I mentioned above that Mark Bittman is the author of six other cookbooks. What I didn't mention is that How To Cook Everything is one of them. It was published five years ago, won big-time awards and quickly and deservedly became a kitchen essential. For me, that means Bittman shares a special space on my overloaded cookbook shelves with Julia Child and Craig Claiborne. He's the new boy on the block (the others have been there since the '60s) but he's the one I'd take with me if I were marooned on a desert island. Bittman believes that anyone can cook, that "there are no 'secrets' to cooking only good guidance combined with experience." But beginners might be put off by the book's bulk at least a couple of pounds, 1,500 recipes and well over 900 pages and the possibility of too much good guidance. So, with his signature simplicity and straightforward approach, the master minimalist has carved a smaller book out of the original. How to Cook Everything: The Basics has 100 simple recipes especially selected for the new cook and the essential low-down on time, ingredients, equipment and technique. Even the never-set-a-foot-in-the-kitchen contingent will be making leafy salad and linguine, steamed mussels and stuffed turkey, rice pilaf and roast pork, pound cake and pancakes and lots more. This bit of Bittman is just what beginners need.

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