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Soup to nuts

  • Oct 11, 2010

Lets say you don't know how to cook, or you know how to do a limited number of dishes.  (What I call the amateur with the "specialty."  I-can-cook-I-make-great-spaghetti-sauce syndrome.)  Lets say you've been faking it, but you really are not sure how to make poached eggs or good roast chicken.  What's your first step?

 I have a suggestion.  Get yourself at least one good general cookbook that assumes you know absolutely nothing about cooking.  

 How to Cook Everything is exactly this kind of book.   Mark Bitterman's receipes will be interesting enough for experienced cooks but the directions are clear enough for newbies.  Using this book you can learn to make bread or jam.  But you don't have to.  You can just learn to make decent soup, roasts, steaks and salads.  He really will teach you everything, so you don't have to worry too much about not knowing the lingo. Just make sure and read the initial introduction and the introductions to each chapter.

Mark Bitterman has a good sense of what people like to eat these days so unlike some of the more traditional general cookbooks (Fannie Farmer, Joy of Cooking), you get a selection of easy to make modern meals (like tacos) along with things like beef stew. 

Having said that, I have to admit that I like this book very much but don't  quite love it as much as my traditional books which I would recommend to suplement this one.. It won't actually take the place of my Fannie Farmer or my Basic Cookbook because it seems less rooted in the traditions of American cooking.  Bitterman is great at the variations that make up today's cooking but when it comes to the classics, I find myself turning to those older books which explain not only how to make things like Johnny Cakes but their origins.

Having said that this is a good book to have around if you suddenly want to learn to make pancakes, or banana bread or if you want to find a variation on the boring stew you have been making for years.  Buy it as a present for newlyweds or your college grad leaving home--then tell them to have you for dinner!

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November 15, 2010
I'm going to have to check this out! I'm getting more into cooking now that I'm getting older and about to get married. I think you're right on about it being a great gift for newlyweds :) Thanks for sharing!
October 11, 2010
This book sounds fantastic!  I'm a HUGE fan of Mark Bittman's recipes because they're so simple, yet delicious.  For example, this edamame salad recipe.  I also love his simple, yet classy hor d'ouvre recipes.  Thanks for sharing, Robin!  By the way, I run the Gourmand community and I think you'd be interested in some of the reviews there :)
More How To Cook Everything: Simple... reviews
Quick Tip by . June 16, 2010
A comprehensive resource. If you have one cookbook this should be it!
review by . December 27, 2009
How To Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food
This book really does have everything! This cookbook never fails. I can always find a basic how to in this cookbook. And then I can elaborate on the recipe to make it my own. Great ideas!
review by . February 27, 2009
I recently picked up Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything on EBay.  I have a pretty decent cookbook collection, but I don't own a definitive resource on, well, how to cook everything. I normally utilize my former-chef husband to be my "phone a friend" when I'm stuck in the kitchen at 3 p.m. trying out some new dish and not sure if I should really be doing what the recipe says I should be doing!    So, to allow my husband the pleasure of focusing on his day job, I welcomed …
About the reviewer
Robin123 ()
Hello everyone!      Like a lot of you, I just love to read. And, as you will see from my reviews I read some of an awful lot of things. I particularly enjoy American history, biographies, … more
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Wiki Review
Mark Bittman, award-winning author of such fundamental books as Fish and Leafy Greens and food columnist for the New York Times ("The Minimalist"), has turned in what has to be the weightiest tome of the year. There are more than 900 pages in this sucker--over 1,500 recipes! This isn't just the big top of cookbooks: it's the entire three-ring circus. This isn't just how to cook everything: it's how to cook everything you have ever wanted to have in your mouth. And then some.

Bittman starts with Roasted Buttered Nuts and Real Buttered Popcorn, and moves right along, section by section, from the likes of Black Bean Soup (eight different ways), to Beet and Fennel Salad, to Mussels (Portuguese-style over Pasta), to Cream Scones--and he hasn't even reached seafood, poultry, meat, or vegetables yet, let alone desserts. There are 23 sections in this cookbook (!) that reflect directly on the how-to of cooking, be that equipment, technique, or recipe.

Every inch of the way the reader finds Bittman's calm, helpful, encouraging voice. "Anyone can cook," he says at the beginning, "and most everyone should." More than a few college kids are going to head off to their first apartments with Bittman's book under arm. More than a few marriages will benefit with this book on the shelf. And anyone who loves cooking and the sound of a great food voice is going to enjoy letting this book fall open where it may. No matter what the page, it's bound ...

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ISBN-10: 0471789186
ISBN-13: 9780471789185
Author: Mark Bittman
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons Inc
Date Published: 2006
Format: Book; English
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