Lessons from the Minimalist

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Pulling out a Mark Bittman article from the January 19, 2005 New York Times, there were three healthy eating recipes in the piece, one of which was crossed out.  I guess that I had tried the Lentils with Bulgur and Herb Salad and didn’t like it.  No need to try it again, leaving me to wonder if I would like the Whole-Grain Crostini with Beans and Greens and the Vietnamese Stir-Fried Vegetables with Chicken or Shrimp.  There’s only one way to find out.

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The Beans and Greens has all the things that I like, how could I go wrong?  White beans sauteed with greens, onion, garlic, and sage would appear to be a no brainer.  As much as I wanted to follow the recipe faithfully, I substituted kale for spinach since I already had it.  I boiled the kale to get it to the point where it could have a quick sautee with the alliums and beans, like the spinach would have been.   I resisted the temptation to add crushed red pepper or lemon, thinking that it would overwhelm the sage.  The result was pasty and bland, did the spinach make that much of a difference?  My guess is not, so at this point, I needed to make it into what I like, not what it was a meant to be.  In goes a 15-oz. can of tomatoes for tanginess, 1/4t crushed red pepper for spice, and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese for richness.  It’s a completely different dish, but now we’re talking, and liking.

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With two strikes, I dreaded the third recipe in the bunch, wondering if it too would be a dud.  The stir-fry was sparse – garlic, no ginger, fish sauce, and black pepper.  I followed it religiously, including stir-frying the broccoli, carrots, and snow peas separately, which enveloped my apartment in a fog of smoke.  Staring at the humble yet colorful heap, I wondered how good it could possibly be.  Very good.  The black pepper shined through, even though it wasn’t drenched in sauce.  The attention paid to each vegetable grouping paid off, being crisp yet tender.  A home run.

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