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Mark Bittman's Kitchen Express: 404 Inspired Seasonal Dishes You Can Make in 20 Minutes or Less

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101 super-quick and ultra-easy recipes for each of the four seasons--totaling a whopping 404 recipes--from award-winning cookbook author and popular New York Times columnist Mark Bittman.

- A celebrated author with a huge following: The author of the perennial bestseller How to Cook Everything, mark Bittman is known across the country as "The minimalist." His more than two million readers eagerly follow his weekly recipes and accompanying instructional online videos from The New York Times. His popular thirteen-part PBS series was named the Best National Cooking Series of 2005 by the prestigious James Beard Foundation.

- An easy, breezy read for busy cooks: 404 Express gives readers 101 quick recipes for each season, all of which can be prepared in ten minutes or less. For people who like to eat well without the fuss, mark Bittman offers his trademark pared-down elegance and contemporary style. Like his New York Times column, each recipe is presented with just a sentence or two and requires but a few ingredients. From seafood to pasta dishes, vegetarian specialties and desserts, Bittman covers every flavor for every season.

- Capitalizes on the "seasonal" food craze: With concerns about the environment, today more than ever, Americans are keen on cooking and eating seasonally. Each of the 404 recipes in this book make it easy for readers to choose meals made from fresh foods produced on local farms.

240 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2009

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About the author

Mark Bittman

65 books873 followers
MARK BITTMAN is one of the country's best-known and most widely respected food writers. His How to Cook Everything books, with one million copies in print, are a mainstay of the modern kitchen. Bittman writes for the Opinion section of New York Times on food policy and cooking, and is a columnist for the New York Times Magazine. His "The Minimalist" cooking show, based on his popular NYT column, can be seen on the Cooking Channel. His most recent book, VB6, debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list in its first week on sale.

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5 stars
423 (37%)
4 stars
365 (32%)
3 stars
228 (20%)
2 stars
74 (6%)
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34 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 93 reviews
Profile Image for Judy.
916 reviews
October 6, 2009
I'm biased. I love Mark Bittman's recipes - they are simple, easy to understand, and delicious. Perhaps best of all, he provides plenty of room for improvisation. This book is the epitome of leaving room for the chef's tastes and flavors to emerge. He basically gives just the gist of the recipe. It's fine as is, but there's room for addition/subtraction. The recipes are very brief - there are 2 - 3 per page.

Here's one called Broccoli Rabe and Garlic Soup: In a 450 degree oven, roast a handful of smashed garlic cloves with a little olive oil for about 5 minutes (I roasted them for 8 minutes). Bring about 6 cups of stock to a boil; add the garlic, stir in about a half cup of orzo or other small pasta, and a bunch of chopped broccoli rabe; continue cooking until the pasta and rabe are tender. Add lemon juice to taste, along with some salt and pepper. Serve, garnished with freshly grated parmesan cheese if you like.
85 reviews8 followers
August 12, 2011
My husband brought home this book a few weeks ago, and we have been using it regularly since. It's basically my new favorite cookbook, and I cook from it almost every time it's my turn to make dinner.

1. The recipes are creative and sometimes surprising, and always good.
2. You really can make these recipes in about 20 minutes, if you have the right ingredients on hand.
3. Bittman begins this book by telling you how to stock your pantry so that you will have the right ingredients on hand.
4. The book is organized by season, so you can quickly figure out how to cook with foods that will be in season (and therefore, are more likely to have been produced locally or at least regionally) and can more easily find ingredients in the stores.

So those are my top reasons. And as for #1, I should say that my husband is intractably picky and something of a food snob. And yet without fail, he likes the the recipes, too. This has been the main problem for us with cookbooks that promise speedy prep: they almost always take shortcuts in ways that substantially reduce the quality of the final product. Bittman doesn't take shortcuts. He just strips down the recipes to their bare bones, reducing significantly the prepping and cooking times. And he only includes recipes that can handle this kind of stripping.

But I have one more reason -- and this will appeal to those who, like me, are kitchen-stupid.

5. The recipes will teach you about how food works. Because these are stripped-down recipes, you discover what, underneath all the other added flavors and components, are the most basic elements to making a dish work. If you can only use 5 ingredients, which are the required ones? These recipes get right to that core of flavor combinations and basic recipe structure. Bittman doesn't talk about his recipes in this way, as he does in his other books, but you'll see it really quickly when you begin cooking.

Some (potential) drawbacks:
-- Not many vegetarian main dishes. There are plenty of meat-free recipes here, but most aren't substantial enough to be a meal in themselves, and since we tend to cook one-dish meals, that means we are only using this cookbook on days when my vegetarian daughter isn't eating with us.

-- Recipes are laid out in short text paragraphs -- as oppposed to the normal cookbook technique of listing ingredients first, then explaining preparation steps in a sequence of numbered paragraphs. Instead, Bittman just writes about 4-5 sentences about how to whip up the recipe. You have to read the paragraph to figure out what ingredients you need to gather. But in reality, I haven't minded this so much. Reading through the whole paragraph at once helps you figure out what you're going to be doing, and enables you to plan your prep time more quickly.

As busy working parents, my partner and I are super grateful for a reliably delicious express cookbook. Thanks, Mark!
Profile Image for Experience Life.
46 reviews19 followers
January 8, 2010
The fabulous new book from the bestselling author of How to Cook Everything could just as easily be called “How to Cook Everything, Fast.” Bittman groups his 404 recipes by season and points out that he chops slower than anyone he knows, so when he says you can get these dishes on the table in 20 minutes, he’s not exaggerating.

His “kitchen express” style is about three things: speed, flexibility and relaxation, so there aren’t many ingredients and he doesn’t expect you to measure them precisely. Their flavor relies on quality: in-season fresh vegetables, well-chosen oils and condiments, and good proteins like beans, tofu and sustainably raised meats. Together, these dishes — ranging from crab cakes to spicy greens with croutons and eggs to pan-fried herb chicken — serve up a double helping of flavor and nutrition, and prove that these bases can be covered fast, without fuss. Bittman also provides some handy lists: quick-cooking standbys for the cupboard, fridge and freezer; several dishes that double as quick appetizers; and a collection of various seasonal sample menus so you’re ready for anything on the fly, from a weeknight dinner party to a holiday blowout. A great tool to help you cook smarter, not harder, and eat healthier as a result.
Profile Image for Black Heart Magazine.
77 reviews175 followers
December 29, 2009
Love the way these are broken down by season. This is a bit of a weird cookbook, though, as it's mostly about combining the same types of ingredients over and over in different ways. Bittman is a minimalist, so it's about having the kitchen stocked and ready to go, and then just mixing and matching flavors. So the "recipes" aren't very involved, and it takes a bit more work to get your kitchen set up to do these in 20 minutes or less, but it's an interesting way to do things. Plus it'll help you start trusting your instincts more, which is always a good way to be in the kitchen. Recommended for anyone looking for interesting new recipes that can be cooked in even the crummiest, tiniest of NYC apartment kitchens.
62 reviews3 followers
April 14, 2010
Mark Bittman is my hero! We only got this cookbook in February so we haven't tried a ton of recipes from it but we're about 5/5 or 6/6 already. I love the fact that it is separated out by season and you can find recipes that are specific to your season using only in-season ingredients. I was a little put out at first by the lack of an ingredient list for the recipes. I didn't know how much spice to add or how many chicken breasts to cook. But then I realised that this is the true beauty of this cookbook. I can adjust the recipes to serve 2 people or 20 people. And I am truly learning to use my palate to determine what tastes good and what doesn't. I'm not constantly wondering if this is how something is supposed to taste, I'm just noticing if I like the taste or not. Love this book!
Profile Image for Sarah.
399 reviews6 followers
January 14, 2012
I love this book because on my bookshelf of ridiculously intensive recipe books, this makes my life easy. This is all about buying fresh, in-season ingredients and cooking them simply. It is a great, weeknight meal planner. Because frankly, there are some nights that I don't want to spend an hour in the kitchen. I want to eat. Now. One caveat is that you really should know how to cook before you buy this. It is not going to teach you techniques or give you step-by-step advice. But if you are even moderately talented in the kitchen I would suggest this to add to your collection. Also great for someone (like me) who was looking to cut down on their meat intake, but not go full-on veggie.
Profile Image for Benjamin.
140 reviews19 followers
July 22, 2009
Recipes distilled to their essence: this is good to eat; here's how to make it. I am the biggest Mark Bittman fanboy, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.
Profile Image for Don Gillette.
Author 16 books34 followers
January 3, 2021
Surprisingly succinct, great directions, and some interesting recipes to throw together in no time if you've got the ingredients handy. Granted, some of them aren't something you'd find at the neighborhood grocery store unless you live in NYC, but for the most part they're accessible.
The breakdown by seasons was a little annoying since almost nothing is seasonal anymore, but other than that, well worth a look.
I read the Kindle version which makes for trouble in a cookbook, but this was good enough that I may invest in the paperback so I don't have to copy the good recipes down on a card.
792 reviews4 followers
December 20, 2022
I very much like the idea of adding anchovies to my tuna sandwiches. Genius.

The Candied Citrus Rinds would be very good.

Hangtown Fry, the breakfast of Gold Miners.

The Fast Fish Soup is not a true bouillabaisse, but is sure sounds good.

I was very happy to see that the Classic Caesar Salad did feature anchovies.

Mark's Famous Spicy Shrimp. "The best bring to the grill party dish ever." Reminds me of the old Shrimp Michael at the Stoneridge Inn in Hales Corners.
Profile Image for Amy Beth.
102 reviews39 followers
February 28, 2016
I enjoyed this cookbook and every recipe I tried turned out great. That said, it isn't a cookbook for just anybody. I don't think if you are looking for your first cookbook that you would want this one. It seems to assume that you at least know your way AROUND the kitchen, not just know your way TO the kitchen. Bittman even says in the opening bits that the book assumes you are an "enthusiastic cook." There are no pictures and the recipes aren't exactly recipes with exact measurements, etc. The instructions are in paragraph form. You'll need to read the opening to understand the instructions better. He explains how to stock a pantry, lists some handy substitutions (such as yogurt for sour cream), and has an explanation on how to use the book.

Also, a note about the recipes. I wouldn't call the recipes strange or even unfamiliar, but some might. I guess it might depend a lot on how and where you were raised or what sort of cook you are. Here are some of the recipes: Garlic-Ginger Shrimp, Cauliflower Soup, Jerk Chicken, Korean Barbecued Beef, Braised Fish with Zucchini, Panzanella, Chicken Curry in a Hurry, Crisp Fennel Gratin, Classic Caesar Salad, Migas, Almond Tart, etc. But fellow Southerners, if you're looking for things like mac and cheese, fried pork chops, chow chow, and Red Velvet Cake, look elsewhere. ;)

Edited to add: It took me longer than 20 minutes usually to make the dishes I tried. He explains why that is in the opening part too and it makes sense. It took me on average about 30 minutes. Still, not bad.
Profile Image for Jessica.
347 reviews
September 16, 2014
Definitely not one of my favorite cookbooks. I dislike Cook's Illustrated (I know...heresy!) because I think that the recipes are way over-engineered, and I don't need my cooking to be perfect. I just want my food to taste goooooood.

I dislike Kitchen Express because it is so unstructured. I need more direction from recipes. It doesn't need to be in the form of photos, but it should be less loosey goosey in terms of measurements and ingredients.

I made the Jerk Chicken, Beef and Corn Tacos and the Eggplant, Kalamata and Goat Cheese Sandwich. The sandwich had the most flavor but that came mostly from the olives. The chicken and tacos were not horrible but not great either. The recipes also took more than 20 minutes.

I think this cookbook is most useful for confident, experimental cooks who want more ideas for their everyday cooking.

This was my introduction to Mark Bittman. Others have raved about his recipes, so I think I'll try another of his cookbooks before I write him off as "Not My Cup of Tea."
7 reviews
June 4, 2012
This is one of those cookbooks I pulled off the library shelf randomly while my kids were being kids and putting us in danger of being asked to leave the library. When I started to flip through it in the waiting room of a doctor's office later in the day I knew I'd made a lucky grab, because in spite of my long, hot day of dragging unhappy kids on errands I really wanted to go home and cook some the food in this book. Now, several weeks, and several very successful meals later, I'm on my last possible renewal and have to buy my own copy. Everything is easy to prepare, without intimidating ingredient lists, and all of it has been delicious so far.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
120 reviews
September 16, 2009
What's not to love about Mark Bittman? This cookbook is formatted completely different from another one I have from him. I am a list girl and really like to see ingredients listed, which this book does not do. Mark has the ingredients only in the same paragraph he tells you how to make the recipe. It literally is a paragraph a recipe. I really like how he has sectioned recipes by season and of the recipes I've made so far they are all very quick and delicious. Another winner!
Profile Image for Laila.
1,268 reviews47 followers
August 28, 2017
This is my husband's favorite cookbook (I'm getting him this for Christmas, actually), and one of mine as well. The recipes are all made with fresh, easy-to-find ingredients. Anyone with just a little bit of kitchen know-how can cook them, and they're quick too! Nothing processed or out of a box - just good flavorful food. Lots of vegetarian options, all types of meat dishes, as well as desserts and drinks. I *highly* recommend this cookbook.
22 reviews6 followers
December 18, 2009
A cook book for people who cook. This is not a book of recipes, so much as a book of ideas. Most of the recipes are in the form of "Sauté some onions in butter, add some mushroom, and ham, when cooked season to taste." . Measurements are only given when something is to be baked.

This is the book to reach for when the question is "What do I should I make for dinner?", not "How do I make this?".
Profile Image for Laura.
305 reviews
November 8, 2009
I checked this out from the library to see if it is something to give my sister-in-law for Christmas. It's excellent! So much so, I'm ordering a copy for myself. The four to five sentence recipes are perfect for quick, throw-together meals. Mark Bittman's recipes have never steered me wrong, wether they come from his Minimalist pieces in NYT or "How To Cook Everything Vegetarian". He's excellent.
Profile Image for Jeesun Hunting.
20 reviews
May 10, 2012
I got this book because I love the Minimalist columns. It is written in the same way as the column (lots of room for improvising, simple ingredients, no-nonsense instructions) but I found it a little disappointing because most recipes are meat centered. I was hoping for a book that could provide quick weekday meals but it didn't really suit a flexitarian/on a budget diet. I was surprised because Bittman is a big proponent of "part-time vegetarianism".
Profile Image for Marian.
312 reviews10 followers
August 22, 2009
hard to rate this one. I think the recipes are excellent. However they are written in a very casual, one short paragraph style. Several recipe ideas on each page. I think there is a lot of assumed kitchen confidence and experience. No photos.
160 reviews
July 9, 2013
I think I 'm ready. This book is general directions, not specific recipes. Just mix the stuff together in the right order, cook as directed and voila, dinner. I wouldn't give this to my bachelor kids. Or my expert cook husband. Simple and delicious.
122 reviews1 follower
August 30, 2012
After re-reading, I better understand the inspiration in creativity and freedom.
March 9, 2014
first book i bought when i came to america.now i'm good at cooking simple american food.thanks to Mark!
Profile Image for Mary Kay.
111 reviews11 followers
September 8, 2019
This is not a useful cookbook. The recipes are written as paragraphs without ingredient lists, so you can’t just glance at the recipe to see what ingredients are needed. Many recipes do not have measurements (example: “Whisk together sherry or rice vinegar, Dijon mustard, olive oil, minced shallot and some salt and pepper” How much vinegar? How much mustard? How much oil? What’s the ratio of ingredients? The recipe doesn’t specify- even a range would be helpful). Cooking instructions are vague (“cook as you would a frittata”- what does that mean?) Many of the recipes are for parts of a meal and do not stand alone. So, while each individual recipe make take 20 minutes, getting a whole meal on the table with this cookbook would likely take longer. Also, the book is organized seasonally, without regard to meal or course (breakfast burritos right by clam chowder) which makes using the cookbook to actually plan meals more difficult. It also calls for expensive and/or unusual ingredients (personally, I never have squid just lying around in my fridge, for example). I understand that the book was written to be flexible and inspirational, but it is too unstructured to be helpful. I think that if you are a knowledgeable enough cook to use this book (given the vagueness of the recipes), you probably don’t need this book. For home cooks in a hurry, this is not a good choice.
Profile Image for Zoey.
125 reviews
February 18, 2020
“Read” is a category I can only loosely apply here, as I actually leafed through this book quickly before being forced to return it to the library. However, I can say that I found this cookbook accessible and inspiring, and quite the opposite of Bittman’s ambitious and authoritative, “How to Cook Everything.” Where that other title serves as an encyclopedia and instruction manual for the home cook, “Kitchen Express” is almost whimsical by comparison, both in its presentation and contents. Recipes are presented according to season. Each recipe consists of a short paragraph without illustration, and yet the majority of the dishes seem both extraordinarily delicious and also quite doable. To cook like this would be to elevate one’s daily intake. To master several of these recipes would be to grow in both skill and intuition. I do hope to try a few of these.
Profile Image for Sorento62.
362 reviews32 followers
December 31, 2018
I had been planning to go back to this cookbook another time, as I had to return it to the library previously -- but I think I've read enough to get the gist, so I'll say I'm finished with it.
The recipes in Kitchen Express are mostly of the type that give you ideas for how to throw together a quick dinner in a saute pan in half an hour when you get home from work. They don't have a lot of ingredients or fussy preparation techniques, and the directions are pretty loose. It's the type of cooking a lot of people do without a cookbook.
Good for easy and tasty ideas using fresh ingredients, nonetheless.
Profile Image for Janis.
401 reviews
August 27, 2018
Okay, so I actually read cookbooks. There’s really not much text to read in this one, but boy does it have some terrific recipes.
So many seasonal recipes that sound basic, easy, and delicious. Can’t wait to trythe Vietnamese rice noodle salad with crab and the mussels in white wine!
This is a cookbook I’d happily add to my collection.
Profile Image for Julie.
319 reviews10 followers
March 7, 2021
I bought from a online charity shop, so two stars because I only want to try 85 out of the 404 recipes. I may give it more stars as I start to use it, though, because I like cookbooks organized by seasons to take advantage of what’s fresh and delicious. The style doesn’t bother me as long as the recipes will be quick and tasty.
4 reviews
July 10, 2018
This is a little difficult to use. The recipes are not written in the usual format. They are written in paragraph form. After you get used to it, the recipes are good. I have made several things from the book and will make more. I love Mark Bittman's books--this is just not my favorite.
Profile Image for Joseph Raborg.
157 reviews7 followers
September 18, 2018
All of Mark Bittman’s books are great to read. The recipes here are very simple. Yet, there is a great variety of food which can be made simply. He also offers some great advice for what should be stocked in your pantry and refrigerator in order to cook most dishes.
Profile Image for Linda.
428 reviews14 followers
February 27, 2019
Fast, easy, delicious meals! What isn't to love about this book?
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