Mark Bittman is on a mission: to get more people cooking. Consider the name of his new cookbook: "How to Cook Everything Fast."

"It was built for speed," he said. "There's almost nothing that's not fast in it."

Busy parents, people working more than one job and students cramming for finals all have one thing in common: they need to eat. And Bittman's new book argues that efficient cooking is simple and, most importantly, delicious.

A well-known food writer and recipe developer for The New York Times and a cookbook author, Bittman has been planning and talking about "Fast" for 10 years.

"Everybody ... says they don't have time to cook. I take issue with that to some extent because having time to cook or not is an issue of what your priorities are. But many people choose to not make cooking one of those. This addresses that. If you say you don't have time to cook, it can teach you to cook fast," he said.

The new cookbook, while not an update of his classic "How to Cook Everything," is similar in that the recipes are designed with accessibility in mind.

The 1,000-page tome of 2,000 recipes took about four years to come to fruition, and it shows. It's revolutionary in its design. Consider the way Bittman writes his recipes: each is color-coded: prep steps are blue and cook steps are black. He calls it a "New Kind of Recipe."

"We decided we wanted to have recipes where people could walk in to the kitchen and start cooking," he said. "There's no ahead preparation, you go in and start."

"The cook and prep thing, it's handy, especially if you're cooking with two people," he added.

The recipes are for food you actually want to eat, too. They are simple and fast, but also gourmet and feature fresh, healthy food.

"We chose to do this thing of reinventing the recipe," he said. "We had to do dishes in ways they haven't been done before."

While Bittman's book may seem like it's tailored toward the beginner chef, he says there are lessons for any cook. But those with time concerns are no doubt who he's truly hoping to reach.

"People who claim they're too busy will learn something here," he said.

 

Mark Bittman's Butternut Squash Soup with Apples and Bacon

Time: 30 minutes or less

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients:

8 slices bacon

1 medium butternut squash (1 1/2 pounds)

2 large apples

1 small onion

1 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

Salt and pepper

5 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1 cup cream

Prep/ Cook

1. Put a large pot over medium heat

- Chop 8 slices bacon into 1-inch pieces

2. Add the bacon to the pot. Cook, storring occassionally, until crisp. 5-10 minutes.

- Line a plate with paper towels

- Cut the squash in half crosswise: peel and trim it, and scoop out the seeds. Cut it into chunks that will fit through the feed tube of a food processor.

- Peel, quarter and core the apples.

- Trim, peel and quarter the onion.

3. When the bacon is crisp, transfer it to the paper towels with a slotted spoon. Turn the heat to low.

- Shred the vegetables and fruit in a food processor with a trating disk, empty the bowl into the pot as it fills.

4. Raise the heat to medium-high. Add 1 teaspoon allspice, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the spices are fragrant, about a minute.

5. Add 5 cups of stock or water and 1 cup cream. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat so that it bubbles gently but steadily and cook until the squash is fully tender, 10 to 14 minutes.

6. Turn off the heat under the soup and run an immersion blender through the pot or, working in batches, transfer it to an upright blender and carefully puree.

7. Reheat the soup for 1 or 2 minutes if necessary. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Divide the soup among 4 bowls, garnish with the bacon and serve.