Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Smitten by Bittman

I don’t stock a large library of cookbooks. I learned several years ago that I was more intrigued by recipes from varied sources such as the Food Network, food blogs, Los Angeles Times’ Food Section, Bon Appetit, Cuisine At Home, or Sur la Table cooking classes. I’ve even clipped recipes from food ads.

I file them in 15 separate folders with labels such as Fish/Seafood, Lamb/Pork/Veal, Pasta/Rice, Sauces/Seasonings/Stock, and other staples like Chicken, Beef, Soups, Salads/Dressings, and Vegetables. I also have a Miscellaneous file for, well, miscellaneous. Every year I survey the folders; circular-filing those recipes I haven’t used in some time, no longer inspire, or are so food-stained they are illegible. (A well-seasoned recipe is almost edible.)

Using a few recipes from a $30.00 cookbook is not a great ROI (return on investment).

The one cookbook I reference most often is Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. Mark, know as The Minimalist, is a guy’s cook. He, reputedly, does most of his work out of his Manhattan apartment’s minimalist kitchen. His recipes are quite accessible, and you don’t need to drive 50 miles to a specialty store or have something shipped from Sri Lanka.

I have several Emeril Lagasse recipes but he could be called a Maximumist. The man uses LOTS of ingredients, and equipment. I often need a nap in-between preparation steps.

When you do come across an ingredient, either foreign to you or requiring you to pay for foreign shipping, I have two suggestions. First, buy a book such as Food Lover’s Companion by Sharon and Ron Herbst. I find it indispensable. It lists more than 6,700 foodie terms, describing cooking techniques, herbs, spices, ingredients, etc.

Another option is switcheroo.com, The Cook’s Thesaurus. Type in the unfamiliar term and the site gives you options without requiring you to learn several other languages.

Mark, a frequent guest on The Today Show, writes a blog for the New York Times – bitten.blogs.nytimes.com. I recommend it. You will find it linked on the right side of this blog’s opening page under About Me.

But even Bitten is smitten by the cookbook bug; touting 50 cookbooks he cannot live without. Trust me, you can live without them.

I wonder where he keeps them in his minimalist kitchen.

2 comments:

Buster said...

As an engineer, you might enjoy the Cooking for Engineers web site
http://www.cookingforengineers.com/

Barbara said...

Hi, thanks for leaving a nice message on my blog! I read all your posts and like your unique way of expressing yourself... I appreciate people who do thoughtful, unpretentious writing.

I'll be giving the Bitman cookbook another look since you recommend it. I flipped through it at a friend's house awhile ago, but have been looking things up on the internet lately or out of the countless number of cookbooks I already own... Whenever I like a recipe, I copy it and add it to a binder in a sheet protector so I can create a custom cookbook of my own and don't have to remember which #@@??!!!!! cookbook I was using last week.
Well, keep up the good writing and Bon Apetiteeeee!!
Looking forward to your next riveting post--Barb the Anaheimhillian...