Mark Bittman on Easy, Healthy Cooking -- Plus a Giveaway!

June 25, 2013

We're sitting down with our favorite writers and cooks to talk about their upcoming cookbooks, their best food memories, and just about anything else.

Today, Mark Bittman, author of VB6, creator of the Cooking Basics app, and this week's Food52 Guest Editor, describes how home cooks can help solve the American food system's biggest problem. And, to make cooking even easier, he's giving away 5 downloads of his app!


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As New York Times columnist and best-selling author of How to Cook Everything and How to Cook Everything VegetarianMark Bittman has made cooking accessible to millions of readers and has proven it's possible to cook flavorful foods with simple, healthy ingredients. 

In his latest book, VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health...For Good, Bittman provides even more tips for making everyday cooking feasible -- and enjoyable. In it, he outlines the "Flexitarian" diet, a semi-vegetarian meal plan that benefits the body as well as the planet. Read on to learn more about Mark Bittman's food philosophy, in his own words. 

You've recently become more involved in food politics. What do you think is the biggest issue that needs to be solved to improve America's food system?
I think radically altering the Standard American Diet (yes, it’s SAD) is the most important place to start. Changing the way Americans eat will affect industrialized food production, the healthcare system, even climate change. By eating large quantities of sugar and meat -- on average, Americans each eat more than 150 pounds of meat and poultry a year, something like three times the global average -- and by not consuming enough fruits and vegetables, we’re hurting our hearts, our planet, and our fellow beings. 

In your opinion, what's the biggest myth that keeps people from cooking?
That cooking is hard, which we know it’s not. In fact, I think most people who take the time to become used to cooking find it a welcome respite from the chaos of their lives. (Am I crazy?) People become intimidated by words like ratatouille or tagine, but they’re both basically one-pot dishes that I guarantee anyone can make. When people buy frozen meals and packaged goods because they think cooking will either be too time consuming or cost too much, they’re throwing their money away. In reality, you’ll end up eating tastier, healthier and cheaper meals if you’re cooking from scratch at home. Obviously not everyone can cook all the time, and it’s easiest if you have a cooperative spouse, or roommate, or kids, or whatever…but it can be done. 

It's lunchtime, you've only got 10 minutes to prep a meal, and it's got to be vegan. What do you make?
The fast answer is: salad.

But I generally have some kind of extra cooked grain lying around -- like bulgur, quinoa or rice. I often have beans, too. To that I add whatever veggies I have -- frozen edamame, carrots, broccoli, what have you -- and maybe some tofu. Toss that all in a pan with a bit of oil, some soy sauce, maybe some chile flakes, and you have a satisfying meal in under 10 minutes. 

More: Looking for satisfying, flavorful recipes that also happen to be vegan? Gena has you covered

Your cookbooks literally teach us how to cook everything -- but what types of cookbooks do you tend to buy for yourself? What types of recipes attract you? 
Those days are gone for me. I don’t want to get into complicated food, and I don’t really want to hunt around for ingredients. I’m pretty happy with the repertoire I have, actually. 

When guests arrive unannounced, what do you make for them?
They don’t. 

This week, Mark Bittman, is serving as a Guest Editor at Food52. He'll be choosing a Wildcard winner, answering your questions in a Twitter chat on Wednesday, and sharing a recipe each day.

We're giving away 5 downloads of Mark Bittman's Cooking Basics app. To enter, tell us about the best healthy one-pot dish that anyone can make -- we'll pick five winners at random by Friday, June, 28 at 3 PM EST

Order now

The Food52 Vegan Cookbook is here! With this book from Gena Hamshaw, anyone can learn how to eat more plants (and along the way, how to cook with and love cashew cheese, tofu, and nutritional yeast).

Order now

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • erinbdm
  • cookinginvictoria
  • inna
  • Sandy Wallace 1
    Sandy Wallace 1
  • LLStone
I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.


erinbdm July 2, 2013
I love any grain salad (Amanda's farro and roasted mushroom salad, the couscous with summer squash, pistachios, and raisins, and a farro and roasted red pepper salad from Plenty are favorites of mine) served over a big bed of greens. I make a batch of grain salad on Sunday and during the week just put greens and a scoop of the grain salad in a container to bring to work.
cookinginvictoria June 28, 2013
My two favorite healthy, vegetarian one pot dishes on food52 are the Kale and Quinoa Pilaf and Mujaddara with Spiced Yogurt. But now that it is summer I am making lots of grain salads. Inspired by amanda's Radish and Pecan Grain Salad on this site, I try to keep a couple of different cooked grains on hand in the fridge. I mix them with generous handfuls of fresh herbs from my garden, nuts and seeds, and whatever vegetables (some raw, some cooked) that I have in my crisper drawer. Dressed with a flavorful vinaigrette, this makes a really delicious one dish meal that even my eight year old daughter will happily eat.
inna June 27, 2013
some version of chicken and rice (or a mix of other/different grains instead of rice) in a dutch oven. different stocks, different spices and herbs, and different vegetables added to the pot ensure that it's never quite the same and never boring.
Sandy W. June 27, 2013
Simple, beans with vegetables and stock. Yummy soup I can always find room for!
LLStone June 26, 2013
I've been making seasonal veggie good.
Jughandle June 26, 2013
Cynthia R. June 26, 2013
Lots of sauteed onion and then garlic, add summer squash and or. chuncks of eggplant, brown, add white beans and quinoia pasta. Add oregano, parsley, basil, both dry and just picked chopped for levels of flavor. Add S&P. If you want you can top with heated tomato sauce for an ersatz lasagna.
VPoet June 26, 2013
One-PAN meal: coconut oil, light tofu, and loads of fresh vegetables from the market. Cover and steam; eat and enjoy!
Kelly B. June 26, 2013
For an ever-evolving one-pot meal, I love mujadara. We change things up every so often to keep it interesting, but it's simple, satisfying and easily adjustable to the seasons.
Cheazza June 26, 2013
This isn't vegan, but I make a chicken breast one dish meal in the crock pot loaded with veggies. I throw together chicken or vegetable stock, artichokes, sun dried tomatos, sweet peppers and spinach at the last minute. Delicious!
Nick K. June 26, 2013
Man - anyone else on the twitter chat? I don't think my question was taken seriously! Really - anyone out there - good filling vegan breakfast for after a night out on the town? And, before I go exercise?
dandelioneyes June 28, 2013
Quinoa porridge with almond milk!
ela_tarantella June 26, 2013
Spaghetti with anchovy colatura! Made with evoo, parsley, raw garlic, and chili pepper. Buonissima!
gwimper June 26, 2013
Beans mashed with salsa and eaten with corn tortillas. Option to add raw tomatoes, cucumbers and pickled cabbage slaw....
ksalter June 26, 2013
Leftover veggies stir-fried rice or stir-fried rice noodles. Or wait, is it wonton-soup with lots of veggies? Hard to choose!
josephinetomato June 26, 2013
Red beans and rice with lots of veggies and spice
Cindy Z. June 26, 2013
We make white bean turkey chili with kale in our house - our 3-year old gourmand loves it!
A S. June 26, 2013
Vegetable khichdi - lentils, rice, vegetables and various spices
jbuechner June 26, 2013
Barley bowl: saute veggies, deglaze with wine, add cooked barley and stock. Simmer until creamy and add a sprinkling of cheese (if desired). Top with a soft-boiled egg.
Katie S. June 26, 2013
The healthy one-pot dish...that would definitely be turkey breast with broccoli, red potatoes, garlic, shallots, plum tomatoes, thyme and sage, simmered in a white wine sauce.
shmoliken June 26, 2013
don't need camments either