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Mark Bittman: Expert in Residence!

Mark Bittman will be in residence on Chowhound for the week starting Monday, August 3, responding to questions about cooking and his new book, "Kitchen Express," which focuses on quick, easy, flexible recipes.

One of the country's best-known food personalities, Mark is hailed for his candor, his no-nonsense style, and his simple, approachable recipes. In addition to his award-winning cookbooks "How to Cook Everything" and "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian," Mark also writes The Minimalist column (now in its 12th year), with accompanying web videos, and the blog Bitten for the "New York Times," and he hosts public television series like "Bittman Takes on America's Chefs" and "The Best Recipes in the World."

You can check out Mark's work here:
Mark's Website: http://markbittman.com/
"Kitchen Express": http://www.amazon.com/Mark-Bittmans-K...
The Minimalist: http://topics.nytimes.com/top/feature...
Bitten: http://bitten.blogs.nytimes.com/

Mark will be checking in at least once a day from August 3 through August 7 to respond. He's an incredible resource for everything and anything cooking-related. Some ideas for what he might discuss are:

-Ways to use seasonal produce--e.g., what should I do with all this zucchini?!
-Tips for improvising in the kitchen for fast weeknight meals
-How to cook on a budget
-Kitchen and pantry essentials
-Suggestions for getting out of a rut and adding new flavors to your cooking

Keep Mark busy -- start asking questions!

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  1. Okay, I'll bite. I bought a $40 bottle of Olive Oil that was recommended, without reading the fine print on the back of the bottle. I used it in a salad dressing. I was seasoning and tasting, and everything was very bitter...I thought maybe it needed more olive oil to cut the bitterness, so I added more. The olive oil was the bitter ingredient.
    I read the back of the bottle, which I clearly should have done before plunking down my $40. Turns out it has a bitter aftertaste because they use tree olives that are not "excessively mature". So my question is, what do I do with my bitter olive oil? If I heat it will the bitterness lessen? Thanks!

    20 Replies
    1. re: sibeats

      Enjoy it - it's a characteristic that some people treasure. Try just dipping raw vegetables in it. Or - if you give up - yes, if you cook with it, the bitterness will go away. (But that's kind of a waste.)

      1. re: Mark Bittman

        Or what about adding salt when you use it for anything other than sauteing? Salt attenuates the brains perception of bitterness. So, adding a pinch of salt to the oil or the food you will oil, will make it taste less bitter. I should add that there appears to be no chemical reaction between the salt and the bitter chemicals in the oil, but something that happens in the nervous system when it is infiltrated by sodium and chlorine ions.

        The reason you don't want to salt the oil and heat it for sauteing is that the salt lowers the smoke point of the oil so that it burns up, tastes worse, and probably becomes carcinogenic.

        1. re: bob delGrosso

          You'd have to document that for me to believe it.

          1. re: Mark Bittman

            The salt/bitter thing is true. Get some bitter tahini (most of the stuff available in the States qualifies). Keep adding salt and tasting. You will reach a point when the tahini doesn't taste at all bitter. This is why it's necessary to add quite a bit of salt to hummous. (I learned this from a Lebanese friend when I was living in the Middle East years ago. Most Lebanese tahini is very bitter, so they add lots of salt.)

            1. re: pikawicca

              Salt mitigates acid, not sure about bitterness.

              Any food science on salt diminishing bitterness? McGee, etc.?

              Hummus needs salt because chickpeas and tahini need lots of salt, not because of any bitterness in the tahini. And my brand of tahini is not bitter -- just nutty, oily and bland.

              1. re: maria lorraine

                Find some bitter hummous and give it a try. Don't know why you need "food science" when you can do your own experiment.

                1. re: pikawicca

                  I've never encountered bitter hummus or bitter tahini.

                  And of course we need food science to corroborate or disprove anecdotal claims.

                  1. re: maria lorraine

                    Maria - tahini quality in different brands varies quite a bit, and bitterness levels also change with hulled vs. unhulled sesame seeds, roasted vs. raw. My current brand Al Wadi certainly has perceptible bitterness.

                    Anecdotally, salt is used to dispel bitterness in other instances as well, such as coffee.

                    1. re: Chester Eleganté

                      Yes, aware of that, and almost used that every example myself.

                      But sugar in espresso also mollifies bitterness.

                      More below, in response to Jcap...

                2. re: maria lorraine

                  Let me check on this. Salt changes the ionic strength. This can have many dramatic effects. For example it is added to vinegar to clean copper. It does not take part in the reaction but assists it. It seems perfectly possible that the mouth's chemical receptors would be influenced by the ionic level. I'm not saying it's true, but if is definitely plausible.

                  1. re: Paulustrious

                    Heston Blumenthal believes that adding salt does in fact reduce bitterness, and we all know how he loves the scientific method!
                    From the article:
                    HESTON RULES: 10 WAYS TO BE A BETTER COOK

                    - What seems obvious isn’t always right. “If you want to reduce bitterness (in a stock, say), you add salt, not sugar.”

                    1. re: JCap

                      OK, but HOW does that work?

                      Does that salt actually REDUCE bitterness?

                      Or, does it merely provide another taste sensation to COMPETE with bitterness so its perception isn't foremost?

                      Still need the science.

                      1. re: maria lorraine

                        I would guess, as your answer kind of suggests, that either the salt molecules are reacting with compounds that cause bitterness (and salt is pretty "reactive") or else it is somehow affecting how our taste buds perceive the taste of bitterness. Getting any closer?

                        1. re: maria lorraine

                          I don't know. I used all my google powers to find a scientific answer, but couldn't find anything. Maybe we could find it in the Fat Duck cookbook for $400 or whatever it costs?!
                          But one article I saw (from someone other than Blumenthal) talks about adding a pinch of salt to coffe grounds prior to brewing to smooth out bitter coffee. May be a worthy experiment...

                          1. re: JCap

                            Thanks, JCap, for your efforts.

                            In the case of coffee and salt, is the salt reducing bitterness or acidity?

                            Certainly, salt does mitigate acid -- the reason an overly vinegar-y vinaigrette becomes less "tart" in taste after salt is added.

                            But, again, is this a chemical reaction that reduces acidity?

                            Or is merely another taste that competes for recognition in our sensory perception?

                            We have separate taste relays for salt, bitter, and sour (acidic) in each of our taste buds. (Also separate relays for sweet and umami.)

                            We can liken a single taste (bitterness) or several tastes occurring in synchrony to music -- one note vs. a chord.

                            A single note stands out, just like bitterness alone. But a chord is a unified sound, and no single note stands out, just like several tastes experienced simultaneously.

                            At least, that's my guess if a chemical reaction is not occurring.

                            Would love to know the science. Wish I had time to chase it down.

                            1. re: maria lorraine

                              All you need is access to academic journals!

                              "We conclude that sodium was the most successful cation and glutamate and AMP were the most successful anions at inhibiting bitterness. Structure forming and breaking properties of ions, as predicted by the Hofmeister series, and other physical-chemical ion properties failed to significantly predict bitterness inhibition." (Keast and Breslin, Modifying the Bitterness of Selected Oral Pharmaceuticals with Cation and Anion Series of Salts. Pharmaceutical Reseach, 2002).

                              In other words -- we don't know why it works.

                                1. re: maria lorraine

                                  Once more!
                                  "Bitter compounds consisting of a hydrophobic residue attached to glucose by a -glycosidic bond activate TAS2R16. Thus, TAS2R16 links the recognition of a specific chemical structure to the perception of bitter taste."
                                  In other words:
                                  Uncharged molecules attached to sugar molecules taste bitter. Salt is charged, so maybe it reacts with the uncharged molecule to create a charge? Chlorine can do some displacement/substitution reactions that could conceivably change the hydrophilicity (charge state) of a molecule.... But I don't know. The first paper couldn't find predictive properties for their ions, and sodium doesn't bind quinine, but does suppress its bitterness.
                                  However, "Although the reasons why zinc ions inhibit sweetness and bitterness are not known, zinc ions allosterically modify other transmembrane receptors, especially at histidine and cysteine residues, and may also alter taste receptor conformations rendering them unavailable for normal function" -- so it may be that salt isn't altering the compound, but it is making it temporarily impossible for you to taste bitterness.
                                  We have lots of different bitterness receptors that are activated by different compounds, though -- so only some would be inhibited, if this is the case, anyway.

                3. re: Mark Bittman

                  I'm no biochemist, but I tested this yesterday by adding salt to spinach puree that I thought was somewhat bitter, and it worked perfectly.

                  I generally tend to go light on salt, because it can dominate other desirable flavors and I don't want too much sodium, but I think I'll be tasting things differently after this.

            2. re: sibeats

              Make ice cream. Bittersweet is a flavor that is wonderful when cold. Also, if you spent that much, it was most likely extra-virgin. Never heat that stuff, you might as well buy 100 dollar wine for cooking and I don't mean drinking in front of the stove.

            3. I've got 2 questions for Mr. Bittman:
              1. A while back, I heard an interview with you on NPR in which you explained ways to spice up oatmeal. Right now, my favorite concoctions are all sweet (peanut butter and banana; dried fruits; etc.). What are some great savory oatmeal flavors you like?
              2. What are some of your favorite ways to do up the can-be bland chicken breast? I've done many herb marinades (this time of year they grow like crazy in my backyard), but am looking to branch out.
              By the way, just finished the On The Road Again... series. I loved it and was incessantly jealous!

              1 Reply
              1. re: pastry634

                1. Soy sauce.
                2. Anything with tomatoes. See How to Cook Everything.

              2. I'll bite. Will he admit that 3 days in Mexico City was insufficient to taste it and trash it?
                Excepting that event, I'm tempted to like the guy. But we're not past him, in Mexico.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Veggo

                  "He" will report that he's been in Mexico City five times and never trashed it.

                2. About budget kitchen essentials: is there such a thing as a cheap mandoline that works OK? Also: vanilla extract is so expensive. Is imitation too awful to use, ever? Is saffron really worth the expenditure? I love your tortilitta recipe, make it a lot, often wonder if I'm making it too thick. Is it supposed to be really crispy? Also wonder why it's half garbanzo bean flour, I don't taste any different flavor. thanks!

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: knitterbetty

                    I'm no Bittman, but I can still answer most of those questions.

                    First, get the oxo v-slicer. For 30 bucks you get something that is still rated as one of the best ones on the market and its way cheaper and easier to store than any of the expensive french ones.

                    Second, vanilla extract is way cheaper if you make your own using extract grade beans (grade B). I buy these on ebay from vanilla products usa. I once got two different types of grade B and one type of grade A for about 13 dollars (30 beans total). Plus i also received an additional 10 beans for my order size of over ten dollars or something like that. Then, using vodka or something else that is clean tasting and 80 proof, I made extract. that's about a cup of booze per 2 beans. The supplier in question accidentally threw in one or two bad smelling beans but its better than 2 beans for 10 dollars at the grocery store.

                    Thirdly, Saffron is worth the price, but you can get away with paying a lot less. The main exporter of Saffron is Spain but they are not the largest producer. Iran is, but they don't export a whole lot. Spanish Saffron often goes through many middle men before they get to your local super market so if you want to save money you might want to find an online supplier that is also the producer. Cut all those retail fees. Or if you have friends or family that are visiting Iran, ask them to smuggle some for you.

                    The other questions I can not answer since I have no idea what recipe you are talking about nor do I follow recipes when I can help it.

                    Hope that helps a little.

                    1. re: spotprawn

                      Thanks~ I'm headed for that website. The tortillita is a great quick pancake, no eggs, half chickpea flour/half AP, shrimp or other addition, herbs, liquid. Three minutes each side, comes out crispy. MB had a column on it, and a great video as well.

                      1. re: spotprawn

                        You might want to seek out Middle Eastern grocery stores. I have several near me (Suffolk County, Long Island), and they sell saffron in rather large containers covered in Arabic writing, which I'll presume would indicate they aren't from Spain. Also a great place for cardamon, cumin, etc.

                      2. re: knitterbetty

                        1. Yes. It's plastic and it works great. Go to any kitchen supply or Asian store and ask for a Benriner.
                        2. Yes, imitation is useless.
                        3. Yes, saffron is worth it. An ounce will last you three years even if you use it a lot.
                        4. Yes, crispy. If you don't think it's worth using chickpea flour here, then don't - that's fine.

                        1. re: Mark Bittman

                          Hey, thanks! I LOVE your tortillitas, was just curious about why chickpea flour. Gonna make vanilla extract. Figure if I can make limencello, I can make extract. Your columns make my day!

                          1. re: Mark Bittman

                            "Yes, saffron is worth it. An ounce will last you three years even if you use it a lot."

                            I sincerely hope it's ok if I expand on that just a bit. Many places carry Saffron in 1 gram packages for roughly ten bucks. These are perfect for the home cook wanting to utilize Saffron with a minimal investment.
                            FWIW Costco carries a 5 gram bottle of Spanish Saffron for roughly $25-30 and the quality is excellent. I make a lot of Paella and Saffron rice and this size lasts me close to a year.
                            I can not imagine my pantry being complete with out it.
                            I'm not promoting Iran but if that's what one is inclined to buy Costco offers that on line as well.


                            1. re: Fritter

                              Years ago I worked in a gourmet foods shop where we sold bulk spices. It was possible buy a 1/3 tsp of whatever spice or 1/4 of an ounce or whatever other small quantity you want. The per pound price was significantly less than that sold at a commercial supermarket.

                              My recommendation is to seek out smaller food shops or coops where you can purchases spices in smaller quantities. I save so much money buying my spices this way rather than at the grocery store.

                            2. re: Mark Bittman

                              How long will a sealed packet (1/220 oz.) of saffron stay viable unopened? Once opened, how do you store it (vacuum seal?) and a time limit once opened and resealed? Thanks, VWR

                          2. Gazpacho-how long to chill and why can you chill gazpacho, but not tomatoes?


                            1. Hi, Mark! Could you offer any suggestions for a home cook who wants to take his or her cooking up to the next level or branch out to different cuisines? What do you do when you're feeling adventurous in the kitchen? Thanks for all your great work.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: scottbowling

                                You just keep cooking; you get new cookbooks and try new things and you try different versions of the same thing. Eventually, you give the cookbooks away. But that takes a while.

                                1. re: scottbowling

                                  1. smell and taste everything that you can get away with. Trust your nose, afterall, it makes up part of what you "taste"
                                  2. ask farmers at the farmer's market what they cook with their produce. Most love to talk.
                                  3. get to know your spices
                                  4. do not limit food preparation to simply "cooking". A pickle is a good example.
                                  5. try to apply any cooking technique to anything you get your hands on. I bet no one thought celery soda would taste good, but it is.

                                  Optional: keep a journal dedicated to the aforementioned senses.

                                2. Mark, you and my girlfriend have been the biggest influences on my cooking. "How to Cook Everything" is the first place I go for recipes, and many of them are staples here.

                                  But my question is more about the kitchen. Like yourself, I live in the city and have limited space for appliances, utensils and storage (although compared to yours mine is huge). Do you have any tips on making the most of a small space?

                                  1. My husband and I love caesar salad, and frequently order it in restaurants. Some are good and some not so much, of course. The best in memory was a tableside preparation at a now-closed restaurant in the LA area, so we can't go back and ask for their secrets. We recently embarked on a quest to perfect caesar dressing at home, but we can't seem to get it right. All the recipes we've tried, including yours in How to Cook Everything, include the same basic ingredients -- olive oil, egg, lemon juice or sometimes red wine vinegar, garlic, anchovy, salt, pepper, shaved or grated parmesan cheese, and sometimes a bit of worcestershire and mustard. Each time my husband pronounces the result bland. We have chickens, so we use fresh eggs. What can we do to punch it up?

                                    10 Replies
                                    1. re: kittyfood

                                      Kittyfood, well see how MB responds but your list of ingredients is classic, so you aren't missing a secret ingredient. Two basic items that if not used in sufficient quantities would yield bland results are salt and acid. Between the anchovies, Parmesan and salt there are several sources of salt so I would lean toward the acid as the culprit. Fresh lemon juice is key although red wine vinegar can be used. You can bump up the Parmesan and anchovies and I wouldn't complain.

                                      1. re: scubadoo97

                                        A tiny touch of cayenne. A splash more Worcestershire. Good mustard. More anchovies and garlic, added incrementally. Enough salt. Freshly cracked pepper. More lemon juice. A better (more pungent) grade of Parm. All will kick up the intensity of the dressing. Oh, make sure your lettuce leaves are dry.

                                      2. re: kittyfood

                                        I have a hunch that it could be the cheese. Try using Romano; which I believe is from goat, so it does have the extra something you may be looking for. Parmesan is too creamy and will probably be drowned out. I know several popular pesto recipes are also made with Romano and not Parmesan.

                                        If it is too pungent after that then do half one cheese and then half the other. Plus, Romano may be cheaper. I also agree with with scubadoo97. Couldn't hurt to put some more anchovies. Also, make certain that you use the salt packed anchovies and not the oil canned ones. You can get them at European specialty markets.

                                        1. re: spotprawn

                                          FYI, Peccorino Romano is from Sheeps milk, not goat.

                                          1. re: Calipoutine

                                            I think peccorino is from a peccary. little pig.

                                            1. re: phantomdoc

                                              No, no.

                                              Pecora is Italian for sheep (ewe). The masculine is pecore.
                                              Pecorino means little sheep, or refers metaphorically to the cheese
                                              as being a "little sheep."

                                              A peccary is a pig from Central and South America. I have a peccary leather pouch, so I'm slightly hip to this odd animal. The origin of the word peccary is Caribbean.

                                              Sheep, pig; pig, sheep.

                                              1. re: phantomdoc

                                                A peccary is also a javalina. If you can milk one of those ornry little buggers your a bad whammer jammer.

                                                1. re: Fritter


                                                  I can see a new logo for a coffee shop: a dancing pig with a mug of joe.

                                                  1. re: Fritter

                                                    LOL! I was thinking "milking a peccary? I don't THINK so!" But your response about being a bad whammer jammer is much better!

                                            2. re: kittyfood

                                              Buy real Parmesan Reggiano and grate or shave it yourself just before using it. I am sure your cheese never comes in a green can. Taste a few extra virgin olive oils until you find one you really like. If you decide to add mustard, use a Dijon. If all else fails, try a few drops of Tabasco.

                                            3. I'm once again embarking on a quest to lose weight and be more healthy, and the stumbling block in every diet I've ever tried is that I just don't much care for most vegetables. I find them kind of a pain to prepare, and unless I drown them in additional calories, less than entirely satisfying to eat. Do you have any suggestions for simple ways to dress up vegetables such that I'd likely want to eat them without adding a few hundred calories worth of butter?

                                              23 Replies
                                              1. re: Jacquilynne

                                                OMG I LOVE BITTMAN!!!!


                                                1. re: Jacquilynne

                                                  Roasting or grilling veggies concentrates flavor and makes them more yummy.
                                                  Grilled escarole, romaine, radicchio, asparagus, tomato...etc.

                                                  1. re: Jacquilynne

                                                    There are plenty of low-cal solutions. But hummus is one great secret weapon for enlivening otherwise dull vegs. Serve a dollop on your plate, and lather it on or dip things in. Use flavored (chili....garlic....paprika....chive....etc) hummus if you get bored. Baba gounoush can break up the monotony, too.

                                                    But do bear in mind that bleh humus is as bleh as bleh vegetables. So be sure to buy or prepare good stuff.

                                                    1. re: Jim Leff

                                                      Jim -- do you know how long tahini lasts in the refrigerator?

                                                      1. re: shorty68

                                                        I think it's pretty stable. Main issue's rancidity, I'd guess.

                                                        1. re: Jim Leff

                                                          I've kept mine for years in the back of the fridge.

                                                          1. re: MMRuth

                                                            Me too. And Jim, re hummus -- make sure to check the labels. Some brands have a LOT more calories than others. Sabra, which I really like, is pretty high on the calorie chart (ditto their baba ganoush, which is Israeli style -- mayo added).

                                                      2. re: Jim Leff

                                                        Big part of humus is tahini. Tahini is sesame seeds ground to a paste. There is a lot of oil in these seeds, consequently a high calorie food. The good news is that this is a very healthy fat. Use tahini sparingly.

                                                        1. re: phantomdoc

                                                          Agreed. Several thoughts:

                                                          1. you don't need more than a tablespoon or two for dunking, per my posting above

                                                          2. if you're really dieting well (i.e. tracking carb/fat/protein balance and avoiding heavily processed foods), you actually NEED some healthy fat.

                                                          3. the commercial brands tend to have lots of tahini, but hummus actually tastes better with a lot LESS tahini. And it's easy to make yourself. Making it yourself also allows you to vary the recipe (e.g. include other spices/flavorings/ingredients) so you don't get tired of it (an important consideration in something you're using to perk things up).

                                                          1. re: Jim Leff

                                                            Homemade is very different tasting - more of a fresh vegetable taste. Also, using reconstituted dried chickpeas instead of canned makes a big difference.

                                                            1. re: sbp

                                                              You can really get a vitamin boost by sprouting your dried chickpeas before cooking for the humus.

                                                      3. re: Jacquilynne

                                                        Butter Buds-fantastic product, can't saute with it (no fat). VWRoby

                                                        1. re: Jacquilynne

                                                          One of my favorite vegetable recipes is from "How To Cook Everything," for roasted root vegetables. You use a mix of various root veggies; personally I like white and sweet potatoes, parsnips and carrots. Add a few garlic cloves toward the end of roasting. You can make this with only a little oil added if you use a non-stick pan.

                                                          Lots of other vegetables are great roasted, such as cauliflower, broccoli and asparagus.

                                                          1. re: DanaB

                                                            I like roasted vegetables as well, but I often have issues with broccoli. It gets leathery unless I give it a pretty generous dousing of oil. Any ideas?

                                                            1. re: sbp

                                                              Peel the stalk before grilling.

                                                            2. re: DanaB

                                                              Roasted cauliflower might be my favorite vegetable and preparation of all time. I just cut into small chunks/florets, add a little oil and salt and roast till brown all over. Soo good. I can easily plow through 2 heads of cauliflower prepared this way.

                                                              1. re: ESNY

                                                                I've done a pan of roasted vegetables -- carrots, squash, and cauliflower with garlic. It's fairly tasty. More work than I'd do on a regular basis, but perhaps if I do a pan on Sundays, it'll last a good part of the week.

                                                                1. re: Jacquilynne

                                                                  Do you leave the garlic whole, and if so, peeled or unpeeled?

                                                                  1. re: Jacquilynne

                                                                    Once you've roasted them, you can also puree them to make a hearty soup, especially in the latter part of the week as they get older. I roast a huge pan of tomatoes and puree them for a really good sauce (along w/ onions and garlic). We used to make curry w/ a hunk of meat or chicken and a lot of vegetables, remove meat when done, and puree to thicken. Add the meat back in. My kids hated vegetables and they'd always eat all that. That and brussel sprout chips but that adds more fat. It's not much work once you get used to doing it.

                                                              2. re: Jacquilynne

                                                                Hi Jacquilynne - I'm with you about weight loss, vegetables, and also with members on the proposed solution. Roasted vegetables have great development of flavor and sugar. I roast anything I can get. I do not like carrots, but roasted carrots are fantastic: a little oil some big-grained salt, hot oven till browned and tender: transformed. Like sbp, I have problems with roasted broccoli, but the great flavors that develop outweigh other issues. Jerusalem artichokes (aka sunchokes; a native american food and yard weed here in PA) low in starch, more flavorful than roast potatoes. Roasted beets, parsnips (add mustard, yum), all other veggies mentioned by others here. Like DanaB, I add garlic, but I just throw the whole head in, after a little bit of a trim (lots of peel and eat fun). Yes, I forgot sweet potato, big thick slices! yum!. Onions, great! Try anything! I have yet to make cauliflower work
                                                                Veggie roasting is part of my near daily routine. I figure 1 Tbs of olive oil is only 120 cal, and a lot winds up in the pan, so I use it. A helping of veggies for me is huge, not tiny, so it helps fill me up. A 1 lb bag of carrots is two helpings (last time I made those little baby ones, threw some demerara on them (just a little)! Wow. And I make several veggies each day. And roasting fits into my schedule: I come home with fresh veggies, clean them, throw then into some oil/salt in a roasting pan (I have several), set at 400, then enjoy other I'm-back-home stuff. Speaking of work, stab your veggies to check doneness occasionally; the guy in Psycho overdid it. A while later (30-60) all is done, enjoy dinner. To reply on another topic, hummus in my refrigerator lasts about 1.5 days, then all gone. Am I doing something wrong?
                                                                Some of my own problems with the whole weight thing relate to having a stressy day, with no meals, coming home feeling like I've been dumped on, and wanting nothing but a big bag of Doritos (plus salsa). The veggie routine helps a lot, because I get flavorful, comforting food (in large volume), feel satisfied, it is very easy, but does constitute food preparation time that can get my head together.. BTW, there is almost no scientific evidence that weight loss is good for you, and food is important. And finally...it seems that olive oil helps my "numbers" LDH goes down, TG's down.

                                                                1. re: cherrywood

                                                                  Roasted cauliflower is one of my favourites ever since I discovered the Alice Waters method. Slice, brush with oil, season and roast. I can eat a whole head of cauliflower done this way.

                                                              3. Mark (if I can call you that),
                                                                Thanks for joining us on chowhound!

                                                                I love your approach to food & cooking, especially in How to Cook Everything. It's the closest I've come to a book that teaches technique -- and flexibility -- to de-stress the cooking process. I've often bemoaned the fact that it's taken me many years of cooking to understand the process (oh! that's sauteeing, etc.) since most cookbooks don't explain what you're supposed to do or why, just specific instructions, which is the long way around learning technique short of attending cooking school.

                                                                I own a copy of HTCE and after countless calls from my sister w/ cooking questions, I bought her a copy and now when she calls w/ a basic cooking question, I say: it's in your book!

                                                                I can't understand friends who proclaim: I don't cook. Why??
                                                                I love Molly Stevens' advice on how to be a good cook: Cook often. Julia Child I believe advised to cook the same dish several times until you understand it. Me, I'm on a personal crusade to get people to cook seasonally.

                                                                Do you have any favorite international cookbooks since Dean & DeLuca? Do you think Spanish cuisine is the new French?
                                                                We did Cradle of Flavor by James Oseland (Indonesian) as a Cookbook of the Month, with mixed reviews.
                                                                What do you think of Penelope Casas? Kijac's South American Table?

                                                                And if I can add a selfish question: how can I get to be a recipe tester for cookbooks? I would love to do that.

                                                                Thanks for joining us. Some of us on chowhound have been doing a Cookbook of the Month for oh, about 3 years now. Here's what we've covered.:

                                                                3 Replies
                                                                1. re: NYchowcook

                                                                  As an aside - I can't believe it has been 3 years - that means that Ottolenghi will be our 36th month. I'm going to go back and count up how many books we've actually done.

                                                                  1. re: NYchowcook

                                                                    I think that books that talk about techniques are the most fascinating because they make me want to apply them to anything, but maybe thats just me.

                                                                    1. re: NYchowcook

                                                                      there are some questions in here.
                                                                      international: Best Recipes in the World, by me, or the new how to Cook Everything.
                                                                      I do NOT think Spanish is the new French, though that's a pretty simplistic way to look at it. I think italian is the new French and French is the new Italian and Spanish is the new Japanese. Get it?

                                                                    2. Hi Mark,, I love your recipes in the Times, particularly your Pork Shoulder recipe which I have made many times. About a year ago you had a recipe for beef short ribs cooked with coffee and chiles. I have a question: once you braise the ribs should you poor out the grease before adding the other sauce ingredients or leave it in? I tried it once and although they tasted great, they were kind of greasy.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: kggoodman

                                                                        As the years go by I throw out less and less grease. But clearly it's a matter of taste, and super-fatty ribs will throw off enough so that you'll want to get rid of some.

                                                                      2. What are some tasty methods for cooking up tung? Cow tung is easy to find, so these are the suggestions I am looking for. However i would also appreciate lamb tung suggestions. Does anyone know if there if there is an easy way to get hearts and brain and other offal that is uncommon in most grocery stores? And I don't mean chicken organs, those are easy too.

                                                                        What is the best way to make a rabbit as a summer dish?

                                                                        Also, does anyone have any amazing seasonal pairings?

                                                                        One that I discovered today while working at the farmer's market is white peaches with lemon basil. Delicious!!!

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: spotprawn

                                                                          Butternut squash and basil, or roast sweet potatoes and basil...

                                                                        2. Hi Mark! Love your articles and Bitten.

                                                                          Since you've ventured into more vegetarian and vegan cooking, have you used tempeh? If so, what are some of your favorite ways to prepare it? I'm in a bit of a tempeh rut, just throwing in condiments (soy sauce, ketchup, worcestershire, dijon, etc.) and frying with olive oil. It's good that way, but really, really salty. I'd most like to know if you've come up with any less salty ways to enjoy it. Thanks in advance!

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: operagirl

                                                                            I haven't found it too salty. You might try Braised Tempeh from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

                                                                          2. Did you ever publish a revised list of “50 Cookbooks I’d Rather Not Live Without”? The last mention I recall seeing was from your blog of April ’08.

                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                            1. re: JoanN

                                                                              ditto . What foreign cookbooks have you found since you published that list that represent their cuisines in an exciting way?

                                                                              1. re: JoanN

                                                                                I haven't, and I just don't look as much as I used to. These days, I can't imagine any cookbooks much better than Elizabeth David's, and she hasn't written anything in a generation (largely because she's dead).

                                                                                  1. re: smtucker

                                                                                    Indeed - wonderful that Mr. Bittman has such high praise for her. While she hasn't written anything since she died (as far as I know), I believe that many of the recipes etc., in the Christmas book that came out at then end of last year were previously unpublished.

                                                                                    Link to E. David COTM threads: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/624504

                                                                              2. I can get my hands on some lovely briskets- grass fred, humanely raised, and all that. However, I don't have a smoker and I don't want to heat up the kitchen with braising. Can you recommend the best way to cook a brisket on a gas grill?

                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Chris VR

                                                                                  What are the healthy benefits and/or health hazards of eating lard?

                                                                                  1. re: Chris VR

                                                                                    Not easy. Indirect heat, lots of moisture, wood chips, and a long time. Best to wait until winter.

                                                                                  2. Dear Mr. Bittman,

                                                                                    I always look forward to reading your pieces in the Times, and I was wondering if you could help me with an apartment cooking/living question. I love cooking with fresh herbs, but they're expensive, so this summer, I have been trying to grow herbs on my [inside] kitchen windowsill. So far, I have killed a pot of cilantro, a pot of parsley and two each of basil and mint. I have a small pot of chives that seems to be hanging on, as well as a rosemary plant that's completely brown but still smells and tastes good. Are there other herbs you would recommend trying that might do better, or certain techniques for those I've tried?

                                                                                    The window gets full sunlight for a few hours of the day, and indirect sunlight for several more hours. I live in the South--New Orleans--so the plants have been growing in warm, moist air. Ideally, I would like to grow my windowsill garden year-round.

                                                                                    Thank you!

                                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: midcity

                                                                                      Very likely this question should be answered by your local plant nursery.

                                                                                      1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                        The folks at the nursery didn't have much to say once I explained that I didn't have a backyard or anyplace to grow plants outdoors.

                                                                                        1. re: midcity

                                                                                          There is a lot of helpful info on this thread: "Indoor Herb Gardening — questions answered by an expert": http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/606792

                                                                                      2. re: midcity

                                                                                        I'm sure you can find better advice than mine, but sounds like you overwatered. Also - cilantro is tough to grow in mid-summer. But the others should be fine, and parsley, mint, and rosemary (and oregano, sage, and tarragon) are all pretty long-lived - at least two years if not perennial.

                                                                                        1. re: midcity

                                                                                          @midcity, I live in the PE across from the park, and i don't have much luck either. We should go to Harold's Nursery on Press St. and get some advice from him. Every house plant he has recommended to me thrives. Some got so big I had to give them away.

                                                                                        2. Dear Mr. Bittman, wait, you say above "eventually you give the cookbooks away?" http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6410...

                                                                                          1) Don't you need to continue to refer to them for reference? How do you decide which books to keep and which to give away?

                                                                                          2) Do you have any minimalist advice for maintaining a "global kitchen" from which you can produce authentic dishes for many cuisines, without having a pantry that overflows with specialized ingredients and cupboards, with specialized equipment?

                                                                                          3) Do you think that the growing emphasis on "eating local" around the U.S. is a fad or is it here to stay?

                                                                                          Thank you! And I hope you come visit us on Chowhound from time to time, now that you've got a registered handle.


                                                                                          14 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                            I'm no Mark Bittman, but I can answer #1. You give them away when you longer need them and feel comfortable enough that you can improvise if you have to. I used to follow the same recipe for focaccia word for word. After a while I'd just verify my quantities now and then, "was it a cup or a cup and a quarter?" At this point I just know it by heart, though I might still add a little extra rosemary.
                                                                                            But I just like rosemary.

                                                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                              1. Depends how 'authentic' you want to be. There are few recipes you can describe that the experienced cook can't handle without a book.
                                                                                              2. Yes. There are lists in How to Cook Everything and, for that matter, several of my other books. (There's also a decent NYT piece: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/07/din...
                                                                                              3. Both. It's a fad in its intensity, but it's here to stay as a real part of life. (In fact it never left.)

                                                                                              1. re: Mark Bittman

                                                                                                Re: 1

                                                                                                I do think that, when learning to cook a new cuisine, a cookbook is helpful, even if one is generally an experienced cook.

                                                                                                Re: 3

                                                                                                I'm guessing you've read Pollan's piece from yesterday's NYT Magazine. I have my own thoughts on it, but one issue he raises is corporations as a major source of our food. What do you think Americans can do to shift the dynamic at this stage? It's often easier to say "eat locally" than to actually do that, particularly, in my experience, in smaller towns in the U.S. where Walmart rules. I go to N. Wisconsin every year for two weeks in the summer, and it really is a struggle to buy locally. I've actually had the people who work in the local supermarket offer me produce from their own gardens that isn't available in the store. Of course, that does suggest that those people do eat locally - from their own gardens.

                                                                                                1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                  There is not a lot of commercial agriculture in northern wisconsin, is there?
                                                                                                  I think in non-farming areas without big towns it must be harder to get locally produced stuff. The traditional way to eat locally or economically in the midwest has always been to grow it, pick it or catch it yourself.Are there blueberry bogs around where you are staying?

                                                                                                  1. re: jen kalb

                                                                                                    No, I don't think there is, not even blueberry bogs as far as I can tell.

                                                                                                  2. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                    This is a reality. We're going to have to get those corporations to produce better food (and to make money on it) if we want to eat better. That is, I think that's a more viable strategy than trying to put them out of business, which isn't going to happen.

                                                                                                    1. re: Mark Bittman

                                                                                                      I guess part of the issue is that the less "produced" a food is, the better for us it is, thus removing the alleged value added by corporations. But, I agree with you, those corporations aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

                                                                                                2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                  As a follow-up question to TDQ`s #2--I saw the list of essentials on the NYT link, but if you were for example, posted somewhere short term (a few months), and had to pick 10-15 cooking condiments (spices, oils, extracts, etc), what would they be? (I ask, b/c I just had to uproot myself and now must rebuild my spice/seasonings inventory, but am only here for a few months and have limited means.)

                                                                                                  My first three purchases were a black pepper mill, course sea salt (will get a salt grinder soon), and good quality EVOO. (I also brought saffron with me.) I plan to get soon vanilla extract, cardamom (probably not a top 15 herb, but I absolutely love it), chili powder of some sort, smoked paprika (again, not essential, but it`s on the same list for me as cardamom. . .), cinammon sticks, cumin, turmeric, coriander, miso. . .(wow. That was 13 w/o even thinking. Maybe I should up the qty to 20. . .)

                                                                                                  1. re: anzu

                                                                                                    Anzu, what are the benefits to grinding your own salt? I understand for pepper, but as far as I know, salt doesn't have a freshness issue like pepper. I do own a salt grinder, and initially planned to adjust the settings as needed, but I NEVER fiddle with that. I just keep two dishes, one of coarse ad one of fine, on my counter top, now.

                                                                                                    1. re: Gooseberry

                                                                                                      If you have a salt grinder, you can grind salt that only comes in coarse form, like some of the Hawai'ian salts. That's what I use mine for.

                                                                                                      1. re: Gooseberry

                                                                                                        Actually, David beat me to it, but the salt grinder is not a necessity per se. However, the last time I bought "coarse" sea salt, it was too small and hard for me to crumble w/ my own little hands. . .so it`s just easier to have something that grinds salt. I had Maldon salt before, which one can crush w/ one`s own hands.

                                                                                                        1. re: Gooseberry

                                                                                                          the other benefit of a salt grinder is that you can make your own herb salts...which you can also do with a mortar & pestle, but i've found that a grinder makes it easier...and less messy!

                                                                                                          1. re: Gooseberry

                                                                                                            I think grinding your own salt is silly. But it's easy enough ...

                                                                                                            1. re: Mark Bittman

                                                                                                              Well, if you want to use the same salt for baking (fine), cooking (medium), and finishing (coarse), it doesn't seem silly to me.

                                                                                                      2. I have been wracking my brain for days trying to come up with an intelligent question to ask Mark Bittman, whom I greatly admire. Sadly, the best I can do is to offer mad props to him & his crew for the Minimalist videos (the best on the NYT site). Challah!

                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                        1. Mark,

                                                                                                          I'm not sure if this is something you can answer or not, but I've recently started to question the idea of a digestif. That is, do digestifs *really* help aide in digestion? I've heard that pineapple, and presumably other fruits with tenderizing enzymes (pears, papaya, etc.) help to break down proteins in the stomach. Do you know if any of this is true, and what other foods or beverages make good digestifs after large meals?


                                                                                                          9 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: afoodyear

                                                                                                            Sorry to jump in here, but I put the same question to a food chemist a few years ago.

                                                                                                            A digestif is a beverage with alcohol that is *said* to aid in digestion. Does a digestif/digestivo (like Fernet Branca) really do that? Anecdotal evidence (from moi and others) says it does help soothe the uncomfortable effects of a big Italian meal, but actually aiding in digestion?? Dunno.

                                                                                                            Your question about enzymes and protein is a different question. I asked a food chemist if "tropical fruit" enzymes, like papain, aided in protein digestion in the stomach in the same manner as they aid in tenderizing protein when used in a marinade. The chemist said "no," that the enzymes were rendered inactive by stomach acid. He added that if the tropicall fruit enzymes did aid in digesting proteins that they would digest the stomach first!

                                                                                                            Here's some info from a couple of chemists to get you started:

                                                                                                            Harold McGee weighs in here on digestive enzymes:

                                                                                                            P.S.: Huge fan of yours, Mark. Huge. Love the videos, music, the articles, and the ease, insouciance and skill that informs all of it. Loved the Spain show.

                                                                                                            1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                              Thanks a lot for this information :) It appears that you linked me to the same site twice though.

                                                                                                              1. re: afoodyear

                                                                                                                Sorry about that. Should be fixed now. Links in the correct link to more info.

                                                                                                            2. re: afoodyear

                                                                                                              There's also a theory that you just burn a hole in the food that's clogging up the works (and in your stomach), allowing you to eat more.

                                                                                                              1. re: Mark Bittman

                                                                                                                I'm going to go with this one. Especially if we're talking about the motor oil-esque grappas that older Italian men like to drink after dinner.

                                                                                                                1. re: Mark Bittman

                                                                                                                  That must be why the French call that mid-meal shot of liquor a 'trou', which means hole.

                                                                                                                  1. re: crw77

                                                                                                                    I always that a trou was re-calibration, like a trou Normande.

                                                                                                                    1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                                      I'll have to remember that next time I make a potée Normande.

                                                                                                                      1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                                        Trou Normande is one example, Trou Gascon another - which is unaged Armagnac, traditionally served in a glass whose base comes to a point. You can either drink the firewater or hold it for the rest of the evening. No way to set it down without emptying it first.

                                                                                                                        The custom was later brought 'upscale' a bit and became the now ubiquitous sorbet palate cleanser.

                                                                                                                2. mark,

                                                                                                                  i thought "spain...on the road again" was a home run. care to talk about the experience and what, if anything, you learned from it?

                                                                                                                  also, any chance for a sequel?

                                                                                                                  1. Hi Mark,

                                                                                                                    I'm a big fan, and especially appreciate your willingness to talk about the environmental impacts of the food we eat. I was a vegetarian for 15 years, and am now slowly incorporating some meat into my diet for health reasons. Can you recommend some easy and fool-proof methods of cooking chicken and/or fish? Thanks!

                                                                                                                    1. I feel a bit bad about adding to the deluge of questions. No need to answer these unless you're in the mood. And apologies in advance for asking questions that you've no doubt been asked before.

                                                                                                                      Q1: Sometimes cooking is a tradeoff between authenticity and minimalism. How much do you care about the authenticity of the dishes you make and of the recipes you write?

                                                                                                                      Q2: I really enjoy reverse engineering standout dishes after dining out. What are the dishes you've tried recently that you'd most like to recreate in your own kitchen? How do you go about reverse engineering a dish?

                                                                                                                      Q3: How often do you eat meat?

                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                      1. re: cimui

                                                                                                                        1. Authenticity is hard to define. Because if you go to any town in Italy, they'll tell you that they don't know how to make XXX in the town ten miles away. Everyone has a style. If it's good and it's in the ball park it's probably authentic enough. Obviously that's my position and reasonable people will disagree with it. But that's where i live.
                                                                                                                        2. As I said above, if you describe a dish to me, I can probably make it. It's become second nature. Practice, I guess.
                                                                                                                        3. Four times a week maybe?

                                                                                                                      2. The object of finding good quality, safe, sustainable fish always seems to be a moving target, and I know this is an issue you've been more deeply involved in. In New York this summer local black sea bass and fluke from dayboats seem plentiful, and the lobster glut seems to continue. Which fish do you recommend right now?

                                                                                                                        16 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: David A. Goldfarb

                                                                                                                          as you say it's a moving target, but if it's truly local and truly from a day boat it's a pretty safe bet. Then there's tilapia...

                                                                                                                          1. re: Mark Bittman

                                                                                                                            Good benefits of cooking with lard? Hazards of cooking with lard? Do you keep lard in your kitchen? What do you use it for?

                                                                                                                            1. re: scrumptiouschef

                                                                                                                              Well, it tastes good, especially if you make it yourself; it's no more "harmful" than butter, and probably less so than transfats.
                                                                                                                              I do keep it in my kitchen. I make a batch (or mooch it from a friend) once a year or so, and it lasts forever.

                                                                                                                            2. re: Mark Bittman

                                                                                                                              "Then there's tilapia..."

                                                                                                                              Friends don't let friends eat farmed fish. If they are opting for Tilapia hopefully it's pond raised in the USA and not the toxic crap from China but that might be a difficult find for many since a very small % of the Tilapia sold is pond raised in the USA.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Fritter

                                                                                                                                It's that way down here - foreign markets are selling catfish and shrimp even down here, where both are fresh and readily available. If it's not local seafood from the tri-state area, or catfish from the Delta ponds (where my family works), we don't buy it. Of course, we have to get specialty items elsewhere.

                                                                                                                                1. re: bayoucook

                                                                                                                                  What's happening in the fish retail business is sad. It doesn't help any when those who really have the ear of the public suggest innapropriate species or fail to let people know farmed fish is not always the best choice. We have a lot of safe sustainable product right here in the good ole US of A.
                                                                                                                                  It really is time for us all to think about what we consume and where it comes from. Thankfully some writers are conscious of this and when an error is made they are quick to correct it. So perhaps even the errors are beneficial if it draws attention where it's needed.

                                                                                                                                2. re: Fritter

                                                                                                                                  i've been a seafood lover pretty much since birth, but if my only option was tilapia i'd gladly never eat fish again. regardless of the source, you've got two options in terms of flavor - muddy, or nonexistent. i'll pass.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                    and I thought I was the only one who disliked tilapia! So many better choices for me out there.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: bayoucook

                                                                                                                                      Add me to that group...and I love most things from the sea.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: bear

                                                                                                                                        I love seafood and fish. I never judge something on one try; I've had it cooked several ways and it just never tasted good to me.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: bayoucook

                                                                                                                                          i gave up when i realized that i was always looking for ways to mask or "get around" the flavor. i eat fish because i *enjoy* the flavor - i don't want it completely hidden by seasoning. i understand the logic behind doing that for someone who dislikes fish and wants to add it to their diet for nutrition/dietary reasons, but tilapia is one of the least nutritious fish out there, so there's little point.

                                                                                                                                      2. re: bayoucook

                                                                                                                                        Didn't someone "diss" tilapia on "Chopped"?

                                                                                                                                          1. re: bayoucook

                                                                                                                                            Good for you! Some show on the foodnetwork.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                                                                              Guess it shows: I've never watched food network (but do go online).

                                                                                                                              2. why do recipe writers and food 'journalists' insist on fuelling the balsamic vinegar fraud by constantly keeping it in their recipes and conversations. To find *real* balsamic is extremely hard and even when you do it is beyond expensive, so why not just use real red wine vinegar in lieu of bs balsamic or any other type of true vinegar like sherry? I know you like the sherry vinegar but what other types would you recommend people use if they cannot find REAL balsamic


                                                                                                                                1. Where do you get that celery soda? Or do you make it?

                                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: karykat

                                                                                                                                    kk, i'm assuming it was a reference to Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray soda, as it's the only celery soda i know of. you can typically find it at kosher delis on the East Coast, i know BevMo carries it, and i'm sure there are other sources/suppliers out there.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: karykat

                                                                                                                                      goodhealthgourmet is correct in saying that Dr. Brown has a celery soda. you can also make your own using: sugar, carbonated water and celery seeds.

                                                                                                                                    2. I enjoyed Food Matters and am wondering if you're still on the diet you created. I'm a fan, but have found being 'vegan until 6' a real challenge. I save money by bringing leftovers to work, and while I love cooking dinner, I often don't have time to create separate vegan meals for lunch. Suggestions?

                                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                                      1. re: violet22

                                                                                                                                        Yes I am. And I think the suggestions are all in the book. It's "easy" if you put your mind to it. I have no problem eating fruit or salad for lunch once or twice a week, neither of which takes any time at all. And as I've said, I gorge on nuts, or popcorn, or more fruit, or whatever, all afternoon. Actually, time for fruit now!

                                                                                                                                      2. 1) Martha Stewart has a thing about not allowing aluminum foil to touch food - if she needs to use it, she puts parchment in between. Do you have any cooking rules/.foibles that aren't commonly shared?

                                                                                                                                        2) Chowhound cooks have come up with some unusual uses for kitchen equipment, like the wafflemaker for eggplant slices, cheese sandwiches, and Parmesan crisps, "soft-boiled" eggs in the toaster oven, and an angel food pan as a vertical chicken roaster. Do you have any others to suggest?

                                                                                                                                        13 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: greygarious

                                                                                                                                          1. No. And I think that's nuts.
                                                                                                                                          2. I like the wafflemaker thing, must try it. Is there a link?

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Mark Bittman

                                                                                                                                              You can also put cookie dough in a panini maker. I use the NYT version of Jacques Torres' chocolate chip cookie recipe that you keep refrigerated for a couple of days so you can make a couple of fresh hot cookies whenever you want. I got the idea from here:


                                                                                                                                              But, I've found they cook much more quickly than 8 minutes and you need to watch for ooze out of the side.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Mark Bittman

                                                                                                                                                Here's a link to my escapades with the waffle iron -- I had lots of fun with this one.


                                                                                                                                                1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                                  Pikawicca, your link requires a paid subscription, in case you didn't realize that.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: greygarious

                                                                                                                                                    Hmm, I've been able to link my columns before. I'll see if I can get this fixed. In the meantime, I'll try to affix my Office document.

                                                                                                                                                2. re: Mark Bittman

                                                                                                                                                  I put some blueberries in my waffle batter once. I ruined the waffle iron and had to throw it away. So -- I don't think I'll be experimenting with eggplant.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Sharuf

                                                                                                                                                    Presumably yours was not a non-stick.....I've played around with cooking all sorts of things on my non-stick and never have a problem getting it clean. Too bad, because scuzzo's eggplant is terrific.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: greygarious

                                                                                                                                                      Right. It was not nonstick.

                                                                                                                                                      How do the non-stick waffle irons hold up? Every teflon-coated item I've ever had loses it's coating after a while.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Sharuf

                                                                                                                                                        Mine is very cheap and only a year old, used only a couple of dozen times, so I can't help you on that one. I do think non-stick is worthwhile for a waffle maker; if I have to shell out another $10 years from now, no biggie.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: greygarious

                                                                                                                                                          We've had ours for a few years now, and it shows no wear. They sell them at Costco for about $25? I've put stuff like waffle batters, egg batters, and vegetables in there and it doesn't mind at all.

                                                                                                                                                        2. re: Sharuf

                                                                                                                                                          Teflon items are defnintely better and longer lasting now than they were in the '80s and early-mid '90s. In the early '90s, I inherited some cheaper teflon from my mom, and well, after a year or two of use, the teflon was flaking off into the food, and I ix-nayed the pans.

                                                                                                                                                          A year or so later, I got an all-clad 10 inch non-stick omlette pan, that a friend of mine proceeded to scratch up when it was only a year or so old. Needless to say, I was beside myself at the time (and really pissed at her for making eggs while being up late after drinking and using a metal instrument in my precious pan) and thought it was ruined. Well, it's 10 years later, and the little scratches she put in the surface of that teflon coating did absolutely zero to the pan's cooking abilities. The scratches never flaked or extended, and the pan is otherwise perfect. I'd give non-stick another look if I were you :-)

                                                                                                                                                3. I had a chance to peruse "Kitchen Express" today at Costco ($15.99). I was wondering why you feel a book about cooking in 20 minutes is a contribution to the culinary world or even one that might be beneficial to your readers. Not many here at CH seem to think highly of RR (30 minute meals). I'm not trying to be obtuse but a forum where members focus on extreme quality and sniffing out the very best of X, Y and Z seems an odd match for such a minimalistic approach.
                                                                                                                                                  The book is spartan to say the least and a rather odd format.
                                                                                                                                                  I've found some of your articles and video to be very enjoyable and would be remiss if I didn't say how much I enjoyed "On the road again".

                                                                                                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Fritter

                                                                                                                                                    There is a book by Edouard de Pomiane called "French Cooking in Ten Minutes" which he wrote in 1930. Fabulous book about cooking quickly. His first piece of advice is to put a pot of water to boil as soon as you get home - at the very least, you can use it to wash the dishes. Really makes one think about the novelty of Rachel Ray, etc.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Fritter

                                                                                                                                                      There is nothing incompatible with fast cooking and producing quality food using the best ingredients. I don't think people are critical of Rachel Ray because she makes 30 minute meals. They are critical because they don't like the recipes or the way that she markets herself.

                                                                                                                                                      Another great book is "Fast Food My Way" by Jacques Pepin.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: DrSouthBay

                                                                                                                                                        Also good are "Real Fast Food" by Nigel Slater (one of my first cookery books) and "The 30-Minute Cook", by the same author.

                                                                                                                                                      2. re: Fritter

                                                                                                                                                        So you're comparing me to Rachel Ray because the book is filled with fast recipes? Yes, that is obtuse. Go see "French Cooking in Ten Minutes," one of the greatest cookbooks ever. There's a difference between good fast cooking and bad fast cooking and if you can't see it you have a lot to learn.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Mark Bittman

                                                                                                                                                          I don't think I compared you as an individual to any one but I would compare Kitchen Express to RR's 30 minute meals.
                                                                                                                                                          As far as learning goes I'm confident that even with many years as a professional Chef with time under three different CMC's I could still learn a lot.
                                                                                                                                                          For me that is the joy of cooking.
                                                                                                                                                          How ever my question was really what do you feel your new book brings us that cooking in 30 minutes or cooking in ten minutes does not?

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Mark Bittman

                                                                                                                                                            Last night I made for the umpteenth time Mark's homemade version of ramen style soup. Takes me a little more than 5 minutes, and only because I choose to carmelize some julienned ham so that it resembles the roast pork that you get at restaurants. Otherwise it would be less than 5 minutes, and my husband prefers this recipe to all the other Chinese soups I learned to make here, like hot and sour, which involve three times the ingredients and up to an hour to make.

                                                                                                                                                            Don't write something off just because it's quick and easy! And I enjoy the meal more because I'm not all frazzled from rushing to make dinner. These books are written for home cooks, not restaurant chefs, by the way.

                                                                                                                                                        2. Hi Mark!

                                                                                                                                                          Let's say you've got a great piece of halibut and you want to pan sear it.
                                                                                                                                                          1. What kind of pan will you use?
                                                                                                                                                          2. Do you have any special pan searing secrets?
                                                                                                                                                          3. How will you sauce and finish the dish?


                                                                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                          1. re: CindyJ

                                                                                                                                                            1. nonstick even though I'll be trashed for it.
                                                                                                                                                            2. nonstick because it works. and sufficient fat.
                                                                                                                                                            3. anything from lemon to tomatoes - what i really like is tomatoes, capers, onions, vinegar (just a bit), maybe olives ... kind of a puttanesca

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: CindyJ

                                                                                                                                                              I wouldn't sear halibut since it's a lean fish. I'd cook it en papillote...in parchment.

                                                                                                                                                              Place a serving of halibut on a piece of parchment, top the fish with julienned carrots, scallions or leeks, and sweet peppers (sauté the julienned vegetables lightly first), and finish with a pat of compound herb butter and a pinch of salt and pepper. (Mix butter in a food processor with a little fresh garlic and some cilantro or another fresh herb to make the compound butter.)

                                                                                                                                                              Then fold up the parchment so each packet is a sealed pillow, place in a baking dish and bake at 375° for 8-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. The pillow will puff up and smell delicious.

                                                                                                                                                              It is spectacular to serve these pillows. Place each cooked pillow on a plate (maybe over a base of bulgar or rice) and use scissors to cut the parchment open in front of the diner. The yummy flavors and liquids spill out onto the bed of grains.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Discerning1

                                                                                                                                                                I also am a huge fan of halibut en papillote. It's a can't miss method...almost impossible to dry out the fish. With aromatics such as shallots, fennel, carrots...and salt, pepper, fresh dill and a bit of white wine or vermouth, and thin lemon slices, it never fails to result in wow's...and it's very lo-cal and healthy!

                                                                                                                                                            2. Hi Mark,

                                                                                                                                                              Can you talk about creativity and cooking? Or I guess improvisation and craft? Do you find that your ideas are more successful when you know exactly what you are making and exactly what you want to try out? How many of your good ideas are out of some sort of empirical testing and how many are out of sheer necessity (ie. no lemon, but plenty of tamarind paste or ground sumac)? How often do you surprise yourself with your cooking? Or for that matter, how often do other's cooking surprise you?


                                                                                                                                                              6 Replies
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: relizabeth

                                                                                                                                                                I think you learn how to improvise through cooking more and more. God knows I couldn't improvise at all until I'd cooked for 10 years (maybe I'm slow). Not much comes out of imagining for me - mostly it comes out of opening the fridge (I try to keep lots of stuff in it, which is part of the key, so I have plenty of options) and starting to cook. So I guess it's necessity. And I surprise myself, oh, weekly. Others - well, they don't cook for me much.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Mark Bittman

                                                                                                                                                                  Would you enjoy others cooking for you? We occasionally see interesting threads here where posters are apprehensive about cooking for friends who are chefs, but end up having wonderful meals. The chefs usually say that no one wants to cook for them.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                                                                    I love it when others cook for me but sadly it doesn't happen much. The fact is I'm not that critical - if someone cooks real food I'm happy.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Mark Bittman

                                                                                                                                                                      Well, I'm in Manhattan and my email is my profile. By the way, have you read Pomiane's The Jews of Poland: Recollections and Recipes? Nach Waxman recommended it to me and I thought it was a fascinating read.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                                                                        MMRuth is a truly fantastic cook and Mark, if I were you, I would take her up on her offer to cook for you! How she does what she does in a kitchen the size of a postage stamp is beyond me...

                                                                                                                                                                        And thanks for How to Cook Everything. Not only is it a terribly useful reference in my kitchen, but I've given it as gift to a 19-year old budding cook on his way to university. I'm guessing/hoping that it will be a useful reference for him for years to come.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: TorontoJo

                                                                                                                                                                          Get in line Bittman, MMRuth aleady owes me a few meals.

                                                                                                                                                              2. So from what I can tell, grits is ground dried dent corn, not that different from Italian polenta or Rhode Island johnnycake meal, which is ground dried flint corn. I've worked as a chef and in gourmet retail and find almost no consensus on this, with countless people including well respected chefs, assuming that grits is ground dried hominy. I assume that if you were to eat grits in the Grits Belt a hundred times, it would be made from hominy less than a handful of times. This is supported by the "Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook " ("For simplicity's sake, we always call grits "grits" and hominy "hominy", p.144 ) and, definitively, in John Thorne's "Mouth Wide Open" ("Growing up in the North as I did...I believed that grits were ground from dried hominy...I was wrong.", p.254)

                                                                                                                                                                Confusion comes from "How to Cook Everything" ("...the difference between cooked grits (cooked ground hominy, a form of dried corn) and polenta (cooked ground corn) is not much..., p.755.) and any number of other recent works e.g. James Villas' "The Glory of Sothern Cooking" ("In short, hominy is whole, dried corn kernels soaked in water and lye to remove the outer hulls; dry and grind hominy, and you have grits...", p.123


                                                                                                                                                                11 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                1. re: deglazer

                                                                                                                                                                  I think the difference between grits and polenta is not much. Still.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: deglazer

                                                                                                                                                                    I think these differences are academic and matter not a whit in practice. If you can taste the difference you have a fabulous palate. But even if you CAN taste the difference, I don't think you'd mind substituting one for the other.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Mark Bittman

                                                                                                                                                                      So we agree that grits as served today are almost never derived from hominy?

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: deglazer

                                                                                                                                                                        Mm the Quaker Quick Grits are made from hominy (or so their website states). Maybe its not the prevailing brand in the south but its what one finds nationally. Its rather different from most of the Italian yellow corn polentas Ive eaten - never tried to make polenta or grits from an american white corn product.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: deglazer

                                                                                                                                                                          >>So we agree that grits as served today are almost never derived from hominy?

                                                                                                                                                                          Context, color and texture reveal all in terms of grits, hominy grits and polenta.

                                                                                                                                                                          In certain places in the South, traditional hominy grits are the only grits prepared and they are simply called grits. Therein lies the confusion. Hominy grits are dent or field corn treated with alkali, then ground, and almost always white in color.

                                                                                                                                                                          In other places, white cornmeal grits are the norm, and the term "hominy grits" is used to differentiate them from regular cornmeal grits.

                                                                                                                                                                          White AND yellow cornmeal grits are always creamy. Hominy grits are gritty.
                                                                                                                                                                          And while both white and yellow cornmeal can make regular grits, usually only yellow cornmeal is used to make polenta.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                                                                                            Ive been served white corn polenta in Northern Italy at higher end restaurants.Its much more delicate (more like grits!) than the yellow corn versions.

                                                                                                                                                                            I dont get maria lorraine's point about one or the other being gritty in texture - its all a matter of cooking and maybe the degree of refinement of the grain.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: jen kalb

                                                                                                                                                                              "maybe the degree of refinement of the grain"

                                                                                                                                                                              I think that was her point. Hominy grits are coarse. Cornmeal is usually ground rather fine. I'm not from the South but I certainly can imagine the debate it would spur on another thread if a regular CH suggested Grits and polenta are essentially the same.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Fritter

                                                                                                                                                                                this is all increasingly confused by the array of choice facing consumers - of the three most available brands of polenta at my local stores, one is extremely fine and yellow, one is medium-coarse and white, and one is very coarse and yellow. The coarser it is, the more water I find it needs. Other than that, I just let the recipe and personal preference guide me.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Gooseberry

                                                                                                                                                                                  Part of the confusion comes from the package label. It is often mis-labeled with the name of the dish -- polenta or grits -- rather than the name of the raw ingredient inside: cornmeal.

                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: Fritter

                                                                                                                                                                                  As a native Mississipian, I can tell you - I cook polenta for polenta. Grits *are* grits. Long-cooking hominy grits, the best.

                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: deglazer

                                                                                                                                                                          Great biochemistry on the grits question: Grits or polenta are ground dried corn. Hominy is made from dried corn that is treated with lye to remove the hull (see Wiki: "nixtamalization"). Hominy grits are ground hominy. The lye has the effect of releasing the considerable stores of niacin within the corn (sort of "freebasing" vitamin B3). So, in times of economic distress, poor persons in the US with corn-based diets (grits) got the niacin deficiency disorder pellagra. People in Mexico, who eat tortillas made from corn ground with lime (the chemical, not the fruit) did not have the disorder. My cursory reading of supermarket labels a few years ago suggested most commercial grits was now lye-treated dried corn. I think it is really cool that the people of Mexico "knew" how to make corn more nutritious long before anyone knew about niacin.

                                                                                                                                                                        3. If I am building up a cooking library, what would you consider to be 5 essential cookbooks? I am focusing on healthy recipes with a lot of flavor.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. You are credited with an recipe in Cook's Illustrated in July/August 1997 using shrimp shells to create a broth for poaching jumbo shrimp for cocktails. And then you freeze that broth and use it for poaching the next batch of shrimp? ( I have tried to find that article to no success.) I am curious as to what was added to create the original broth, other that shrimp shells and do you make any adjustments to the original broth over the years. I recently bought 2 pounds of shrimp shells that I plan to use as a basis for this process and am looking for ideas. Up until recently, I had never poached shrimp, choosing to steam or bbq them using Old Bay.
                                                                                                                                                                            Thanks in advance.

                                                                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: RondoChar

                                                                                                                                                                              Shrimp Stock (From How to Cook Everything, revised)
                                                                                                                                                                              Makes about 1 quart
                                                                                                                                                                              Time: 20 minutes
                                                                                                                                                                              Icons: Fast, Make-Ahead

                                                                                                                                                                              The easiest, best-tasting, most useful stock you can make from something you normally throw away, perfect for risotto, pasta sauces, and as a substitute for fish and even light chicken stock. Make a small batch every time you peel shrimp, or freeze shrimp shells as you accumulate them and make a large batch at once.

                                                                                                                                                                              Shells from 1 to 2 pounds shrimp, about 4 loosely packed cups
                                                                                                                                                                              1/2 onion, sliced (optional)
                                                                                                                                                                              1/2 carrot, sliced (optional)
                                                                                                                                                                              1/2 stalk celery, sliced (optional)

                                                                                                                                                                              1. Combine all the ingredients and add 4 1/2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to very low; cover and cook for 15 minutes.

                                                                                                                                                                              2. Cool slightly, then strain pressing on the shells to extract as much juice as possible. Use immediately, or refrigerate for 2 to 3 days (longer if you boil it every second day, which will prevent spoiling), or freeze for up to a few weeks.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Mark Bittman

                                                                                                                                                                                Does it make a difference if the shrimp shells are raw or have already been cooked? Ditto for making a stock from other meats/poultry that are raw or already cooked?

                                                                                                                                                                            2. Mark,
                                                                                                                                                                              Love your columns and books. I remember discovering your PBS show in college and realizing that I didn't need a cookbook. EUREKA!
                                                                                                                                                                              My bf and I eat meat or fish about 3x/ week, and are trying to save $ by not ordering in so much. But we quickly get bored with our standard vegetarian dinners (curries, stir fry, salads with fried things on top, etc). We require a fair amount of protein and carbs as we're both kind of gym rats.

                                                                                                                                                                              What are some awesome and substantial vegetarian dinners that you're enjoying with your family these days?
                                                                                                                                                                              Thanks! Holly

                                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: hollyd

                                                                                                                                                                                I gotta refer you to my books or my site (markbittman.com) or blog (nytimes.com/bitten).

                                                                                                                                                                              2. I just wanted to mention that I recently made the Pea Dip with Parmesan that was in the Times on July 2nd. Oh, how I LOVED that dip (and my friends did too)! Served it with pita chips but honestly, I was eating it with a spoon before my guests arrived! And luckily for me, I doubled the recipe so there were leftovers...amazing. Thank you!

                                                                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                1. When you present recipes for foreign dishes (for example asian) in your articles or books will you consult relevant cook books or do you re-create from your taste impressions alone?

                                                                                                                                                                                  What are you aiming for in these cases?

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. I admire your common-sense approach and ability to demystify food and strip it down to its essentials. Is there anything--a particular dish, a particular flavor profile or cuisine--that you'd say has eluded you, that you haven't been able to "crack"?

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. I just want to say how much I appreciate this opportunity to communicate with Mark. CH is a great vehicle for bridging the chasm between celebrity chefs and everyday cooks.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: CindyJ

                                                                                                                                                                                        Bittman is not a "celebrity Chef". From his web site;

                                                                                                                                                                                        "I'm not a chef, and I never have been. I've never had formal training, and I've never worked in a restaurant"

                                                                                                                                                                                      2. Mark,

                                                                                                                                                                                        I'm a young man without much experience in the kitchen. I've gotten very good at cooking beef and pork, but I seem to have a habit of over-cooking chicken breasts. How can you tell when they're ready to come out of the saute pan?

                                                                                                                                                                                        Second question: I love firm white fish and salmon, but both seem to be very expensive these days. What fish do you recommend that won't break the bank for weeknight meals?

                                                                                                                                                                                        Finally, what staples do you keep in your pantry for whipping up a quick dinner when you don't have time to run to the store?

                                                                                                                                                                                        Thanks for sharing your time with us, Mark. I adore the baked ziti recipe I got from your column.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. Hello Mark, I skimmed a cup of chicken fat off of stock I was making last week. It's sitting in the fridge. Ideas on how to use it?

                                                                                                                                                                                          6 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: SnackHappy

                                                                                                                                                                                              Seconded. Or spread on bread. Or cook it with onions, slowly, until the onions are brown, and spread THAT on bread.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Mark Bittman

                                                                                                                                                                                                I keep a jar of onions caramelized in chicken fat in the fridge for all sorts of uses. Very handy stuff.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                                                                                                                                    That opens a big can of worms. If one is following the best current recommendations about the dangers of botulism in foods stored in a low-acid anaerobic environment (like under fat) that haven't been pressure canned, you should probably use it within a week. Freezing will slow the development of botulism, but it will not kill it.

                                                                                                                                                                                            2. My kids don't like hummus. Do you have any ideas for using up tahini?

                                                                                                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: shorty68

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Chocolate chip-tahini cookies. Use the tahini as a fat in baked good (FWIW, I've never made those cookies, but I have seen recipes).

                                                                                                                                                                                                2. Dear Mr. Bittman,

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Love the TV show on PBS.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  My wife loves lentils. Frankly, I never cooked with them until I met her. I'm starting to enjoy them more and more.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Any lentil tips?
                                                                                                                                                                                                  What color lentils do you prefer to use? Does it even matter?
                                                                                                                                                                                                  Do you spend time picking through a bag of lentils to look for stones? I've picked through pounds of lentils over the past year and have yet to find a stone.
                                                                                                                                                                                                  What's your favorite lentil recipe?

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Thank you for being an Expert in Residence here at CH.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: DrBruin

                                                                                                                                                                                                    I like the dark green ones (lentilles de Puy, and others), but also brown. I have to say I'm not that fond of the orange, in general, though there are times I like them ok. I vaguely look for stones but I almost never find them (and I've never broken a tooth).
                                                                                                                                                                                                    Lentil salad, with dark green lentils, unquestionably.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Mark Bittman

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Mr. Bittman, the correct answer to the lentil question is mujadarra.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Mark Bittman

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Thank you Mr. Bittman. Is the the Lemony Lentil salad in your book HTCE Vegetarian? Or, do you have a different lentil salad recipe?

                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. Hi Mark,

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I thoroughly enjoy watching you on tv, as well as reading your books.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      Help! I frequently cook Italian food for Jewish folks who will not eat any pork product. So many recipes call for pancetta. It there any reasonable non-port substitute for this ingredient?

                                                                                                                                                                                                      11 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: josephnl

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I would have to say "no." But olive oil and garlic are a good basis for almost anything.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: josephnl

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Josephnl, how about turkey bacon? I realize that pancetta is not usually smoked like bacon, but some of the turkey bacons don't taste all that smoky.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: josephnl

                                                                                                                                                                                                            I'm vegan and until they invent a pig made of vegetables, I'm constantly on the lookout for something that'll sufficiently sub for pancetta/bacon. The best I've come up with is garlic & smoked salt. I bought the smoked salt somewhere in Berkeley (which is completely unhelpful, I know, but I imagine a search online would turn some up). It really adds depth and you don't need very much at all. The little bag I bought has lasted 2 years and I'm about 1/8th through it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            p.s. I think it's awesome that you're on this culinary hunt for the pleasure of others!

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: jlgarret

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Try smoking and roasting Roma tomatoes. (I use a stovetop smoker for this.) I freeze these flat in single layers in freezer bags, breaking off a few to throw into vegetarian chili, or anything else that I want to have a nice, smoky flavor.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                                                                                                @ Pikawicca:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                Interesting idea! A few questions:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                -What is a stovetop smoker and is there a way to smoke without one?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                -Do you notice that the flavor of homesmoked tomatoes is significantly better than the canned ones (I think I've used some smoked, canned tomatoes from, maybe Muir Glen)?

                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: jlgarret

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Hmmm. I cook a lot of vegetarian food, and while this won't help with the specific pancetta salty-smoky flavour, I keep a big jar of dried mushrooms (currently shitake) on the counter top and add a couple whole dried mushrooms directly to whatever I'm cooking, and fish them out later. Helps with the umami depth.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                If you can get smoked butter where you are (or cold smoke it yourself), that might be another nice smoky addition. And the tiniest pinch of smoked paprika.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: jlgarret

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I was going to recommend something along the same lines, but see Pikawicca has beaten me to it. I sometimes use sun dried toms - they have a nice smoky, salty quality.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: josephnl

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I don't know how much this would help, but I bought a smoked sea salt a while back that has a decidely smokey flavour - might help a bit. I think it is Welsh.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Edit: Oops - just saw that another poster recommended this above. I'll try to find the name of the one I have.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I just checked at my local nothin-fancy grocery store and they carried smoked salt! (Maybe not as good as Welsh stuff, but...still...)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: josephnl

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Pancetta isn't smoked, so I don't necessarily see the things that add smokey flavors as substitutes for pancetta, but the thing that my grandparents who kept kosher would eat like bacon was roumanian pastrami, which is fatty like bacon and I believe is made from beef brisket--either the flat end with a lot of the fat left on or the second cut, which has more fat. Pastrami, however, is normally smoked, so I think if you could make a salted and dry cured pancetta using beef brisket with a good fat cap instead of pork belly, that's about as close as you're going to get to kosher pancetta (of course it won't actually be kosher, if it's not prepared in a kosher kitchen with kosher utensils).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  3. On your web site Bio you start off by saying "I'm not a chef, and I never have been"
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Yet many here are referring to you as a "celebrity Chef" or "Chef". What are your thoughts on this? Giddy fans or deserved praise?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Fritter

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      People can call me whatever they want, obviously, but I'm not a chef and I never have been.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. Hi Mark,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I really love your recipies on NTY - they have provided many a quick delicious evening meal in our home :-). I especially love your entertaining videos. I have recently started making home made paneer cheese. Two questions for you:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. Any suggestions on what to add to paneer to make it a bit more interesting?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. Any other easy cheeses (besides yogurt cheese featured on chow) that a novice can make at home?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Thanks - and keep your entertaining minimalist videos and delish recipies coming!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. First, I just want to thank you - you talking about oatmeal with soy sauce and scallions/green onions made me give oatmeal a second chance. Now I love it (but still hate the sweet versions).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Second, I wanted to ask you, based on your Spain On the Road Again experience, which would be your top 3 places to visit in Spain.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: anonymoose

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I like the north best - Galicia, Asturias, Basque country.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: anonymoose

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            >>based on your Spain On the Road Again experience, which would be your top 3 places to visit in Spain.<<

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Anywhere Claudia Bassols is at, is going to, and wishes to go. :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. Mark--not a food question per se. But were you the editor of Natural Health magazine (back when that was a great magazine, pre-Weider) at one time (or perhaps Prevention?) To make this a food-worthy post, that's where I learned to cook interesting grains!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. Is every recipe you create tested? Is it also tested by someone else (not you?) When creating a book with extensive recipes, do you have a team of testers?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. Hey Mr. Bittman,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Huge fan - just finished and loved Food Matters.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Quick question - I'm making your flatbread recipe from Food Matters using chick pea flour. The only oven-safe pan I have is a deep square frying pan, which is a bit bigger than the 12-inch round pan you suggest (its probably 12in x 12in or maybe 10in x 10in). Do you think I can use that to make the bread? Or will it get too thin? I like flatbread to be crispy but I really don't want to ruin it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Oh, and also, do you know where can I buy a copy of the "On the Road" series, preferably online?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Many thanks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: kestral11

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  With no business replying:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  If the dough for the flatbread will hold it's own shape, just press it out to 12-in roundish, and leave some space in the corners of the pan. Voila!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: kestral11

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    It won't get too thin. JL's answer is right.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. Hey Mr. Bittman, My question concerns Sardines, canned sardines to be specific! I was wondering if you could ever do a minimalist (or bitten) column (or speak about it here) discussing how delicious the more upscale gourmet sardine tins are, and maybe suggesting different recipes and flavor combinations to spice them up.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I think it'd fit in great with your general love of italian cooking and promoting minimalist, sustainable fish consumption!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    what say you?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: essnbench

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Great idea. Now I just have to figure it out...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Mark Bittman

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I'm mighty happy you liked the sardine suggestion, Mr Bittman!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        A good place to start if you don't already know about them, might be to pay a visit to the folks at the Society for the Appreciation of the Lowly Tinned Sardine (http://www.sardinesociety.com/)!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        They have wonderful sardine reviews and would be a great primer on the wide world of gourmet sardine eating.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: essnbench

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Did you ever see rworange's survey of sardines? It was amazing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            just had some amazing smoked sardines from Jon's Market in Gardena, CA. Couldn't read the langauge the country of origin was written in. Some Mediterranean or Baltic country, I presume.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Immediately thought of rworange!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. I've been trying to convince friends that charcoal grilling doesn't take a significantly bigger effort than gas. Maybe it is a northern midwest thing, but I'm not having any luck. Perhaps a well seasoned chef like yourself can help convince.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: babaoriley7

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          It is a bigger effort of course. It's better, and arguably worth the trouble, but you can't argue that it's just as easy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. Hi Mr. Bittman, thanks for taking time for us, I'm a huge fan of your work!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Love to travel, love to cook. Recently, my girlfriend and I stayed in Hawaii for 10 days. We wanted to try cooking with the local ingredients. Tragically, while our place of lodging did have a nice kitchen, it lacked the basics (salt, pepper, oils) and usable cookware (knives, tongs, whisks). Given the current travel restrictions and even the chance of losing luggage, what would you recommend bringing along on such a trip and is there a particular kind of travel case for such things?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: wizdumb

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            There was a side bar in the NYT food section yesterday with a list of such things.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. First of all, I am thrilled to be able to consult with one of my culinary heros. The food stains and falling-out-pages of my copy of How to Cook Everything, only tell part of the tale! The "yellow bible" is one of only two books (Marcella Essentials being the other) that live in my kitchen and not on the book shelves in another room.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I wish I had a more interesting question today, but this is relevant:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I wanted to make a simple dish of sole tonight--either lightly breaded and sauteed, or baked. When I asked my local Manhattan fishmonger for sole, he told me that the fluke was much better today and that they were "'almost the same thing."'

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I my mind, I think of fluke as being denser than the fish I know as either flounder or sole. Am I right? Is he correct? Or are the names just used interchangeably?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            What is your opinion of fluke for cooking? ( Extra credit will be given for providing an easy recipe. )

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            13 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: erica

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              erica, it's a matter of semantics. there's really no such thing as true Atlantic sole, and your fishmonger may not have had anything good/fresh from the Pacific. Lemon sole and fluke are both species of flatfish, and though i know you said you find a difference between fluke and flounder or sole, fluke and sole are actually both types of flounder. the sole exception is Dover sole (sorry, bad pun), which is firmer than any of the species caught off either US coast. when it comes to cooking/recipes, aside from Dover sole, most flatfish are pretty much interchangeable.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              at least that's what i know...i'll certainly defer to our resident expert if he know otherwise!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Oh and thanks. But sorry no time for a recipe right now.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  "no such thing as true Atlantic sole"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Now there's an interesting one. MBA Seafood watch agrees and states that all 'True" Sole comes from the Pacific. However The Seafood Alliance says the opposite and indicates that Pacific Sole is not "True" sole.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  To me the only "True" Sole is European Dover Sole. In the last link under common names click "more" and check out the list.




                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: erica

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I like fluke. Nothing that's called "sole" in the U.S. is anything like Dover sole, which is kind of the gold standard. Everything else - flounder, dab, lemon sole, etc etc are softer than Dover. Other than that - the differences are subtle. They're all flatfish and you can cook them all the same.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I'm not getting into sustainability issues here.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Mark Bittman

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I thought that some restaurants (and fishmongers) in Manhattan do occasionally have "real" Dover sole. Pretty sure La Grenouille always has it on the menu. And, I think you are wise to avoid sustainability issues here. (grin)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Are you talking about the Dover sole that we get here in England and is only found in European waters, or the Pacific version which isn't quite as good (according to Wikipedia)?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: greedygirl

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I could be wrong, but I am talking about Dover sole from England getting flown to the U.S.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I just called La Grenouille and was told that, indeed, their Dover Sole is flown in from the U.K. Also, Dorian's Seafood Market also told me that their Dover sole is similarly flown in ($35 a pound).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Edit: I just realized that I misinterpreted Mr. Bittman's post, thinking that he meant that one couldn't get Dover sole here. My apologies to him.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Wow - that's one expensive fish! It's not cheap here either, mind you, like most fish.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: Mark Bittman

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      MB: I am thrilled that you responded!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      My fish store (Pisacane on First Avenue) sometimes has the Dover sole but this is just a plain white filet that is no where near as pricey. It never occurred to me that they were endangered/not sustainable, which is what seems to be implied here..

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I try to stay away from farmed fish and assumed that this was a wild, local option, but perhaps even this one is farmed... I will ask when I go to buy later today.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I looked in my trusty yellow Bittman bible and (of course) found a good recipe...for both the fish and the brown Basmati rice that I plan to make with it! He (MB) also has a great book on cooking fish.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: erica

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Not to go off-topic, Erica, but an easy reference guide for which fish are most sustainably fished can be found at the Seafood Watch site run by the Monterey Bay Aquarium in CA. Link here: http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: DanaB

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Thanks, DanaB!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          BTW: I used two Bittman recipes for last night's dinner. Both the broiled fluke and the brown Basmati rice (also sauteed zucchini) met with rave reviews...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    3. re: erica

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      erica, if you post a thread on Home Cooking for recipe ideas, i'm sure we can all come up with some for you ;)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    4. Glad to have you here, Mr. Bittman
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      First, love your "How to Cook Everything". Anytime I have a basic cooking question, I refer to it and refer others to it. Have given it as a gift many times. Loved your Spain series with the gang; made my DH and I want to go. Questions:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. Who has been your biggest inspiration/influence?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. What food destination is/has been your favourite?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      3. If you could have any meal recreated for you tonight, what would it be (no need for a resto name)?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      4. We (my whole family) and I have been known to bring home food souvenirs/ingredients from our trips to Italy or other vacations (memories of a case of figs and 12 bottles of EVOO are coming back to me now...). I plan to visit NYC soon and am going to do the same. What would be your pick?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: itryalot

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Wow, what an opportunity.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I am planning to host a vegan teaparty and am a novice at vegan food. Thus far, the menu consists of salad, soup, two kinds of cookies, fudge and scones. I am considering a tofu quiche to round out the menu, but am a little bit anxious about trying so many new recipes at once. If it were your teaparty, what would you include on the menu?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Thank you for your kind reply.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. Hello Mark,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I have very convenient access to a regular old supermarket, and not quite convenient access to my city's meat/fish/produce district. What are the most important ingredients to always buy at the meat/fish/produce specialty stores and never buy at the supermarket? What are some items that you would trust the supermarket to be just as good with as the specialty purveyors? Thanks!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. I remember reading somewhere that French baked goods (like croissants) are much better (flakier, flavorful) because French butter typically has a higher fat content than American butter. I also imagine it has a lot to do with French bakers. At any rate, if this is true, why would you not want to use ghee to make croissants, or other flaky pastries?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          6 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: afoodyear

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            "why would you not want to use ghee to make croissants, or other flaky pastries?"
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            because ghee has a different melting point than butter does, and once melted, remains liquid at room temperature - you could potentially end up with very oily pastries. plus, the absence of the milk solids & proteins that exist in regular butter will alter the texture.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            but again, i'll defer to our expert if he has a different opinion or answer...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Yeah, pastries turn out pretty flat with ghee. The flavor's great, but the texture is akin to what you'd get if you made pastries with liquid vegetable oil. (OK, I admit: I've tried it.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: cimui

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                It's great that you've tried it, I think! and these answers make perfect sense.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The milk solids and protein also promote browning, if I'm remembering my food science reading correctly.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: greygarious

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  you are, and they do :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  actually, wasn't it you who asked about the sweet whey powder? i may have remarked about that in my reply.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              3. re: afoodyear

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Not an answer to your question, but you *can* buy european style butter at most grocery stores these days.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              4. OK, Bittman. I'm having a lot of fun reading your responses and getting a feel for your personality and sense of humor. Why don't you turn the tables a bit. If you were a regular ol' poster (i.e. not a celebrity), what question(s) would you post on Chowhound? Where do you go for answers?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: cimui

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I'm having so much fun too. Here's my idea: A BITTMAN BOARD on chowhound. It would be something he could answer at his leisure, even if it took months. That way we'd never lose his presence. We''d never be impatient, or wonder why no response, we'd be just grateful for the few crumbs of attention he'd throw us now and then. Every time I make a tortilitta, my 81 year old voice yells: thank you Mark Bittman!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. Hi Mark,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Before planning my trip to Barcelona I checked out a few pieces you had written on places to eat in the city. On your recommendation my partner and I ate in Cal I'sidre. What a disappointment. The food was certainly not the revelation you described. Even the Catalan dishes which you said to stick to were way below par. And it was very a expensive evening. We had memorable meals in tapas places like Cal Pep and Quimet i Quimet. Cal I'sidre was one we'll remember but for all the wrong reasons. What were you thinking?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: micki

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    You're right...Cal Pep is amazing! Next time you need to try Comerc 24...a protege of Ferran Adria (El Bulli) whose restaurant is 1/4 the price and without the year wait for reservations. Absolutely a treat!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. Hi Mark! Ever been to Beijing, and if so do you have any favorite restaurants, or ones that stick in mind? Thanks!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. Well, I was going to ask you to marry me, but I don't think I can spend the rest of my life with someone who gives away cookbooks. Sigh.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      We've been so over the build-a-meal-around-a-cut-of-meat thing because I can't afford to buy it. Chicken and pork are reasonably priced, but beef and fish are outrageous, so I've been purchasing smaller cuts and inventing ways to stretch it. Yesterday was payday, and the weather was perfect for grilling steaks. At the local chain grocery, I saw some nice-looking sirloin steaks on plastic-wrapped styrofoam trays for $10.49 a pound and was taken aback when I spotted the teeny-tiny word "Select" on the label. The "Choice" grade was $14.99 a pound but looked like mystery cuts in their vacuum-sealed bags. I opted for three pounds of 80/20 ground chuck at $3.49/lb for burgers for six adults and two grandkids. Coated with a nice smoked cheddar on a grilled Kaiser with a slab of homegrown tomato, it was really good. But it wasn't steak.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I've tried "Select" cuts and no one likes them, even cuts that have to be braised. Is there a way to make this grade less chewy and more flavorful? Can "Select" cuts be cooked with direct heat, ever? Does meat cost this much in New York?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: betteirene

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        "Select" means "little fat." Little fat, in general, means little taste and lousy texture. You can't really braise lean meat, or, that is, it's going to be dry.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I'm married, fyi, but thanks anyway. Very flattering especially since I'm not much fun.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Mark Bittman

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I often buy steak at the grocery store, and don't even notice a grade mentioned usually, so I'm guessing it's select. However $4.99 for porterhouse/T bone works for me,and it's been that price here in NY off and on all summer.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          What I do is, take it out a couple of hours ahead, sprinkle with whiskey or bourbon to moisten (old family tradition), then sprinkle with Adolfs tenderizer and kosher salt, and let sit til room temp. At some point season with pepper, garlic powder or whatever you like. It's definitely tender and tasty, and I'm not going to nitpick about perfection at that price.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Thanks Mark, hope to hear from you again in the future!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. This wraps up our expert thread with Mark Bittman! Thanks to everyone who posted questions and made it such a lively and interesting discussion, and an especially big thanks to Mark for spending the week with us and sharing his expertise with the community.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        And he says: bye all, thanks, it was fun, and we’ll do it again - mb

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. Ok-so I'm a bit late to the conversation. Mark Bittman, if you're still reading, I don't have a question (for shame)-just kudos to you.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I watch you whenever I have the opportunity [on TV :) !! ] and read your columns, books etc. You have added much useful information and fun to my cooking and eating! Many thanks to you!