A couple of days ago I came home to find a whole slew of packages on my front porch, one of which contained the review copy of Mark Bittman's Kitchen Matrix that Pam Krauss Books sent my way. I'll admit, I was surprised at it's petite size. The front cover points out that it contains more than 700 simple recipes, but what it doesn't say is that these recipes are packed into a mere 300 pages.
The good news is that it's bigger on the inside.
The minimal design of this book packs multiple recipes on to a single page—it's the most efficient cookbook design I think I've ever seen. You start off with a master recipe, or as the cookbook calls it—universal instructions. I'll use Tomato Sauce +9 Ways on page 237 as an example. You have a master recipe for tomato sauce and eight other variations all listed on the same page. If you feel like something different than basic tomato sauce, try the tomato sauce with fresh herbs, cheesy tomato sauce, or use the recipes as inspiration to come up with a sauce all on your own. The Kitchen Matrix system is meant to inspire creativity in the kitchen and I think it does an excellent job.
As much as I love the book, the layout isn't quite perfect. It could use a little fine-tuning to make it easier to use. The chapter indexes (you know, those pages that tell you which recipes are in each chapter) are a beautiful dark orange-red with tiny black text. It's incredibly hard to read in low-light and lets face it, most kitchens have poor lighting. Have you seen my tiny kitchen? I'm lucky to be able to see my hand in front of my face after the sun goes down.
The other issue I have with the book is that you have to physically turn it to read some of the recipe generators. The layout for items like vinaigrette or sandwiches aren't meant to be read from left to right as we are accustomed to, but instead top to bottom. This is a huge pain if you have a small workspace or prefer to keep your cookbooks on a stand. Fortunately there are only a small handful of these pages, but I still find them annoying.
Even though Mark Bittman's Kitchen Matrix has a few quirks, I think it's a great book. The recipes may be a little minimal for the budding cook in your life who may need more instruction at first, but as they develop their skills they'll find this book a valuable resource providing endless amounts of inspiration. For the intermediate cook looking to shake things up a bit, this is the book for you.
Where to Purchase
This book was sent to me for review by Pam Krauss Books through the Blogging for Books program. As always, all opinions are my own.