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The Minimalist Entertains

The Minimalist Entertains

by Mark Bittman

The popular New York Times columnist and award-winning, bestselling cookbook author Mark Bittman now shares his winning strategies for creating elegant, delicious dinner parties with no fuss. Famous as “the Minimalist” for delicious recipes that can be made in a flash, Bittman’s entertaining cookbook is a must-have for hosts and home cooks


The popular New York Times columnist and award-winning, bestselling cookbook author Mark Bittman now shares his winning strategies for creating elegant, delicious dinner parties with no fuss. Famous as “the Minimalist” for delicious recipes that can be made in a flash, Bittman’s entertaining cookbook is a must-have for hosts and home cooks of all skill levels.

The book features more than 150 recipes in 40 menus organized by season. Bittman’s signature “Keys to Success” offer a wealth of tips, from choosing the best ingredients to improving and streamlining your cooking techniques. Invaluable “Timetables” break down the process of preparing the meal step-by-step, including what can be made ahead of time (the day before or even earlier) and—that most daunting of tasks for home cooks—how to make several recipes at once. The menus, which include recipes for starters, main dishes, side dishes, and desserts, as well as wine suggestions, are tailored for all kinds of parties—barbecues, buffets, picnics, sit-down dinners, cocktail fêtes, and even an indoor or outdoor clambake.

Each menu draws on the peak ingredients of the season as well as foods that are always readily available. Spring encompasses menus like A Tuscan-Style Meal (Pasta with Dark Red Duck Sauce, Cauliflower with Garlic and Anchovy, Olive Oil Cookies with Red Wine and Rosemary) and A Simple Spring Dinner (Pan-Roasted Asparagus Soup with Tarragon, Broiled Salmon with Beurre Noisette, Pan-Crisped Potatoes, Ricotta with Walnuts and Honey). Summer features Grilling, Asian Style (Soy-Dipped Shrimp; Grilled Skirt Steak with Thai-Style Sauce; Grilled Corn; Pineapple Ginger Sorbet) and A Cool Dinner for a Hot Night (Cold Pea Soup; Salted Watermelon, Thai-Style; Grilled Chicken, Sausage, and Vegetable Skewers; Lemon Granita).

For autumn, there’s A Cool-Weather Feast with Asian Flavors (Rich Chicken-Noodle Soup with Ginger; Broiled Bluefish or Mackerel with Green Tea Salt; Spareribs, Korean-Style; Herbed Green Salad with Soy Vinaigrette; Coconut Rice Pudding) and A Crowd-Pleasing Mexican Buffet (Shrimp “Seviche,” Fish Tacos with Fresh Salsa, Chicken Thighs with Mexican Flavors, Lime Granita).

When the weather turns wintry, try A Hearty Midwinter Sit-Down (Mushroom Barley Soup, Breaded Lamb Cutlets, Pilaf with Pine Nuts and Currants, Tender Spinach and Crisp Shallots, Maple Bread Pudding) or A Cocktail Party (Prosciutto, Fig, and Parmesan Rolls; White Bean Dip; Skewered Crisp Shiitakes with Garlic; Miso-Broiled Scallops; Fennel, Orange, and Apple Skewers).

Forget hard-to-find ingredients and hours in the kitchen. With The Minimalist Entertains, you’ll look like a five-star host but feel like a carefree guest.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly
The prolific New York Times columnist Bittman is now on his eighth edited or co-authored book in as many years. Like many entertaining-based cookbooks, Bittman's is organized by dinner menus: 10 for each season. Charmingly titled ("A Meal for Questionable Weather," "A Cool Dinner for a Hot Night," etc.), the meals rely heavily on simple Asian and Mediterranean techniques like stir-frying and braising. Impressive but eminently do-able entrees like Curried Mussels, Roast Tomato Frittata, and Pasta with Dark Red Duck Sauce are probably his hallmark, but Bittman also shows a flair for assembling succulent, long-cooking dishes like Kale, Sausage and Mushroom Stew and Slow-Cooked Leg of Lamb with Fresh Mint Sauce. For desserts, he shies away from labor-intensive baking projects; more typical are forgiving foods to be prepared ahead of time like Pineapple-Ginger Sorbet and Coconut Rice Pudding. Bittman prefaces each menu with tips, timetables and wine recommendations. The recipes themselves are airily laid out-one page per recipe, rarely more than eight or 10 ingredients-so that although home cooks may be preparing four or five dishes at once, it scarcely seems like a challenge. As for the author, it seems as if he could keep on making life easier for time-pressed gourmands ad infinitum-as long as you keep it simple, you need never run out of inspiration. (Apr.) Forecast: While Bittman's newest may not achieve the large sales of his blockbuster How to Cook Everything, his easy style and innovative flavor combinations will still meet with applause from home cooks everywhere. Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal - Library Journal
The third in the series of cookbooks based on Bittman's New York Times column, this presents 40 simple menus, ten for each season of the year, from "An Unusual Spring Menu" to "A Cool Dinner for a Hot Night" to "A Hearty Midwinter Sit-Down." Each one is accompanied by a timetable and a fairly general wine suggestion, along with "Keys to Success"-tips on ingredients and techniques, suggestions for variations, and so forth. Fans of Bittman's straightforward, uncomplicated recipes will welcome his worry-free guide to cooking for company. Recommended for most collections. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Crown Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
8.29(w) x 9.39(h) x 0.96(d)

Read an Excerpt


Raw beet salad Sauteed red snapper with rhubarb sauce New potatoes with butter and mint Coeurs a la creme with strawberries

Here is a menu that could not be made in any season other than spring—at least not with truly fresh ingredients. Mint is up out of the ground, strawberries are everywhere, rhubarb is at the height of its short run, and beets are young, small, and delicious. The meal is a simple festival.

Keys to success

*To prepare the rhubarb, first "string" it. Hold the stalk in one hand. In the other, cut through the end with a small knife, stopping it short of cutting all the way through by pressing the flat of the blade against your thumb. Pull down the length of the stalk and the strings will come with it. This is a refinement, but a worthwhile one.

*For the snapper, substitute sea or striped bass, grouper, or rockfish.

*To make this menu somewhat more elaborate, add a soup, like Pan-Roasted Asparagus Soup with Tarragon (page 000) or Pea-and-Ginger Soup (page 000).


A crisp white would be best, like a Chablis or comparable California Chardonnay, or even something lighter, like Pinot Grigio.

The timetable

*The dessert should be made the day before, so that will be out of the way except for the final assembly, which you can tackle while your guests relax for a little while after dinner.

*Prepare the beets first, and let them sit while you start the potatoes and the rhubarb sauce.

*When the potatoes are nearly done, toss the beets with their dressing. Finish the potatoes and cook the fish at the same time; serve beets, potatoes, and fish together.


Use young, small beets if you can find them. And wear an apron or old clothes; you will inevitably spatter some juice.

Makes 8 servings Time: 20 minutes

2 pounds beets, preferably small
2 large shallots Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, or to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup sherry vinegar or other good strong vinegar Minced fresh parsley, dill, chervil, rosemary, or tarragon

1. Peel the beets and the shallots. Combine them in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, and pulse carefully until the beets are chopped; do not puree. (Or grate the beets by hand and mince the shallots; combine.) Scrape into a bowl.

2. Toss with the salt, pepper, mustard, oil, and vinegar. Taste, and adjust the seasoning. Toss in the herbs, and serve.


The addition of saffron not only adds a mysterious flavor but gives the rhubarb a golden glow. Saffron is expensive, but not outrageous if bought in quantity; an ounce will last you years.

Makes 8 servings Time: 40 minutes

2 pounds rhubarb, rinsed and trimmed, strings removed 2/3 cup sugar, or to taste Large pinch of saffron, optional Salt and freshly ground black pepper 1/4 cup olive oil 1/4 cup unsalted butter or use more oil Eight 6-ounce fillets red snapper Chopped fresh mint or parsley, optional

1. Combine the rhubarb, sugar, and saffron, if you are using it, in a medium saucepan, cover, and turn the heat to low. Cook, stirring only occasionally, for about 20 minutes, or until the rhubarb becomes saucy. Add salt and pepper to taste and a little more sugar if necessary; if the mixture is very soupy continue to cook a little longer to make it thicker.

2. When you judge the rhubarb to be nearly done, put a large skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium-high heat. (You can either use two skillets or cook in batches; undercook the first batch slightly and keep it warm in a 200 degreesF oven while you cook the second batch.) A minute later, add the oil and butter (you may need a bit more of each if using two pans); when the butter foam subsides, add the fillets, skin side down. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the fish is nearly done; turn carefully and lightly brown the flesh side. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to absorb excess oil.

3. Serve the fish napped with a bit of the sauce and garnished, if you like, with the herb.


Mint makes a huge difference here, countering the potatoes' earthiness with its bright flavor.

Makes 8 servings Time: 40 minutes

About 4 pounds new red or white potatoes, the smaller the better, skins on and scrubbed Several mint sprigs, plus minced fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, or more to taste

1. Place the potatoes in a pot with salted water to cover; turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Add the mint sprigs and turn the heat down to medium. Cook at a gentle boil until the potatoes are nice and tender, 20 to 40 minutes depending on their size.

2. Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot over the lowest heat possible. Add the butter and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until all traces of moisture have disappeared, about 5 minutes. Garnish with the minced mint leaves and serve hot.


"Hearts of Cream" (heart-shaped molds are traditional), a lovely, classic dessert, and one that takes very little attention or work.

Makes 8 servings Time: 24 hours, largely unattended

1 pound cream cheese 2 cups full-fat yogurt 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 11/2 cups sugar, or more if needed 2 quarts strawberries, rinsed, hulled, and sliced

1. Use a fork or blender to cream together the cream cheese, yogurt, vanilla, and half the sugar. (If you use a blender and the mixture is too thick, add a little heavy cream or milk.) The mixture should be quite smooth. Place in a fine-mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth or a clean dish towel, and place the strainer over a bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

2. About a half hour before serving, toss the strawberries with the remaining sugar and let sit at room temperature. Turn the cream cheese mixture out onto a plate and divide into eight portions or place some of the mixture in each of eight bowls. Mix the berries, if you like, with a little more sugar.

3. Serve the coeurs a la creme topped with the berry mixture.

What People are Saying About This

“Minimum ingredients, great techniques, and maximum flavor; that’s what Mark is all about.”
--Jean-Georges Vongerichten

“This book perfectly describes simple and easy entertaining for each season. Mark Bittman’s pared-to-the-essentials style of cooking is the way that professional chefs wish they could cook at home.”
--Daniel Boulud, chef and restaurateur, and author of Chef Daniel Boulud: Cooking in New York City

“Let’s face it: entertaining is a slightly scary business for just about everybody. But in this book, Mark Bittman’s trademark brand of delicious but easy recipes is joined by a ‘let's just have fun’ attitude that makes you actually want to have folks over for dinner. So bring on the guests–you’ll not only be a success, you’ll enjoy yourself, too.”
--John Willoughby and Chris Schlesinger, coauthors of The Thrill of the Grill and License to Grill

Meet the Author

MARK BITTMAN is the creator and author of “The Minimalist,” the weekly New York Times column. His previous books include The Minimalist Cooks at Home, The Minimalist Cooks Dinner, and the new standard in basic cookbooks, How to Cook Everything (more than 500,000 copies in print). With Jean-Georges Vongerichten, he coauthored Jean-Georges (winner of a James Beard Award) and Simple to Spectacular.

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