The cultlike devotees of the Atkins diet would have us believe
that grains and carbohydrates are plagues that increase our
waistlines. Only in America would there arise a diet focused on
bacon, grease, eggs and flank steak. Well, not only is the Atkins
diet a gastronomical mistake, it also forces us to ignore too many
delicious dishes — to say nothing of alcohol; Michelob Ultra
tastes horrible.

Jess Piskor – Opinion

Bread and water are the staples of every prison diet. A slice of
freshly baked bread somehow tastes much more complex than its
ingredients would imply (flour, water, salt). While baking your own
bread can be a day long affair, Ann Arbor is blessed with
Zingerman’s and its wonderful breads. This month’s
bread special is sourdough round for only $2.99. A couple of slices
toasted, then drizzled with olive oil, salt and ground pepper is
almost a meal in itself.

For an easy appetizer that is sure to impress, look no further
than bruschetta. Buy a long baguette and slice it into thin
medallions. Chop about four medium tomatoes into small squares and
mix with an equal amount of small cubes of mozzarella or cheddar
cheese. Add some finely chopped red onion, minced garlic and fresh
basil. Drizzle on a generous amount of olive oil and balsamic
vinegar until everything is nicely coated. Arrange the bread slices
on a tray and scoop a big spoonful of the tomato mixture on top of
each slice. Broil in the oven for three to five minutes until the
cheese is melty and looking a little brown. Serve hot.

Rice is the staple food of cultures across the globe. While rice
is perhaps a bit harder to cook than pasta, it should still be a
part of many college meals. Because rice is sometimes a pain, I own
a rice cooker that plugs into the wall and steams rice
automatically. They run from $40 to $100. To cook rice on a
stovetop, measure out two parts water to one part jasmine or
basmati rice. For one person, one cup of rice will be more than
enough. Two cups should feed three or four. Add to a pot, cover and
heat at a high temperature until the water boils. Then reduce the
heat until the water gently simmers. Cook covered until the water
is absorbed and the rice is tender. If the water cooks off but the
rice is not done, it’s okay to add a little more water. The
rice will work as a good base for stir fry or as a filler for
fajitas.

Another rice dish is the Italian creamy rice meal of risotto.
Make a mushroom risotto by first sautéing one and a half
pounds of fresh mushrooms — use fancy mushrooms like shitake
or Portobello if you can afford it. Set aside the mushrooms and
then sauté one finely chopped onion in some olive oil in a
large pan for a few minutes. Meanwhile, heat up six cups of chicken
or vegetable broth in a pot on the stove (you can buy broth either
as a liquid in cans or in a concentrated form in the soup aisle of
grocery stores).

Add one and a half cups of Arborio rice (it has to be Arborio
rice, but it is easy to find) to the pan with the onions and stir
together for a minute. Add one cup of white wine to the pan and
stir until the wine is almost all cooked off. Then add the
mushrooms and one cup of the broth and keep stirring. Keep the
stove heat at a temperature where the broth/rice mixture gently
simmers. As the liquid cooks off, keep adding one cup of broth and
stirring until the rice is done — about 20 to 25 minutes.
When the rice is done add two-thirds of a cup of Parmesan cheese
and serve. The rice should be nicely creamy — if it is too
dry, add a little more broth.

What anti-Atkins column would be complete without a nice alcohol
recipe? For a classic drink that will remind you of the night they
drove ol’ Dixie down, look no further than a Mint Julep.
First make a sugar syrup by mixing two cups of sugar and two cups
of water in a pot, heating at low heat and stirring until the sugar
dissolves. Add a big handful of crushed mint leaves to the sugar
syrup and let sit for a bit (the mixture will keep for several days
if need be). Take a glass and fill it with (preferably crushed)
ice. Pour in a big shot of Kentucky bourbon and then add the
sugar/mint syrup to taste (at least one shot worth; be sure to
strain out the wilted mint leaves) Serve with a few fresh mint
leaves in the glass. Do not sit on the porch of your plantation and
shout insults at sharecroppers.

Jess thinks people who follow the Atkins diet are
genetically and intellectually inferior. He can be reached at

jpiskor@umich.edu.

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