Saturday, June 16, 2012

Foodie Faves: How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman

Technologically speaking, I am not an early adapter. To this day, I don’t own an iPod, and I won’t even tell you how long I used a dial-up modem. But some technology speaks to me loud and clear. The first time I saw an ad for the iPad, I could picture it on my kitchen counter. I just knew it would eliminate those mad dashes upstairs to my desk to look up a recipe I can’t find, or to check out a cooking technique I haven’t yet mastered, or maybe just to see what sorts of substitutes might work for an ingredient I don’t have. And I was right. Moreover, it’s smaller than a PC, so it’s easier to move around; it didn’t cost as much as my laptop; and that smooth glass cover is relatively impervious to the occasional splash of tomato sauce or salad dressing.

But I never could have imagined how much fun I could have with a cooking-specific app until I found the one based on Mark Bittman’s book, How to Cook Everything. I’ve been reading Bittman in The New York Times for years, and I always appreciated the simplicity and flexibility of his recipes. But much of the charm of this app is in the technology.

Here are some of my favorite features:

1. The “Constant-On” button in the bottom right corner of the screen. The one flaw I find with the iPad is that annoying habit it has of fading out just as I’m ready for the next step in a recipe. Bittman’s app lets you keep the display running for as long as you need.

2. Touch the circled number of whatever step you’re on, and the text for that step is highlighted in blue, so it’s easy to find your place when you come back from sautéing the onions.

3. Say you’re using the app to make Caesar salad, pasta with Bolognese sauce, and lemon mousse for dessert. (Yum!) A tab  for “Bookmarks and Timers” at the bottom of the page lets you jump back and forth from one recipe to another, and with that blue highlighting on each recipe, you can multitask with the best of them, and avoid stirring the onions into the dessert.

4. Notice I said the tab was for Bookmarks and Timers. If the lemon mousse recipe calls for you to cool the gelatin for a minute, you touch the little timer icon at that point in the recipe, and a timer will pop-up that will keep track of your gelatin. You can even have several timers going on at once.

5. Variations are a hallmark of Bittman’s recipes. For the lemon mousse, he offers the tweaks to make it pomegranate mousse or lemon yogurt mousse. For the Bolognese, which normally takes 3 hours, he tells you what to do to make a 30-minute version.

6. Any special techniques you may need for a recipe are illustrated in easy-to-follow pop-up displays.

 Bon appétit!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you thank you thank you! I needed a useful cooking app and I think this will be it!