Why Food Matters and Curried Red Lentil Soup


I recently got around to reading Mark Bittman’s Why Food Matters, which I found to be in line with Michael Pollan’s thesis: Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly Plants. In fact, this book seemed to be a dumbed down version of Pollan’s two books, The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food.

Bittman first makes the case for why eating less meat is good for your body and for the environment. He then goes on to share his journey of becoming a healthier eater, losing lots of weight in the process and eliminating some of his health concerns.

His recommendation based on what has worked for him: For breakfast and lunch, consume only whole grains, fruits, and vegetables (foods with very low caloric density) and for dinner eats whatever you want.  In other words, he recommends frontloading your nutrition for the day so you can have a big blow-out dinner.

I think this book is meant for the meat and potato eaters out there who want to dabbe in healthy eating — and the recipes reflect this. I was disappointed that a lot of the recipes were wheat-based, which means I couldn’t try them. However, I did try a fabulous soup, which turned out very well.

Mark Bittman

2 tbsp peanut or grapeseed oil
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 tsp mined garlic
1 tbsp minced peeled fresh ginger
salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tbsp curry powder
1 cup dried lentils
2 medium tomatoes (or 4 canned tomatoes)
1 quart vegetable stock
1 can coconut milk
2 medium russett potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 small zucchini, roughly chopped
1/2 c chopped fresh cilantro or mint leaves

1. Put the oil in a deep skillet or medium saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and transluscent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another minutes, Sprinkle with salt and stir in the curry powder. Cook, stirring frequently, until darkened and fragrant, about another minutes or two.

2. Stir in the tomatoes and lentils, then add the stock and coconut milk. Bring to a boil; partially cover, and turn the heat down to medium low so that the soup bubbles gently.

3. Cook, stirring occaisionally, until the lentils are just becoming tender; stir in the potatoes and more stock or water if needed. Cover again and cook for about 10 minutes, then stir in the remaining vegetables, adding a little more water if needed to keep everything brothy. Cover one more time and cook until the potatoes and vegetables are all tender, another 5-10 minutes. Stir in the cilantro or mint, taste and adjust the seasoning and serve.


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