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.
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.