Friday, December 2, 2011

Kitchen Express - Mark Bittman

I am a sucker for cookbooks, especially when they say on their cover "dishes you can make in 20 minutes or less".  Sold!  I used to be an intense cook who used many ingredients and put time into my meals.  In the last few years, since my kids have gotten busier, I am all about crock pots and simplicity.  When I saw this one reviewed by Julie at Booking Mama, I immediately ordered from the library.

This cookbook is just a tad different than what you may be used to, in a good way.  The recipes are separated by seasons, which is helpful when you are buying your fresh fruits and vegetables.  Beyond that, Bittman's approach to cooking is pretty loose.  He guides you in general directions, but does not provide measurements unless they are critical to the dish.  This allows you to experiment and replace ingredients for families with PICKY EATERS.  (I won't mention any names.)

But if you are the type of cook that likes to know how many teaspoons of parsley and tablespoons of olive oil?  This approach might be frustrating to you.  There are also NO PICTURES.  I love pictures.  But I was able to forgive that omission because instead we get 404 recipes that you can whip out on the busiest evenings.  I had my way with this cookbook.  Here are a few recipes we tried and loved:

Pan-Seared Fish with Spicy Lime Butter
Stir together about a half stick of softened butter, a finely chopped shallot, the zest of a lime and a good squeeze of the juice, a minced red chile, and a pinch or two of salt.  Pat any type of fish fillets dry, season with salt, and cook them quickly in a tablespoon each of olive oil and butter.  Turn the fish once and cook until golden and cook through, about five minutes.  Serve the fillets with a generous spoonful of the compound butter on top.

My comments:  I didn't have a chile, so I put in chile flakes.  I also dredged my fish in flour, just to give it some texture.  But that lime butter is to die for.  You could put it on almost anything and it would make the anything better.


Sesame-Glazed Grilled Chicken
Heat the grill or grill pan.  Pound chicken breasts to a quarter-inch thickness.  Mix together minced garlic, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, and cayenne to make a thin paste.  Brush on the chicken and grill or broil until cooked through, turning once, about five minutes.  Lightly toast sesame seeds in a dry pan until just starting to color.  Sprinkle the chicken with sesame seeds and garnish with chopped scallion.

My notes:  My marinade was definitely thinner than a paste, because I was just pouring stuff in the bowl.  Didn't matter.  I actually reserved some of the liquid and tossed it with angel hair pasta, and I heard no complaints.


Pasta Carbonara
Boil and salt water for pasta, and cook it.  Meanwhile, cut a quarter pound of pancetta into small pieces and fry in a bit of olive oil until golden.  In a bowl large enough to hold the pasta, beat together three eggs, a half cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and the meat.  Drain pasta, reserving some of the cooking water.  Toss the pasta quickly with the egg mixture to combine (the heat from the pasta will cook the eggs).  Add a few tablespoons of pasta water if needed to moisten.  Season with salt and pepper, garnish with chopped parsley and more Parmesan.

My notes:  One time I used prosciutto, and another time I used bacon, in place of the pancetta.  In any case, this dish was a huge hit in our house.  Decadent and delicious.


Do you see how simple these recipes are?  In just a few sentences and a few ingredients, you've got dinner.  While I hesitate to buy cookbooks because I don't have alot of room for them, this one may be a keeper.

19 comments:

christina said...

I love it! Must get a hold of this book. I'm all about cooking and even more about SIMPLE cooking.

bermudaonion said...

Hm, between you and Julie, I feel like I should try this, but I generally need more direction than that when I'm trying a new dish.

Julie P. said...

So glad I reviewed this one so you could discover it. LOL! I'm not entirely comfortable with not having exact ingredients.

Marianne Murphy said...

I'm a measurement, picture kinda cook, however, this seems like a perfect way for me to start trusting my culinary instincts!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I also took special note of this when Julie reviewed it. And carbonara - yum!

Alyce said...

I just went and put this one on hold at the library. We definitely need more easy meal ideas.

farmlanebooks said...

I make carbonara a lot. Yumm :-)

Zibilee said...

I do believe that I saw this book on your counter with several bookmarks sticking out of it when I was over for bookclub, and I took notice of it then. It seems like it would be a great addition to my kitchen because I usually avoid measuring and jusy throw things together according to my tastes.

I also wanted you to know that I making your lasagna casserole for dinner tonight. I haven't stopped thinking about it since I had it!

caite said...

the lack of pictures is an issue for me. I was willing to give them up on the massive ATK cookbook, but not sure I want to make a habit of it.

Jenners said...

Hmmm…not sure that I could handle a "no measurements" type of cookbook. That never works out well for me.

Jenny said...

Eek... I can mess up a recipe even with the amounts of each ingredient listed, LOL!! I think I need a little more practice before trying these recipes. My husband, on the other hand, would probably really like this!

heidenkind said...

Hm, no pictures might be a deal breaker for me. I do love simple recipes--who doesn't?--and also recipes with a few ingredients. Pasta Carbonara is one of my favorite dishes to make!

softdrink said...

This sounds like my kind of cookbook! I hate to measure stuff (why dirty more dishes?) and am always pouring things in randomly. (Except for baking...it's kind of hard to make cupcakes that actually taste good without dirtying 10,000 dishes).

And the chicken dish sounds yummy.

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

I like the simplicity of it, and don't mind no pictures (ATK has taught me that I don't always need them), but, is there an ingredient list, or just the notes in the directions? I would be a big fail if I needed to pull the ingredients from inside the text.

Heather @ Book Addiction said...

This sounds right up my alley! I do enjoy cooking but usually by the time I get home from work at 6:30 or 7 pm I am exhausted and starving, and am in no mood to put together a complicated dinner. These recipes sound perfect for me.

C.B. James said...

I actually prefer more complicated recipes. But, my favorite cookbook of all time also is arranged by season and also has no pictures. And, to be honest, we could use some new recipes for quick meals on weeknights.

Melissa said...

I have way too many cookbooks. They rarely get used, but this is the way I cook! I love the quick descriptions. I would miss the pictures though.

Beth F said...

I am a huge Bittman fan and have given his books to many young people (first apartment, bridal shower, and so on). I wish I had been caught up on my blog reading because I would have linked this up to Weekend Cooking for you.

Alyce said...

We've done two recipes so far (spicy basil chicken in coconut sauce & Mediterranean Chicken)and we absolutely loved them! I think I might buy a copy of this book after we return it to the library. Oh and my husband has been the one doing all of the cooking which has been awesome! :)