If you're a fan of New York Times columnist Mark Bittman, you know he never does anything small. After all, this is the guy who wrote a cookbook called "How To Cook Everything," and it pretty much covers exactly that. This is the same guy who made a tradition of his 101 stories for the Times, like 101 things to cook on the grill. Seriously, does the man ever not know what he's making for dinner?
If you're trying to reduce the role of meat in your diet, Bittman is your guy. He recently stepped down from writing his Times food column, The Minimalist, to turn his attention to writing op-ed pieces about food policy and how we ought to improve the nation's food supply. He's also starting a new food column soon with the Times' Sunday magazine.
If you read our story about flexitarians, you read a little about Bittman's newest cookbook, "The Food Matters Cookbook." It has 500 recipes that will help you improve your culinary life. It's not completely meatless, but many of the dishes have no meat and all of them reduce the role of meat.
I've got an extra copy to give away. If you want to enter your name in a random drawing, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with "Mark Bittman" in the subject line.
In the meantime, here's one more recipe from the book to whet your appetite.
Creamy Cauliflower Mac
From "The Food Matters Cookbook," by Mark Bittman (Simon & Schuster, 2010).
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the baking dish
2 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock or water
2 bay leaves
1 cauliflower, cored and separated into large pieces
8 ounces elbow, shell, ziti or other cut pasta, preferably whole wheat
1/2 cup grated cheese (such as sharp cheddar, Gruyere, Emmental or a combination)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, or to taste
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, or to taste
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup or more bread crumbs, preferably whole grain and homemade, optional
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9-inch-square baking dish with a little oil. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Put the stock with the bay leaves in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. When small bubbles appear along the sides, about 5 minutes later, turn off the heat and let stand.
Cook the cauliflower in the boiling water until very tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Scoop the cauliflower out of the water with a slotted spoon and transfer it to a blender or food processor. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until somewhat chalky inside and not yet edible, about 5 minutes. Drain it, rinse it quickly to stop the cooking and put it in the prepared baking dish.
Remove the bay leaves from the stock. Carefully process the cauliflower with 2 cups of the stock, 2 tablespoons oil, the cheese, mustard, nutmeg and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. (You may have to work in batches.) If the sauce seems too thick, add the remaining 1/2 cup stock. Taste and adjust seasoning. Pour the sauce over the pasta, toss and spread the mixture evenly in the dish. (You can make the dish up to this point, cover and refrigerate it for up to a day; return to room temperature before proceeding.)
Sprinkle the top with the Parmesan and bread crumbs if you're using them. Bake until the pasta is bubbling and the crumbs turn brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve hot.
Photo: Evan Sung