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Random Beautiful Food

Wrapping Up Mark Bittman Month

Granted, it’s now February 3, but I don’t want to enter a new month/era without concluding the reportage on my month of Mark Bittman.  Let me be clear, however: I plan to continue cooking from The Food Matters Cook Book.  I have in no way exhausted my appetite for his style of cooking.  It is time, however, to move on to a new  blog topic and a new monthly challenge.  More on that to follow.  As January drew to a close, I tried the recipe for Super-Simple Mixed Rice, a Zillion Ways (don’t you love that title?).  This approach takes brown rice to a whole new level of tastiness with dried porcini mushrooms, tomatoes, herbs, cannellini beans, and parmesan cheese.  The end product is a creamy rissoto-like concoction without all the stirring.  I must say that “super-simple” might be a slight overstatement, but it’s fairly easy.  Mark offers several variations.  I really like how adding the beans to the dish adds protein and substance.  With a salad and some nice bread, this could be a meal in itself.

My next recipe was Creamy Navy Bean and Squash Gratin with Bits of Sausage.  I made it to take over to my friends Bob and Laurel when I invited myself for dinner – and brought dinner.  This really was easy to make and allowed me to use Italian sausage guilt free since it’s more of a seasoning than a main player in this dish.  Even though there was only four ounces of sausage in the whole batch (four generous servings with leftovers), it added a lot of flavor.

Last Thursday I made Cassoulet with Lots of Vegetables for my book club.  [Just a side-note about book club:  this is a group of women who have been meeting once a month for many years.  We read and discuss wonderful books, talk, drink wine, and eat.  We take turns hosting the meeting and providing the food.  When we started out, food would consist of a dessert.  If you were in charge of food and had a busy day you might even stop by the supermarket bakery and pick something up.  There are several good cooks in the group, and gradually the food bar rose.  Maybe an appetizer and dessert.  Then someone added soup or a main dish.  Now, the food is always plentiful and includes either several appetizers and dessert or a full meal.  We’ve tried to lower the bar – after all, this creates something of a burden for the person in charge of food – but it never works.  Nobody wants to be the one to show up with a supermarket cake and some cheese and crackers.  Besides, we all love to eat!] The cassoulet was tasty and hearty on a winter night, but I think I overcooked it.  I used sausage and pork chops for the meat and was worried that they might not be done in the time indicated.  I think next time I’ll use thinner chops so I won’t have to worry about that.  Nonetheless, my fellow bookclubbers seemed to like it.  But they’re a generous group.

In concluding the Bittman chronicles, I just want to add that I think the man owes me royalties.  At least four people I know have either purchased the book or plan to.  They won’t regret it.  But c’mon, Mark, really.  I think you owe me.

And Now, Where to for February?

I’m designating February asCreativity Month.  This is a direct challenge to myself to get out there and do some photography – although I don’t plan to limit February’s creativity to photography.  In fact, I already have some creative projects in the works spurred by the imminence of Valentine’s Day.  I really don’t like Valentines day for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is my cynicism.  However, I like to react to it creatively and have had fun in years past making valentines with my best friend, Jane.  We already have plans in the works for this year’s version, which I will share after the fact.  Also, I’ve begun some projects for Valentine’s gifts.  In addition, there’s a very exciting sewing project afoot wherein I plan to make dresses for my granddaughters-to-be for the wedding of their Daddy, Bret, to my daughter Rachel.  More on that as we progress.

OK, now here’s a direct challenge to my fellow Sausage Soup blog participants.  We created Sausage Soup as a vehicle for family/friend creativity.  So join in!  After all, February is Creativity Month! (Because I said so.)

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