Hippie Kitchen’s easy, affordable vegetarian recipes leave the one-half-cup-chopped routine behind. “We’d probably cook more,” says author and food historian Jean Johnson, “if it wasn’t a paint-by-numbers exercise. And why should the elite cooking authorities get to have all the fun? This is simple everyday food. The same delicious food women around the world have been making for centuries—food that’s light years beyond brown rice.” Hippie Kitchen also offers an ultrafast technique that Johnson calls “flash cooking.” The book’s ultimate goal is to help everyday cooks save 25% to 50% on their food bills simply by doing their own slicing and dicing. “This is a way to enrich our lives even as we tighten our belts during this economic slowdown,” says Johnson. “And flash cooking gets beautiful seasonal vegetables to the center of our plates pronto.” Laced with rock & roll lyrics, Hippie Kitchen: A Measurefree Vegetarian Cookbook is the second title in Johnson’s measurefree cookbook trilogy. The first book, Cooking Beyond Measure: How to Eat Well without Formal Recipes came out in 2008.Sample Recipe Cinnamon Brandy Apples That plaintive voice of Neil Young: “I wanna live with a cinnamon girl.” Ah, yes, if you make these homey stovetop apples, you just might have to go put on the tune. Even if the album’s not around, once you’re so beautifully fed, you are on your way to being “a dreamer of pictures...chasing the moonlight.” Recipe Note Dissolve a spoon of arrowroot powder or cornstarch in a little cold water before adding to grated apple laced with lemon juice for a simmer. Cinnamon, nutmeg, pure vanilla extract, and little brandy turns these apples goopy and homey and good. Spoon Cinnamon Brandy Apples over most anything: oatmeal with raisins, steamed amaranth, nutty quinoa, cottage cream, plain yogurt. Or skip the stovetop scene and bake your apples under a lattice of Flax Meal Pie Crust (page 124). Details -Thickening agents like arrowroot and cornstarch clump in hot water, so make sure you’ve drawn from the cold tap. Use a teaspoon to a third cup of liquid. A heavy bottom pan plus vigilant stirring over fairly high heat will get the thickening action happening in short order. -I usually put the spices in while the fruit is softening and save the vanilla for the end. Then all’s left to do is close your eyes, dream of pictures, and inhale the sweet down home aroma. How much cinnamon and nutmeg? Cinnamon’s forgiving and adds sweetness, so a small spoonful works. On nutmeg, it doesn’t take much of this peppery spice, so go for a conservative pinch until you find your stride. If vanilla sounds strange added to cooked apples, here’s my story: It was Williams, Arizona. The Sixties. Bobbie Smith’s kitchen. She was making applesauce and used a generous pour of vanilla. I’ve not tasted better before or since. Here’s to you, Bobbie. You and Smitty and Wesley were such a righteous trip. -You’ll notice there’s lemon, not sugar or honey in Cinnamon Brandy Apples. That’s because most of our apples have been bred to accommodate Americans’ notorious lust for sweetness. It’s also because once we quit dosing fruits automatically with extra sugars, we get a chance to truly savor the flavor—flavor that is often surprisingly plenty sweet in its own right. -Ditto on butter. There’s none called for here. But I confess that a little pat allowed to melt over the top of warm apples can make you feel like chasing some serious moonlight. On Apple Varieties— During the fall it’s a trip to get half a dozen different apples and line them up for a taste test. From there it’s also fun to see how each behaves when cooked either stovetop or in the oven—what it carries in the way of flavor after heat turns it soft—how the form of the apple holds up and whether it tends to turn to sauce. I often have Galas or the somewhat sweeter Fujis on hand since slices straight off the core are so crisp and bright—albeit in the category of soda pop apples bred for the infamous American sweet tooth. Then again a tree I espaliered along the driveway gives equally sweet Jonagolds that invariably get munched directly from the branches. Still, when I get on a jag of eating Smoked Edam or Gouda and dark rye breads, I like tart Granny Smith’s or Pippins—apples that invariably lead to a pie. The main thing is that we’ve come a long way from the desert of Delicious apples that dominated after the Second World War when we homogenized everything in sight. On Honey & Sugar— Friend Laurie Mercier said that when she was in Japan she had to seek out sweets when she wanted them. “They just aren’t part of the Japanese diet,” she said. “And you know, I didn’t see a heavy person the whole time I was there.” Even if you’re not in Taj Mahal’s heavy hippie mama camp, health care professionals question diets dosed in sugars for a range of reasons. And, of course, culinary observers around the globe point out that Americans are known for their excessive consumption of the coy and cloying white crystal. What to say except to go easy on the sugarama and the honey, whether it’s Van Morrison’s Tupelo or clover from bees that are tended by keepers with good ethics.