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Welcome to the first day of March. This past weekend allowed many of us to thaw out a bit. After few hours of weekend sunshine, we can practically see spring on the horizon. We’re starting to think about longer days and planting gardens and, let’s face it: a wider distribution of a vaccine that will allow us to spend time with people we love. Brighter days ahead, indeed.

As we mentioned at the start of The Bittman Project, we’d be turning on the paywall shortly after we launched. Tomorrow is that day. Whether or not you’re a paying member, we’ll still be connected. You don't need to subscribe to get some of the content; it's just that when you pay, you get 100 percent of it, including access to our weekly discussion threads, member-only recipes, Q&As with me (Mark), and more.


As you've seen over the past month, our content includes recipes like our Monday “Gaah! What’s for Dinner?” as well as audio interviews and plenty of videos. We’ll share letters from the kitchen, tips, tricks, techniques, tools, product recommendations, ingredients, and family secrets. And we won’t stop there: We’re publishing reported pieces, profiles, interviews, and rants about what’s broken in the food world and how to change things for the better. On Fridays, paying members are driving the conversation, like this past week's discussion thread on how you cut down on food waste. (Actually, we’re always looking to you to drive the conversation -- in your comments and emails, too.)

While we understand it's preferable to get content for free, we have a staff to pay: an excellent, small staff that works really hard to produce content that we think is worth reading and paying for. If we don't charge anything, we can't keep the staff. It's that simple, really.

If you'd like full access to The Bittman Project, I’m asking for your support: $7 a month or $70 per year (roughly the cost of one fancy cappuccino a month). But if you join by this Friday, you’ll get an annual membership for $49.70 for the first year. (We tried for an even fifty and obviously failed; oh well. Either way, you save 29 percent).

Tomorrow’s members-only issue is all about what I’d consider the most important dish on the planet: rice and beans. It includes the second installment of The Minimalists video series, where Kayla Stewart shows me how to cook the red beans and rice she grew up eating in Houston, a short audio interview where I talk about my rice and beans obsession, as well as extra recipes and tips. To get all of that in your inbox tomorrow morning, join here.

It’s been a big leap to go out on our own without the financial backing of a news organization or platform to fund this work. Thank you for being here; we are grateful that you've decided to join us in The Bittman Project.


It’s inevitable: Some days you haven’t planned anything to cook, the afternoon sneaks up on you, and all you can do is throw your hands up and say, “Gaah! What’s for dinner?” For those times when you just need something fast, easy, and tasty, we’ve got you covered. Here are three recipes to help you navigate this week.

Cabbage With Crisp Tofu and Peanut-Lime Dressing

Makes: 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes

This salad is a dream if you like a lot of crunch: There’s shredded cabbage, thinly sliced red onion, peanuts, and crisp crumbled tofu. Broiling the tofu away from the flame allows it to crisp quickly without burning; tossed with some salt and red chile flakes, the crumbles make an irresistible stir-in or garnish. Try them on other salads, cooked vegetables, grains, or noodles. (FYI, the version in the photo above got a handful of boiled rice noodles, an extra drizzle of peanut sauce, some torn basil, and a little drizzle of chile oil; none necessary, all delicious.)

Ingredients

  • 2 bricks firm tofu (12 to 14 ounces each)

  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

  • 1 teaspoon red chile flakes

  • Salt

  • 1 lime

  • 3 tablespoons peanut butter

  • Hot sauce (optional)

  • 1 small head Savoy or green cabbage (1 pound)

  • 1 small red onion

  • 1/2 cup peanuts

Instructions

1. Turn the broiler to high; put the rack 6 inches from the heat.

2. Squeeze as much water as you can out of the tofu. Crumble the tofu onto a rimmed baking sheet and toss with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon red chile flakes, and a sprinkle of salt. Broil, checking and stirring occasionally until the tofu crumbles are brown and crisp, 20 to 25 minutes.

  • Halve the lime.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together 1/3 cup vegetable oil, the juice of the lime, 3 tablespoons peanut butter, 3 tablespoons hot water, some salt, and a dash of hot sauce if you’re using it.

  • Trim, core, and quarter the cabbage. Cut each quarter crosswise into thin ribbons; add to the bowl.

  • Trim, peel, halve, and thinly slice the red onion; add to the bowl. Chop 1/2 cup peanuts; add them to the bowl.

4. When the tofu is crisp, add it to the bowl. Toss, taste, and adjust the seasoning, and serve.

—Recipe from How To Cook Everything Fast

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Shrimp With Capers, Olives, and Tomatoes

Makes: 4 servings
Time: 15 minutes

It’s not particularly groundbreaking to say that shrimp is a good option when you need something fast and satisfying, but I’ll say it anyway. In this version, they’re quickly sautéed in a puttanesca-like sauce of olive oil, garlic, capers, olives, and tomatoes. Canned tomatoes are totally fine here, but this dish actually makes very good use of subpar out-of-season tomatoes (you cook them until they break down anyway), so if you have those in your fridge, use ‘em up. You could toss this shrimp with pasta or white beans, serve it over rice, or with some crusty bread and a simple salad. Or, as in the photo below, tossed with croutons, a handful of arugula, and some grated parmesan.

A quick note on shrimp. As you likely know, much of the farmed shrimp that’s sold around the world is not only environmentally unsustainable but also relies on what amounts to slave labor. If you’re going to cook shrimp, try to find some that’s wild-caught and domestic.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced

  • 2 tablespoons capers

  • 1/2 cup chopped pitted black olives

  • 2 1/2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes (canned are fine; drain their juice)

  • 1 1/2 pounds peeled shrimp, preferably wild and domestic

  • Salt and pepper

  • Zest from one lemon, optional

  • Chopped fresh parsley or basil for garnish

Instructions

1. Put the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, capers, and olives and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is golden, 2 to 3 minutes.

2. Add the tomatoes and turn the heat up to medium-high. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down and the mixture is saucy, 3 to 4 minutes. Return the heat to medium.

3. Add the shrimp, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to coat in the sauce. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are pink all over, 4 to 5 minutes (if the pan gets too dry, add a splash of water and stir). Stir in the lemon zest and parsley, and serve.

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Masa and Rajas

Makes: 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes

Tamale flavors without fuss: Make a masa dough and cook it as one big cake in a covered skillet; this way it gets golden and crisp on the bottom but remains puffy and tender on top. Finish with a stir-fry of poblanos (rajas means “slices” and refers to the small pieces of poblano), onions, and a touch of cream. (The dish in the photo above uses roasted green chiles because they were in the freezer, but you can’t go wrong with the stir-fried poblanos.)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups masa harina

  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder

  • Salt and pepper

  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 1 large onion

  • 4 poblano peppers

  • 2 garlic cloves

  • 1/4 cup cream

Instructions

1. Combine 1 1/2 cups masa harina, 3/4 teaspoon baking powder, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a medium bowl. Stir to combine into a coarse meal, then add 1 1/2 cups warm water and stir to make a thick batter.

  • Trim, peel, and chop the onion.

  • Trim, core, seed, and slice the poblanos.

  • Peel and mince 2 garlic cloves.

2. Put 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion, peppers, and garlic and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are soft, 8 to 12 minutes.

3. Put 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in another large skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the masa batter, spreading it into an even layer (about 1/2 inch thick) with a rubber spatula or carefully pressing it with the palm of your hand.

4. Cover the skillet and cook, adjusting the heat so the bottom doesn’t burn, until the cake is crisp on the bottom and slightly puffed up and firm on the top, 5 to 10 minutes. When the cake is done, cut it into 4 wedges and put them on plates.

5. When the vegetables are soft, stir in 1/4 cup cream and cook until it reduces slightly, a minute or 2. Taste and adjust the seasoning, spoon the mixture over the top of the masa cakes, and serve.

—Recipe from How To Cook Everything Fast

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Hey, Members: Here’s a Small Token of My Gratitude (in the Form of Fried Lobster)

If you read our announcement above, you’ll know that tomorrow is the first official day of member-only content: which means what I’m sharing with you here is highly unofficial in every possible way (watch it and you’ll see). To thank you for signing up to be a member when everything was free and you didn’t really have to, I wanted to cook something kind of decadent and walk you through it on video.

I made this fried lobster the other night when I was alone on Cape Cod (where I spend most of my time at the local fishmonger). Except for the notion of lobster, nothing about this is elegant: not the process, not the presentation, not the production quality, not me (I rarely am). But it’s an awesome dish and most people have never tried making it. Here’s hoping it’ll inspire you to give it a whirl.

If you’re already a member of The Bittman Project, just click on the image above or the button below and it’ll take you right to the video. If not, you can subscribe now or anytime and it (along with all of our member-only stuff) will be ready and waiting for you when you do. Thank you!

WATCH THE VIDEO