How To Cook Everything: The Basics

Food for Thought: Summer Reading

How To Cook Everything: The Basics

by Mark Bittman (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., $35, 496 pp)

In my youth, the de rigeur cookbook that was presented to young people heading out on their own was The Joy of Cooking (usually in paperback). That book's heyday has passed, and for several years there's been no clear successor ... until now! How To Cook Everything: The Basics is the best possible cookbook to give to recent graduates, kids heading off to college, teenagers interested in cooking, and the occasional young couple getting married. For starters, it has 1,000 photographs to clearly illustrate every cooking technique and procedure, leaving no room for error or guesswork. The recipes are progressive, each building on the knowledge base of the last, and each recipe teaching a particular "lesson," such as how to mince, or how to broil, or how to tell when an egg is done. (If a lesson needs to be referred to later, there is an indexed list in the back.) Recipes for an entire basic culinary repertoire are given, from how to scramble an egg, to preparing pasta with tomato sauce to baking a homemade apple pie. ("Had Mark published this book sooner, I would not have had to go to culinary school," attests Chef David Chang of Momo­Fu­ku.) All of Bittman's books are useful, but I predict The Basics will come to be viewed as the cornerstone of the Bittman culinary library.

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