ore from the MinimalistI've reviewed all of Mark Bittman's cookbooks and, for me, he's one of the most consistently interesting recipe and cookbook creators going. His culinary sensibilities are streamlined and his aim is to pare recipes down, making them simple but not simpleminded and without sacrificing their essence. All of the recipes in his latest collection, The Minimalist Cooks Dinner: More Than 100 Recipes for Fast, Great Weeknight Meals, have appeared in his weekly New York Times column, which is clipped, saved and savored by an ever-growing audience. Bittman never insists on three ingredients or five, never has rigid rules and always begins and ends each recipe with the kind of uncommonly intelligent commentary a cook, with or without years of experience, will find truly helpful. He offers a range of substitutions and variations that encourages innovation and explains the whys and wherefores of particular ingredients in a manner that will make you a smarter, savvier cook. The focus in this dinner cookbook is, naturally, on main dishes, and there are some wonderfully easy ways to make that meal a lot more than a chore. Just consider Roast Salmon Steak with Pinot Noir Syrup, Soy-Poached Chicken or sublimely simple Skirt Steak with Plum Puree Sauce, all prepared in 40 minutes or less. The serving and wine suggestions give plenty of advice on rounding out the menus, and a whole chapter is devoted to side dishes and salads. As always, Mark Bittman takes the minimum to the max.
Sybil Pratt has been cooking up this column for more than five years.