January 27, 2011

Adieu, my dear Minimalist

New York Times

Mark Bittman posted his last "Minimalist" column in this Wednesday's New York Times Food Section.  I have loved his column--as I was learning to cook on my own and for myself, his simple, delicious, quick techniques formed a backbone for my own cooking habits and style.

His most influential column was surely the revelation that one could cook bread, amazing, crusty, flavorful bread, without kneading, and with a dutch oven as the only special equipment necessary.

But here are a few of his favorites that are also my favorites:
+ People rarely believe me when I say that fennel is one of my favorite vegetables.  I like it cooked basically any way: steamed, fried, roasted, stewed (so so good in Chicken soup), and fresh, thinly sliced, with a bright vinaigrette and...yes...celery (above).

+ I rely far too heavily on pasta in my diet--its quick, its soothing, its delicious--but something like this spaghetti with egg is really marvelous, and much more balanced than most quick pasta recipes.  I like to add in spinach too the spaghetti about a minute before it is done boiling.

+ I usually think of lamb as a mediterranean dish, but this lamb with chili, cumin and garlic is from Mongolia.  Amazing.

+ Pernil is a Puerto Rican roast pork shoulder that sits in the oven for ever.  But it is the easiest thing to make, and his recipe is excellent.

I have also always loved his article about using the broiler--which is one of my favorite kitchen techniques--and is often overlooked:
Bread machines, microwaves, sandwich-makers, electric grills and other ''must-haves'' come and go, but the broiler is always there. Hundreds of books are written about grilling, roasting, frying, even microwaving and steaming, for crying out loud, yet the broiler is largely ignored.

The broiler is free -- that is to say, you already own one -- and easy to use. It is essentially an upside-down grill, but it produces results you cannot duplicate any other way. It even has a couple of distinct advantages over the outdoor grill and the countertop version.

...As a young food writer, freed from the constraints of the city, I wrote about the joys of wintertime grilling. As a middle-aged food writer, I'm writing about the benefits of wintertime broiling: you don't have to brave the weather, and you get a warmer kitchen. All you need to do is turn a dial (or, these days, frustratingly, push a couple of buttons, one of them several times). And -- a real bonus that you do not get with grilling, either indoor or outdoor -- the juices of whatever you're broiling stay in the pan.
And then there was his influential article about the three fish that are not in danger of over fishing--giving me an excuse to buy lobster as much as possible.  Mark Bittman also produced hundreds of videos to accompany his recipes, and the man who filmed and edited them picked his very favorite video/recipe: braised short ribs.  I am currently obsessed with the idea of making braised short ribs (I've never made short ribs!), so I am definitely trying this out, soon!  (As a starter, I'll be making his Oranges with Olives, pictured below.)

I am also dying to try Mark Bittman's technique for making homemade pasta quickly and simply.  That was last week's column, and it looks marvelous. Other recipes I've bookmarked but have yet to make:
+ I wish I had seen his quick preserved lemons when I was home at Christmas.
+ I actually love the idea of a savory breakfast influenced by Chinese flavors. Or pizza for breakfast. (No, really!)
+ Pork Fennel Burgers?  YES!
+ Bittman uses a lot of pestos, and I've learned a lot about pestos from him--but asparagus pesto seems like a revelation.
+ Also a revelation: lavender with vegetables and pasta
New York Times

1 comment:

  1. I haven't followed his column, but I like the highlights. I'm a big broiler fan...