Archive for the ‘food preparation’ Tag

Free-form Cooking   Leave a comment

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The New York Times Cooking No-Recipes Cookbook might sound like an oxymoron, but it promotes a fun approach to preparing food. Sam Sifton who founded the Times Cooking section offers non-recipes with the barest suggestions for ingredients and the loosest of instructions.

Yet, even with unembellished directions, Sifton’s creative ideas, humor and confidence inspire readers’ abilities to rise to the challenge. Not wanting to let him down, I tried several no-recipes with, what I consider, great success.

Main dishes, ranging from tacos to fish, pasta to  chowder are among the (non)recipes included. For example, the Curry Beef begins includes such vague guidelines as “Chop a bunch of garlic and ginger and onion into the finest sort of dice…” Who needs exacts amount, it’s all about taste. It’s clear if you’re not a fan of any of these three items, skip or reduce them. It’s that easy.

Or how about this for the Crispy Pork Sandwiches with Spicy Mayo and Scallions: “Get some pork belly if you can or some fatty pork chops if you can’t.” that’s precise, hah!

Among my favorites, though, is Pasta with Sausage and Parm. With orecchiette and you can probably guess the other ingredients, although you might not think about including sage. Sifton wraps up his directive for this with “ … grate a lot of parmesan over the top, and let me know how it goes.”

On the page featuring Terriyaki Salmon with Mixed Greens, Sifton writes, “Cooking’s not difficult. It just takes practice.”

The New York Times Cooking No Recipes Cookbook

Five Bookmarks

Ten Speed Press, 2021

256 pages

Setting the Table   Leave a comment


Anyone worth his or her salt in the kitchen has drawers and cabinets full of wonderfully useful and incredibly useless gadgets. Bee Wilson’s Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat provides historical and cultural perspectives on how most of them came into our lives. The book is divided into eight sections, each addressing a specific element of cooking under such headings as “Knife,” “Fire,” “Eat,” among others. Yes, the fork gets plenty of attention, but so do other implements that impact not just how food is prepared, but what’s eaten.

Wilson examines the technology behind cooking tools, using the purest definition of the word: “Techne means an art, skill or craft, and logia means the study of something.” Occasionally, she gets bogged down by too much detail, such as the various types of fuels, or the dangers inherent in knives. But who knew about the egg beater boom in the late 1800s? How about that “Kitchen Debate” between the U.S. and Russia at the time of the Cold War?

Nonetheless, reflecting on why we use certain implements versus others, or why some are no longer to be found, is pretty interesting stuff. Wilson has done her homework. If nothing else, I gained insight into the evolution of pots and pans, and now know that the fork was initially not well-received. It took the Italians and pasta to demonstrate its usefulness.

Besides, having read the book I discovered a few new Scrabble words: quern, trifid and ulu.

Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat
Three-and-a-half Bookmarks
Basic Books, 2012
310 pages, including notes and bibliography