Only Mark Bittman would read an MIT technologist's treatise on simplicity in design and think, "Ah, yes, FOOD!"
And yet, he makes a good point! Rather than piling on fancy ingredients and memorizing kitchen tricks, learning to cook is often more about simplifying recipes and techniques down to their most basic.
We often find that we learn the most from the simplest recipes. These are the ones that take a basic technique--say, making a pie--and add just a few basic ingredients for flavor and color.
In these recipes, it's clear what is fundamental to the structure of the dish and where the author has added their own flare. This makes it easy to go back later, take that fundamental structure, and then add our own flare!
And as Bittman discusses, cooking a complicated recipe successfully is usually a matter of breaking it down into simple parts. Then you can assess what is necessary and what can be skipped or substituted.
This quote left by several of the commenters on Bittman's site says it all:
“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
-Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Which recipes have taught you the most?
Related: Fast and Easy Sweets: 9 Best Quick Desserts for Spring
(Image: Flickr member Brettf licensed under Creative Commons)