Cooking strategies: Mark Bittman has 3 tips for the kitchen Mark Bittman shares key guidelines — and recipe ideas — from his revised edition of How to Cook Everything Fast.

Fast cooking is about strategy. Use these 3 tips to make the most of your kitchen

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Celebrated food writer Mark Bittman has written about how to cook well, everything. But when it comes to cooking fast, he says, it's about strategy, not skill.

MARK BITTMAN: There's a lot of downtime in cooking. It takes time for the heat that you're using to be applied to the food that you're using it on. And you can use that time to do other things that make the whole procedure go more quickly.

MARTIN: He's out with a new edition of his book, "How To Cook Everything Fast." That's lucky because we're focusing on recipes you can make in a pinch. One of those is his spinach carbonara, a vegetarian twist on the Italian classic that's often made with pork.

BITTMAN: Adding spinach to this turns it more into a one-pot dish, if you will, or a sort of whole meal that has a variety of different nutrients and just mixes things up a bit.

MARTIN: It requires just a few ingredients - pasta, cheese, olive oil, eggs and, of course, spinach. Once you've got all that, it's simple to throw together.

BITTMAN: You do oil in a pan. You do water in a pot. You do garlic and spinach in the pan. You do pasta in the water. You toss it with cheese and egg, and that's the dish.

MARTIN: If you're in the mood for something heartier, Bittman says try a stir fry. He says they're perfect for fast cooking because stir fry employs a critical technique, utilizing downtime to cook. Take, for example, his recipe for a chicken and Swiss chard stir fry.

BITTMAN: You start oil in a pan over high heat, and while that's heating, you cut some boneless chicken up and season it. And then you cook that. While you're cooking that in a skillet, you're preparing ginger and garlic. While you're waiting for the chicken to be done, you chop some scallions, you rinse some chard, you chop that, and you add those ingredients one at a time to the stir fry.

MARTIN: Of course, we can't forget dessert. Bittman recommends the skillet apple crisp. It's got that classic combo - butter, apples, nuts, cinnamon and sugar. But...

BITTMAN: The difference is that you start by melting butter in a skillet and cooking. While that's melting, you chop the acorn, chop the apples, and you add them to the skillet with a little bit of water. And you cook that until the apples are tender.

MARTIN: And while that's happening, Bittman recommends - you guessed it - using that time to prep the topping.

BITTMAN: Butter, nuts, oats, coconut, sugar, cinnamon, salt, all of that - you cook that until it's - in a separate pan, you cook that until it's nicely browned and crisp. And then when the apples are soft, you top it with the crisp topping, and you serve. And it just - it works great. And it becomes a 15-minute recipe as opposed to a 40-minute recipe.

MARTIN: But if none of these dishes speaks to you, don't worry. You can make fast, easy meals with any ingredients you have. Just keep three things in mind.

BITTMAN: Preparing and cooking at the same time instead of preparing first and then cooking second. And that's, I think, the key strategy. The second is really having a well-stocked pantry, refrigerator and freezer as well, of course. But to the extent that you can keep a good larder, you can cook a lot of recipes without shopping. And that's a real advantage. And then the third is to almost always cook more than you need. Be planful about leftovers. If you're cooking beans for a dish, then cook a lot of them and either refrigerate or freeze what's left. Same with whole grains, same with that head of cauliflower, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Whenever you're cooking, it almost always pays to cook more, even if it's just cooking more of the given dish so you can have lunch or dinner tomorrow. I think that that's the kind of thing that veteran cooks know and learn and that we're trying to teach in "Fast" to people who have not done a lot of cooking.

MARTIN: That was food writer Mark Bittman. The updated and revised edition of "How To Cook Everything Fast" is out now.

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