Productivity and creativity in food

picnic at lambert's cove
Picnic on the beach at Lambert’s Cove

One of my great joys in life is cooking. I read cookbooks (and cooking blogs) the way others read novels. A perfect day for me consists of going to a farm to see what’s ripe, and then spending the afternoon cooking it up. Of course, with two little kids this doesn’t happen often. While I still get to the farm frequently, I have to keep the cooking process very short.

Be that as it may, I despise fast/pre-packaged food, and have no desire for my kids to have it as part of their life (I’m actually on my way out the door to a Slow Food event right now). It’s one of the main reasons we bought a house on the Vineyard: the zoning doesn’t allow fast food (and it’s full of farms).

So, it’s sort of a constant challenge to cook something that the kids will like, and that can be made quickly – by quickly I mean under a half-hour. This is further complicated by the fact my wife and kids are vegetarians. While I respect this immensely, and certainly see the hypocrisy of my so-called Zen approach to life buttressed against the killing of another creature – I simply can’t do it. However, I do largely avoid cooking any meat (or fish) around the kids.

In trying to accommodate all of the various time and gustatory requirements, I have gotten very good at being able to whip things up in a hurry that still have some taste and soul to them. Of course, the king of this approach is Mark Bittman. Mr. Bittman has written (and co-written) a number of my favorite cookbooks, including one of my all-time favorites, Simple to Spectacular. The majority of Mr. Bittman’s work focuses on creating good-tasting food in a short amount of time, using only the essential ingredients. He has a weekly column in the New York Times called “The Minimalist.”

Recently, in the column, Mr. Bittman pulled together a list of 100 quick recipes. While you certainly won’t be compelled to make all of them — and if you don’t like eggs or pasta it will be a short list for you — the list does provide a very nice template for you to improvise upon.

We all have to eat. For some (like me) eating is a great joy that is an anchor for the rest of life in some ways, for others it’s nothing more then a necessary annoyance to keep us going. When you have the time to make a meal the center of a day, I feel you should do it. However, for those times when you have limited time, try out one of the recipes below. They come together in about the time it would take you to microwave some crap, and in less time than it would take to drive to the nearest fast food place. They are models of productivity and creativity (that’s why I’m blogging about them).

I can’t link to the recipes because the NY Times has put them behind their pay wall (idiots), so I’m pasting them after the jump.

And, yes, my goal is to start a video blog based on cooking next summer. Maybe by that point the kids will be at an age where it will be possible. Until then, check out Mr. Bittman’s recipes.

1 Make six-minute eggs: simmer gently, run under cold water until cool, then
peel. Serve over steamed asparagus.

2 Toss a cup of chopped mixed herbs with a few tablespoons of olive oil in
a hot pan. Serve over angel-hair pasta, diluting the sauce if necessary with
pasta cooking water.
3 Cut eight sea scallops into four horizontal slices each. Arrange on plates.
Sprinkle with lime juice, salt and crushed chilies; serve after five minutes.
4 Open a can of white beans and combine with olive oil, salt, small or
chopped shrimp, minced garlic and thyme leaves in a pan. Cook, stirring,
until the shrimp are done; garnish with more olive oil.
5 Put three pounds of washed mussels in a pot with half a cup of white
wine, garlic cloves, basil leaves and chopped tomatoes. Steam until
mussels open. Serve with bread.
6 Heat a quarter-inch of olive oil in a skillet. Dredge flounder or sole fillets in
flour and fry until crisp, about two minutes a side. Serve on sliced bread with
tartar sauce.
7 Make pesto: put a couple of cups of basil leaves, a garlic clove, salt,
pepper and olive oil as necessary in a blender (walnuts and Parmesan are
optional). Serve over pasta (dilute with oil or water as necessary) or grilled
fish or meat.
8 Put a few dozen washed littlenecks in a large, hot skillet with olive oil.
When clams begin to open, add a tablespoon or two of chopped garlic.
When most or all are opened, add parsley. Serve alone, with bread or over
angel-hair pasta.
9 Pan-grill a skirt steak for three or four minutes a side. Sprinkle with salt
and pepper, slice and serve over romaine or any other green salad, drizzled
with olive oil and lemon.
10 Smear mackerel fillets with mustard, then sprinkle with chopped herbs
(fresh tarragon is good), salt, pepper and bread crumbs. Bake in a 425-
degree oven for about eight minutes.
11 Warm olive oil in a skillet with at least three cloves sliced garlic. When
the garlic colors, add at least a teaspoon each of cumin and pimenton. A
minute later, add a dozen or so shrimp, salt and pepper. Garnish with
parsley, serve with lemon and bread.
12 Boil a lobster. Serve with lemon or melted butter.
13 Gazpacho: Combine one pound tomatoes cut into chunks, a cucumber
peeled and cut into chunks, two or three slices stale bread torn into pieces,
a quarter-cup olive oil, two tablespoons sherry vinegar and a clove of garlic
in a blender with one cup water and a couple of ice cubes. Process until
smooth, adding water if necessary. Season with salt and pepper, then serve
or refrigerate, garnished with anchovies if you like, and a little more olive oil.
14 Put a few slices of chopped prosciutto in a skillet with olive oil, a couple
of cloves of crushed garlic and a bit of butter; a minute later, toss in about
half a cup bread crumbs and red chili flakes to taste. Serve over pasta with
chopped parsley.
15 Call it panini: Grilled cheese with prosciutto, tomatoes, thyme or basil
leaves.
16 Slice or chop salami, corned beef or kielbasa and warm in a little oil; stir
in eggs and scramble. Serve with mustard and rye bread.
17 Soak couscous in boiling water to cover until tender; top with sardines,
tomatoes, parsley, olive oil and black pepper.
18 Stir-fry a pound or so of ground meat or chopped fish mixed with
chopped onions and seasoned with cumin or chili powder. Pile into taco
shells or soft tacos, along with tomato, lettuce, canned beans, onion,
cilantro and sour cream.
19 Chinese tomato and eggs: Cook minced garlic in peanut oil until blond;
add chopped tomatoes then, a minute later, beaten eggs, along with salt
and pepper. Scramble with a little soy sauce.
20 Cut eggplant into half-inch slices. Broil with lots of olive oil, turning once,
until tender and browned. Top with crumbled goat or feta cheese and broil
another 20 seconds.
21 While pasta cooks, combine a couple cups chopped tomatoes, a
teaspoon or more minced garlic, olive oil and 20 to 30 basil leaves. Toss
with pasta, salt, pepper and Parmesan.
22 Make wraps of tuna, warm white beans, a drizzle of olive oil and lettuce
and tomato.
23 The New York supper: Bagels, cream cheese, smoked salmon. Serve
with tomatoes, watercress or arugula, and sliced red onion or shallot.
24 Dredge thinly sliced chicken breasts in flour or cornmeal; cook about two
minutes a side in hot olive oil. Place on bread with lettuce, tomato and
mayonnaise.
25 Upscale tuna salad: good canned tuna (packed in olive oil), capers, dill
or parsley, lemon juice but no mayo. Use to stuff a tomato or two.
26 Cut Italian sausage into chunks and brown in a little olive oil; chop
onions and bell peppers and add them to the pan. Cook until sausage is
browned and peppers and onions tender. Serve in sandwiches.
27 Egg in a hole, glorified: Tear a hole in a piece of bread and fry in butter.
Crack an egg into the hole. Deglaze pan with a little sherry vinegar mixed
with water, and more butter; pour over egg.
28 New Joe’s Special, from San Francisco: Brown ground meat with minced
garlic and chopped onion. When just about cooked, add chopped spinach
and cook, stirring, until wilted. At the last minute, stir in two eggs, along with
grated Parmesan and salt and pepper.
29 Chop prosciutto and crisp it in a skillet with olive oil; add chopped not-
too-ripe figs. Serve over greens dressed with oil and vinegar; top all with
crumbled blue cheese.
30 Quesadilla: Use a combination of cheeses, like Fontina mixed with
grated pecorino. Put on half of a large flour tortilla with pickled jalapenos,
chopped onion, shallot or scallion, chopped tomatoes and grated radish.
Fold tortilla over and brown on both sides in butter or oil, until cheese is
melted.
31 Fast chile rellenos: Drain canned whole green chilies. Make a slit in
each and insert a piece of cheese. Dredge in flour and fry in a skillet, slit
side up, until cheese melts.
32 Cobb-ish salad: Chop bacon and begin to brown it; cut boneless chicken
into strips and cook it with bacon. Toss romaine and watercress or arugula
with chopped tomatoes, avocado, onion and crumbled blue cheese. Add
bacon and chicken. Dress with oil and vinegar.
33 Saute 10 whole peeled garlic cloves in olive oil. Meanwhile, grate
Pecorino, grind lots of black pepper, chop parsley and cook pasta. Toss all
together, along with crushed dried chili flakes and salt.
34 Nicoise salad: Lightly steam haricot verts, green beans or asparagus.
Arrange on a plate with chickpeas, good canned tuna, hard-cooked eggs, a
green salad, sliced cucumber and tomato. Dress with oil and vinegar.
35 Cold soba with dipping sauce: Cook soba noodles, then rinse in cold
water until cool. Serve with a sauce of soy sauce and minced ginger diluted
with mirin and/or dry sake.
36 Fried egg ”saltimbocca”: Lay slices of prosciutto or ham in a buttered
skillet. Fry eggs on top of ham; top with grated Parmesan.
37 Frisee aux lardons: Cook chunks of bacon in a skillet. Meanwhile, make
six-minute or poached eggs and a frisee salad. Put eggs on top of salad
along with bacon; deglaze pan with sherry vinegar and pour pan juices over
all.
38 Fried rice: Soften vegetables with oil in a skillet. Add cold takeout rice,
chopped onion, garlic, ginger, peas and two beaten eggs. Toss until hot
and cooked through. Season with soy sauce and sesame oil.
39 Taco salad: Toss together greens, chopped tomato, chopped red onion,
sliced avocado, a small can of black beans and kernels from a couple of
ears of corn. Toss with crumbled tortilla chips and grated cheese. Dress
with olive oil, lime and chopped cilantro leaves.
40 Put a large can of chickpeas and their liquid in a medium saucepan. Add
some sherry, along with olive oil, plenty of minced garlic, smoked pimenton
and chopped Spanish chorizo. Heat through.
41 Raita to the rescue: Broil any fish. Serve with a sauce of drained yogurt
mixed with chopped cucumber, minced onion and cayenne.
42 Season boneless lamb steaks cut from the leg with sweet curry powder.
Sear on both sides. Serve over greens, with lemon wedges.
43 Migas, with egg: Saute chopped stale bread with olive oil, mushrooms,
onions and spinach. Stir in a couple of eggs.
44 Migas, without egg: Saute chopped stale bread with chopped Spanish
chorizo, plenty of garlic and lots of olive oil. Finish with chopped parsley.
45 Saute shredded zucchini in olive oil, adding garlic and chopped herbs.
Serve over pasta.
46 Broil a few slices prosciutto until crisp; crumble and toss with parsley,
Parmesan, olive oil and pasta.
47 Not exactly banh mi, but… Make sandwiches on crisp bread with
liverwurst, ham, sliced half-sours, shredded carrots, cilantro sprigs and
Vietnamese chili-garlic paste.
48 Not takeout: Stir-fry onions with cut-up broccoli. Add cubed tofu, chicken
or shrimp, or sliced beef or pork, along with a tablespoon each minced
garlic and ginger. When almost done, add half cup of water, two
tablespoons soy sauce and plenty of black pepper. Heat through and serve
over fresh Chinese noodles.
49 Sprinkle sole fillets with chopped parsley, garlic, salt and pepper; roll up,
dip in flour, then beaten egg, then bread crumbs; cook in hot olive oil about
three minutes a side. Serve with lemon wedges.
50 The Waldorf: Toast a handful of walnuts in a skillet. Chop an apple or
pear; toss with greens, walnuts and a dressing made with olive oil, sherry
vinegar, Dijon mustard and shallot. Top, if you like, with crumbled goat or
blue cheese.
51 Put a stick of butter and a handful of pine nuts in a skillet. Cook over
medium heat until both are brown. Toss with cooked pasta, grated
Parmesan and black pepper.
52 Grill or saute Italian sausage and serve over store-bought hummus, with
lemon wedges.
53 Put a tablespoon of cream and a slice of tomato in each of several small
ramekins. Top with an egg, then salt, pepper and grated Parmesan. Bake at
350 degrees until the eggs set. Serve with toast.
54 Brown small pork (or hot dog) chunks in a skillet. Add white beans,
garlic, thyme and olive oil. Or add white beans and ketchup.
55 Dredge skate or flounder in flour and brown quickly in butter or oil.
Deglaze pan with a couple of spoonfuls of capers and a lot of lemon juice or
a little vinegar.
56 Make a fast tomato sauce of olive oil, chopped tomatoes and garlic.
Poach eggs in the sauce, then top with Parmesan.
57 Dip pork cutlets in egg, then dredge heavily in panko; brown quickly on
both sides. Serve over lettuce, with fresh lemon, or bottled Japanese curry
sauce.
58 Cook chicken livers in butter or oil with garlic; do not overcook. Finish
with parsley, lemon juice and coarse salt; serve over toast.
59 Brown bratwursts with cut-up apples. Serve with coleslaw.
60 Peel and thinly slice raw beets; cook in butter until soft. Take out of pan
and quickly cook some shrimp in same pan. Deglaze pan with sherry
vinegar, adding sauce to beets and shrimp. Garnish with dill.
61 Poach shrimp and plunge into ice water. Serve with cocktail sauce: one
cup ketchup, one tablespoon vinegar, three tablespoons melted butter and
lots of horseradish.
62 Southeast Asia steak salad: Pan- or oven-grill skirt or flank steak. Slice
and serve on a pile of greens with a sauce of one tablespoon each of nam
pla and lime juice, black pepper, a teaspoon each of sugar and garlic,
crushed red chili flakes and Thai basil.
63 Miso steak: Coat beef tenderloin steaks (filet mignon) with a blend of
miso and chili paste thinned with sake or white wine. Grill or broil about five
minutes.
64 Pasta with fresh tomatoes: Cook chopped fresh tomatoes in butter or oil
with garlic until tender, while pasta cooks. Combine and serve with grated
Parmesan.
65 Saute squid rings and tentacles in olive oil with salt and pepper and
garlic; add chopped tomatoes. Cook until the tomatoes break down. Serve
over pasta.
66 Salmon (or just about anything else) teriyaki: Sear salmon steaks on
both sides for a couple of minutes; remove. To skillet, add a splash of
water, sake, a little sugar and soy sauce; when mixture is thick, return
steaks to pan and turn in sauce until done. Serve hot or at room
temperature.
67 Rich vegetable soup: Cook asparagus tips and peeled stalks or most
any other green vegetable in chicken stock with a little tarragon until tender;
reserve a few tips and puree the rest with a little butter (cream or yogurt, too,
if you like) adding enough stock to thin the puree. Garnish with the reserved
tips. Serve hot or cold.
68 Brush portobello caps with olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper and
broil until tender. Briefly sweat chopped onions, then scramble eggs with
them. Put eggs in mushrooms.
69 Buy good blintzes. Brown them on both sides in butter. Serve with sour
cream, apple sauce or both.
70 Saute squid rings and tentacles in olive oil with salt and pepper. Make a
sauce of minced garlic, smoked pimenton, mayo, lots of lemon juice and
fresh parsley. Serve with a chopped salad of cucumber, tomato, lettuce,
grated carrot and scallion, lightly dressed.
71 Press a lot of coarsely ground black pepper onto both sides of filet
mignon or other steaks or chopped meat patties. Brown in butter in a skillet
for two minutes a side. Remove steaks and add a splash of red wine,
chopped shallots and a bit of tarragon to skillet. Reduce, then return steaks
to pan, turning in the sauce for a minute or two.
72 World’s leading sandwich: prosciutto, tomato, butter or olive oil and a
baguette.
73 Near instant mezze: Combine hummus on a plate with yogurt laced with
chopped cucumbers and a bit of garlic, plus tomato, feta, white beans with
olive oil and pita bread.
74 Canned sardines packed in olive oil on Triscuits, with mustard and
Tabasco.
75 Boil-and-eat shrimp, cooked in water with Old Bay seasoning or a
mixture of thyme, garlic, paprika, chopped onion, celery, chili, salt and
pepper.
76 Make a thin plain omelet with two or three eggs. Saute cubes of bacon or
pancetta or strips of prosciutto until crisp. Cut up the omelet and use it and
the meat to garnish a green salad dressed with olive oil and balsamic
vinegar.
77 Sear corn kernels in olive oil with minced jalapenos and chopped
onions; toss with cilantro, black beans, chopped tomatoes, chopped bell
pepper and lime.
78 Cook shrimp in a skillet slowly (five minutes or so) to preserve their
juices, with plenty of garlic and olive oil, until done; pour over watercress or
arugula, with lemon, pepper and salt.
79 Liverwurst on good sourdough rye with scallions, tomato and wholegrain
mustard.
80 Not-quite merguez: Ground lamb burgers seasoned with cumin, garlic,
onion, salt and cayenne. Serve with couscous and green salad, along with
bottled harissa.
81 Combine crab meat with mayo, Dijon mustard, chives and tarragon.
Serve in a sandwich, with potato chips.
82 Combine canned tuna in olive oil, halved grape tomatoes, black olives,
mint, lemon zest and red pepper flakes. Serve with pasta, thinning with olive
oil or pasta cooking water as needed.
83 Pit and chop a cup or more of mixed olives. Combine with olive oil, a little
minced garlic, red pepper flakes and chopped basil or parsley. Serve over
pasta.
84 Cook chopped tomatillos with a little water or stock, cilantro and a little
minced fresh chili; serve over grilled, broiled or sauteed chicken breasts,
with corn tortillas.
85 A winning sandwich: bresaola or prosciutto, arugula, Parmesan,
marinated artichoke hearts, tomato.
86 Smoked trout fillets served with lightly toasted almonds, shredded
fennel, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of lemon.
87 Grated carrots topped with six-minute eggs (run under cold water until
cool before peeling), olive oil and lemon juice.
88 Cut the top off four big tomatoes; scoop out the interiors and mix them
with toasted stale baguette or pita, olive oil, salt, pepper and herbs (basil,
tarragon, and/or parsley). Stuff into tomatoes and serve with salad.
89 Pasta frittata: Turn cooked pasta and a little garlic into an oiled or
buttered skillet. Brown, pressing to create a cake. Flip, then top with three or
four beaten eggs and loads of Parmesan. Brown other side and serve.
90 Thai-style beef: Thinly slice one and a half pounds of flank steak, pork
shoulder or boneless chicken; heat peanut oil in a skillet, add meat and stir.
A minute later, add a tablespoon minced garlic and some red chili flakes.
Add 30 clean basil leaves, a quarter cup of water and a tablespoon or two of
soy sauce or nam pla. Serve with lime juice and more chili flakes, over rice
or salad.
91 Dredge calf’s liver in flour. Sear in olive oil or butter or a combination until
crisp on both sides, adding salt and pepper as it cooks; it should be
medium-rare. Garnish with parsley and lemon juice.
92 Rub not-too-thick pork or lamb chops with olive oil; sprinkle with salt and
pepper plus sage or thyme. Broil about three minutes a side and drizzle with
good balsamic vinegar.
93 Cut up Italian sausage into chunks and brown in a little olive oil until just
about done. Dump in a lot of seedless grapes and, if you like, a little
slivered garlic and chopped rosemary. Cook, stirring, until the grapes are
hot. Serve with bread.
94 Ketchup-braised tofu: Dredge large tofu cubes in flour. Brown in oil;
remove from skillet and wipe skillet clean. Add a little more oil, then a
tablespoon minced garlic; 30 seconds later, add one and a half cups
ketchup and the tofu. Cook until sauce bubbles and tofu is hot.
95 Veggie burger: Drain and pour a 14-ounce can of beans into a food
processor with an onion, half a cup rolled oats, a tablespoon chili powder or
other spice mix, an egg, salt and pepper. Process until mushy, then shape
into burgers, adding a little liquid or oats as necessary. Cook in oil about
three minutes a side and serve.
96 A Roman classic: In lots of olive oil, lightly cook lots of slivered garlic,
with six or so anchovy fillets and a dried hot chili or two. Dress pasta with
this.
97 So-called Fettuccine Alfredo: Heat several tablespoons of butter and
about half a cup of cream in a large skillet just until the cream starts to
simmer. Add slightly undercooked fresh pasta to the skillet, along with
plenty of grated Parmesan. Cook over low heat, tossing, until pasta is
tender and hot.
98 Rub flank steak or chuck with curry or chili powder before broiling or
grilling, then slice thin across the grain.
99 Cook a couple of pounds of shrimp, shell on or off, in oil, with lots of
chopped garlic. When they turn pink, remove; deglaze the pan with a half-
cup or so of beer, along with a splash of Worcestershire sauce, cayenne,
rosemary and a lump of butter. Serve with bread.
100 Cook red lentils in water with a little cumin and chopped bacon until
soft. Top with poached or six-minute eggs (run under cold water until cool
before peeling) and a little sherry vinegar.
101 Hot dogs on buns — with beans!

  1. dinnerware’s avatar

    Same here. Cooking blogs and cookbooks are my novels. Reading through an inviting recipe that I've never knew of before never fails to bring up the excitement in me!

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    Reply

  2. Steam Cleaning’s avatar

    What an article.
    You just blow my mind with your topic.
    Thanks a lot for sharing.

    Reply

  3. meeting rooms heathrow’s avatar

    I love cooking as well as eating. I find it really interesting to found people with similar ways of cooking techniques/style.Simple but healthy receipe too..

    Reply

  4. Appliance parts’s avatar

    I wonder if my appliances would last to cooking so many receipts, I don't think I cooked so much in my entire life, I guess that's why my appliances are so long lasting…

    Reply

  5. timada’s avatar

    I love the recipe, and I can’t wait to try it out on my new energy saving oven that should arrive this week. My friend who is a Los Angeles electrician recommended I try a new ‘energy star’ oven which should save me $50 off my monthly bills!

    Reply

  6. wholesale clothing’s avatar

    Having a great time. I loves to read your every single moment out there. Thanks for sharing with us.

    Reply

  7. max191’s avatar

    Awesome blog. Very informative. Your blog is very valuable from the blogger’s mind. Keep it up!
    regards
    charcoal grill

    Reply

  8. lawyersroyalexchange’s avatar

    I enjoyed the article. It is very attention-grabbing. Thank you for the information. I will be back.

    Reply

  9. ouadamantite’s avatar

    I think creativity in food comes with experience. You can't achieve the best results in this domain without experimenting a lot and furthermore giving 100% My erectie blog covers this in detail.

    Reply

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