9 Ways to Cook Chicken Breasts People Will Actually Love


I used to be one of those people who ragged on boneless, skinless chicken breasts for being flavorless and dry. That was until I learned how not to overcook them.

In preparing chicken breasts, remember that they should be cooked only until the last traces of pink have vanished—and no longer. A thinnish breast subjected to high heat can be done in as little as 6 minutes, or it might take as long as 10 minutes or even a bit more—but never 20 minutes unless you are cooking the thing on a radiator.

Whatever you cook a chicken breast with is going to gain prominence, and whatever cooking method you use will have plenty of impact. This provides a good reason to keep things as simple as possible: a skillfully sautéed chicken breast with lemon juice is a beautiful thing. But gaining that skill takes some practice, and even for veterans, attention must be paid.

Here are nine of my favorite chicken recipes, all featured in The Matrix.

Cook one of these recipes this week, or share one of your own, using #MatrixChallenge. Just like last week, I’ll be sharing some of your dishes, and one person will win a 12-inch cast iron skillet from Lodge.

Posted in Mark Bittman Books

12 Fantastic Ways to Cook With Zucchini

kitchen matrix

Nobody complains about having too many cucumbers, tomatoes, or eggplants. But zucchini, the most productive vegetable (yes, I know that technically it’s a fruit) of summer and early fall, does not get enough love. It’s so prolific! It’s so cheap! What are we going to do with all of it?

I suppose it’s not just zucchini’s omnipresence but also its mild flavor—and indeed, the difficulty of bringing out some of its character—that makes us feel challenged. But zucchini is a workhorse: tender enough to eat raw, and quick- cooking and amenable to all kinds of flavors. And there’s something else in zucchini’s favor: it maintains its firmness and freshness longer than any of the more beloved mid-summer vegetables.

When buying, look for the smallest zucchini and yellow squash; they don’t have to be designated “baby,” but something under 6 inches long and 1 inch or so in diameter will have better smaller, less cottony seeds. If a zucchini is tender enough, you can even eat the stem. You may also come across pattypan squash; their flying-saucer make them a bit trickier to cut up, but they can be used in any of the recipes here, as can yellow summer squash.

No doubt you have grilled and sautéed zucchini, and have probably also eaten it raw (even if it’s just a bite taken while chopping it to be sautéed), but it’s possible you’ve yet explored the wonders of zucchini in the microwave. Microwaving makes zucchini silky and tender with the push of a button. If you’re without a microwave, you can move those recipes to a saucepan over medium heat.

Appreciate the zucchini. In the scope of the season’s bounty, it may not steal the show, but you’ll miss it when it’s gone.

To learn how to cook zucchini 12 ways, read this excerpt from my new book Kitchen Matrix here.

This week, cook one of these zucchini recipes at home, or create a version of your own, and post to Instagram or Twitter using #MatrixChallenge.

I will be reposting some of my favorites, and one person will win an Inspiralizer from this week’s Challenge co-host, Inspiralized.com.

Posted in Uncategorized

A Watchful Eye on Farm Families’ Health

This is the eighth episode of “California Matters,” a series of videos about sustainable agriculture and healthy eating that I produced in collaboration with the Global Food Initiative at the University of California.

C.H.A.M.A.C.O.S. stands for the Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas, and also means “kids”in Mexican Spanish. It’s the name given by Brenda Eskenazi, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Berkeley, for a group studying the effects of exposure to agriculture chemicals on children born in Salinas Valley between 2000 and 2002. The longitudinal study has followed more than half of the research population since birth.

Eskenazi and her team have focused primarily on three aspects of health that may be affected by these exposures: neurobehavioral development, which, if disrupted, can affect a child’s I.Q.; respiratory health; and growth, including weight and metabolism. This population sees higher rates of exposure to organophosphate chemicals, which are found in pesticides, than the general population, so there are possible implications of this study for farmworker communities and Californians at large.

Read the rest of this article here.

Mushrooms Upon Mushrooms

Photo by Grant Cornett for the New York Times

Photo by Grant Cornett for the New York Times

Say ‘‘mushroom mille-feuille’’ to most veteran cooks and eaters, and they will most likely picture a golden mound of puff pastry filled with wild mushrooms in cream and herbs — a fine dish, if old-fashioned and increasingly rare.

This is nothing like that.

Read the rest of this column and get the recipe here.

Posted in Produce, Recipes

The Roots of Organic Farming

Visiting the farm at the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at the University of California, Santa Cruz, was a personal high point of this series, though I couldn’t say exactly why. It could well have been because there’s an experimental blueberry plot there, and when I went in the spring, it was raining, and the green leaves were sparkling and the wet berries were offset perfectly, and here was this glistening working farm on an otherwise more-or-less normal college campus, which just happened to be on a hill above the Pacific.

Or it could have been because the Santa Cruz campus has a series of beautiful, renowned, well-run gardens and farms, unlike on any other campus in the country.

Read the rest of this article here.

A Farewell

This is my last regular opinion column on food for The Times. I’m leaving to take a central role in a year-old food company, to do what I’ve been writing about these many years: to make it easier for people to eat more plants. (“Oh,” say my friends, “you move to California and join a start-up.” Yup. Corny as can be.) I see it as putting philosophy into action and will talk about details soon.

Read the rest of this column here.


Posted in Food Politics

Serving Up School Lunches of Tomorrow

This is the sixth episode of “California Matters,” a series of videos about sustainable agriculture and healthy eating that I produced in collaboration with the Global Food Initiative at the University of California.

It’s no secret that, although progress has been made, school lunches need help. This is a national project, and an important one. One of the proving grounds is San Francisco, where the school district is joining with researchers from the Department of Agriculture and the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Public Health to evaluate a project designed to increase school lunch participation, improve nutrition, reduce waste and ultimately counter tendencies toward obesity.

I took a look at a pilot project for this program by visiting Roosevelt Middle School and chatting with Zetta Reicker, who’s the director of the school system’s student nutrition services, and Kristine A. Madsen, an associate professor at the school of public health. (I also talked to a few kids, and ate lunch. Which was — for institutional food — better than O.K.)

Read the rest of this column here.

Lunch: September on #BittmanTopics

Whether you’re cooking it, eating it, growing it, or reading about it, food brings people together. Welcome to #BittmanTopics: a place where we can all share ideas about a different food-related topic each month. In case you missed the first installment, here’s how it works—and check the archives for past conversations.

Photo by Andrew Scrivani for the New York Times

Photo by Andrew Scrivani for the New York Times

September is a transitional month, time for heading back to school or maybe easing out of the summer vacation groove and into a routine. After taking it easy in August, I’m back in Berkeley; “California Matters,” my webseries with the University of California, will pick up again this week, and here on #BittmanTopics, we’re talking lunch.

The midday meal is easy to overlook, but with just a little planning, it’s also easy to ace. In recent years, school lunches have received the attention they deserve as an issue that intersects policy issues from public health and government regulations to food justice. Blogs have even cropped up about the desk lunch, parodying those that are sad and glorifying those that aren’t. What’s in your brown bag? How are the students in your life eating at school? Any time-tested tips for streamlining your own weekday lunches? Tales of lingering restaurant meals and brunches also welcome… This month, tag your lunch-related photos, tweets, recipes, and reads with #BittmanTopics and I’ll share my favorites.