The Original En Papillote

Text and photos by Mark Bittman

When you’re buying fish in a strange place, it helps if both you and the person you’re buying it from know all about marine taxonomy, including the Latin for everything. Since this is almost never the case, you can run into the kind of situation I was in last week in Dominica, where I was told what was pretty clearly some kind of jack was a salmon. When I said, “That’s not what they call a salmon in the rest of the world,” another fishmonger intervened and said it was in fact a blue runner. When I later looked online at pictures of blue runners, I found that indeed they are a kind of jack, but not the jack that I’d bought and had filleted.

As they say: Whatever. It’s a fish. With an unreliable grill and novel fuel—a kind of wood that burned slowly but not especially hot—I thought the fish needed some protection, some kind of en papillote situation, or it was going to stick to the grill grates like it had been superglued. I thought about this while slow-grilling some beautiful garlic, green onions, and “seasoning chiles,” which look like habaneros but are mild enough to eat, almost like padróns. I had no foil, so that was out. I had no parchment paper, which is what we think of as the “real” en papillote wrapper, though I wasn’t certain that would work anyway. Continue reading

Posted in Grilling, Seafood, Travel

DIY Tahini and Hummus

Text and photos by Pam Hoenig

Over the years I’ve bought tahini—toasted sesame paste—to use in different dishes, and I’ve never been satisfied with it. It has always had a chalky texture and uninspiring flavor, even tasting a bit off, probably indicating it had been sitting on the shelf too long. So I decided to try making it myself. Turns out it’s not hard at all but you do need a food processor (a mini works great).

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Posted in Recipes

Get Fresh with Fermented

Text and photos by Kerri Conan

They say fermented foods are an acquired taste. And I say the best way to hop that train to Funky Town – and get the zing without the dang – is to cut them with fresh ingredients.

One of my favorite combinations – and Mark’s – is sauerkraut and cabbage. Perfect with smoked sausage and fatty roast pork or tossed with egg noodles, these two forms of the same vegetable illustrate exactly how well opposites attract. The preserved cabbage contributes acidity and pleasantly musty flavors, while the fresh leaves provide bright grassy notes. Continue reading

Posted in Produce

Frying Favas

Photos and text by Mark Bittman

I bought some dried, split fava beans a couple of weeks ago, thinking I would make the crisp-fried ones you buy as a snack in various European countries, especially Spain, Portugal, and Italy (in my experience); you sometimes see them in stores here (especially Portuguese ones) as well.

Then I realized I didn’t know how to make them. It had to be one of two things: either you soak them, boil them, and then roast or fry them, or you just soak them and roast or fry them. The internet was no help–as usual, you get conflicting advice from sources you have no reason to trust–so I talked it over with Kerri, who had never done this with favas either. We’d both roasted cooked chickpeas until they were crisp (I love that; we have a recipe for it in the Food Matters Cookbook), but these seemed different. Continue reading

Posted in Mark Bittman Books, Vegan

What Cooking Questions Do You Have?

Photo by Romulo Yanes

Every week, home cooks send me a steady steam of troubleshooting questions to my general inbox. Recent questions have included:

“Why is my mayonnaise runny?”
Answer: either you’re adding the oil too fast and it never emulsified, or it broke—both of which will inhibit proper thickening. Either way, start with a new egg, and use the not-emulsified earlier attempt in place of oil. It’ll wind up super-rich. See HTCE, pages 41-42.

“What’s the difference between bread dough and pizza dough?”
Answer: Not much. Pizza dough usually has a little olive oil in it, but you can consider them interchangeable. You cook them differently, of course.

“How do I clean after cooking?”
Answer: With patience, care, and a light heart.

My team and I would like to answer your cooking questions here on, because chances are if you have a question, others do, too. Send ‘em along, either by leaving them in the comments, or by writing us at

Posted in Behind The Scenes

Improvising Soup

Text and photo by Pam Hoenig


One of my resolutions for the new year was to make soup—lots and lots of soup.

In this penultimate week of January, I’m happy to say this is one resolution I’m actually keeping. Over the weekend, pea soup was on the docket. I’ve only made pea soup as a postscript to baked ham, cooking the split peas with the leftover bone, then shredding the meat clinging to it into the finished soup.

This time the peas lead the charge. To provide the requisite hammy-ness, I bought a one-pound ham steak and seared it well in the soup pot before starting, then took it out; that left a lot of browned bits stuck to the bottom. In went one chopped onion and two chopped carrots, which I sautéed in a couple tablespoons of oil just until softened, followed by a pound of split peas, stirred until they were coated with the oil and veggies. Continue reading

Posted in Behind The Scenes

The Comeback Curd

Text and Photos by Kerri Conan

You can cream the mashed potatoes
And inhale the potpie, please.
I choose to get my comfort
From a scoop of cottage cheese.

Back in the nineteen-sixties
When curds were in their prime
Mom got quite creative
So we ate them all the time.

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Posted in Uncategorized

Clean as You Go

By: Emily Stephenson

If you cook, you can’t avoid mess—or cleaning. Taking raw ingredients and transforming them with heat and fat is a chemical reaction, and the results are delicious food and greasy spatters. The downside of cooking is seldom discussed. So it’s no wonder Mark received an email from a new cook this week inquiring about his cleaning techniques. Here’s his philosophy from How to Cook Everything:

“As for me, I keep a spotlessly clean kitchen, [and] wash my hands about twenty times a day…It boils down to common sense: Don’t let your kitchen be a breeding ground [for bacteria]. Many experienced cooks and chefs are fanatical about cleanliness, and it works; that’s the best way to avoid food-related illness.”

He touches on the mantra in professional kitchens: “clean as you go.” Chefs are constantly cleaning because they are handling such a high volume of production in cramped conditions with a fixed set of tools. So you’re slightly better off at home.

But if you’re feeling bad that your kitchen doesn’t look like a spotless professional display kitchen, there’s more behind the scenes. Chefs have to be ready for the health inspector at any moment, and have a team of porters to wash dishes and cooks that scrub down every square inch of surface in the kitchen every night. Unless you run your family like a French restaurant brigade, you usually go it alone. Continue reading

Posted in Behind The Scenes

The Pleasures of Roots

Text and photos by Mark Bittman

The winter CSA at Glynwood (located in New York’s Hudson Valley), in a good week, provides us with more winter vegetables than anyone other than a full-time vegan with the time to cook nonstop could handle. This means two or three types of cabbage, a gorgeous array of winter squash (some of which, like the spectacular fairy squash, are new to me), onions, leeks and other alliums, and, of course, roots: black and watermelon radishes, a variety of turnips, beets, potatoes, parsnips, carrots…what am I missing?

I like eating some of these roots raw—the best turnips taste better to me raw, there’s nothing like thin-sliced kohlrabi with a sprinkle of salt, I don’t have to tell you how good a carrot can be, and I love raw beet salad with vinaigrette. But there is a very practical limit to how much of this you can indulge in, and, as my friend Kerri once said to me when I went on a raw-vegetable binge, it is defined by your stomach’s ability to act as a juicer. When raw, these babies are not that easy to digest. Continue reading

Posted in Produce

Make Mine Pecan

Text and photos by Pam Hoenig

I am a huge fan of pecans (and pecan pie), so deciding to make Pecan-Caramel Bars from How to Bake Everything was a total no-brainer.

I’ve never made layered bars before and it ended up being a snap. A buttery dough with just a bit of sugar gets pressed into the bottom of a 9-inch square pan, then baked until the edges brown and pull away from the pan, about 15 minutes. Continue reading

Posted in Baking