My favorite room in the house is, of course, the kitchen. There is no other hobby I love more than spending hours producing a four-star meal; anything from experimenting with new ingredients to perfecting a favorite recipe. Monday through Friday, though, I don’t usually have spare time to create an elaborate feast. Even when I turn to an old favorite, or maybe try a new, easy recommendation, dinner is not ready until 8:00 PM, which leaves very little time to do anything else let alone digest before bed-time.
It would be nice to create a meal in an hour or less without sacrificing flavor, losing the culinary experience, or calling for take-out.
Mark Bittman’s cookbook, Kitchen Express: 404 Inspired Seasonal Dishes You Can Make in 20 Minutes or Less, has pretty much come to my rescue. First, the recipes are categorized by season, so any ingredients called for will be at their best. Second, each recipe is a simple paragraph of steps and ingredients needed to complete a recipe. You will not find a detailed list of requirements before the recipe, measurements, or even a numbered, step-by-step list. Each recipe calls for about five ingredients that you are likely to have in your refrigerator or cabinets. Chances are, if you have to make a trip to pick up one or two things, it will not be an expensive spice or something from a specialty store. Kitchen Express is designed to allow the cook a flexible, no-pressure experience in the kitchen and the opportunity to take control of the flavor in their dish. This collection of recipes is simple, yet modeled after very authentic, cultural dishes like Coq au Vin and Jerk Chicken. Therefore, if it’s Indian food or Asian flavors you’re craving, you won’t have to call for take-out or spend hours in the kitchen, working with a long list of expensive, hard to find ingredients. Kitchen Express is your answer.
Mark Bittman’s overall philosophy on food and cooking matches the simplicity of Kitchen Express. His belief in “sane eating” includes a practice of consuming more fresh vegetables and grains and less animal products and processed foods. In a Runner’s World article, Bittman highlights the USDA data that most people take in only 30 percent of their calories from plants, and he shows readers through personal experience the benefit of increasing that number. As the author of the New York Times food blog, Bitten, he certainly balances his healthy outlook with guilty pleasures; however, he stresses moderation. His website includes a list of interesting articles related to his minimalist approach to cooking and “sane eating.”
From Kitchen Express: 404 Inspired Seasonal Dishes You Can Make in 20 Minutes or Less
By Mark Bittman
In two tablespoons of butter, sear a pound of boneless, skinless chicken pieces, about a minute on each side. Add a thinly sliced large onion, two crushed garlic cloves, a teaspoon of minced ginger (or half a teaspoon of ground ginger), three tablespoons of Hungarian paprika, a bay leaf, and a couple of teaspoons of salt; cook for about three minutes. Add a cup of chicken broth and bring everything to a boil. Reduce the heat and continue cooking until the chicken is just done; stir in half a cup of sour cream and serve over buttered egg noodles.
The recipe notes that the dish can be served over cous cous or bulgur, which would produce a “richer earthiness.” I decided to toss some plain cous cous with shallots, olive oil and a tiny bit of lemon zest.
Not only was this recipe super easy to follow, I had most of the ingredients ready to use, and it took about 30 minutes to cook. The paprika-flavored sauce from the dish was a mouth watering combination of warm, smoky and a tiny bit sweet that I ate the meal in less time than it took to actually make it.
And, lucky for my boyfriend, since it’s a one-dish meal, there were not many dishes to clean.