The Art of the Recipe

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


Question: Describe your kitchen.


Mark Bittman:  I moved this year and I moved from a kitchen that 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 50-something square feet.  It has counters on two sides.  It has a refrigerator on a third side.  It has drawers on a fourth side and it has two doors.  It has a sink and a dishwasher and a stove and it has maybe six feet of counter space and nothing is fancy but it's, for me, nearly perfect.  I mean I wish I could fit more – like I wish I could fit a table in it and I wish I could fit more people in it to hang out with while I was cooking but it's pretty great.  It's really nice but there's nothing unusual or remarkable about it.


Question: What inspires you to create a new recipe?


Mark Bittman: The way that recipes happen for me is shopping.  It all starts with shopping.  So 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 looks good that I think I can cook in the next X days.  I mean am I cooking at home for the next four days?  Because to be home for four days in a row is a lot. 


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


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


Mark Bittman:  Well, I don’t really care.  If you substitute one -- if you were making pasta with broccoli and you don’t have broccoli, you want to make pasta with cauliflower, everything about that is the same: the cooking time, the technique, just about everything about it is the same, assuming you know how to trim broccoli and trim cauliflower.  Is it a different recipe?  You might say it's a different recipe, but almost everything about it is the same and so what if it's a different recipe, it's still good.  I mean, I like to say you can vary things as much as you want to, but you have to remember that you can't make a roast chicken without chicken.