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Video: Feeding more people with less meat

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    MEREDITH VIEIRA, co-host: Back at 8:44. This morning on HOW TO COOK EVERYTHING TODAY , using just a half- pound of meat, yes, you heard me right, half- pound of meat to feed a family of four. Mark Bittman is a New York Times columnist and author of

    "Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating ," with more than 75 recipes. Mark, good morning to you.

    Mr. MARK BITTMAN: Good morning.

    VIEIRA: It doesn't sound like this would work.

    Mr. BITTMAN: Well, but...

    VIEIRA: A half a pound for four people.

    Mr. BITTMAN: ...but of course it does because meat is really -- I mean, it's something we love to eat, it gives us flavor, it gives us protein, it gives us -- but we don't need a half a pound per person, which is sort of what -- when I used to write recipes, I would say a pound , a pound -and-a-half, two pounds...

    VIEIRA: Right.

    Mr. BITTMAN: ...but you don't need that. And these are -- these are great recipes to show you how much you can do with half a pound of meat.

    VIEIRA: OK. So let's start. What's the first one we're going to do?

    Mr. BITTMAN: Well, this is ground chicken. And you need to -- and you need to cook it until the pinkness is gone, pretty much, which we're just about there.

    VIEIRA: You know, people, though, are very nervous about chicken, that if you don't cook it all the way through.

    Mr. BITTMAN: Well, one great thing about ground meat , not just chicken but any ground meat , is that it cooks through very quickly.

    VIEIRA: OK.

    Mr. BITTMAN: OK? And we have some precooked vegetables here that I did a little while ago, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, cabbage, scallions, and we mixed all that together.

    VIEIRA: So you pour that right in with the chicken. OK.

    Mr. BITTMAN: Right? And cooked them separately.

    VIEIRA: Or turkey.

    Mr. BITTMAN: Chicken.

    VIEIRA: OK.

    Mr. BITTMAN: Turkey. Whatever you want. And stir that up. You can add a pinch of sugar if you like. Some soy sauce and some chicken stock .

    VIEIRA: All right.

    Mr. BITTMAN: So this is really a kind of classic stir-fry. And, you know, stir-fries were sort of the original less-meat kind of main course.

    VIEIRA: Exactly.

    Mr. BITTMAN: So -- but instead of serving this over...

    VIEIRA: Rice, which would you...

    Mr. BITTMAN: ...rice...

    VIEIRA: ...you would normally do. Now you're using the lettuce leaves.

    Mr. BITTMAN: Put it in these cute little lettuce cups.

    VIEIRA: You're seeing this a lot at restaurants now, too, this use of lettuce.

    Mr. BITTMAN: Yeah. Because it's easy and it's nice. And if you don't make a mess of it, it looks pretty good.

    VIEIRA: Actually, that could serve...

    Mr. BITTMAN: Well...

    VIEIRA: ...probably even more than a family of four.

    Mr. BITTMAN: ...well, yeah. I mean, you're going to eat three or four of these.

    VIEIRA: OK.

    Mr. BITTMAN: Right? So I think that's...

    VIEIRA: Very, very nice.

    Mr. BITTMAN: So that's one.

    VIEIRA: All right. Moving on.

    Mr. BITTMAN: Two.

    VIEIRA: The next one. This is pasta with broccoli rabe and sweet Italian sausage , is that...

    Mr. BITTMAN: This is like everybody's favorite dish, I think. Broccoli rabe and sausage; because the sausage is sweet, the broccoli rabe is bitter. So you do the same thing.

    VIEIRA: OK.

    Mr. BITTMAN: You can slice the sausage if you want or you can crumble it, get it nice and brown. You cook some broccoli rabe first, parboil it, chop it up. Put that in there.

    VIEIRA: Why do you have to do it first, parboil it first?

    Mr. BITTMAN: Well, because if you just try to cook it in with the sausage, it's not going to get tender, it's not going to have this

    beautiful......before it becomes tender, basically.

    VIEIRA: OK.

    Mr. BITTMAN: A little bit of chilies.

    VIEIRA: Ah, that's good for a little...

    Mr. BITTMAN: I want a little more olive oil in here.

    VIEIRA: ...kick there.

    Mr. BITTMAN: And then we toss that with some pasta . And you want the pasta -- actually you want it quite wet for this because...

    VIEIRA: Why?

    Mr. BITTMAN: I've got more pasta than we need.

    VIEIRA: Look at the mess you made.

    Mr. BITTMAN: Well, you know what, this is cooking!

    VIEIRA: You made a mess.

    Mr. BITTMAN: Cooking makes a mess!

    VIEIRA: All right.

    Mr. BITTMAN: What can I tell you?

    VIEIRA: That pan's not big enough.

    Mr. BITTMAN: No, the pan is not big enough. We're going to go throw it in a bowl over here.

    VIEIRA: OK. All right.

    Mr. BITTMAN: In fact -- wait, don't turn your back to the camera.

    VIEIRA: Where you going? All right.

    Mr. BITTMAN: There.

    VIEIRA: Oh. All right, beautiful.

    Mr. BITTMAN: That's nicer. Yes?

    VIEIRA: That's lovely.

    Mr. BITTMAN: OK. So that's that one.

    VIEIRA: Smells good. All right.

    Mr. BITTMAN: And again, this -- if this doesn't serve a family of four...

    VIEIRA: Yeah, that definitely serves a family of four.

    Mr. BITTMAN: Right. So here, you want some?

    VIEIRA: All right. Sure, I'll try some.

    Mr. BITTMAN: I'll have some.

    VIEIRA: All right. I mean, you -- great. While I'm eating this, let's do the last one.

    Mr. BITTMAN: The last one is an unusual dish, quite Middle Eastern actually, and authentic. It's bulgur and vermicelli pasta .

    VIEIRA: Sounds like a lot of carb, bulgur and...

    Mr. BITTMAN: But when you brown this -- it's not a lot of pasta -- when you brown this pasta first, it's so delicious because it gets this extra sort of crispness and the flavors develop more. Ground beef, mushrooms again, some onions and a little bit of parsley. Really?

    VIEIRA: Oh, your microphone -- that was very smooth, Richie , very smooth.

    Mr. BITTMAN: OK. So...

    VIEIRA: Oh, it's for me. My mike is not working. Oh, boy. OK.

    Mr. BITTMAN: Speak into the lapel.

    VIEIRA: All right. so how did you do that, essentially the same way you did the other one or...

    Mr. BITTMAN: So this one -- well, this one we brown the noodles first and then with some onions and mushrooms. And then the bulgur and some stock, and again, some parsley at the end, so.

updated 6/1/2010 8:01:14 PM ET 2010-06-02T00:01:14

Sure, the economy may be turning around, but money remains tight for many families. If you’ve been trying to make your food budget last, take heart: Food writer Mark Bittman is sharing smart tricks for feeding a family of four on half a pound of ground meat. Here are his recipes for stir-fried vegetables with ground chicken, pasta with broccoli raab and sweet Italian sausage, and bulgur pilaf with vermicelli and ground beef.

Recipe: Stir-fried vegetables with ground chicken in lettuce wraps (on this page) Recipe: Bulgur pilaf with vermicelli and ground beef (on this page) Recipe: Pasta with broccoli raab and sweet Italian sausage (on this page)

Best-selling cookbook author Mark Bittman is the creator and author of the popular New York Times weekly column "The Minimalist," and one of the country's best-known and most widely admired food writers. His flagship book, "How to Cook Everything" (John Wiley and Sons, 1998), is currently in its 14th printing and has, in its various formats, sold more than a million copies.

Recipe: Stir-fried vegetables with ground chicken in lettuce wraps

Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons peanut or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon grated or minced fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallion, plus more for garnish
  • 1 pound Napa or other cabbage, cored and shredded
  • 2 large carrots, julienned
  • 1 cup shitake mushrooms, washed, stemmed and sliced
  • 1/2 pound ground chicken
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock, white wine, or water
  • 8 to 12 large lettuce leaves
Preparation

1. Put a large, deep skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add half the oil, swirl it around, and immediately add half the garlic and ginger. Cook for 15 seconds, stirring, then add the scallion, cabbage, carrots and mushrooms. Raise the heat to high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms soften and the cabbage and carrots scorch a little in places and become soft, 5 to 8 minutes, then transfer everything to a plate.

2. Turn the heat down to medium, add the remaining oil, let it get hot, and add the remaining garlic and ginger. Stir, then add the chicken. Raise the heat to high, stir the chicken once, then let it sit for 1 minute before stirring again. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken has lost its pink color, 3 to 5 minutes. Don't worry about the chicken cooking through; it will. And don't worry about the chicken bits that stick to the bottom; you'll get them later.

3. Turn the heat down to medium, return the vegetables to the pan, and toss once or twice. Add the sugar if you're using it, along with the soy sauce, and toss again. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and add the liquid. Raise the heat to high and cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan, until the liquid is reduced and you've scraped up all the bits of chicken. Garnish with chopped scallions and serve with the lettuce leaves for wrapping.

Serving Size

Makes: 4 servings; Time: 30 minutes

Recipe: Bulgur pilaf with vermicelli and ground beef

Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pound ground beef
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound of any fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 medium onions or 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup vermicelli, broken into 2-inch-long or shorter lengths, or other pasta
  • 1 cup coarse-or medium-grind bulgur
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste (optional)
  • 2 1/4 cups beef, chicken, or vegetable stock or water, heated to the boiling point
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves, for garnish
Preparation

1. Put the oil in a large skillet or saucepan that can later be covered and turn the heat to medium. Add the meat, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally to break it up, until browned all over, about 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and spoon off all but a couple tablespoons of the fat.

2. Put the pan over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and onions; cook, stirring, until everything is soft, about 5 minutes. Add the vermicelli and the bulgur and cook, stirring, until coated with butter or oil. Return the meat to the pan and add all the remaining ingredients. Turn the heat to low, and cover. Cook for 10 minutes.

3. Turn off the heat and let the mixture sit for 15 minutes more. Taste and adjust the seasoning, fluff with a fork, and serve, garnished with a sprinkling of parsley.

Serving Size

Makes: 4 servings; Time: 30 minutes

Recipe: Pasta with broccoli raab and sweet Italian sausage

Ingredients
  • Salt
  • About 1 pound broccoli raab, trimmed and cut into pieces
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, or more as needed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic, or more to taste
  • 1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound penne, ziti, or other cut pasta
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Preparation

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Boil the broccoli until it's fairly tender, 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the type (broccoli raab is fastest, cauliflower slowest) and the size of your pieces. Meanwhile, put the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. When hot, add the garlic and cook until it begins to sizzle, about a minute; add the sausage and red pepper flakes and continue cooking until nicely browned, 5 to 7 minutes.

2. Scoop the broccoli out of the water with a slotted spoon or small strainer and transfer it to the skillet (keep the pot of water boiling). Cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until it is hot and quite soft, adding some of the pasta water as needed to help soften the broccoli.

3. Meanwhile, cook the pasta. When the pasta is just about but not quite done, drain it, reserving about a cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the skillet with the broccoli and sausage and a couple of tablespoons of the reserved cooking water; toss with a large spoon until well combined. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, along with some of the pasta water to keep the mixture from drying out. Serve immediately.

Serving Size

Makes: About 4 servings; Time: About 40 minutes

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