Some of the best, most useful, food articles ever created — in our opinion! — are the summer “101” lists from Mark Bittman, written for his “Minimalist” column in The New York Times. Why? The recipes are quick-cooking, with few ingredients and fewer steps, and the one hundred-plus variations Bittman offers in each article give you plenty of ideas (mix and match with whatever you have on hand) to chose from. A boon to weary parents at the end of the day looking for something delicious, but not time-consuming, to cook for dinner (or take to a picnic, or bring to a party).
I thought it would be useful for parents to have the links rounded up in one place. Go print ’em out before the Times starts charging you to do so!
101 Fast Recipes for Grilling, which appeared in the Times June 30th, is fast becoming my go-to Bible for quick dinners (and desserts) this summer. Bittman covers vegetables, fruit, salads (yes, really), meat, fish and shellfish, kebabs, burgers, sandwiches and dessert. Under meat, for instance: “28. Six-minute steak (or maybe four): Salt skirt steak and grill it, quickly. Top with queso fresco, thinly sliced red onion (you could grill it first, if you like) and the juice of grilled lime.” Simple, and delicious.
Summer Express: 101 Simple Meals Ready to Go in 10 Minutes or Less was a hit in 2007, so much so that Bittman received hundreds of comments, and some good additional suggestions from readers, that he rounded up here: 101 Quick Meals? Make it an Even 111 .Some of our favorites include “33. Sauté 10 whole peeled garlic cloves in olive oil. Meanwhile, grate Pecorino, grind lots of black pepper, chop parsley and cook pasta. Toss all together, along with crushed dried chili flakes and salt,” now a regular dish at our house, and “78. Cook shrimp in a skillet slowly (five minutes or so) to preserve their juices, with plenty of garlic and olive oil, until done; pour over watercress or arugula, with lemon, pepper and salt.”
Sign me up for more ways to NOT turn on the oven in the summer. In 101 Simple Salads for the Season, Bittman makes the point that summer isn’t always the best time for cooking, but it is a great time for eating. You can use the ideas here to make the most of the season, for instance taking that gorgeous bunch of bright, red radishes you couldn’t resist at the farmer’s market, and trying this one: “8. Chop or slice radishes (or jicama, or the ever-surprising kohlrabi) and combine with chopped or sliced unripe (i.e., still crunchy) mango, lime juice and mint or cilantro.”
101 20 Minute Dishes for Inspired Picnics could just as easily be called “your lunch, today.” How about “86. Halve a cucumber or two; scoop out the seeds. Slice it thin and salt it for a bit if you have time; in any case squeeze out some of the liquid. Combine it with shredded cooked chicken, ginger, soy sauce, salt, pepper and cilantro. On a baguette, it’s reminiscent of banh mi“…?
Finally, since summer is second to the holidays as an entertaining period, we have 101 Simple Appetizers in 20 Minutes or Less. If you think it’s time to update the cheese plate (I do), this will help you get there. I could see trying “82. Mix four parts cream cheese or fresh goat cheese to one part chopped walnuts. A little spice mix (chili powder, curry powder, whatever) is nice in here. Or, replace the nuts with roasted peppers, olive oil and minced anchovies.”
So enjoy 1) better food and 2) less time making it. Hail, Mark Bittman!
Have you tried any of Bittman’s easy summer 101 recipes? Which ones are your faves?