Friday, May 28, 2010

Review (and Giveaway!) of Mark Bittman's "Kitchen Express"


About a year ago, I made it a goal to stop relying so heavily on cookbooks and step-by-step recipes, and instead learn to cook a little more intuitively and creatively. It was a little scary at first, but I was surprised by how much I already knew about ingredients and cooking techniques. And it felt SO much nicer to cook without turning around every 2 minutes to look at a recipe, or to have my onions burn while I frantically opened every drawer in the kitchen looking for a tablespoon.

I think that for most of us who've been cooking for a few years or more, recipes have become a crutch - and while it's disconcerting when that crutch is first yanked away, you'll soon be surprised at how well you can do on your own.

The most important lesson for me in this whole process has been learning to actually taste my food as I cook it, instead of blindly following a recipe and then hoping it tastes good at the end. When you're constantly tasting your food and the ingredients you put into it, you'll notice how each ingredient changes the flavor or consistency of the dish, and you'll learn something new with every dish you prepare. (Just beware - the first time you taste fish sauce on its own...yikes!)

Ditching the recipes has helped me feel more confident in the kitchen, and it's also saved me a lot of money since I've become better at using what I already have instead of buying ingredients specifically for a recipe. I still use recipes once in a while - but now I look at them for ideas and inspiration instead of as an instruction guide. So when I discovered Mark Bittman's new book, Kitchen Express (404 Seasonal Recipes You Can Make in 20 Minutes or Less) which is sort of an anti-cookbook cookbook, I thought it was fantastic. Here's what I love about it:

1) It focuses on seasonal foods, and is divided into four sections: winter, spring, summer, and fall.

2) It doesn't include any specific measurements (ie: 1 tbsp of minced ginger). Instead, each recipe is about one paragraph long, written in sentence form, with simple instructions. If you've never cooked before, this probably wouldn't be your cup of tea, but for fairly seasoned cooks who have a concept of how much salt and garlic should be added to a dish, it's great.

3) There are lots of suggestions for foods, herbs, and seasonings that you can swap in or out depending on what you have available. I think this is perfect for beginning recipe-ditchers, because it shows you that you don't have to have every single ingredient to make a recipe. Obviously if you want to make balsamic glazed chicken and you don't have balsamic vinegar or chicken, that will be problematic. But if you're lacking that little bit of fresh parsley that is tossed in at the end, it's no biggie.

4) The dishes look really tasty, and are really simple - no long lists of ingredients or complex cooking techniques.

5) In the front and back of the book, there are lots of categories and menu suggestions that help you quickly find what you're looking for. An example category is "The Easiest of the Easiest," "Recipes that Barely Disturb the Kitchen," and "Finger Foods for All Occasions." Menu suggestions include "Weeknight Dinner Party" (do people really have those?) and "Kids' Night."

I highly recommend this cookbook for anyone who's interested in breaking away from their slavery to recipes. It's a good jumping off point and will help you feel more confident (and creative) in the kitchen. And it will also help take the guesswork out of which foods are seasonal at any given time.

PS - I'm not being paid by anyone to promote this book...I just bought it myself and thought it was really great.

I'm going to be giving away one copy of this cookbook to a lucky reader.

HOW TO ENTER:

Post a comment below mentioning your favorite food blog. No, it doesn't have to be mine. :) I've been really interested in reading other people's food blogs, but I haven't had the time to browse around lately, so I'd love to get some suggestions.

Be sure to include your email address, or if you're uncomfortable posting your email address, include your first name, last initial, City & State (ie: Alicia M. Salt Lake City, UT) in the comment. I will be either emailing the winner or posting the winner's name (if no email is included)
Sunday, June 13th at 6:00 pm Pacific time.

Bonus entries:

A) If you
subscribe to my blog or become a follower on Google, you can leave an additional entry telling me you've done so.

B) If you
post a link to this giveaway on your own blog or website, you can leave an additional comment as well. Please include the link in the comment field.

On Sunday the 13th, I will go to Random.org and have a random number chosen to select the winner.

Good luck!

49 comments:

  1. I like http://onceamonthmom.com/.

    kristen_yeh (at) yahoo (dot) com

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  2. Even if yours wasn't the only food blog I read, it would still be my favorite!

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  3. I don't need the book but it sounds neat. I wanted to applaud your efforts--it's so great to see people truly connect with real food.

    And although our mutual friend Adam apparently doesn't read me you can check out my food blog at http://bluegrassfoodie.com

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  4. My favorite blog is http://www.101cookbooks.com/. I like your too :-)

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  5. I'm a follower on Blogger! :D

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  6. One of my favorite food blogs is http://www.austinfarmtotable.com/ because it talkes a lot about local food that I can actually find and buy in my hometown of Austin, and she often posts recipes and tips about where to find the good stuff!

    katherine.loiry@gmail.com

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  7. I have 2 that I frequent:
    www.bonappetithon.com - I drool at the site and sounds of the recipes she recreates.
    www.youarewhatyoueatorreheat.com - Keeps it simple and light and fun.

    shutterboo at gmail dot com

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  8. I like the blog Cooking with Rosie.

    hewella1 at gmail dot com

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  9. I'm a GFC follower.

    hewella1 at gmail dot com

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  10. bakerella is my fav! ...but it's purely desserts.
    kevindormer at hotmail dot com

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  11. This is one of my favorites:
    http://www.theperfectpantry.com/

    nupur.kittur AT gmail DOT com

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  12. I'll whore out my own and say I LOVE my own food blog: http://whatsinlaurenstummy.blogspot.com ;-)

    But I also really love desertculinary.blogspot.com and cookiemadness.net!

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  13. This is a favorite of mine:
    http://www.lastnightsdinner.net/

    It has a lot of photographs and I really enjoy it.

    kt1969 at comcast dot net

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  14. I'm a follower on Google!

    kt1969 at comcast dot net

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  15. I enjoy happyjackeats.blogspot.com, but actually I get a lot of ideas from all kinds of blogs, everyone has to eat and it seems a lot of them post about it!

    sugareaterATgmailDOTcom

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  16. I haven't found a favorite yet, but yours really does look good!

    writeme at heidimail dot com

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  17. I love What's Cooking With DD!
    six_one_nine_girlie86 (at) yahoo (dot) com

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  18. I follow with GFC!
    six_one_nine_girlie86 (at) yahoo (dot) com

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  19. I love Once A Month Mom--Tricia and Cortney are awesome!

    Christie
    ropp dot 5 at wright dot edu

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  20. I have a few:
    Pioneer Woman--I can't believe no one has mentioned her yet!
    Big Flavors From a Tiny Kitchen--a friend of mine; TONS of delicious stuff
    Daily Unadventures in Cooking--found when doing a giveaway
    Measuring Spoons and Mixing Bowls--also found when entering giveaway
    Can't wait to look around this one more!
    katidyd at hotmail dot com

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  21. I'm a new google follower
    AND
    email subscriber
    katidyd at hotmail dot com

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  22. i love lee drummond of the pioneer woman blog. i would love a copy of your book.

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  23. Like Katidyd and Jackie, I too enjoy visiting Lee Drummonds' Pioneer womans blog.
    My email address can be found once clicked on my username. :)

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  24. I have also just become a follower of your blog. :)
    Have a wonderful day!

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  25. i love simplyrecipes.com
    flipperdzemail-blogger at yahoo dot com

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  26. I like this one:
    http://www.laurasbestrecipes.com/blog/
    june_spirit2628 at hotmail dot com

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  27. I can honestly say I don't have a favorite cooking/food blog because I hadn't come across one before. I really like yours though! :)

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  28. I'm also following you on Google Friend Connect now :)

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  29. favorite food blogs: smitten kitchen, ezra pound cake, and a bunch of others. i'm happy to have found yours! :)

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  30. I like Smashed Peas and Carrots. It is not exclusively a food blog but it has recipes that are healthy and easy.
    melindasr5 at yahoo dot com

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  31. Pioneer Woman's is my favorite, and of course her Tasty Kitchen.

    nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

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  32. I follow

    nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

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  33. Blogged:
    http://cerebralgirl.blogspot.com/2010/05/book-giveaways-in-blogworld-05-29-10.html

    nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

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  34. I like http://www.thenourishinggourmet.com/

    digitalscrap.chick at gmail dot com

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  35. I just bookmarked this food blog but haven't checked it out too much. I do love all the pictures.
    http://www.tastespotting.com/

    rbjj32825[at]lycos[dot]com

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  36. I love youarewhatyoueatorreheat.com. Lots of the reheat here but often it's planned.

    aluttrell at cox dot net

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  37. thepioneerwomancooks.com is an amazing site. Plus, she has an entire site called Tasty Kitchen that is just as fabulous!

    bamagv(at)aol(dot)com

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  38. I like www.orangette.blogspot.com.

    raeviola at hotmail dot com

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  39. I'm a follower of your blog.

    raeviola at hotmail dot com

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  40. I like the Pioneer Woman's Blog as well as Serious Eats.
    joosbornenc@yahoo.com

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  41. Great giveaway, I'm a fan of Mark Bittman. My favorite food blog is http://www.mowielicious.com/home/.
    thevanandthecart AT gmail D0T com

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  42. I'm a follower of your blog!
    thevanandthecart AT gmail D0T com

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  43. I would love to win this cookbook. My favorite food blog is found here:
    http://latestdish.blogspot.com/
    anthyjune {at} gmail {d0t} com

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  44. I also follow your blog.
    anthyjune {at} gmail {d0t} com

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  45. The Corn Dishes of this site is amazing. I like all corn recipes. There are lots of Corn Recipes in Indianrecipes.co.in which is fantastic.

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  46. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for inspiring us.
    Keep it up and continue on what your doing. Visit my site too.

    triciajoy.com

    www.triciajoy.com

    ReplyDelete