When Mark Bittman is cooking--in every sense of the word--he gets results without fuss. Author of the almost subversively approachable How to Cook Everything, Bittman takes on big assignments and then delivers the goods. In The Best Recipes in the World, a collection of more than 1,000 international recipes, with winners like Chinese Black Bean and Garlic Spareribs; Pan-Seared Swordfish with Tomatoes, Olives, and Capers; and Stewed Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms and Pasilla Chile Sauce, he's done it again. The selection, which covers cooking from Europe and Asia equally, is all can-do and instantly appealing--readers will want to "cook through" the whole chicken section, for example. But Bittman, a master distiller, also knows when more is more, with one caveat: "I don't mind spending a long time cooking a single dish as long as I don't have to pay too much attention to what's going on," he writes. Thus, even fuller-dress recipes like the Indian Red Fish Stew, Fast and Spicy, and Tea-Smoked Duck or Chicken can work for time-deprived cooks. A dessert section that includes the tempting likes of Orange Custard, Walnut Tart, and Caramelized Pars Poached in Red Wine, caps this incisive collection.
Included also are brief but enlightening notes on ingredients and techniques such as "On Pureeing Soups," which compares all approaches thoughtfully. Symbols indicate a recipe's potential to be made ahead or in less than 30 minutes (true of most), among other variables. With a beverage chapter and menu suggestions that are actually useful, the book will appeal to a wide audience, not only for its recipes but as a source of relaxed instruction. It's an exploration of culinary essentials from a true essentialist. --Arthur Boehm
From Publishers Weekly
Mark Bittman thinks big, as we saw in his Great Wall of Recipes, How to Cook Everything. That doorstop of a title sold big, too; there are now more than 1.7 million copies in print. This volume, in the same I-can't-believe-I-wrote-the-whole-thing vein, collects recipes from 44 countries. Bittman successfully avoids the usual suspects, drawing as heavily from places like North Africa (home of Harira, a satisfying soup traditionally used to end Ramadan fasting) and India (Marinated Lamb "Popsicles" with Fenugreek Cream) as he does from easy targets like Italy and France. The recipes are terrific in both their variety and execution. Bittman, who writes the New York Times's "Minimalist" column, has a steady authorial voice and a knack for offering clear instructions, and he smoothly makes the exotic seem easy, or at least familiar (e.g., he compares Moroccan Chicken B'stilla to chicken pot pie). The everything-in-one-place format works differently here than it did in his earlier book, which was, ultimately, about technique, not individual recipes, so while there are more than 1,000 recipes here, the reader doesn't acquire quite the same "take-away." Still, for one-stop-shopping on the world's cuisine, it'd be tough to find a better book.
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