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Mark Bittman's Kitchen Express: 404 Inspired Seasonal Dishes You Can Make in 20 Minutes or Lessby Mark Bittman
The simple format of Kitchen Express belies all that it has to offer. Here are 101 incredibly fast and easy recipes for each season — 404 in all. The experienced home cook can play with each to great advantage, yet at their core, they're recipes presented in the simplest form possible, understandable and readily executed by anyone who's done some cooking.
As a group, they are precisely imprecise. This is unusual for recipes, but it's long been my belief that the most specific recipes are the most limiting. Specificity is fine for baking, where the chemistry among the ingredients often determines success or failure. But in savory cooking, where amounts can vary wildly — there's almost never a critical difference between one onion and two: A "head" of broccoli might weigh one or one-and-a-half pounds; a steak may be three-quarters to an inch and a half thick — to try to force cooks to follow recipes demanding precision robs them of the ability to improvise, to relax, to substitute, to use their own judgment.
Jacques Pepin once remarked to me that the old adage about never stepping foot in the same river twice holds true for recipes also: You don't start with the same amount of ingredients, they're not at the same temperature, they're not the same age or from the same place, the ambient temperature and humidity are probably different, as are your equipment and mood. Everything is different, and the results will be too.
These little recipes acknowledge that up front. I don't really care how much garlic you use in most recipes, so "some" is as good as "a teaspoon." Similarly, garnishes are garnishes: You use more, you use less, you leave them out — it shouldn't matter. "A carrot" in a soup could certainly be a big one or a small one, and so on. So I rarely give exact measurements, unless proportions are critical.
This style of cooking is about three things: speed, flexibility, and relaxation. If you read one of these recipes, if it inspires you, and if you have the ingredients (or something approximating them) to throw it together — then go into the kitchen, assemble what you need, and have at it. Twenty minutes later, max, you'll be eating something delicious. What's wrong with that? Copyright © 2009 by Mark Bittman
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