Recipe for­mat a food revo­lu­tion

New cook­book fool­proof for cooks at home

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Weekend Life - RE­BECCA TUCKER

When Mark Bittman re­leased his first cook­book, How To Cook Ev­ery­thing, in 1998, we thought about food very dif­fer­ently.

It was a time — if you can imag­ine it — be­fore “ar­ti­sanal,” “su­per­food” and even “kale” were common culi­nary par­lance.

But if we’ve ded­i­cated the nearly two decades since Bittman’s first how-to tome to fig­ur­ing out how we should shop (lo­cally) and what we should buy (or­ganic), there now re­mains the prac­ti­cal ques­tion of how we do all th­ese eth­i­cally sourced, ide­o­log­i­cally laboured-over in­gre­di­ents jus­tice — after a 10-hour work­day.

That is to say: How do we cook things cor­rectly, while at the same time cook­ing them very, very quickly?

Which is why Bittman calls his new book, How To Cook Ev­ery­thing Fast, “the cook­book for right now.”

“Rev­o­lu­tion­ary is a very strong word and I try to stay away from hy­per­bole, but it is re­ally a new way of do­ing things,” Bittman said. With the new book — the third in his Ev­ery­thing se­ries, which also in­cludes How To Cook Ev­ery­thing Veg­e­tar­ian — Bittman com­pletely re­vamps the recipe struc­ture as we’ve come to know it, ex­plain­ing that he’s tai­lored his new in­struc­tions for the home cook, where most (if not all) other cook­books write recipes as if for pro­fes­sion­als with as­sis­tants.

“The prob­lem is that every­body who’s writ­ten recipes for the past X years has kind of done it wrong,” he says.

“We’ve done it the way that chefs do it, which is to say, here’s all the stuff that you need to make this recipe, have your sous chef put that on the counter for you, with the garlic chopped, basil torn, and so on, and here’s how you would go about mak­ing the recipe once you have all this stuff on your counter. That’s not the way any­body cooks.”

So to ex­pe­dite home cook­ing with­out re­sort­ing to boxed-food short­cuts, Bittman has in­cor­po­rated prep into each step.

The process is then seam­less and, as a re­sult, speedy, but Bittman quickly cor­rects the sug­ges­tion that the for­mat of How To Cook Ev­ery­thing Fast is sim­ply common sense: “Let’s say this: many things ap­pear to be common sense after they’re done,” he says. “It’s only sec­ond na­ture if you cook a lot. I think this book, whether you know how to cook or not, this book lets you walk into the kitchen and start cook­ing. The chances of (the recipes) screw­ing up are close to zero.”

Bittman and his team had to closely ex­am­ine what he calls the “cod­i­fi­ca­tion” of kitchen tech­niques, break­ing down the steps in a recipe that sea­soned home cooks may chalk up to in­tu­ition — when to start boil­ing a pot of wa­ter, for in­stance, or what to do with kitchen scraps as you cre­ate them.

“A be­gin­ner does not know how to do that,” Bittman says. “A be­gin­ner thinks, oh, I have to have this chopped, I have to have this mea­sured out, and by the time they start cook­ing, 20 min­utes have passed, and it’s only a 20-minute recipe.”

Bittman is of course not the only culi­nary cru­sader cur­rently work­ing to dis­pel the common myth that cook­ing from scratch is a time-con­sum­ing task — just scan any food web­site or blog and you’ll dis­cover recipes cat­e­go­rized by how lit­tle time they take.

Plus, Jamie Oliver — who has ba­si­cally made a ca­reer of rev­o­lu­tion­iz­ing food sys­tems one by one — re­cently took on time as his lat­est con­quest with the TV se­ries Jamie’s 15-Minute Meals.

And while Oliver may ul­ti­mately be eye­ing a healthy bot­tom line, the mes­sage he and Bittman are push­ing — that there’s no such thing as “not enough time to cook” — may be as im­por­tant and im­pact­ful as any we’ve heard since Bittman’s first book.

“I’m very proud of this,” Bittman says of How To Cook Ev­ery­thing Fast. “This is my life’s work. I think it’s the most ex­cit­ing thing I’ve ever done.”

But­ter­nut Squash Soup With Ap­ples and Ba­con

Time: Faster (30 min­utes or less)

This soup has it all: It’s sweet, colour­ful and creamy and even fea­tures the smoky crunch of ba­con on top. The most time­con­sum­ing thing about pre­par­ing squash is peel­ing and seed­ing it.

8 slices ba­con

1 medium but­ter­nut squash 2 large ap­ples 1 small onion

1 tsp (5 mL) all­spice

1/4 tsp (1 mL) cayenne

Salt and pep­per 5 cups (1-1/4 L) chicken or veg­etable stock or wa­ter

1 cup cream

1. Put a large pot over medium heat.

2. Chop 8 slices ba­con into 1-inch pieces. Add the ba­con to the pot. Cook, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally, un­til crisp, 5 to 10 min­utes. Line a plate with pa­per tow­els.

Cut the squash in half cross­wise; peel and trim it, then scoop out the seeds. Cut it into chunks that will fit through the feed tube of a food pro­ces­sor.

Peel, quar­ter, and core the ap­ples. Trim, peel, and quar­ter the onion.

3. When the ba­con is crisp, trans­fer it to the pa­per tow­els with a slot­ted spoon. Turn the heat to low. Shred the vegetables and fruit in a food pro­ces­sor with a grat­ing disk; empty the work bowl into the pot as it fills.

4. Raise the heat to medi­umhigh. Add all­spice, cayenne, and a sprin­kle of salt and pep­per. Cook, stir­ring, un­til the spices are fra­grant, about a minute.

5. Add stock or wa­ter and cream. Bring to a boil, re­duce the heat so that it bub­bles gen­tly but steadily, and cook un­til the squash is fully ten­der, 10 to 15 min­utes.

6. Turn off the heat un­der the soup and run an im­mer­sion blender through the pot or, work­ing in batches, trans­fer it to an up­right blender and puree.

7. Re­heat the soup for 1 or 2 min­utes if nec­es­sary. Taste and ad­just the sea­son­ing. Di­vide the soup among 4 bowls, gar­nish with the ba­con, and serve.

Makes 4 serv­ings.

Mia Stainsby/Post­media News

The recipes in Mark Bittman’s new cook­book, How To Cook Ev­ery­thing Fast, are writ­ten for home cooks, not chefs.

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