Pickling and Chemotherapy

An interesting response to this week’s pickle piece:

Dear Mr. Bittman,

When a family member was undergoing chemotherapy for her cancer, her oncologist happened to mention in passing that a spoonful of vinegar might improve her appetite. As you know, a naked spoonful of vinegar of the kind found in most households is not particularly appealing. At the time she told me about her conversation, it occurred to me that vinegars could be more palatably “administered” in the form of pickles — my recipe follows below.

Read the rest of this article here.

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12 Recipes for Pickles, No Canning Required

EAT pickles

I remember when pickles were either something that you bought from a barrel on the street or — if you were crafty — canned in your kitchen. But somehow they’ve become the emblem of all things hipster-artisanal-twee, as much a joke (we can pickle that!) as they are a food.

The reason so many of us have outsourced our pickle making to the waxed-mustache set is that canning is sufficiently daunting; the thought of boiling jars, with its mysterious science and prospect of imminent disaster, is enough to send most home cooks running to the store. Fortunately, canning is not a prerequisite for pickling. In fact, as long as you can commit to eating them within a week or two, there are countless pickles that you can make quickly and store in your fridge.

Read the rest of this column and get the recipes here. Photo by Sam Kaplan.

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HTCE Fast: Za’atar Wings and Eggplant


Every Wednesday, I’m featuring one of my favorite recipes from How to Cook Everything FastIf you cook it, too, I want to see it—tag it on social media with #HTCEFast. And enjoy!

Buffalo wings go to Beirut. The sauce is creamy and spicy — a familiar pairing for crispy wings — but the flavor is new and unexpected thanks to za’atar, a spice blend containing thyme, sumac, and sesame seeds that’s ubiquitous in the Middle East.

Za’atar Wings and Eggplant with Yogurt-Harissa Sauce
1 small garlic clove
1 lemon
1 cup yogurt
1 tablespoon harissa
Salt and pepper
1 large or 2 medium eggplant (about 2 pounds)
3 pounds chicken wings
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons ground sumac
1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons sesame seeds

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Posted in Mark Bittman Books, Recipes

Fight Poverty, Not Cooking

For many people, “cooking is fraught” — that’s the core message of “The Joy of Cooking?”, an article written by three academics that appeared in the latest issue of the journal “Contexts”, based on 150 interviews with families “from all walks of life.” The interviews and most of the authors’ conclusions are convincing.

Even those of us with flexibility, decent incomes and easy access to equipment and ingredients often face issues of time, convenience or the particular demands of a family member or guest.

For those with lower incomes, it’s far more challenging. There are tedious bus rides, long days of sometimes grueling work, perhaps second and even third jobs, and neither time to shop nor money to use delivery services. All of this may make cooking near-impossible.

But these are not cooking issues; they are issues of justice and fairness (some of the families in the project could not afford a kitchen table) and gender bias: Although men are cooking more, if they cooked as often as women we’d all be better off.

Read the rest of this column here.

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HTCE Fast: Rice Bowl with Sausage

Rice Bowl Eaten Into 4

Every Wednesday, I’m featuring one of my favorite recipes from How to Cook Everything FastIf you cook it, too, I want to see it—tag it on social media with #HTCEFast. And enjoy!

Whenever you can use what you’ve got and can save a trip to the market, I’m all for it. Flexible recipes like this Rice Bowl with Sausage from How to Cook Everything Fast are perfect for improvisation: I had excellent Indian summer peppers from the farmers’ market to use instead of the fennel. The recipe includes a couple variations to get you started, but the formula is infinitely variable. Here’s how: Start some rice in one pot and get the sausage—any kind—browning in a skillet while you prep the vegetables—broccoli, asparagus, green beans, or even greens would all work. Then add thick slices to the pan so everything cooks together and is perfectly seasoned by the time the rice is ready.

Rice Bowl with Sausage (from How to Cook Everything Fast)
1 1/2 cups short-grain white rice
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 pound hot or sweet Italian sausage links
2 large fennel bulbs
4 ounces Parmesan cheese (1 cup shaved)
Several sprigs fresh basil for garnish

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Posted in Mark Bittman Books, Recipes

(Only) Two Rules for a Good Diet

SAN FRANCISCO — To a large extent, you can fix the food system in your world today. Three entities are involved in creating our food choices: business (everything from farmers to PepsiCo), government (elected and appointed officials and their respective organizations) and the one with the greatest leverage, the one that you control: you.

We shouldn’t discount small farms and businesses, nor should we ignore relatively minor officials like the mayor of El Monte, Calif., who tried (and failed) to establish a soda tax to benefit public health. We do not always know where real change will come from, and certainly smaller operations may be more innovative and show us the way.

But for the most part we know where real change doesn’t come from: Big Food, the corporations that supply most of the food and stuff masquerading as food that’s sold in supermarkets, as fast food and in casual dining chains; and government, especially the federal government, which is beholden to and entranced by big business. Nothing new here.

Read the rest of this column here.

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HTCE Fast: Skillet Meat Loaf


Every Wednesday, I’ll be featuring one of my favorite recipes from How to Cook Everything FastIf you cook it, too, I want to see it—tag it on social media with #HTCEFast. And enjoy!

Flattening out meat loaf to cook it in a skillet not only reduces cooking time but also dramatically increases the surface area to maximize crunch. It’s faster and better.

Skillet Meat Loaf (from How to Cook Everything Fast)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup milk
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
Salt and pepper
2 ounces Parmesan cheese (1/2 cup grated)
1 garlic clove
1 egg
1/4 cup ketchup

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Posted in Mark Bittman Books, Recipes

Do Sweat the Small Stuff

SEATTLE — I’m jet-lagged. Many days I wonder what day it is, or where exactly it is that I’m waking up. I have moments of near giddiness, and they’re likely to be the same moments during which I’m asked to be intensely serious in front of a large crowd. I feel tired, or joltingly invigorated; I may feel loving and kind and even empathetic, or I may quite resent human company and prefer to hang out with a dog. And I may feel any of these ways in unexpected combinations and at inappropriate or at least inconvenient times. Large groups of people I don’t know demand my attention all at once and individually; I feel resentful and needed and sometimes loved.

I’m on book tour.

Book writing can be solitary. Book promotion is anything but: Everyone wants a piece of you. It’s enough to make you think you’re important. Indeed, people seem to care what I say, and so I respond.

Read the rest of this column here.

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Getting Your Kids to Eat (or at Least Try) Everything

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 10.36.20 AM

There’s a photo from 1978 of my daughter Kate, taken at about 6 months old. She’s sitting in a highchair, waving a stalk of broccoli in the air and grinning. I’d forgotten that shot, but looking at it recently — Kate, who has become the family historian, frequently pulls out pictures for the rest of us to enjoy — I recognize how unusual it was then and remains now: a baby eating not only normal food but a food that kids normally despise.

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The Truth About Home Cooking

TIME Cover - How to Eat Now

Just two generations ago, preparing meals was as much a part of life as eating. Now we’ve given up what is perhaps our best excuse to get together and spend time with the people we love—mealtime—and someone else stands at the stove. We’re either watching cooks on TV like we would a spectator sport or grabbing grub, bagged, and eating it alone and on the go.

The fetishizing of food is everywhere. There are cutthroat competitions and celebrity chefs with TV shows, and both social and mainstream media are stuffed with an endless blur of blogs, demos and crowdsourced reviews. So why in Julia’s name do so many Americans still eat tons of hyperprocessed food, the stuff that is correctly called junk and should really carry warning labels?

Read the rest of this article in the October 20, 2014 issue of TIME.

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