The Art of the Recipe

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Question: Describe your kitchen.

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Mark Bittman:  I moved this year and I moved from a kitchen\r\nthat was six by seven to a kitchen that was about eight by eight.  So its an eight by eight?  Maybe it's seven by seven; it's\r\n50-something square feet.  It has\r\ncounters on two sides.  It has a\r\nrefrigerator on a third side.  It\r\nhas drawers on a fourth side and it has two doors.  It has a sink and a dishwasher and a stove and it has maybe\r\nsix feet of counter space and nothing is fancy but it's, for me, nearly\r\nperfect.  I mean I wish I could fit\r\nmore – like I wish I could fit a table in it and I wish I could fit more people\r\nin it to hang out with while I was cooking but it's pretty great.  It's really nice but there's nothing\r\nunusual or remarkable about it.

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Question: What inspires you to create a new\r\nrecipe?

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Mark\r\nBittman: The way that\r\nrecipes happen for me is shopping. \r\nIt all starts with shopping. \r\nSo I will go -- I got to Chinatown a lot.  I go to decent supermarkets.  I go to green markets, and I try to buy everything that\r\nlooks good that I think I can cook in the next X days.  I mean am I cooking at home for the\r\nnext four days?  Because to be home\r\nfor four days in a row is a lot. 

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I'll buy four\r\ndays of food but I'll buy a lot and then I will go home and I will cook what I\r\nbought and almost always, a.) because I have like no patience with cooking from\r\nrecipes, b.) because I'm not that methodical, c.) because I have a bad memory and\r\nalways think I'm making things up. \r\nI can't even duplicate my own recipes.  What happens is there's this house full of food and I start\r\ncooking and usually interesting things happen.  I don’t – brilliant things don’t happen, but interesting\r\nthings happen, interestingly enough to write about evidently, since people read\r\nthis stuff.

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Question: You often suggest substituting one\r\ningredient for another. Doesn't that change the recipe?

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Mark\r\nBittman:  Well, I don’t really care.  If you substitute one -- if you were\r\nmaking pasta with broccoli and you don’t have broccoli, you want to make pasta\r\nwith cauliflower, everything about that is the same: the cooking time, the\r\ntechnique, just about everything about it is the same, assuming you know how to\r\ntrim broccoli and trim cauliflower. \r\nIs it a different recipe? \r\nYou might say it's a different recipe, but almost everything about it is\r\nthe same and so what if it's a different recipe, it's still good.  I mean, I like to say you can vary\r\nthings as much as you want to, but you have to remember that you can't make a\r\nroast chicken without chicken.

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Coming up with the inspiration for new recipes starts with shopping and ends in kitchen experiments.