Simple Stocks for Soup on the Fly

Herb Stock

For years, I’ve written about the merits of homemade stock (or at least stock made by a real person), even insisting that if it’s a choice between canned or boxed stocks and water, you’re better off with water. At their best, the canned and boxed versions taste like salt; at their worst, like chemicals.

But here’s the problem with homemade stock: It’s so good that it doesn’t last long. What’s needed is something you can produce more or less on the spot. Although water is a suitable proxy in small quantities, when it comes to making the bubbling, chest-warming soups that we rely on this time of year, water needs some help.

Fortunately, there are almost certainly flavorful ingredients sitting in your fridge or pantry that can transform water into a good stock in a matter of minutes. The process may be as simple as simmering in water fresh herbs, mushrooms or even tea, or browning aromatics to create richness, or adding staples like crushed tomatoes or coconut milk. To further maximize flavor in minimal time, it pays to reach for ingredients that pack a punch, like miso, anchovies, chipotles, Parmesan rinds, sometimes even leftovers.

Read the rest of this column herePhotos by Sam Kaplan.

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HTCE Fast: Ricotta Dumplings with Spinach and Brown Butter


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!

There is no homemade pasta faster to whip up than ricotta dumplings. The only part that requires patience is cooking them in batches so you don’t overload the pot. It’s worth the short wait, though; these are downright luxurious.

6 ounces Parmesan cheese (1 1/2 cups grated)
2 eggs
2 cups ricotta cheese
3/4 cup to 1 cup flour
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
1 bunch spinach (1 pound)

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Posted in Mark Bittman Books, Recipes

Let Them Eat Foie Gras

The lifting of the California ban against selling foie gras (the hyperfattened liver of geese or ducks, brought about by overfeeding the live animals) is pretty much a nonissue, except to point out that as a nation we have little perspective on animal welfare. To single out the tiniest fraction of meat production and label it “cruel” is to miss the big picture, and the big picture is this: Almost all meat production in the United States is cruel.

The sale and production of foie gras was prohibited in California in 2012. Though the ban was widely ignored — foie gras was served for free in many restaurants and sold illegally in others — it’s now legal to serve it. (Production remains banned.)

But so what? Foie gras is among the most overrated of luxury ingredients, ranking right up there with caviar and truffles. Done right, all three are delicious, but we can call them rich people’s food, and as such they’re not that important except to chefs who want to impress rich people or rich people who want to be impressed.

Read the rest of this column here.

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HTCE Fast: Spaghetti and Drop Meatballs with Tomato Sauce


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!

The most time-consuming part of making meatballs is rolling them. The solution? Don’t. Just use two spoons to drop little mounds of the mixture into the hot skillet. (Skipping the rolling also prevents you from overworking the meatballs until they get tough.) Leave them alone to brown beautifully on the bottom while you start building the tomato sauce around them.

2 tablespoons olive oil
12 ounces ground beef
6 ounces Parmesan cheese (1 1/2 cups grated)
1 bunch fresh parsley
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 egg
1 large onion
3 garlic cloves
Two 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes
3 bay leaves
1 pound spaghetti

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Posted in Mark Bittman Books, Recipes

Planet Plant

Mushroom Leek Saute

Whether you follow the habits of “sexy A-listers” or march to your own drum, consider eating more fruits and vegetables in 2015. You don’t have to become a vegan or vegetarian, or even make an official “resolution.” Just shift the balance of calories in your diet away from animal foods and toward plants. Assuming you also avoid junk food, you’ll be doing both yourself and the planet a world of good. If you need more guidance and some recipes, see my books VB6® and The VB6® Cookbook. Here’s an example of what I mean—a steak topped with loads of caramelized leeks and mushrooms.

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Posted in Mark Bittman Books, Recipes

Hens, Unbound

The most significant animal welfare law in recent history — California’s Prop 2 — takes effect today. The measure, which passed by a landslide vote in 2008, requires egg and some meat producers to confine their animals in far more humane conditions than they did before. No longer will baby calves (veal) or gestational pigs be kept in crates so small they cannot turn around and, perhaps more significantly, egg-laying hens may not be held in “battery” cages that prevent them from spreading their wings.

The regulations don’t affect only hens kept in California. In 2010, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law a bill that extended the protections of Prop 2 to out-of-state birds: You cannot sell an egg in California from a hen kept in extreme confinement anywhere. For an industry that has been able to do pretty much what it wants, this is a big deal: It bans some of the most egregious practices.

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HTCE Fast: Warm Escarole and White Bean Salad with Poached Eggs


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!

This cousin to the classic frisée au lardons — with its luscious poached egg on top — substitutes white beans and Parmesan for bacon, and, believe me, it’s a fair trade.

1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for garnish
2 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes (optional)
1 large bunch escarole (1 to 1 1/2 pounds) (If you can’t find escarole, spinach works too.)
4 cups cooked or canned white beans (two 15-ounce cans)
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons white vinegar
4 eggs
4 ounces Parmesan cheese (1 cup grated)

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Posted in Mark Bittman Books, Recipes

An Atheist’s Christmas Dream

I’ve spent much of my life trying to ignore Christmas. As a secular Jew, an atheist and a progressive, my reasons are common. It’s a commercial, obnoxious, even dreaded holiday. But it’s not changing anytime soon and we should make the best of it. (Hanukkah, I might note, is no better, although it gives us an excuse to eat latkes.)

Nothing is as simple, though, as it seems when you’re young, when my dislike of Christmas was more intense. In fact this is a good week. The winter solstice, by definition the gloomiest day of the year, represents optimism: The days do nothing but get longer and brighter from now on. Sweet-smelling trees can turn a cramped apartment into something exotic.

And then there’s the dream of peace.

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A Last-Minute Dessert for Holiday Hosting and Giving


If the word “ganache” intimidates you, you are not alone. Maybe if the stuff were called “basic, simple and entirely superior chocolate sauce,” more people would make it. Ganache is not just chocolate sauce, though; it is also the basis for the easiest chocolate truffles. (This word is easier to understand because chocolate truffles do, in fact, closely resemble black truffles.)

To make truffles, you just chill the ganache, then roll it in cocoa, powdered sugar or cinnamon, or some combination, which might even include exotic spices. The finished truffles, which are softer and more delicate than the types that are enrobed in hard chocolate, make perfect little gifts, as long as you keep them refrigerated. Cool room temperature is acceptable; storing them next to the radiator is not.

Time: 30 minutes, plus at least one hour’s chilling
7/8 cup heavy cream
8 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Unsweetened cocoa powder as needed

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Celebrate the Holidays with HTCE (plus a giveaway)!

HTCE app

Just in time for holiday cooking and gifting, I’ve got some fun news about the suite of How to Cook Everything apps. First: all three—HTCE, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, and How to Cook Everything The Basics—are on sale in the iTunes App Store from now until January 1. This weekend only, you can load up on them for $4.99 each.

And for those of you with Windows, HTCE is now available for all Windows 8.1 devices, from phones to tablets to computers. Find that here.

To celebrate HTCE’s newest format, I’ve got an unlocked Nokia Lumia 1020 Windows phone (the one that takes terrific food shots) to give away. Consider it my gift to you, or feel free to re-gift it to someone on your list. For a chance to win, tweet this post along with #HTCEWin81 and/or email me with “HTCE for Windows 8.1” in the subject line. (Hint: doing both enters you twice.) A winner will be picked on December 24th by random drawing and notified either by Twitter DM or email. (Note that you must be following me on Twitter for me to be able to DM you if you win.)
UPDATE: The giveaway is closed. Congrats to the winner!

Merry cooking!

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