Saturday, November 21, 2015

Mark Bittman's Kitchen Matrix

Home cooks and cookbook fiends should definitely know Mark Bittman's name by now. He's written over a dozen cookbooks, including the aptly named How to Cook Everything, and his NYT column (which just ended a decade plus run) has been read by umpteen folks throughout the years. His Best Recipes in the World is one I bought the day it was released and has since become splattered and stained with use. And now he's released a brand new cookbook for me to ruin use frequently.

Mark Bittman's Kitchen Matrix was put together with the premise that "If you can cook 10 recipes, you can cook 10,000." So the idea is that by using the book you can learn Bittman's basic approach to any given recipe provided and then try your hand at your own variations.

What does that mean? Well, let's take Bittman's Tiny Pancakes - a recipe that appears fairly early on in the book. Bittman starts off explaining how the idea for this recipe came about and then provides the base pancake mix and "universal instructions" along with 13 variations you can try. Yep, 13 different recipes all on a two page foldout: shrimp, peas, cooked spinach, roasted red pepper, cooked chicken, olives, peach, tomatoes, squid, pear, blueberries, cucumber, and asparagus.

But wait, this is winter squash season right? So what if you made some roasted butternut squash and had some left over? Well you can make your own Tiny Pancake variation using that or anything else you might have on hand!

Even if you stick to Bittman's basics, there are literally hundreds of recipes packed into this book. Thanksgiving Leftovers 20 Ways, Paillards (Cutlets) 10 Ways (this includes chicken, beef, pork, and lamb so if you make those a little interchangeable there are WAY more than 10 variations), Chickpeas 4 Ways, Shrimp 12 Ways, Beets 12 Ways... there's a section for most ingredients or meals you can think of. Then there are the recipe generators: Paella, Vinaigrette, Kebabs... Bittman gives you the basic build and you can pick your own ingredients.

Recipes are short, to the point, easy to follow, and include a mix of simple to somewhat more complex dishes. None are overly complicated or require incredibly specialized equipment, though, making this the kind of book that's great for a mix of experience levels and budgets. Someone less comfortable can, again, follow each of the recipes exactly and walk away with some new techniques and - hopefully - more confidence in the kitchen while those more experienced and willing to experiment beyond the basics will find a ton of inspiration.

I love this book. I was already a fan of Bittman's but even if you aren't familiar with him I highly suggest checking out this cookbook. It's definitely one that'll get heavy use in your kitchen and I'd be willing to bet it'll send you on a search for more from Bittman as well (Best Recipes in the World, y'all!)

Rating: 5/5

Per Blogging for Books requirements: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

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