The inspiration for Mark Bittman’s latest book, “The VB6 Cookbook,” came seven years ago in his doctor’s office. Upon discovering that Mark was overweight, had high cholesterol and was pre-diabetic, his doctor suggested one of two drastic measures: either begin taking drugs for the rest of his life — the path taken by most Americans — or drastically change the way he ate.
He suggested that Mark adopt a vegan lifestyle, but because he was a food writer for the New York Times, Mark didn’t deem that practical. Instead, he decided to eat vegan before 6 p.m. and pretty much anything he wanted afterwards. Seven years hence, Mark is over 30 pounds lighter and much healthier.
In his new cookbook Mark advocates eating less meat and more plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. While there’s nothing particularly new about this advice, Bittman puts his own, eccentric spin on our collective need to eat better.
For instance, we all know that we should eat more raw vegetables, but I’ll be the first to admit it — preparing produce is time-consuming and tedious. Bittman suggests this simple method for assembling a daily salad bowl: chop a variety of vegetables, store them in the fridge in a bowl of water and then drain and add them to lettuce when you’re ready to eat. Since you’re preparing them just once, let’s say on Sunday, you save yourself the daily chore of washing and chopping, which at our house greatly increases the chances of our eating a salad as complex and nutritious as this every single day.
4 celery stalks, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped (I like English or seedless cucumbers — no need to peel)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 bunches radishes, thinly sliced
1 large head romaine lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
1 pint grape tomatoes, rinsed and halved
Rinse, trim and chop the celery, carrots, onion, cucumbers, bell peppers and radishes. Store them in the fridge, covered, in a bowl of water. Clean, dry and tear romaine lettuce into bite-sized pieces and store either in a salad spinner or a plastic bag lined with a cloth or paper towel.
You can also use different lettuces or cabbage in the finished salad, but store them separately from the chopped veggies. You can substitute apples, pears or citrus for the tomatoes. Improvisation is key here. Chop what you like, add what you like and you’ll be having your cake and eating it too. (OK. I’m lying about the cake.)
When it’s time to eat, combine however much of the chopped ingredients you want along with lettuce and tomatoes. Drizzle with Your Own Salad Dressing, a concoction of Bittman’s that’s both highly flavorful and light in calories.
*I posted an earlier version of this recipe last year, but in his new cookbook, Bittman has streamlined the process and made it even better. This is the new, improved Daily Salad Bowl. Dig in!