my favorite cookbook(s)

I've been meaning to do more reviews -- I like reading reviews in other blogs and journals, a lot, so I think it's time I start returning the favor more often. Today's review is of a cookbook, or more apt, a how-to-cook manual, with another mini review of another cookbook by the same author.

bittmanbook.jpgHow to Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food, by Mark Bittman, is simply one of the most useful cookbooks I've encountered in all the years I've been looking at them (and I used to do indexes for cookbooks, so I'm very familiar with them, the good, the bad, the ugly ... ) This book gives you the basics on how to cook stuff, what terms mean, where to find ingredients and how to buy them, what kind of kitchen equipment you need (and the stuff you can hold off on buying), and more. The recipes are easy to follow and easy to adapt -- Bittman even gives several variations to try if you're too nervous to improvise on your own. What this book does, basically, is teach you how it all works so you have a basic understanding of what you can and can't do to get good food prepared well. He also makes a strong case for cooking "from scratch" at home, versus eating out or buying prepared meals -- it's often just as fast, if not faster, to make a meal yourself than to buy the pre-made versions of most foods. Better for you, too.

minimalist.jpgMark Bittman writes the "Minimalist Chef" column in the New York Times, which I read regularly. Last year I bought his The Minimalist Cooks at Home: Recipes That Give You More Flavor Out of Fewer Ingredients in Less Time (I noticed that he sure doesn't go for minimalist titles!) and use it often enough that I wish the pages were plastic instead of paper (I'm not the neatest cook in the world ... ) Most of the recipes in this book are very good to eat and pretty easy to prepare, though there are a couple that sound great, but taste awful (even Stanley rejected the Fennel-Orange Compote, and he tends to eat whatever I serve him with no complaints). But I wanted more, so I got the Big Book. Both are wonderful cookbooks and definitely belong in your kitchen.
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