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Mark Bittman's Buttery Shortbread and More Recipes

Mark Bittman's Buttery Shortbread and More Recipes

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Check out our editors' picks for the best recipes from food sections across the country.

NY Mag
Missy Robbins shares a fresh grilled plum salad that has us pining for picnic weather.

NY Times
Mark Bittman gives his take on classic shortbread, plus some excellent variations.

LA Times
Frittata gets spiced up with some green chile and corn.

SF Chronicle
Squash blossom season is short, so grab them while you can and whip up a perfect pizza with tomatoes and squash blossoms.

Chocolate velvet cream pie sans baking? Yes, please.

Chicago Tribune
Try a new mustard with this leeks and Düsseldorf dish.

Seattle Times
Roasting heirloom tomatoes bring out their natural sugars and tiny tomatoes even more so. This heirloom cherry tomato soup sounds perfect.

Kitchen Daily
Malt, chocolate, and cake all combine in this malted buttercream and dark chocolate buttercream recipe. Just stop it and put it on a cake already.

Washington Post
Quick schoolnight dinner alert: sweet sausage spaghetti sauce on pasta. Make it ahead and freeze it.

Wall Street Journal
Can't get enough of plums after MIssy Robbins' recipe? Caramelize plums and serve them with a polenta cake. (Subscribers only)

Mark Bittman's Buttery Shortbread and More Recipes - Recipes

Crackers are ridiculously easy to make, and once you produce your first batch you'll have little trouble figuring out how to create your favorites. Sprinkle them with salt, sesame seeds, or poppy seeds work a tiny bitof garlic or herbs into the dough or substitute whole wheat or rye flour for some or all of the white flour.

Yield: about 4 servings

  • 1 cup (about 4 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • About 1/4 cup water, plus more as need

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Place the flour, salt, and butter together in a large bowl or in the container of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Blend with a fork or pulse, until the flour and butter are combined. Add about 1/4 cup of water and blend, then continue to add water until the mixture holds together but is not sticky.

3. Roll out on a lightly floured surface until 1/4 inch thick, or even less. Don't worry about overhandling-add flour as needed, and keep rolling. Score lightly with a sharp knife or razor if you want to break these into nice squares or rectangles later on. Bake on a lightly floured baking sheet, or directly on baking stones, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Cool on a rack serve warm or at room temperature , or store in a tin.

Twice-baked shortbread

I spend much too much time trying to figure out why some recipes we try out burn a hole in my laptop until I can get them up on the site–sometimes, even a day seems too long to keep something from you, like last week’s soup–and why others can linger for months. Sometimes, I’m just not that into them, but don’t want to admit it publicly and perhaps hurt their feelings, or even yours, if you happen to fall for them. Other times, the pictures just came out horrendously, and oh, we all know an ugly-looking recipe is a hard sell (sorry, big-name food magazine whose October cover picture actually convinced me to not buy it).

But then there are times that it is none of the above–the recipe was good, the photos were acceptable and there’s not a single good reason for me not to pass the word on, and yet, three months later, here is this Zucchini Rice Gratin. So, without further ado, bear with me as I clean some stuff off my hard drive today I might want to try these again before I insist that you laminate and frame these recipes, but it doesn’t mean that they were any less worth sharing.

Zucchini Rice Gratin: Caramelized onions, rice, lightly roasted tomatoes and zucchini layered in a baking dish with grated parmesan and oh my gosh, this was really delicious. Small problem, though, I was rushing when I cooked it rushing like crazy. We were going out of town the next day and I had bought the ingredients many days before and I was physically unable to let them go to waste. So, I rushed. And well, I forgot to add the egg, I mean eggs. The result? Tasted good to me, but I can’t help but wonder how much better it would have been with some more cohesiveness. Tomatoes aren’t looking that great these days, so I suspect it will be a while before I find out. [Update: In fact, I wrote about this recipe again in 2012]

Tomato and Onion Salad with Tahini Dressing: Just days after I lightly chided New York Times food writer Mark Bittman for having recipes that could befuddle the home cook, he put a clear as day combination on his Bitten blog that I quite liked. We were past the midway point in tomato season by then I was still a-smitten with this summer’s batch as I had been in any other year past, but I was getting bored of my go-to tomato salad (any vinegar, olive oil and some flaky salt). Tahini dressing seemed like a great way to bridge tomatoes into fall, and it was even better on the most amazing tomatoes I have ever bought from an organic farm on the North Fork the weekend before. Seriously, these tomatoes were so good that my tomato season ended the day I ate this salad. It wasn’t going to get any better than this, so I thought I should quit while I was ahead. Consider yourself warned on that one. [Recipe]

Sweet Potato Salad: Well, here’s a lesson for you: Don’t buy sweet potatoes in August. They won’t be very good. Still, I already had fall on the brain when I wanted to make one last potato salad this summer and the notion of a sweet potato one seemed like a great way to bridge the seasons. That it had a spicy peanut dressing didn’t hurt either, because my favorite things to do with squash or sweet potatoes is to pair them with something with a kick. The end result, however, was as could be expected from sweet potatoes bought months before they were in season–bland. Yet, since everything else about it was tasty, it leads me to believe that if I had cooled my heels another couple months, this could have been a great one. Of course, then might wonder how they can find sugar snap peas worth eating three months out of season, and well, I suppose that leaves us at something of an impasse. [Recipe]

Twice Baked Shortbread: Oh, this one is crazy delicious too. It is from a fantastic cookbook I bought months and months and months ago–Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich–that I have made only this single recipe from — so far!

[Update!] I revisited this recipe in 2019 and was consumed with regret for waiting so long — these are best-in-category material. The two untraditional processes (a rest time before baking, and a second bake after slicing) pay off. The rest time lets the flour hydrate and the sugar dissolve, for a better final texture, no powdered sugar (and its slight chalkiness) required. The second baking ensures that the butter tastes absolutely toasty, with a faint suggestion of brown butter. And here’s the best part: I’m not even using fancy butter here, just regular old non-European store brand and with the depth of buttery flavor, you’d never know. Imagine how good they’d be with fancier stuff. [Recipe below]

Twice-Baked Shortbread

  • Servings: 12 to 24 cookies, depending on how you cut them
  • Time: 3 1/2 hours, mostly resting time
  • Source:Alice Medrich's Pure Dessert
  • 12 tablespoons (6 ounces or 170 grams) unsalted butter, melted and still warm
  • 5 tablespoons (60 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or the seeds from half a vanilla bean
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt or a two solid pinches of flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)
  • 1 1/2 cups (190 grams or 6.75 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • Turbinado, Demerara or another coarse sugar for sprinkling

If using a pan with a removable bottom, grease the pan if using the one-piece 8-inch pan, line it with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

In a medium bowl, combine the melted butter with the sugar, vanilla of your choice, and salt. Add the flour and mix just until incorporated. Pat and spread the dough evenly in the pan. Let rest for at least 2 hours, or overnight (no need to refrigerate).

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Bake the shortbread for 40 to 45 minutes, until barely golden at the edges.

Remove the pan from the oven, leaving the oven on. Lightly sprinkle the surface of the shortbread with sugar. Let the shortbread cool for 10 minutes.

Remove the shortbread from the pan, being careful to avoid breaking it. Use a thin sharp knife, or a sharp serrated knife, to cut it into oblong “fingers”, wedges, or squares. [I cut mine into 14 fairly large shortbread fingers, shown here, but might halve them next time for sharing.] Place the pieces slightly apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake in the oven for another 15 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Mark Bittman’s 101 fast recipes for grilling

There, in all of their Fourth of July glory, are 101 grilling ideas begging to be tried. A vast majority take less time to prepare and grill than it takes to watch your coals turn white. (If you use gas, they’re still almost as fast as heating up the grill.) Some of them feature ingredients like corn, eggplant and tomatoes, which will be better a month from now, at least in the Northeast. But there are also suggestions for foods in season right now that not everybody thinks of putting on the grill. Please note that salt and pepper are (usually) understood.

Vegetables and fruits
1. A winter dish, summer style: Brush thick slices of fennel bulbs with olive oil and grill over not-too-high heat. Cut oranges in half and grill, cut-side down. Put fennel on a bed of arugula or watercress, squeeze grilled oranges over top. Garnish with fennel fronds.

2. Best grilled artichokes: Cut artichokes in half, scoop out the choke, parboil until tender. Grill, cut-side down, until lightly browned grill a couple of halved lemons, too. Combine the juice from the grilled lemons with melted butter and spoon over the artichokes. Finish with parsley.

3. Tahini tofu steaks. Thin tahini with lots of lemon juice and some minced garlic. Cut a brick of firm tofu into four slabs and brush with sesame oil. Grill over a moderate fire, turning a few times, until marked and crisp outside and custardy inside. On the last turn, baste with the tahini sauce. Serve on thick tomato slices with a drizzle of soy sauce and chopped basil, Thai if possible.

4. Spice-rubbed carrots: Roll peeled carrots in cumin, salt, pepper and brown sugar. Char, then move them away from direct heat and cover the grill until carrots are tender.

5. Grill bread grind in a food processor to make coarse bread crumbs. (You can add garlic and/or parsley and/or Parmesan, or not.) Grill asparagus until tender. Top with bread crumbs and olive oil.

6. Brush slices of beet with olive oil and grill slowly until tender and lightly browned. Top each slice with a little goat cheese and some salad greens.

7. For perfectly ripe tomatoes only: Grill tomatoes, any size, until hot and lightly charred but not bursting. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve with fresh mozzarella (or, even better, burrata) and grilled bread.

8. Halve and grill radicchio (or Belgian endives) drizzle cut sides with honey or plain vinaigrette, pesto or parsley pesto. Or just brush with oil and finish with a little grilled prosciutto.

9. Grilled guacamole: Halve and pit avocados lightly char them, then scoop out the flesh. Grill halved red onion, too. Chop, combine, add tomatoes, lime, garlic and spices if you like.

10. Grill corn. Serve with mayo with minced garlic, pimentón and parsley.

11. Grill more corn. Serve with curry-powder-laced yogurt and minced onion.

12. Grill corn again. Serve with coconut milk, cilantro and mint.

13. Root vegetable of your choice: Slice celeriac — or jicama, big potatoes, daikon or yams — and grill slowly, until very tender and browned. Drizzle with olive oil or melted butter and sprinkle with chopped rosemary or sage and olive oil.

14. Choose another root. Slice it, but this time char lightly and leave it crunchy. Chop and toss with chopped cilantro, a pinch of cayenne and juice of grilled lime.

15. Rub thick zucchini slices with a mixture of fresh or dried dill, yogurt, olive oil and lemon. (Or use pesto or parsley pesto.) Grill slowly.

16. More shopping than cooking: Grill an array of radishes on little skewers, four to six each. Serve with butter, salt and bread.

17. Halve Belgian endives. Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and grill over moderate-to-low heat, turning once or twice, until soft and browned. Finish cut-side up and sprinkle with grated Parmesan close the grill to melt cheese.

18. Lightly char whole or halved heads of baby bok choy drizzle with soy sauce and top with chopped scallions.

19. Peel and thickly slice a not overly ripe mango. Brush very lightly with neutral oil and grill just until softened sprinkle with cilantro and/or mint and lime juice (you might as well grill the lime first, too).

20. Grill pineapple (or anything, really, from pork to tofu to eggplant). Make a sauce of half-cup peanut butter, a tablespoon (or more) soy sauce, a dash (or more) sriracha chili sauce, a handful of basil or mint and enough warm water to thin. (I’m tempted to say, “Throw away the pineapple and eat the sauce,” but the combination is sensational.)

21. Waldorf salad revisited, sort of: Grill cut apples until browned but not mushy grill chunks of Napa or savoy cabbage, also left crisp grill halved red onion. Chop or shred all together with blue cheese, walnuts and a little yogurt.

22. Cut a slit in as many ripe figs as you like stuff with herbed goat cheese (or cream cheese mixed with chopped nuts) and grill slowly. Appetizer or dessert? Your call.

23. Grill red, orange and/or yellow peppers toss with olives, capers, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

24. Quick grilled pickle: Rapidly char thick slices of cucumber toss with salt, vinegar and sugar let sit for 15 minutes, then drain.

25. Charred salsa verde. Toss whole husked tomatillos, scallions and jalapeños in olive oil and grill until charred. Remove the blackened skin from the chilies and chop or blend everything with diced avocado, lime juice and cilantro. Eat with chips or top grilled chicken with it.

Meat 26. Mideast lamb chops: Shoulder cuts are the best and the cheapest just don’t burn them. Marinate them briefly in yogurt, lemon, cardamom and mint. Serve with lemon and parsley.

27. Midwest pork chops: Again, shoulder again, don’t burn. Marinate briefly in spicy mustard, chopped garlic and apple cider.

28. Six-minute steak (or maybe four): Salt skirt steak and grill it, quickly. Top with queso fresco, thinly sliced red onion (you could grill it first, if you like) and the juice of grilled lime.

29. Six-minute steak, plus a little marinating time: Soak skirt steak in a mixture of soy, lime juice, garlic, ginger and sugar (or mirin) before grilling. (The time it takes to heat the grill is long enough.)

30. Smear chicken leg quarters (or thighs) with a paste of garlic, chopped rosemary (thyme, too, if you like), olive oil and the juice of grilled lemon. Grill away from heat, covered crisp briefly over high heat.

31. Steak au poivre: Sirloin strip is ideal. Press lots of cracked black pepper into both sides, sprinkle with salt and grill over fairly high heat, about three to four minutes on each side. Slice quarter-inch thick before serving.

32. Crisp (and better) duck à l’orange: Score the skin of duck breasts and press rosemary leaves, salt and pepper into both sides. Grill skin-side down over low-ish heat until crackly, then turn and grill briefly. Serve with grilled orange halves.

33. Smear hanger, skirt, flatiron or other steak with mustard. Grill and serve with grilled shallots.

34. Brush chicken thighs — boned or not — with basil, parsley or cilantro pesto. Boneless and skinless thighs can be grilled over direct heat thighs with skin should be started away from heat.

35. Fast lamb leg: Use steaks cut from the leg, and rub them with a mix of warm spices: cumin, coriander, cinnamon and turmeric. Grill quickly, serve hot.

36. Spread flank steak or butterflied lamb leg with garlic, parsley and lemon zest. Roll and tie, or fold. (Or grill without further fuss, adding more paste occasionally.)

37. Moist grilled chicken breast? Yes: Pound chicken breast thin, top with chopped tomato, basil and Parmesan roll and skewer and grill over not-high heat until just done.

38. Call it grilled chicken Parm: Pound breast thin, top one side with sliced tomato, mozzarella and Parmesan fold in half, seal with a toothpick or skewer and grill for a few minutes on each side.

39. Pork (or veal) saltimbocca: Pound pork or veal cutlets thin top with ham (prosciutto preferably) and cheese (maybe Gruyère). Roll, cook on skewers and serve with pickles.

40. Slice pork shoulder thin. Fry lots of sesame seeds, minced garlic, fresh minced chili in sesame oil off heat, stir in some soy sauce. Grill the pork fast over high heat, smearing with the sesame paste right after flipping. Serve with lettuce leaves and cilantro, basil and/or mint for wrapping.

41. Bacon-wrapped hot dog. You know you want one.

Fish and shellfish42. Grill thick onion slices purée in a blender with olive oil and lemon juice. Grill scallops for about four minutes serve with the vinaigrette.

43. Salmon tartare with grilled stuff: Lightly grill radishes, scallions, lime halves and, if you like, plantain disks. Serve the plantains under, and the other things next to, chopped raw salmon (preferably wild) seasoned with salt and pepper.

44. Grill sardines or mackerel serve with a squeeze of grilled lemon, grapefruit or both.

45. Stuff whole gutted trout with slices of lemon and chopped marjoram or oregano. Wrapping in bacon is optional. One per person is best.

46. Not so easy, but so impressive: Stuff squid bodies with chopped chorizo (optional), garlic-toasted bread crumbs, lemon zest and parsley. Close with toothpicks. Char quickly over a very hot fire.

47. Shrimp, Part 1: Rub with chili powder and salt, and grill quickly. Finish with cilantro and the juice of grilled lime halves.

48. Shrimp, Part 2: Rub with olive oil, salt and cumin. Finish with the juice of grilled lemon halves garnish with chopped marjoram, if you have it, parsley if you don’t.

49. Shrimp, Part 3: Rub with curry powder. Drizzle with warm coconut milk and chopped mint, basil and/or cilantro.

50. Grilled tuna niçoise: Brush tuna with olive oil and grill keep it rare. (You might grill some new potatoes while you’re at it.) Serve with more olive oil, lemon juice, cherry tomatoes, olives, grilled red onion and parsley. Green beans and hard-cooked eggs are optional.

51. Grilled clams on the half shell: Get them shucked (or cook in the microwave or on the grill until opened) top with bread crumbs, parsley, lemon, minced cooked bacon (optional). Grill until topping is hot.

52. You think you don’t like bluefish? Grill it, then drizzle with a mixture of chopped fennel fronds (or crushed fennel seeds), melted butter and the juice of grilled grapefruit or orange.

53. White fillets with spice: Mix salt, sugar, chili powder and paprika. Rub on sturdy white fish fillets (make sure the grill grates are clean and well oiled).

54. Buy shucked oysters. Top with juice of grilled lemon. Period. (You could grill shallots, mince and make a grilled mignonette, but this is better.)

55. Grill soft-shell crabs, brushing with melted butter and Tabasco. A little charring of the claw tips isn’t a bad thing.

56. Simmer octopus tentacles until tender (this may take a couple of hours) cool. Grill cut into attractive little rounds and drizzle with lemon and olive oil.

57. Grill wild salmon (preferably king or sockeye) until not-well-done. Toss diced cucumbers with fresh dill, olive oil and lemon juice. Serve salmon hot, slaw cold.

Kebabs 58. Shrimp and chorizo. Serve with lemon or a little vinaigrette.

59. Lamb and carrots. In last few minutes, brush with miso thinned with a tiny bit of mirin (or sherry, wine or water).

60. Lamb and onions. Brush with a mixture of cumin and olive oil as they sizzle. You can add bell peppers, too, but somehow the stark minimalism of this is pleasing.

61. Odd, but good: Strawberries and cherry tomatoes, finished with basil-laced balsamic vinegar.

62. The New Yawk special: Italian sausage, peppers and onions.

63. The California special: Figs, with chunks of good bacon.

64. Kebab or hero? Your choice: Cut brussels sprouts in half grill slowly on skewers, with chunks of sausage. Both slowly crisp as they cook.

65. Bread salad on a stick: Cubes of bread, black olives and cherry tomatoes. Don’t grill too long, and drizzle with basil or thyme or parsley vinaigrette.

66. Peaches, plums, strawberries and watermelon. Finish with a sprinkle of salt and perhaps a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

67. Cubes of mango and chunks of white fish brush with a mixture of soy, fish sauce, sriracha chili sauce and chopped mint or cilantro. Serve with a mai tai.

68. Go Hawaiian or Italian: Wrap pineapple or melon in prosciutto. Grill briefly.

Salads 69. Grilled coleslaw: Lightly char wedges of green and red cabbage and carrots. Let cool, then shred and toss with a little mayo, vinegar, salt and sugar.

70. Grill halved new potatoes or fingerlings (microwave or parboil first for a few minutes to get a head start), red onions and scallions. Chop as necessary and toss with chopped celery, parsley, mustard and cider (or other) vinegar. I make this annually.

71. Toss grilled Lacinato kale leaves with a little Caesar salad dressing (or olive oil, lemon and Parmesan) and grilled croutons.

72. Char iceberg wedges and cherry tomatoes (skewer these first). Top with blue cheese dressing.

73. Lightly grill ripe figs brush with balsamic. Chop and toss with arugula and blue cheese. Sprinkle with olive oil.

74. Steak salad with almost no steak: Halve endives or radicchio brush with oil and grill. Sprinkle with bits of blue cheese and bits of charred steak.

75. Ratatouille: Grill chunks of zucchini, yellow squash, mushrooms, eggplant, onion and tomatoes (or use cherry tomatoes), all until lightly browned and perfectly tender. Toss with fresh marjoram or oregano, thyme, basil and olive oil.

Burgers 76. Greek salad burger: Ground lamb with grated feta, chopped calamatas and a little oregano. Top with tomato, red onion and cucumber.

77. The pickled onions make it: Soak sliced red onions in diluted vinegar and salt while you prepare everything else. Combine ground lamb with grated carrots and cumin grill, then top with onions.

78. Asian burger: Grind pork, combine with grated daikon and a little soy sauce. Brush with hoisin or miso and top with sliced-and-salted cucumbers.

79. Grind beef, combine with crumbled blue cheese and chopped toasted walnuts. Top, if it doesn’t sound too effete, with sliced grilled pear.

80. A chicken or turkey burger worth eating: Cook and chop bacon mix with ground chicken (or turkey) and grill.

81. Another: Grind turkey, combine with chopped basil, shove a cube of mozzarella into the center, grill until well done (the cheese will melt). Top with tomato and more basil.

82. Grind salmon (actually, it’s better if you grind half and chop half) and combine with chopped scallions and soy sauce. Grill medium-rare, top with mayo spiked with ginger, soy and/or lime.

83. Philly cheesesteak burger: Grind beef and grill with mushrooms and onions top with aged provolone.

Sandwiches and breads
84. Actual grilled cheese: Use good bread, good cheese, tomato slices and maybe a little mustard brush with melted butter or olive oil and grill with a weight on top.

85. Glorified grilled cheese: Use grilled pineapple, grilled ham, cheese, pickles and mayo grill with a weight on top.

86. Grill bell peppers until blackened and collapsed cover, cool and peel. Grill eggplant planks, brushed with olive oil (or pesto if you have it), until very tender. Make a sandwich with balsamic vinegar, mozzarella and basil. This is also good with strip or skirt steak: grill meat until medium-rare, then slice and salt.

87. Grilled quesadilla (simple): Fill a flour tortilla with queso fresco, Monterey Jack or Cheddar add chicken, shrimp and/or tomato. Fold and grill until cheese melts.

88. Grilled quesadilla (not as simple): Grill and strip corn from the cob grill red-onion slices and chop them. Combine both with chili powder and bind with a tiny bit of mayo or yogurt. Put between two flour tortillas with cheese and grill. Serve with grilled lime wedges.

89. A different kind of Cuban sandwich: Grill pork steaks (best from the shoulder, about half-inch thick). Put on baguette spread with well-seasoned mashed black beans, queso fresco, chopped red onion (grilled or not), cilantro and lime juice.

90. Grill pork steaks as above grill red onions. Slice the meat, chop the onions, toss with thinly sliced apples and roll in lavash bread or stuff in pita with yogurt-dill dressing. You can use the meat as an accent, or as the dominant ingredient.

91. Grill sweet Italian sausage and some figs. Combine on a toasted hot dog bun mustard is optional.

92. Grill split kielbasa or chorizo (the Spanish type). Serve in buns, filled with chopped Manchego and mayo spiked with pimentón. Some chopped dried apricots would be good, too.

Desserts 93. An idea whose time has come: Halve and grill peaches, nectarines or apricots. Brush with barbecue sauce or, if you want to be sophisticated, a mixture of bourbon, sugar and mint, or simple syrup laced with basil.

94. An idea whose time will come in September: Halve and grill pears or apples. When they’re done, drizzle with yogurt, honey and a pinch of cardamom.

95. Grilled fruit salad, and why not? Toss grilled watermelon (really good), peaches, plums, pineapple and kiwi with honey, a little salt, lemon juice and tarragon (not much), chervil, basil or mint (or a combo).

96. Cut grapefruit in half. Sprinkle with brown sugar grill, cut-side down. You might top this with chopped pistachios or a little honey.

97. Grilled shortbread or poundcake (store-bought is totally fine) topped with grilled fruit sauce, strawberries in sugar, yogurt, ice cream, whatever.

98. Grilled angel food cake or poundcake (again, store-bought is fine) topped with Nutella, chocolate sauce, sorbet, etc.

99. Grilled s’mores: Put graham crackers (or other good quality flat cookie) on foil, top with marshmallows and chocolate and another cracker. Grill until the chocolate and marshmallow begin to melt.

100. Cut bananas into thick rounds (like scallops almost), char quickly and serve with caramel sauce, brown sugar, vanilla ice cream, Nutella . whatever.

101. Actually, this is a drink: Skewer green olives, then char them a bit. These would be a good garnish for shrimp, chorizo or anything else. But instead, make yourself a fantastic dirty martini.

This story, "101 fast recipes for grilling," originally appeared in The New York Times.

Deconstructed with fresh tomatoes and by quickly hand-pounding chicken into cutlets then broiling, this becomes a fresh, modern alternative to a time-consuming classic.

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Author Mark Bittman gives his cookbooks bold titles, such as "How to Cook Everything" and "The Best Recipes in the World," his latest. It seems Bittman is almost daring reviewers and cooking aficionados to challenge him recipe by recipe. And some have.

"At book signings, I wait for the ethnic cooks to say my recipe, for whatever reason, is not authentic," he says. "Everyone thinks that their grandmother's recipe is the be-all, end-all. But there are lots of grandmothers."

When it comes to food, Bittman thinks there is not just one way of doing things.

Before I met Bittman for our dinner at Canteen, I surfed the Web -- reading picks and pans on his newest "Best" book. One cook's blog, "Pinoy Cook," rails about Bittman's Filipino adobo dish not being totally authentic, but the blogger concludes that she tried his recipe and her whole family thought it was fantastic.

Bittman, who also writes the Minimalist column for the New York Times food section, and I squeeze into a booth at Canteen, chef-owner Dennis Leary's tiny 20-seat restaurant, the former coffee shop in the Commodore Hotel. Leary, the former chef at Rubicon, does all the cooking himself at Canteen and operates with a skeleton staff. I thought Bittman might dig the minimalism of Canteen.

"This is a great menu -- if the food is good, this is going to be fun," he says enthusiastically. Because he's hungry, we waste no time and order the shaved raw artichoke and escarole appetizer, the crispy pork belly, the halibut ceviche and the wild mushroom tart, all to share. From Leary's wine list, we order a couple of glasses -- Bittman points out that there are only three California wines on the short list.

Bittman's first book, "How to Cook Everything," sold an amazing 1.7 million copies. His new book has 1,000 recipes, weighs almost six pounds and took six years to write. Bittman is on a promotional tour for "The Best Recipes in the World" that has included book signings in Santa Cruz, Danville and San Francisco. Before he leaves, he will stop by Gene Burns' "Dining Around" show on KGO- AM.

Bittman may be travel weary, but he's warming to Leary's food. He remarks on the house brioche, saying that no one makes brioche like this. We dig in to the ceviche, and I am amazed at the raw artichoke salad. On the top of the salad is a bullet-shaped breaded object, which breaks open and oozes anchovy butter over the top of the crisp artichoke shards. The mushroom tart has a farmers' market's worth of mushrooms, and the crust is buttery and delicate.

We laugh about the foibles of book tours. Bittman is tres jet-lagged and remarks that he has forgotten the exact words for things, but hopes it is only a temporary state of being. I ask him how he deals with criticism of his book.

"No one could be harder on me than myself, and no one knows the failing of any book more than the author," he says.

I ask him to tell me one of its failings. He laughs heartily.

"You're never done as an author," he says. "There's always something you'd do over, and that's why God created deadlines. Otherwise you'd never finish."

Our entrees arrive, and the roasted pork belly is lusciously decadent. The lamb is very good, although the garlic in the stuffing is a bit raw. We finish with a velvety chocolate pot du creme and the lemon souffle.

Then Bittman is off to his hotel, the radio show and a quick trip to Los Angeles. I drive home wondering how long it would take me to cook all 1,000 recipes in his book, thankful that at least I don't have to write 1,000 recipes.

We don’t eat a lot of beef in our house, but Melissa Clark’s garlicky beef tenderloin with orange horseradish sauce is a Christmas tradition. The rich beef paired with the sharp, citrusy sauce is perfection. I buy a 4- to 5-pound tenderloin — half the recipe for our family of four — then freeze the other tenderloin half to slice into fillets for a no-kids New Year’s Eve dinner of steak Diane. MARGAUX LASKEY

One of my favorite holiday traditions is hand-delivering cookies and thank you notes to people around the neighborhood I interact with a lot throughout the year, like the pharmacist, the butcher, the ladies of the laundromat, the dog’s vet, the guys at the bodega … the list is long. These Italian ricotta cookies are so easy to make in big batches, but they are still festive looking and very delicious. I change up the sprinkles and colors year to year. EMILY FLEISCHAKER

2. The Most Underwhelming: Smitten Kitchen’s Blondies, Infinitely Adaptable

  • Overall rating: 6/10
  • Get the recipe:Smitten Kitchen’s Blondies, Infinitely Adaptable
  • Read more:I Tried Smitten Kitchen’s Customizable Blondie Recipe and Did Not Expect These Results

These blondies are basic at best. They don’t contain any leaveners (Deb believes there’s “no place for baking powder or baking soda” in brownies or blondies), but a small amount of leavening would have improved the slightly brittle texture and flat appearance of these blondies. I heeded Deb’s advice and was careful not to overbake them, but as a result they were the palest of the bunch, lacking the caramel flavor so essential to blondies. Ultimately, I decided that if infinite adaptations are necessary, maybe the base recipe just isn’t that great.

All-Butter Scottish Shortbread

Shortbread is one of the most famous Scottish cookies. It's eaten around Christmas and is also an essential part of Hogmanay, the traditional Scottish New Year. Made with a lot of butter, this was considered a special treat when butter was a luxury item. Thankfully, we can make and eat shortbreads more often, and enjoy their crumbly and buttery texture all year round.

The success of what's known in Scotland as a "shortie" depends on handling the dough with care and working it as little as possible—cold butter, cold work surface, cold hands, and no pounding or heavy kneading help achieve the perfect texture for the dough. When overworked, the dough becomes a greasy mess, the gluten in the flour will develop, the butter will melt, and the crumb will be either too chewy or too tough. A successful shortbread should be light and crumbly, with a dense, buttery taste.

The term "short" refers to the crumbly texture of the cookies afforded by the high fat content. Standard recipes have few ingredients, and the addition of cornstarch depends on the tradition each home cook follows. Some swear by the use of it, like us, but some prefer to leave it out. Adding it has been done for decades and helps to make the shortbread crisper on the edges and softer in the center. Because there are just five ingredients, the quality of each one is vital for a successful cookie, and using the best butter you can find is very important.

Our main recipe shows you how to shape these delicious treats before baking, but you can learn how to do it once the shortbread is cooked in the recipe variations. For storing either version of the shortbread, chose an airtight container and keep it in a cold place for a week, or 10 days in the fridge.

Shortbread cookies

Use an electric mixer on low speed to combine the butter and sugar, about 30 seconds.

Keeping the speed on low, beat in the egg yolk, flour, cornstarch and salt, until the mixture barely holds together don't overbeat.

2. If you want to make shapes, form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic and freeze or refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, until firm.

Roll it out on a lightly floured surface until ¼ inch thick.

Cut into any shapes you like, then put the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet.

Chill for at least 1 hour.

Alternatively, shape the dough into a round, triangular or rectangular log and refrigerate or freeze until firm, at least 30 minutes.

Slice ¼ inch thick and put on the baking sheet.

Heat the oven to 275. Bake the cookies until just firm but still quite tender and not at all brown, about 30 minutes.

Cool for a minute on the sheets before using a spatula to transfer the cookies to a rack to finish cooling.

Shortbread variations:ChocolateyExpresso-chocolate:Melt 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate in a double boiler or microwave and cool to room temperature.

Beat into the butter and sugar before adding the egg yolk.

Add 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder with the dry ingredients.

Chocolate-dipped:Melt about 1 cup semisweet chocolate in a double broiler or microwave stir until smooth.

Dip the shortbread into the chocolate and put on waxed paper to dry and harden.

Additional options:Omit espresso or chocolate and/or skip the chocolate dip.

CitrusyLemon poppy seed:Reduce the butter to 14 tablespoons.

Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 tablespoon lemon zest with the egg yolk.

Add 1 tablespoon poppy seeds with the dry ingredients.

Orange:Add 2 tablespoons grated orange rind with the egg yolk.

Coconut-lime:Heat the oven to 325. Spread ½ shredded unsweetened cup coconut on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until toasted, about 3 minutes cool slightly.

Add 2 tablespoons lime zest with the egg yolk add the toasted coconut with the dry ingredients.

SugaryCinnamon sugar:Reduce the sugar to ½ cup and add 1/4 cup brown sugar.

Add 1 teaspoon cinnamon with the dry ingredients.

Variations: Add ½ cup chopped pecans, pistachios or almonds (with or without the cinnamon).

Or, skip the cinnamon and add 1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract with the nuts.

Crystalized ginger:Reduce the sugar to ½ cup and add ½ cup finely chopped crystallized ginger.

SavoryRosemary and olive oil:Reduce the butter to 12 tablespoons and add 1/4 cup olive oil.

Add 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary with the dry ingredients.

Variations:Keep the butter and skip the olive oil add ½ cup grated Parmesan.

And/or, add ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper with the dry ingredients.