Anybody who’s read much of anything about food over the past few years has surely heard the maxim “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”
Coined by Michael Pollan, author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and other books influential to the sustainable-food movement, the phrase suggests a reasonable path: Avoid processed food, don’t overeat, and put produce at the center of the plate.
His mother and sisters’ new cookbook turns that advice into more than 100 recipes. But in the foreword, Pollan says the “mostly” in his signature phrase got people riled up. “Carnivores were upset I had dissed their favorite food by failing to even mention it, while vegans and vegetarians were incensed that by qualifying plants with ‘mostly’ I was being mealy-mouthed or, well, chicken: why not only plants? they insisted.”
Pollan held out, and “Mostly Plants” makes the case. As authors Tracy, Dana, Lori and Corky Pollan put it in their introduction, “We believe that the key to eating well, both for our own health and that of the environment, is not to overturn the dinner table, but simply to change its balance.”
I’m a vegetarian, but I’m not a purist, and I support any ideas that help carnivores reduce their meat consumption. That said, the recipe of theirs I tried - and love - is vegetarian through and through: chopped vegetables, tossed with herbs and sitting on a bed of endive leaves underneath a layer of roasted chickpeas and feta. It’s yet another of the bright and light salads I can’t stop making (or writing about) this time of year. And it’s simply gorgeous on a platter.
If you’re vegan, feel free to leave off the feta. If it’s just too hot for you to imagine turning on the oven, even for a short 15 minutes, skip roasting the chickpeas. They won’t mind - and neither, I’m sure, would the Pollans. They’re flexible.
MEDITERRANEAN CRUNCH SALAD
One 15-ounce can no-salt-added chickpeas, drained, rinsed and patted dry
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or more as needed
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more as needed
One 12-ounce tomato, hulled and cut into 1/2-inch dice (2 cups)
1/2 large English cucumber, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice (seedless; 1 1/2 cups)
1 small (4-ounce) red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice (1/2 cup)
1 small (4-ounce) yellow or orange bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice (1/2 cup)
1/4 small red onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice (1/4 cup)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint, plus whole leaves for garnish
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 Belgian endives (root ends trimmed), leaves separated
4 ounces (1 cup) crumbled high-quality feta cheese
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Spread the chickpeas on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons of the oil, season with ¼ teaspoon of the salt and ⅛ teaspoon of the pepper, and toss to coat. Roast for 15 minutes, stirring once halfway through, until the chickpeas have darkened slightly. Transfer to a plate to cool to room temperature.
While the chickpeas are roasting, combine the tomato, cucumber, bell peppers, red onion, parsley and chopped mint in a mixing bowl. Drizzle in the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil and all the vinegar, along with the remaining ¼ teaspoon of salt and ⅛ teaspoon of pepper. Gently toss to incorporate. Taste, and season with more salt and/or pepper, as needed.
Line a serving platter with the endive leaves. Spoon the chopped vegetable mixture over them. Scatter the roasted chickpeas and the feta on top, then garnish with mint leaves.
Adapted from “Mostly Plants,” by Tracy, Dana, Lori and Corky Pollan (Harper Wave, 2019).
Nutrition (based on 6 servings)— Calories: 250; Total Fat: 14 g; Saturated Fat: 4 g; Cholesterol: 15 mg; Sodium: 330 mg; Carbohydrates: 25 g; Dietary Fiber: 10 g; Sugars: 5 g; Protein: 10 g.