Friday, August 19, 2016

Ten Recipes for the Beginner Cook

This blog post is dedicated to my college roommate Brigit, who has been ramping up her cooking efforts.

This week I've been on vacation with my college roommates and we've been having many conversations about how we've come a long way since learning how to boil water--for some of us, a skill acquired post-college. Being someone who likes food but is lazy about cooking, I've developed a repertoire of easy recipes over the years. Here are ten of them.
  1. Massaged kale salad. Salads are kind of a loophole to adulthood: as long as you spend the time and money on good ingredients, all you have to do to "cook" a salad is wash some things and maybe chop some things. Massaging kale makes it feel a little less like cheating. (And kale is much better massaged.)
  2. Arugula walnut salad. This salad is even less effort. Putting random fruit and random nuts into a salad always makes the salad better, both in terms of nutrition and how fancy it looks. Some weeks when I am really busy I just stock my kitchen with greens, fruit, and nuts. Sprouts (especially flavorful ones) are a nice touch, as well as thinly sliced radish.
  3. Baked salmon. Good salmon (or any kind of fish, really) can be quite inexpensive and be really easy to make. (My college roommate Aliza says salmon is expensive in New York, but in Cambridge I usually spent $5-7 on half a pound of quite good salmon at my local Whole Foods.) Once you learn how to do it you can do variations on the different marinades to make it feel like a different dish every time.
  4. Skillet-roasted spiced okra. I love okra, but for a long time I did not realize how easy it is to cook for yourself. The recipe I linked to includes lots of spices (and is similar to bhindi masala), but okra can be quite good with only cumin and turmeric, or even only with salt.
  5. Quinoa tabouleh. This is a really delicious and nutritious prepare-your-own lunch food. For a while I quit quinoa due to ethical concerns and used couscous instead, but these concerns turned out to be unfounded.
  6. Pasta puttanesca. This is a nice emergency hunger recipe because you can make it completely out of backup ingredients that last forever in your kitchen. One time I made pasta puttanesca completely out of found ingredients in the London apartment of my college roommate Marianne's uncle, to which I had been given a key and was instructed to wait for Marianne's post-midnight arrival.
  7. Shakshuka. This is a great brunch recipe that seems to impress people. It is one of those recipes that has a lot of ingredients (and there are many variations you can find online), but once you have the ingredients it's not very much work.
  8. Lentil soup. This one takes a little more time, but none of the steps are difficult and you can make a batch that lasts a really long time and you can freeze parts of it.
  9. Chinese sticky rice cake. Every time I've made this, people have been amazed by both how delicious it is and how easy it was to make. You pretty much just put the ingredients together and stir. I substitute almond or soy milk and the recipe is still fine.
  10. Noodles. Those who have spent extended time with me know that they are an important staple of the Jean Yang diet. I wrote this blog post about cooking with noodles in 2009. My college roommate Aliza wrote this essay about how I got her into noodles.
Would be curious to hear yours. Enjoy!

14 comments:

Norman Ramsey said...

After arugula walnut salad, I would be starving within two hours, even loaded with nuts and dried fruit. But I guess I have substantial body mass AND a metabolism.

Simple favorites include red beans and rice, or mujaddara.

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