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The Minimalist Cooks at Home: Recipes That Give You More Flavor Out of Fewer Ingredients in Less Time [Hardcover]

Mark Bittman
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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The Minimalist Cooks at Home: Recipes That Give You More Flavor from Fewer Ingredients in Less Time The Minimalist Cooks at Home: Recipes That Give You More Flavor from Fewer Ingredients in Less Time 5.0 out of 5 stars (1)
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Book Description

May 2000
People are hungry for ways to simplify their cooking--without sacrificing quality or taste. Now you can satisfy that hunger with The Minimalist Cooks at Home.

Mark Bittman, author of the New York Times column "The Minimalist," brings one hundred of his innovative recipes (many never published before) right into your kitchen. But The Minimalist Cooks at Home is so much more than recipes. It features Mark's personal quick-cooking lessons, shortcuts, and ideas for variations, substitutions, and spin-offs.

Mark doesn't believe in arduous techniques, long lists of ingredients, and even longer hours in the kitchen. Instead, with a few choice ingredients and a few easy steps, dishes such as Paella, Fast and Easy; Ziti with Butter, Sage, and Parmesan; Spicy Chicken with Lemon-grass and Lime; and 15-Minute Fruit Gratin can be on your table in no time.

And by encouraging versatility, The Minimalist Cooks at Home allows cooks of all skill levels to create a tailored repertoire of sophisticated dinners. This is modern cooking at its best--flexible, fast, and fabulous.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (A Division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc) (May 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767903617
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767903615
  • Product Dimensions: 24.5 x 16.5 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,792,041 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
I bought this book after reading an enthusiastic review of it on Epicurious.com, and it is a joy to own. I own a HEAP of cookbooks and love to read and cook by recipes but this book shows how to cook by a given method, and then adapt the method in many different ways to suit the occasion and ingredients on hand. The spice-rubbed salmon and chicken with vinegar are both wonderful.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  50 reviews
245 of 250 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strange and Indispensable 2 May 2000
By "buddy_x" - Published on Amazon.com
What a strange and wonderful book this is. I started here, and not with Bittman's other book, because I didn't want to be overwhelmed. The recipes are at once more exotic and (even) more simple than I thought they'd be. One can probably learn more about cooking from this slim little book than he would by reading The Joy of Cooking cover to cover. All the same, you won't find here recipes for meat loaf or macaroni and cheese. The book is too urbane and international in its approach for that. A dish has to be both simple and, somehow, elegant. Grown-up. Bittman sees fit to include recipes for things like duck and lemongrass ginger soup with mushrooms in this short primer-not things that, at face value, I'd expect myself to need or even want on a quotidian basis. But there's the rub. The reader quickly learns that, in Bittman's cosmos, virtually any ingredient is interchangeable with any other ingredient. Even a main ingredient-chicken or fish-can be and should be readily and unhesitatingly substituted for what's available in the refrigerator- right now. At the end of every recipe comes a coda called "With Minimal Effort," and it is here that the recipes transcend themselves to inspire and instruct. Here are the substitutions, additions, embellishments, variations and manipulations of the core recipes that transform this from being just a little book to being a little book that can change the way you cook.
We shouldn't be running out to buy things. The mantra is making due with only a few high quality items that are already on hand. This is infinitely refreshing vis-a-vis a world of Martha Stewarts - cooks whose recipes seem to me rigidly conceived and which fetishize individual ingredients. Here, it's all about making intelligent substitutions based on a firm grasp of technique and knowing "where the flavor comes from." When I said the book was "strange," what I found so was the juxtaposition of certain recipes that - along with those for duck and lemongrass ginger soup - are so simple as to seem both obvious and antithetical to the book's overall sophistication. Not so. Once you get the hang of it, you learn that simple IS sophisticated. Often, more so than something with 25 different ingredients. Preparing a meal of linguine with olive oil and garlic can be nothing less than learning to cook all over again. I seem to recall making that, years ago, and yet this most pristine dish had fallen out of my repertoire. I had been brainwashed into believing that "more is more." Having reintroduced the dish, I want to make some substitutions with the very same dish tomorrow night: adding an herb here, a vegetable there. But not too many. I won't be making any special trips to the market. Bittman wouldn't want me to. Besides, too many ingredients might muck up the individual flavors, which is want I want to come through.
One could probably make a case for the idea that to master all of the recipes in this book would lead one to be able to cook anything. As the author points out, recipes can be "symbolic" of other recipes. It's nothing less than an education to be in the presence of a teacher whose goal is to demystify cooking itself by helping us make these connections.
My only bone to pick with Bittman is a tendency to underestimate the preparation time of some of the recipes. I myself have never peeled and minced garlic in less than fifteen minutes. If you can, you'll get even more out of this book than I did.
94 of 94 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Mentor in the Kitchen 10 Jun 2000
By Paula Skartland - Published on Amazon.com
I began flipping through this book when it first arrived and found myself driven to read it cover-to-cover. Mark Bittman's approach is like having a food mentor in my very own kitchen. Providing the right amount of information about the ingredients and the process PLUS ideas for modifying the recipes to suit the contents of your refrigerator is incredibly helpful. His practical, down-to-earth method is more like great coaching--informative and inspiring!
The Lemongrass-Ginger Soup on page 16 pleased everyone in my soup loving family (which includes two teenage boys). Mark's section called "With Minimal Effort" includes multiple ways to enhance/modify every recipe. And did I mention the Pasta & Potatoes recipe, page 59? Seasoned chefs may shudder but I have to say, it's a slice of heaven if heaven serves comfort food.
Mark Bittman, I'm grateful for your practical yet food loving approach to getting tasty dinners on the table quickly. We're having a Lemongrass-Ginger Soup variation tonight!
71 of 74 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Get "How To Cook Everything" Instead 29 Nov 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
I can't say enough good things about "How To Cook Everything," which is my cooking bible. However, "The Minimalist" seems to offer little new in terms of technique or reference, and has only a small fraction of the number of recipes in HTCE - many of which are identical or very simalar to ones in HTCE. If you have HCTE, this book is redundant. If you don't have HCTE, get it instead - it's 5 times the book at essentially the same price. I have both books, and always find myself reaching for the dog-eared and food-stained copy of "How To Cook Everything".
38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bittman's The Bomb! This Book Rocks! 22 Dec 2000
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A direct quote which was repeated with each new dish I prepared from this wonderful book.

When I first received the book, I was disappointed in it's size (small/thin) and the enormous amount of words and lack of beautiful colored photos. (The included photos show method and are in black and white, part of the minimalist theme). It just didn't "look" like a cookbook. My opinion quickly changed as I picked up the book and started reading. I was amazed at how simple (easy & fast) all of the dishes were. I bookmarked those I was interested in and soon my book was fat with markers of dishes I wanted to try!

That's the best thing about this book, Bittman has simplified each recipe to the point where you want to try it. The short ingredient list and simple cooking methods make each recipe do-able and not daunting.

I've tried 8 dishes so far and every one was a hit... Emma's Cod and Potatoes, Paella Fast and Easy and Chicken with Reisling are our favorites so far. Bittman's introduction provides guidance, suggestions, hints and the "whys" of the dish, invaluable information.

The suggested variations at the end of each dish make each recipe even more valuable and teach "rigid" cooks that subsitution with good results is indeed possible and in fact encouraged. Bittman gives you the freedom & knowledge to substitue ingredients properly. The works if you'd like a variation or if you just don't have or don't like some ingredients. The recipe for Paella for example calls for chicken broth, but you can substitue shrimp shell stock (he tells you how to make it) or even plain water. The Paella calls for shrimp, but you can substitute most any meat... chicken, beef, pork. A fully stocked pantry/refrigerator is definitely NOT required for this book.

I have SHELVES of cookbooks, but this is the one that stays on my counter. I love the simplicity, I love the taste and I love his creative ideas for dishes.

The only people I would not recommend this book for are the cooks who believe that more time, ingredients and/or fancy techniques are required to create a good meal.

A wonderful addition to any "busy" cooks library. This is a cookbook that you can use to cook with on a daily basis, not just weekends and most amazing of all, you'll still have energy after cooking to enjoy the meal!

You go Bittman!
33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you just want to cook a few dishes well, buy this book! 6 April 2005
By B. Marold - Published on Amazon.com
`The Minimalist Cooks at Home' is from New York Times culinary columnist, Mark Bittman, who is filling a classic Times role created by the noted French chef, Pierre Franey, who elevated the fast cooking genre over thirty years ago in columns in the very same New York Times and in books compiled from these columns. Since I still see Franey's '60 Minute Gourmet' volumes on the shelves of bookstores, I guess I must keep them on mine at least until I review these two volumes of columns.

While Franey is probably a far better cook than his successor, Bittman may be a much better writer or at least better at homing in on things which are important to people wishing to make good food fast. I have reviewed his `How to Cook Everything' and his `Fish' cookbook and have found both of them excellent material for a modest shelf of cookbooks. In this book and others Bittman has done from his Times column, Bittman is playing the thinking man's Rachael Ray. I say that with no disrespect toward Ms. Rachael, as I have favorably reviewed all her books. Rachael's recipe write-ups are great for people with fair kitchen skills who want very good step by step directions on how to get from groceries to dinner as quickly as possible. Bittman, on the other hand, takes a much broader viewpoint. His `minimalist' notion is not simply a matter of doing things quickly. In his words, `...these recipes require a minimum of technique and/or a minimum number of ingredients; most of them are fast as well. The approach is strictly less-is-more', an attempt to repoduce recipes that are so sophisticated, savvy, and fresh that they will inspire even experienced cooks while making them basic and simple enough to tempt novices'.

Like Jacques Pepin in both his classic `The Short Cut Cook' and his recent `Fast Food My Way', Bittman begins by selecting recipes which are simple to begin with rather than, like Franey and Ray, modifying recipes to shorten normally long cooking approaches. In Franey's case, a recipe in his book such as his chili has sometimes disappointed me. I believe Frenchman Franey never sensed the essence of chili and produced something which simply does not work very well as `chili', which, I suspect, simply does not make it without a long braise. Franey's collections of columns even go so far as to give us the French names of his dishes. A quick browse of Tony Bourdain's `Les Halle' Cookbook' will demonstrate that lots of classic French recipes are actually pretty easy to make, but a focus on French cuisine is a bit limiting in today's American thinking about food.

Bittman improves on Franey by making each recipe a little essay on how to succeed with a very useful and interesting family of dishes. The recipe is simply an exemplar which can serve as a jumping off point for a modest to wide range of variations. Surprisingly, Bittman also improves on Frenchman Franey by providing suggestions for wine pairings. He also covers `Keys to Success', points on ingredients or technique which will improve the quality of the dish.

My overall evaluation of this book may be jaded by having reviewed over 400 cookbooks and find no easy niche into which to stick this work and others based on Bittman's New York Times columns. The thing which best illuminates the value of this book for me is an opinion shared by both Ina Garten and Deborah Madison that the home cook should concentrate on mastering just a few good dishes and variations on those dishes. Madison assures us that cooking will become much more pleasurable when a simple dish can be whipped up largely from memory.

If you agree with this position, and I find it a very attractive position to take if you are not a foodie, but like to cook well at least once a week, then this book and it's siblings are some of the very best you can choose, unless you happen to be a vegetarian, in which case you go for Deborah Madison's new book, `Vegetarian Suppers'.

Madison and Bittman share strong writing skills with excellent choices of recipes in what are really volumes of `personal best' recipes.

If you eat meat, like to cook now and then, and do not have room for a large cookbook collection, you could do a lot worse than by limiting yourself to Mark Bittman cookbooks.

Highly recommended.
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