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26 July 2011

Mark Bittman: A King Among Men

Some of you may have noticed (or failed to notice) that this is my first entry in over a month.  I should inform you readers that this hiatus has been due largely to studying for a second attempt at the GRE (which I aced), graduate school planning, the emergence of a new collaborative writing project with my dad, and lastly, a general hesitance to continue this online journal in reaction to its low readership.  At times I feel reluctant to continue this blog because of its lack of ability to generate comments or any meaningful discussions.  I've resolved, however, to continue on, despite who reads my content, because in a way, my future depends on it.

This summer has truly flown by.  It is difficult to believe that August is almost upon us.  After going on an almost four-day bender in late June/early July, I have taken a temporary recess from my Wino Wednesdays segment and from all alcohol consumption.  I must say that I feel fresh right now.  Not drinking for the past month has cleared my mind and allowed me to more actively concentrate on the tasks at hand.  While I may temporarily desist from drinking, I will never, even in the case of limb removal, give up cooking.

Cooking, as I explained in a previous entry, is my art form; my channel of creativity.  I am often asked by fellow food enthusiasts who inspires me, or who I look up to most in the world of gastronomy.  Truly, a plethora of virtuoso chefs exist in every corner of the globe.  Some have experimented with new food preparation techniques such as the famed Ferran Adria, whose molecular gastronomy is changing the way that many chefs approach food preparation.  Others have become television personalities known more now for theatrics (Emeril Lagasse, Anthony Bourdain, Jamie Oliver, Giada de Laurentis to name a few) than for their abilities.  A recent trend has seen many chefs commit to environmental sustainability by restricting their menus to local and seasonal products.

As you could surmise from this entry' title, one of my greatest food inspirations is the humble food writer Mark Bittman, aka The Minimalist.  He may not have trained at a fancy culinary school, he may have appeared on more than a few television programs, but Mr. Bittman epitomizes the direct, intuitive, and often quirky approach to cooking that I so admire.  It may be, in fact, that Mr. Bittman's lack of formal training (and corresponding lack of pretension) is what so endears him to a wide audience.  He is the every man's food enthusiast, capable of both the intricate and the simple.  His recipes however, are for the most part refreshingly simple and (at least when I prepare them) always delicious.  From his former New York Times food segment The Minimalist, to his interactive once-a-week simple dish preparations, to his championing of local food and a plant-based diet, I find myself utterly enthralled by and nearly always in agreement with Mr. Bittman.

Perhaps due to the unrelenting heat of these Dog Days, two of my favorite recent Bittman contributions are "Recipes for 101 Simple Salads for the Season," in which he lists vegan, vegetarian, and non-vegetarian recipes for an entire summer's worth of delicious inventiveness, and The Minimalist: Fast Blueberry Jam, in which he prepares an incredibly simple blueberry jam containing only: blueberries, sugar, and cinnamon.

The following is my version of Mr. Bittman's watermelon, tomato, and basil salad (from the 101 Simple Salads list), to which I added sliced Prosciutto di Parma and fresh oregano.

The blueberry jam that I made with local farmer's market blueberries, was ready in under 20 minutes and is utterly tangy, sweet, and satisfying.  For those of you who enjoy preparing food, I highly recommend looking at these two links, which I have provided below...Happy summer to you all!

Recipes for 101 Simple Salads
Fast Blueberry Jam