Mark Bittman

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Raspberry Fool

The easiest mousse you can make (and a nice excuse to eat copious amounts of whipped cream). This is a perfect treatment for raspberries, which require no cooking at all to be tender, but a fool can also be made with any soft, ripe (or frozen) fruit (most you won’t even need to strain after puréeing).

Pad Thai

Totally ubiquitous (and often underwhelming) in Thai restaurants, Pad Thai is a near universal crowd-pleaser that most of us don’t bother to make at home. The biggest hurdle (and it’s really just a matter of going shopping) is collecting the ingredients that you probably don’t have on hand, like rice stick noodles and tamarind paste.

Potato Pierogi

With all due respect to ravioli, and all of the other stuffed pastas/doughs that exist around the world, I’m partial to the pierogi. These dumplings are creamy and savory, cooked in butter and served with cooked onion and sour cream.

pierogi dumpling

Pierogi Wrappers

Potato “Nik”

I love crisp, crunchy potato pancakes (also known as latkes) but they’re a pain to cook one by one. Fortunately there’s potato nik, my grandmother’s clever solution with the mysterious, unexplained name. I figure one nik equals twenty latkes, and you can actually walk away from it for a few minutes while it cooks. Plus, it stays hot for a long time and is delicious warm or at room temperature.

Fried Squid

While cooking squid I tried innumerable coatings. I have two conclusions to report: If you like cakey batter, make what amounts to a thick pancake batter. If you just want a little bit of crust (this is my preference), dredge lightly in flour; it doesn’t get any simpler or better.

Spatchcocked Chicken with Garlic, Parsley, and Orange

Remove the backbone from a whole bird and it will lie flat, instantly doubling the surface area—and the flavor and crisping potential.

Coda alla Vaccinara (Stewed Beef Tail or Shank)

If you have an electric multi-cooker or stovetop pressure cooker, you can still follow the recipe as written—and you’ll save at least a couple of hours. Just release the pressure to open it and check the progress after about 1 hour in Step 3. Otherwise, the process is the same.

Torta di Porri (Leek Pie)

Somewhat more elegant than its more famous French cousin, which is featured in the variation. Good hot, perhaps even better warm or at room temperature, this is an ideal buffet or picnic preparation.

Dear Diary: It’s Me, Mark. I’m in Awe.

Mark and Kathleen are on a three-month trip to far-flung sites around the world. We’ll be publishing bulletins from them as they go. Today: Hong Kong, Keelung, and aboard the Regent Seven Seas Explorer.

Injera

In Ethiopian cuisine, this spongy, sour bread is used to pick up and sop up all sorts of fragrant, saucy stews. The main ingredient is teff flour, which is ground from a tiny ancient grain (and just so happens to be gluten-free). It’s mixed with water and fermented overnight (or longer) to produce a distinctly tangy batter that you cook in a skillet much like a pancake.

Fish Baked with Leeks

This is a dish that is almost too simple to believe, one that combines wonderful textures and flavors with a minimum of ingredients, no added fat, and almost no preparation or cooking time. Like the best simple dishes, everything counts here: the fish, the leeks—which remain crisp and assertive thanks to the quick cooking time—and even the wine or stock.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

One of the most popular recipes in the original How to Cook Everything, which I attribute to too many people growing up with the mac and cheese that comes from a box. The real thing is rich, filling, delicious, and dead easy.

Free

Baked Falafel with Tahini Sauce

The baking makes lighter falafel, and they’re nearly as crunchy as deep-fried. Plus, the whole operation is a little easier. This makes a big batch, which is fine, since you can refrigerate the leftovers for several days, or freeze them for a couple of months. To reheat, wrap them in foil and bake at 350 until they’re hot throughout, 15 to 30 minutes depending on whether they were frozen.

Soba Salad

For most people, even experienced cooks, weeknight dinners are not so much a result of careful planning but of what’s on hand — and what can be accomplished fairly quickly. Noodles of all kinds are easy and beloved. But soba noodles, a Japanese staple, are special: they usually take no more than 3 to 4 minutes to cook and, because they’re made from buckwheat, have a slightly firm texture and a nutty flavor.

stuck pot rice with potato crust

Stuck-Pot Rice with Potato Crust

This is the first stuck-pot rice I learned to make (with thanks to the late great food writer Paula Peck). Potatoes make the crust here, complemented by the flavors of fennel and saffron. If fennel isn’t available or isn’t your thing, omit and use celery, or try one of the variations.

Masoor Dal

This dal (made with quick-cooking red lentils) is about as simple as dal gets. A lump of butter stirred in at the end makes it nice and creamy, but to keep it vegan you can just use a little neutral oil instead (or leave it out entirely).

Charred, Olive-Oil-Poached Beets

Normally, roasting a beet is among the least onerous cooking tasks there is, but when the summer heat starts to kick in, sometimes you just can’t bear to turn on the oven. When that’s the case, try this: slice the beets thickly, slowly poach them in olive oil spiked with garlic and rosemary until tender, then throw them on the grill until they’re beautifully blistered and charred. Kind of different, really good.