Every entertainer has to occupy a type-the hero, the villain, the nerd, based on little more than appearance. If you look like a dork, you won’t play a Scot leading his troops into battle. Conversely, a stocky, decent-looking guy won’t be the kid who gets stuffed in a locker.
Follow the type or don’t work. In comedy it’s called a shtick: the foul-mouthed wise ass (Rickles) or the funny neighbor (Seinfeld). Food people follow suit, from Bourdain’s irreverent rebel to Paula Deen’s bosomy southern mama. Mark Bittman is a curious case, however. His work used to be obsessively purposeful, full of a missionary zeal to get the fearful to fire up their stoves.
That worthy goal has become, yes, a shtick, one which tortures me every Sunday as I flip through the NYT magazine on the way to the crossword puzzle. Here are 20 possible salads featuring kale; 8 variations on the lemon dessert. It’s like someone who gives the tourist twelve ways to get to get to Grand Central, leaving the guy stranded on the corner, paralyzed.
As I see it, Bittman’s method helps two types: the hoarder and the attention deficit sufferer. The former has a home bursting with ingredients while the latter can’t focus on just one dish. Or, in the case of, say fifteen summer salad options, the chronic picnicker.
Simplicity is a bedrock cooking philosophy; it’ll win every time. One great beet salad recipe is better than a stack of beet salad variations. Here’s a tasty and uber simple three-item summer dessert: nectarines and chopped chocolate with a pinch of kosher salt. Simple and shtick-free.
Nectarines and Chocolate
4 superb nectarines, quartered, sliced, chopped, whatever you feel like
2 oz. dark chocolate
pinch kosher salt
1. Place fruit in bowl, shower with salt and chocolate. Serve.