chicken with arugula pesto — no basil in sight.

    I plan to try it and will give you a report.


  2. Donna Says:

    By the way, Happy Birthday, Kay! You should never be overshadowed by pesto recipes.

    Donna and Jim and Grandmom

  3. Katherine Says:

    Catching up on the blog, I see a pic from NM new years! not exactly reflecting the grace and elegance tag line, but fun to remember hiking together. Many thx for the bday comments. Love, KK

  4. kara Says:

    I’m glad I came back and re-read this one. This time I made a note to try the asparagus pesto.
    Have you tried sugar snap pesto?
    I love the vegetarian before 6pm mentality, which I adhere to on the days I don’t have bacon for breakfast..ymmmm bacon…

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