HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >

Discussion

April 2010 Cookbook of the Month: How to Cook Everything

Our Cookbook of the Month for April will be Mark Bittman's HOW TO COOK EVERYTHING.

There are two editions, the original from 1998 and the 10th anniversary revised from 2008. I think it makes sense for people to cook from either (or both), so perhaps we should just mention which one we're using when we make our recipe reports. As of now, I've only used the original, so I for one, would welcome any discussion comparing the two editions.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. Thanks Caitlin... a virtual shoo-in wasn't it?
    Here's a link to many of the on-line recipes:
    http://www.howtocookeverything.tv/rec...

    1. This is probably a good thing for me - I have the book and have used it a little, but not as much as such a huge book merits (I hope). Mine is the original, so I do hope that we don't find there is TOO much of a difference.

      1. Love this book. It's replaced Fannie Farmer as my go to. I have the original version and I have yet to make something from it that wasn't simple, delicious and easy to prepare.

        1. This book is so large - if anyone has any particular raves, I would love to hear them.

          1. If you don't have the revised edition, get it! Even if you already have the first edition. From the Introduction:

            "Much has changed in the world of food and cooking since 'How to Cook Everything' was first published in 1998... There are now more good ingredients available to all of us than ever before... Now you can buy nam pla (Thai fish sauce), shallots, fresh herbs, tofu, ginger, curry paste, and scores of other once-exitic ingredients at supermarkets all over the country. This expands our potential repertoire enormously. Where 'American' cooking once drew largely from northern European cuisines...we now routinely enjoy food from the rest of the world. This new edition of 'How to Cook Everything' reflects that.

            "It also reflects my further disenchantment with what was once called 'haute cuisine' - fancy food. This, I think, is best left to restaurants. So where int he original 'How to Cook Everything' I made some attempts to address the needs of those who like to replicate restaurant food as a hobby, here I'm leaving most of that behind. Home cooking is best when it's simple, straightforward, unpretentious, and easy."

            Cards on the table, then.

            "Simple" doesn't mean plain, or predictable, certainly not boring. Of course the standards are here, with quantities and timings that eliminate the guesswork in more loosely written cookbooks, though of course not the need to taste and make your own decisions. But the 2,000 recipes and variations also include exotica like braised oxtail with garlic and white wine, seafood and vegetable pancake Korean style, naan, and tarte tatin. I haven't made any of these yet, but I've made and liked "Mom's Pan-Cooked Peppers and Onions," and the variation with Italian sausage as an Italian sandwich or with pasta..

            One of Bittman's strategies is to offer lots of variations on a basic dish, encouraging home cooks to try their own. "Anything-Scented Peas" comes with 11 varieties, from the usual herbs to miso and "minced flowers, like lavender, rose petals, or anise hissop." If ever there was an invitation to experiment...

            Some Bittman dishes I've made and liked, in alphabetical order: anything-scented peas with miso; balsamic-glazed carrots with garlic; braised and glazed brussels sprouts; chicken and sausage jambalaya; fried chickpeas with chorizo and spinach; Italian sausage with peppers and onions; pan-cooked salmon with vinaigrette; rice pilaf with currants and pine nuts.

            62 Replies
            1. re: armagnac

              Well, since I have the original edition of How To Cook Everything and The Best Recipes in the World (I think that's the title) by Bittman, I don't think I'll be buying the new edition of HTCE.

              I love his COTRIADE recipe (p. 71 in the original HTCE).

              1. re: oakjoan

                Just what I was thinking: I need another book that huge like I need a hole in the head. Especially just an updated version of one I already own. No offense to armagnac!

                1. re: LulusMom

                  No offense taken, of course. But this is not "just an updated version," it's a major revision. If you've only room for one huge cookbook, this should be it, not the first edition. Have a browse at your local bookstore and see for yourself.

                  1. re: armagnac

                    Actually, I think having people report back on either version of the book this month could be very helpful. Maybe we'll get a real sense of how different the two versions really are and those who have only the older version of the book will get a specific sense of how the recipes have been updated or what's in the new version that's not in the old version, and vice versa, in case they want to "trade up."

                    I don't have either version. I checked them out of the library last summer, back when Bittman was "Expert in Residence" for a week. While I could see how they could be helpful for someone who only wants to own one or two bookbooks, I am a person who owns a lot of cookbooks. If I want to cook Sichuan or Vietnamese, I'd rather cook from Dunlop or Pham or Nguyen than cook a "Chinese'ish" or "Vietnamese'ish" recipe from Bittman. I guess I just didn't see the point.

                    But, nevermind, as I won't have time to experiment much in the kitchen in April anyway. Instead of a book called, "How to Cook Everything" I think I need a book right now "How to Cook ANYthing!". Thank goodness for my crock pot. I've been having great luck with Bayless' "Mexican Everyday" slow-cooker recipes...

                    ~TDQ

                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      I looked at it when I was in the States last year, and it's not for me either. As I've been away for most of March, I might have a look at Kennedy in April instead.

                      1. re: greedygirl

                        A few other veteran COTMers are going to do that as well, GG. I might just tag along for another month of Kennedy since I didn't get to cook as many recipes from her book as I anticipated. Also, I have the big green Gourmet Today book which I think is absolutely wonderful.

                        1. re: Gio

                          I'm a veteran now - how marvellous!

                          1. re: Gio

                            I want to start cooking from that Big Green Gourmet book, too! Love it! But, again, I'm going to be pretty scarce in COTM, probably until June. Such a bummer. But I love reading what everyone else is cooking!

                            ~TDQ

                            1. re: Gio

                              Can you tell me more about the Big Green Gourmet book please. My cookbook antennae are twitching!

                              1. re: greedygirl

                                Good Morning Greedygirl...
                                Well they might twitch! 1,000 recipes selected by Ruth Reichl, quick and simple ways to prepare tasty week-night meals, lots of vegetarian dishes, international favorites, shopping advice for farmers market produce... I just think it outshines any other large compendium of recipes on the market today. Everything we've made so far has been delicious.

                                Here's the link to the book's website with a review from the New York Times. I can't say it any better than this:
                                http://gourmettodaycookbook.com/reviews

                                Also, a few sample recipes are on another page.

                                1. re: Gio

                                  Now you've done it Gio. I had successfully managed to avoid reading/buying this book until now ...

                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                    Ain't that the truth. It's going on my birthday wish list, along with the new Ottolenghi, which is out in April or May (can't wait for this one).

                                    1. re: greedygirl

                                      You won't be disappointed, I assure you... and LLM.

                                      BTW: For the life of me I can't remember the title ot Ottolenghi's new book. I want to pre-order it and am at a loss. Can someone put this poor old brain out of its misery?

                                      1. re: Gio

                                        It's called Plenty and all the recipes are vegetarian. Out 5 May.

                                        http://www.ottolenghi.co.uk/blog/2010...

                                        1. re: greedygirl

                                          Thank you! I see I've already signed up at Amazon USA to be notified when the book becomes available here. I'm wondering if I should open an account with the UK counterpart. Shipping from the UK is easy, isn't it?
                                          I love his first book. Now I have to have Plenty. Of course, DH would say i already have....

                                          1. re: Gio

                                            Given that the first one isn't available in America yet, it may be a long wait. I'm not sure that you need to open a new account with Amazon UK - I think you can just go on the UK site with your existing one and spend, spend, spend. ;-)

                                            1. re: Gio

                                              Busting in here to say that you can indeed order from the UK on a US account (to my chagrin) - and shipping is reasonable and reasonably fast (a week or so). I paid under $40.00 all in for the first Ottolenghi from Amazon UK.

                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                Oh thanks You Two! That's just what I wanted to hear...(This opens up all kinds of possibilities. Doesn't it.) Oy vey.

                                                3:20PM Edit to add: Done.

                                                1. re: Gio

                                                  If you only knew...but you soon will!

                                                    1. re: greedygirl

                                                      Considering I already have 3 "May" books currently pre-ordered at Amazon US, May is going to be a doozey.
                                                      I need a tin cup and matchsticks.

                                                        1. re: buttertart

                                                          "Brunetti's Cookbook: At Table with the Brunettis" by Roberta Pianaro, Donna Leon. And 2 Italian mysteries in a series I've been reading: 1 by Donna Leon. (Her latest to be published in the US. Main character is Commissario Brunetti), and 1 by Andrea Camilleri. But as with most Italian mysteries, it's all about the food. I've actually cooked some dishes just from the author's description of the meal.

                                                          1. re: Gio

                                                            I'm very fond of those books too. If you ever want to book-chat without a CH smackdown, my email is on my profile.

                                                            1. re: Gio

                                                              I need some translation here, Gio. Doozey? Tin cup and matchsticks? I'm with you on Camilleri, btw.

                                                              1. re: greedygirl

                                                                Doozey = above and beyond expectations.

                                                                Tin cup & matchsticks = Picture a poor waif standing on the corner of a busy street wearing a tattered frock with ladders in her stockings, trying to sell fagots and holding a metal cup into which she expects buyers will deposit their coin. I'm channeling Charles Dickens here....work with me.

                                                              2. re: Gio

                                                                Ah, I was wondering when Donna Leon's cop was going to get his own cookbook! Or, more correctly, when his wife was going to get her own cookbook.

                                                                Gio - did you read the one about the waste disposal by the U.S. Army? A great read....although a bit of a disgusting topic for this website.

                                                                1. re: oakjoan

                                                                  I've read everyone of Donna Leon's Commissario Brunetti's books in order and now await the lastest one. His lunches are legendary but don't compare with the Sicilian Commissario Moltobano's trattoria meals and his housekeeper's dinners...He's the one who should have the cookbook, IMO

                                                                  1. re: Gio

                                                                    Gio -- which is the first one?

                                                                    1. re: roxlet

                                                                      I hope the Mods allow this to stay....if not shoot me an e-mail. C: my profile.
                                                                      Death At La Fenice (1992).
                                                                      http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/l/d...
                                                                      http://www.groveatlantic.com/leon/tou...

                                                    2. re: Gio

                                                      In my experience, husbands are the absolute worst judges of the necessary size of a cookbook collection. Ignore him, and the next time he complains, inquire (sweetly, of course), "But didn't you like the ... I made last week, dear? That was from my newest cookbook."

                                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                                        Diversion, and confuse, I find these work well for me.

                                                  1. re: Gio

                                                    Gio: What if you (read "I" here) don't really like Ruth Reichl? Since I trust you guys a lot, I'll give it a look in the bookstore, but I think I have enough quick and easy meals books to last a lifetime...Ken Hom quick recipes (or something like that, too lazy to look), Nigel Slater's Real Fast Food, lots of stuff in Bittman, along with Cunningham's The Supper Book.

                                                    1. re: oakjoan

                                                      Hey Joan... I do agree with you about there being plenty of "quick cook" books out there.. I too have the Slater book and one other by him..and the Bittman the Best Recipes, etc. But does the personality of the author of cookbooks impact the good food produced with the recipes?

                                                      1. re: Gio

                                                        Sadly, due to my immaturity, the personality of the author does impact. I read Reichl's autobigraphical book about her mother and didn't like it at all. I also remember her reviews because I still DO live in Oakland. She's too googoo-breathy for me.

                                                        I have some gift certificate cash to spend at Moe's on Telegraph...maybe I'll give it a look over.

                                                        1. re: oakjoan

                                                          Let me know what you think.
                                                          Did you know that today is the 13th anniversary of Moe's death?

                                                          1. re: oakjoan

                                                            I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. Googooiness (my problem with her too) suppressed. Ah, Moe's, many a happy hour spent there.

                                                        2. re: oakjoan

                                                          My two cents worth: I haven't been able to abide Ms Reichl since the days of her restaurant reviews a million years ago when we lived in Berkeley, and I love the green Gourmet book and am going to get the yellow one. The authorial voice in the green book is more general, not specifically hers, a pleasant mix of breezy and cosy.

                                                          1. re: buttertart

                                                            I caved and got the Green one for £15 on Amazon and am waiting for it to be delivered. Shakes head sadly. There really is no hope for this hopeless addict!

                                                            1. re: greedygirl

                                                              Relax and enjoy it, it's a very good book. I'm still on cookbook-buying-hold pending The Move, it's killing me.

                                                            2. re: buttertart

                                                              What was it about Reichl's Berkeley-era reviews that made her so unlikable? I only ask because I really enjoyed her first three memoirs; all I know about her Berkeley days is what she has written--so I am just curious.

                                                              I'm always interested in reading about how people develop their attitudes/approaches to food, whether food celebrities or Chowhounds, but, like Oakjoan, I disliked Reichl's last book about her mother. (I guess I was expecting it to be ultimately about food and thus felt cheated.)

                                                              At any rate, I agree that Reichl the Personality, however one feels about that, doesn't really come through in the yellow Gourmet (and since I've made some of the recipes in her memoirs, I trust her recipe decisions). I think it's a great cookbook. I've avoided buying the green--so far--but only b/c I'm trying to practice some restraint, and my shelves are sagging!

                                                              1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                They were gushy, icky-poo, self-referential, wannabe MFK Fisher without any of the reserve and discretion.
                                                                Her reviews in the Times were not quite as over-the-top (and she did review places like the Tang Pavilion and the first Grand Sichuan that were beneath Bryan Miller's lofty purview, I have to give her that).
                                                                I read the first memoirs and found them interesting, but haven't read the one about her mother (the parts about her mother in the others having rather dissuaded me from wanting to know more).
                                                                I have to say that my dislike is doubtlessly tainted with a bit of "I coulda been a contender" - I would have liked to have had the breaks she did and the career she has...
                                                                I was very pleasantly surprised by the green book - tone and recipes - and look forward to owning it and the yellow one as well.

                                                      2. re: LulusMom

                                                        Yes, I had to avert my gaze from Gio's post as I, too, so far have managed not to buy the newer Gourmet.
                                                        I'm hopeless. Sigh.

                                                      3. re: Gio

                                                        I have the big yellow Gourmet cookbook (which I love). Please tell what's the difference (besides color), is it revised or a whole other book?

                                                          1. re: nvcook

                                                            Yes, all new, as beetlebug says, with emphasis on contemporary and more "everyday" kinds of dishes. From all accounts, worth its weight . . . and it is just as big as the yellow-jacketed Gourmet. Hard to resist though I have, so far.

                                                          2. re: Gio

                                                            I love that one, use it all the time. If it has Ruth's name on it, I want it!

                                                          3. re: greedygirl

                                                            Hi gg! I was resistant to it but got it out of the library and found scads and oodles of recipes I wanted to try. Am buying it as soon as I get everything else settled in its new home. Apparently the YELLOW Gourmet cookbook is also worthwhile (recipes from the 40 years the magazine was in existence) and I am planning to buy it too.

                                                            1. re: buttertart

                                                              I own both yellow and green Gourmet cookbooks. I've cooked lots from the yellow and have had only 1 miss (the pasta with fresh herbs, surprisingly bland). It's my go to, I don't know what to cook, so let's see what's in here, book.

                                                              I haven't really explored green yet, but I have faith that it will serve me as well as the yellow one.

                                                              1. re: beetlebug

                                                                How much of the yellow one isn't on the epicurious website? Or the green one, for that matter? Just curious before I break the kitchen bookshelves.

                                                                1. re: LulusMom

                                                                  Well, it's just one data point, but we had a discussion about the four recipes that were featured on the DVD that accompanied some editions of the yellow book; two are on epicurious, two were not. (see Caitlin's post with the link to the 2 recipes that were on epicurious.)

                                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6763...

                                                                  ~TDQ

                                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                    Thanks TDQ, I'd missed that discussion. I think I just found something to put on my mothers' day wish list. The lot of you make my husband's job much easier.

                                                                    Just wish I had some time to cook; things have been very busy recently, and when I get into the kitchen (IF I get into the kitchen) I find I'm going for the tried and true easy stuff these days.

                                                                  2. re: LulusMom

                                                                    I got the green one from the library and wanted the coconut cake recipe (and one other??) and rather than type/copy, I checked on epicurious -- and there they both were so just printed them out -- they were exactly the same. I definitely must stop myself from buying more cookbooks.

                                                                    1. re: walker

                                                                      And this is the green one (the newer one)? Thanks for the info walker.

                                                                      1. re: LulusMom

                                                                        Yes, the green one. I guess if you can get it from the library, then you can decide if you REALLY need to buy/own it.

                                                          4. re: greedygirl

                                                            I'll be trying to work from Kennedy in April too, I hope; I voted for it and bought it and then March turned into one of the busiest months I've had in a while. I haven't tried even one of the recipes from the Kennedy book yet though I've loved reading others' reports. (Of course, if I could drag myself away from this site, I might have more time for actual cooking.)

                                                  2. re: armagnac

                                                    i just don't love the book, and am unconvinced people need two versions of it. it's a useful reference--i have a total mental block with the right water to quinoa ratio, for example. but i've had some real misses. there are books that i've learned much more from (sunday suppers at lucques, zuni) and enjoyed much more (hazan's essentials, and the sullivan street bakery guy's bread book).
                                                    that all being said, it's been a long while since i last participated in COTM, i have the book, and i'm excited to learn from everyone's experiences.

                                                    1. re: rose water

                                                      Please, please share your misses with us.

                                                      1. re: LulusMom

                                                        the most salient in my memory was the carrot muffins. flavorless lumps of sad flavorlessness. other things haven't failed so spectacularly, but just haven't inspired--i'll browse the book to see if i can remember more specifically what falls into this category.

                                                        1. re: rose water

                                                          Thanks rose water. Just as important to know what the losers are in the book as the winners.

                                                          1. re: LulusMom

                                                            pasta with cauliflower and saffron. delicious flavors but way too mushy .
                                                            persian style rice must've been inspired by a creative iranian friend of his-- it may draw on iranian food prep, but isn't iranian food. and the details are totally insufficient--folks would learn much more from following plum's excellent directions on chowhound a few years ago than from bittman's instructions.
                                                            from plum: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/2963...

                                                            it's an odd book. on the one hand, there are detailed instructions on how to buy measuring cups and spoons, but a novice won't necessarily have the skills to add flavor or improvise where the bittman recipes are lacking.

                                                            1. re: rose water

                                                              Thanks very much rose water. I know that I've had those experiences with some of his other books, so it makes lots of sense.