Bittman's "How to cook everything" & "How to cook everything vegetarian" - opinions? favorite recipes?
So I was browsing B&N yesterday, and the Bittman book was in the bargain section for $20... just couldn't resist.
I like/d his minimalist column, and I've flipped through a few pages & like his writing style and approach. I like that he gives 5-10+ variations on the simplest sauces, for example.
My problem is that -- whenever I buy cookbooks, I hardly ever look at them again, b/c I almost never cook with actual recipes. I decide what I want to make for dinner, and I make it.
Are there recipes you were particularly fond of?
Tips on how to remember 'that book there on the shelf' for more than inspiration?
I find the only way to use a cookbook recipe is to make a truly conscious decision to do so. I was in the mood for braised chicken thighs last week and since I had the time, I decided to pull out one of the Indian recipes I've been wanting to cook BEFORE I headed to the store. There were only a couple of ingredients I didn't have (I bought a number of Indian spices recently) so I got those in the course of shopping for the chicken. Otherwise, I would have pulled out the recipe and not been able to make it--which was the point for me the first time I try a new recipe. But if none of the recipes interest you, guess it doesn't matter. I have his Food Matters Cookbook on the shelf and have marked half a dozen I want to try so I'll Xerox those so I can pull them out and take to the store if necessary.
there's a sauce/dressing with dark sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar and sugar that i make constantly--ordinary ingredients, but his version is perfectly balanced. i use it on shredded cabbage for a slaw that i take to potlucks and people rave. i forget the name of the recipe (it's in how to cook everything--not sure if it's also in the vegetarian book) but it's right above a recipe for marinated mushrooms, i remember. the recipe is not for the sauce alone--it's for a salad dressed with it.
I enjoy it for basics, but it's not gonna blow your socks off. Also, I've found that the timing is off on many of the recipes (I'm not the only person to comment on this--I recall a thread on a Usenet group about this very issue). I do find the recipes to be a bit bland, so naturally I doctor them up.
I have both of these books. I look upon these two books as I might have looked upon "Joy of Cooking" as my how to cook bible of the 50's.
Here is a different way to cook from it: When you decide what you want to make for dinner, look in one or other of the two books and see if there is something that might fit the major ingredient you are working with.
Example: last night I was cooking shrimp. I usually make it "on my own," but if I were in a different frame of mind, I would go and see if Bittman had any suggestions for 'saucing it up' a bit and making it into a totally different dish that I had in mind.
I think they are fabulous reference books.