The Minimalist ends its weekly run
January 26, 2011 11:59 AM   Subscribe

Today marks the exit of The Minimalist from the pages of the Dining section, as a weekly column at least. There may be return appearances, but the unbroken string of more than 13 years and nearly 700 columns ends here. (I’m not leaving the Times family; more about that in a minute.) (previously)
posted by Joe Beese (51 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
posted by chara at 12:07 PM on January 26, 2011

posted by Sidhedevil at 12:08 PM on January 26, 2011

Mark Bittman in 2007 on What's Wrong with What We Eat. (TED Talks.)
posted by crunchland at 12:10 PM on January 26, 2011

Oh man, here's the best thing: Bittman's Top 25 Minimalist columns.
posted by Greg Nog at 12:20 PM on January 26, 2011 [26 favorites]

If anyone wants to share links to their favorite Bittman recipes I'd love to see them in this thread!
posted by sourwookie at 12:23 PM on January 26, 2011

Thanks, Greg!
posted by sourwookie at 12:23 PM on January 26, 2011

Fried Chickpeas With Chorizo and Spinach is fantastic!
posted by exois at 12:31 PM on January 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

Great link, Greg Nog, but I'm a little disappointed to learn that "pasta with a fried egg on top" is apparently a traditional Italian dish and not, as I previously believed, a symbol of the fact that I have my own apartment and can do whatever I want.
posted by theodolite at 12:35 PM on January 26, 2011 [17 favorites]

My two personal favorites: his recipe for pear maple upsidedown cake looks pretty and tastes sophisticated but is super easy and fast to pull off and his risotto-style pasta with chicken and mushrooms for pretty much the same reasons.
posted by Thin Lizzy at 12:36 PM on January 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

I accidentally clicked through to the (previously) and rereading that thread made me want to get this guy's cookbook.
posted by immlass at 12:38 PM on January 26, 2011

I've used more Bittman recipes - as written, or as jumping off points for my own variations - than anyone else on the web. And the little dance at the beginning of the Minimalist videos? Soooo sexxy!
posted by tizzie at 12:42 PM on January 26, 2011

I appreciate a lot of what he has done, but I will never forgive him for that awful show he did with Mario Batali and Gwyneth Paltrow.
posted by AceRock at 12:46 PM on January 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Lahey's no-knead bread recipe (discovered via the Minimalist) was a revelation to me and thousands (if not tens of thousands) of people who, before reading it, never dreamed that home-baked bread was something so easily within reach. That recipe alone precipitated a series of healthier changes in my family's eating habits which continue to evolve to this day.

Mark Bittman, My family and I thank you.
posted by Chrischris at 12:50 PM on January 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

My copy of Bittman's How To Cook Everything is absolutely filthy. I can think of no higher compliment.
posted by joelhunt at 12:53 PM on January 26, 2011 [10 favorites]

I really believe that Mark Bittman has done more to elevate home cooking in this country than anyone else in the last ten years or so. His approach - enthusiastic, curious, never patronizing to his readers, always eager to share - makes the iconic seem approachable, the esoteric seem friendly and doable. He's very good at making food seem intriguing but not out of my league. I mean, one of his first columns, in the late 90s, was about Chicken Under A Brick - where I grew up at least (middle-class Mid-Atlantic), people were still hailing boneless, skinless chicken breasts as the epitome of good modern home cooking. Buying a whole chicken was something your embarrassing ethnic grandmother did, or possibly your broke friend who kept telling you how it was cheaper that way. Bittman's emphasis on real food, always real food, cooked thoughtfully and with care but in a reasonable, doable, human way, was a revelation. And he's done it with consistent class and very little lowest-common-denominator pandering (the sad state of the Food Network represents this other driving aesthetic to changing food culture).

American tastes have changed so much in ten years that cilantro, fresh fennel separated into male and female bulbs, and seasonal citrus in your average supermarket goes unremarked upon - that sure as hell wasn't true even in a big city in the late nineties. I give Bittman a lot of the credit for that.
posted by peachfuzz at 12:54 PM on January 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

Oh, here's one that starts with the dance! And a tasty dish, too.
posted by tizzie at 12:54 PM on January 26, 2011

My favorite Bittman recipe is Curried Lentil Soup with Potatoes from Food Matters.
posted by rogueepicurean at 12:54 PM on January 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Adding my voice to the Bittman pile on love in. He always gave you a jumping off point for that nights dinner.

A question for the fried egg on pasta fans up thread, how is this easier than carbonnara? Esp. when you consider carbonnara is the ultimate pinnacle of mans foodstuff creation.
posted by Keith Talent at 12:58 PM on January 26, 2011

Of course, following that gushing one-woman love-in, I need to link the obligatory Bittman haikus, which really are very funny. A lot of people I know *hated* the 101 series, which I thought was great, but I could see how the sketched ideas could seem infuriating if you were expecting recipes
posted by peachfuzz at 1:03 PM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Bittman is completely awesome - and he makes good home cooking with good ingredients a natural everyday occurence. A great focus on organic and vegetarian options without turning it into a fetish.

I loved his TV show when he flew all over the place sampling food. I love his slightly fussy vibe, and the way he irritates some of the chefs he hangs with. It's charming and real.

Like his recipe for Pasta with Chunky Pesto . It irritates me (how can that possibly work? it's going to a plate of hot play dough), fascinates me (but damn - that looks easy and TASTY), and inspires me (I am going to fucking make that - even if it is to prove him wrong!). He's like the Dad that you can't get out of the kitchen while you are putting together Thankgiving dinner.

I heart Bittman.
posted by helmutdog at 1:13 PM on January 26, 2011

Chicken Adobo! It really is the world's best chicken.

Not counting fried chicken. That's an unfair fight.
posted by unsupervised at 1:20 PM on January 26, 2011 [4 favorites]

In addition to the aforementioned no-knead bread revelation - the only bread I've ever made from scratch and outstanding every time from the very first - I use Bittman's simplest roast chicken recipe and variations as one of my default lazy day dinners. I've tried more elaborate recipes with marinades and reductions and multistep sauces, but if the chicken's high enough quality and you don't plan on brining it or anything, Bittman's version with ten-minute prep is just as much bang for a tenth of the effort. That preheated cast-iron pan does something magical.

(Although now that I've discovered chicken under a brick through this post, I may be changing my opinion on this shortly.)
posted by gompa at 1:22 PM on January 26, 2011

And yet Friedman and Dowd are still published.

When people ask how to cook or how to do a particular technique, I have been directing them to Bittman for years now. I am sad the regular column is retiring, but look forward to what he will do next with the Times.

So long Minimalist, and thanks for all the fish.
posted by munchingzombie at 1:27 PM on January 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

A few of his recipes I make all the damn time:

Glazed Carrots
Potato-Asparagus Frittata
posted by alicat at 1:27 PM on January 26, 2011

My copy of Bittman's How To Cook Everything is absolutely filthy. I can think of no higher compliment.

Why don't real cookbooks have plastic washable pages? By real cookbooks I mean crammed with recipes and illustrations, but few pictures.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:18 PM on January 26, 2011

Personally, How To Cook Everything is not only the grimiest book in my kitchen, but the only one with tabs added for fast reference.

On a more statistical note, the answer to an AskMe question has been "Bittman" 514 times.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 2:19 PM on January 26, 2011 [5 favorites]

Damn. I never heard of this guy. I love these recipes.
posted by phaedon at 2:27 PM on January 26, 2011

So glad I've already eaten lunch before reading this thread.

Even if I didn't make many of his recipes (which I'm meaning to rectify based on all the links here), his column was always enjoyable to read.
posted by mogget at 2:29 PM on January 26, 2011

And yet Friedman and Dowd are still published.

Bittmann wasn't fired; he's doing a different assignment. Read the end of the article. He's moving more into food sustainability advocacy in the Editorial section.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:31 PM on January 26, 2011

He's great. Love his cookbooks. Thanks for this post.
posted by blucevalo at 2:58 PM on January 26, 2011

My copy of Bittman's How To Cook Everything has hardly been opened, which is why we're having ramen tonight, honey.
posted by louche mustachio at 3:06 PM on January 26, 2011

Although damned if those Bittman haikus don't sum up my philosophy of cooking.


Cook some spaghetti.
Put some random stuff in it.
I don't give a fuck.

is what we are really having for dinner tonight.
posted by louche mustachio at 3:10 PM on January 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

I've got How to Cook Everything, and it's great, but it's still a fallback for me when my old copy of The Joy of Cooking (broken spine, frayed bookmark ribbon, pages stained and wrinkled from being thumbed through with wet hands) doesn't cover what I'm looking for.

On the other hand, the first book I have of his, The Best Food in the World (?) has sticky tabs and is slightly soiled, which is a pretty good start.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:23 PM on January 26, 2011

I love Bittman, and I owe him more than I can repay for teaching me how to make fagioli con tonno (white beans with tuna). Take two cans of cannoneli beans and one can of good Italian tuna; heat.
posted by acrasis at 3:45 PM on January 26, 2011

I'll miss him. That is all.
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 3:51 PM on January 26, 2011

The Minimalist column has been great over the years, but I've found a lot of those recipes to be variations from his book How to Cook Everything. The iPhone / iPad edition of which, by the way, is far more useful than the book itself, costs $5, and should revolutionize cookbooks as we know it.
posted by sharkitect at 3:52 PM on January 26, 2011

Love him. While How to Cook Everything is the one I use the most, my favorite is Simple to Spectacular, a cookbook with him and Jean-Georges Vongerichten.
posted by hazyspring at 6:14 PM on January 26, 2011

This comment is to make sure that this thread is in Recent Activity, mostly to see what other recipes are posted. Please excuse my transparent expression of my own self interest.
posted by deliquescent at 6:18 PM on January 26, 2011

My favorite Minimalist recipes were the "101 fast recipes" (linked to many times before). Truly minimalist recipes, they were.
posted by twoleftfeet at 6:47 PM on January 26, 2011

Dinner at least once a week in fall and winter in my house: Steamed Fish on Kale . Thank you Mark Bittman.
posted by minervous at 8:57 PM on January 26, 2011

At the holidays, a favorite around our house is the Pot Roast with Cranberries. I'm really going to miss this column. Thank you, Mark, for many years of great recipes delivered with good cheer.
posted by pianoboy at 9:26 PM on January 26, 2011

I don't think I've ever gone to see someone speak and be more sorry that I didn't have the chance to buy him a beer. NYT is losing a great food writer.
posted by desuetude at 11:26 PM on January 26, 2011

Thank you for teaching me to make real bread after years and years and years of trying and trying and trying and just wasting a fucking ton of flour.

Thank you for this article and video on how to outfit your kitchen without wasting squillions on expensive knives and pans and crap I'll never use.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:07 AM on January 27, 2011

NYT is losing a great food writer. --- The article says "In part, what I see as the continuing attack on good, sound eating and traditional farming in the United States is a political issue. I’ll be writing regularly about this in the opinion pages of The Times, and in a blog that begins next week. That’s one place to look for me from now on. The other is in The Times Magazine, where I’ll be writing a recipe column most Sundays beginning in March." So the Times isn't really losing him. He's just gotten tired of writing the Minimalist column.
posted by crunchland at 4:26 AM on January 27, 2011

Yep, the no-knead bread is truly amazing. I use it all the time. It's incredibly forgiving, and helped demystify breadmaking for me. You can use it as a jumping-off point for all kinds of things - i've used some version of this recipe to make bread with olives; tomato&cheese; bacon fat; oatmeal; flaxseed; rye; honey; pumpernickel, cocoa, cinnamon&raisins.. probably more that i can't remember right now.

for anyone who doesn't already know about it, here's the recipe:

Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.
posted by dubold at 4:50 AM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

In a sense of irony, I started his No-Knead bread Tuesday night and baked it last night. Came out very well - pic of the results.
posted by fijiwriter at 6:35 AM on January 27, 2011

Your pic demonstrated the flaw of the no-knead bread recipe -- that huge air bubble, which would have been avoided had you kneaded the dough. Cooks Illustrated came out with a modified *almost* no-knead recipe a year or two ago, that has you knead, just a little. Their recipe is behind a paywall, but you can read it here.
posted by crunchland at 6:55 AM on January 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

(Or if you have itunes, you can download a video of the Cook's Illustrated Video Podcast that demonstrates the recipe. It's #31 on the list.)
posted by crunchland at 7:06 AM on January 27, 2011

Here's the link to the index of every Minimalist column ever.

And here are his his 20 most popular videos.

I love that grumpy bastard. He has never failed me. He, Christopher Kimball, and Michael Ruhlman are responsible for probably 70% of what we cook in my house. Bittman most of all, as he (like we) has severely reduced his meat intake and has turned his focus on recipes that do exactly that. The Food Matters Cookbook is amazing, as are How to Cook Everything, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, and the iPhone app.

Re: kneading -- Turns out you don't have to do that much for any bread recipe. The process of autolyse will create gluten for you. I've been using Dan Lepard's technique from The Handmade Loaf, which is basically knead for fifteen seconds on a lightly oiled surface, cover and let sit for a while, knead for fifteen seconds, cover and let sit for awhile, repeat as many times as you like, then you're good.

Works with any kind of bread, and especially well with whole grain flours that have little shards that can cut through gluten strands while you knead.
posted by middleclasstool at 7:25 AM on January 27, 2011

Thanks, Crunchland, for the link and notes. I'll give that a try next go-round.
posted by fijiwriter at 7:32 AM on January 27, 2011

Aww, I'll miss the Minimalist articles but I'm curious to see what his new blog will be like.
posted by grapesaresour at 5:36 PM on January 27, 2011

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