Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mark Bittman plans your summer menu for you

Regular readers of the Times will have encountered, from time to time, Mark Bittman's lovely and oh-so-practical 101 lists of easy things to cook.  These lists usually appear in summer, when it's too hot to plan complicated meals, and the produce is too fresh not to use.  Bittman's latest is 101 grilling ideas, a few of which are listed below:
4. Spice-rubbed carrots: Roll peeled carrots in cumin, salt, pepper and brown sugar. Char, then move them away from direct heat and cover the grill until carrots are tender.
21. Waldorf salad revisited, sort of: Grill cut apples until browned but not mushy; grill chunks of Napa or savoy cabbage, also left crisp; grill halved red onion. Chop or shred all together with blue cheese, walnuts and a little yogurt.
37. Moist grilled chicken breast? Yes: Pound chicken breast thin, top with chopped tomato, basil and Parmesan; roll and skewer and grill over not-high heat until just done.
50. Grilled tuna niçoise: Brush tuna with olive oil and grill; keep it rare. (You might grill some new potatoes while you’re at it.) Serve with more olive oil, lemon juice, cherry tomatoes, olives, grilled red onion and parsley. Green beans and hard-cooked eggs are optional. 
70. Grill halved new potatoes or fingerlings (microwave or parboil first for a few minutes to get a head start), red onions and scallions. Chop as necessary and toss with chopped celery, parsley, mustard and cider (or other) vinegar. I make this annually.
84. Actual grilled cheese: Use good bread, good cheese, tomato slices and maybe a little mustard; brush with melted butter or olive oil and grill with a weight on top. 
When I first read these little recipe-lets, I always swear to revisit them and try a few on those what-to-make-for-dinner nights.  However, I inevitably end up just leaving the tab open in my browser for a few weeks, then closing it, then forgetting about the whole affair.  To save you from a similar fate, I've gathered all of Bitman's 101 lists below (all that I could find, anyway) in one easy spot.  My recommendation is to make a Mark Bittman 101 game out of the whole thing.  You could print them out, cut them up (possibly sorted by category), eliminate the ones that don't appeal to you, and then toss them in a jar to be drawn out when you need a dinner idea.  You could do the same thing by simply bookmarking this page, then picking a number between 1 and 101 and making that recipe.  If it's a main, it's what to have for dinner; if it's a side dish or dessert, you can build a meal around it.  Or, if you often end up with leftover ingredients in the house that you don't know what to do with, you could copy-paste all the lists into a single word document, and then Control+F for the ingredient you need to use.  Voila!  The Mark Bittman recipe generator.

101 10 minute meals (e.g. 39. Taco salad: Toss together greens, chopped tomato, chopped red onion, sliced avocado, a small can of black beans and kernels from a couple of ears of corn. Toss with crumbled tortilla chips and grated cheese. Dress with olive oil, lime and chopped cilantro leaves.)

101 easy summer salads (e.g. 84. Spring rolls, unrolled: One at a time, soften a few sheets of rice paper in warm water. Drain, pat dry, cut into strips and toss with chopped cucumber, grated carrots, chopped cilantro, bean sprouts, chili flakes and chopped roasted peanuts. Dress with toasted sesame oil, fish sauce or soy sauce, and rice vinegar or lime juice. A few shrimp are a nice addition.)

101 simple appetizers (e.g. 60. Hot wings: Cut chicken wings into three sections; discard the tips. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and broil until browned on one side, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, melt butter with vinegar, garlic and hot sauce to taste. Pour off excess fat, baste the wings with hot sauce, turn them, baste again, and brown. Baste once more and serve, with napkins)

101 picnic foods (e.g., 4. TOMATOES AND PEACHES Toss together sliced seeded tomatoes and peaches, along with thinly sliced red onion and chopped cilantro or rosemary. Dress at the last minute with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper)

101 side dishes (originally intended for Thanksgiving, e.g., 26. Chop corn bread into cubes. Sauté cherry tomatoes, scallions and corn kernels in butter or oil. Deglaze the pan with beer, then empty the pan over the corn bread. Bake in an oiled dish or use as stuffing)

Well we're at it, what's your best 5-10 minute recipe?  I'll start.  The image above is lightly steamed asparagus topped with chopped tomatoes, crumbled goat cheese (can also use blue cheese), and balsamic vinaigrette.  Easy and elegant.

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