Suddenly you, who eats out a lot, can’t. At the moment, you can order takeout, sure. But this is your chance to learn to cook. Here are three recipes you basically can’t screw up.
First a general principle. When I first saw Samin Nosrat’s cookbook title, I got elated: Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking. Finally, someone was telling people the secret—that the main reason restaurant food tastes better than most home cooking is it has enough salt, fat, and acid. (We’re going to skip heat, but as a general rule, your stove is up too high. Be patient. Turn it down.)
Sardines or Eggs on Toast
- A loaf of real bread—basically any of the stuff that comes in paper bags and is not pre-sliced
- Butter and extra virgin olive oil
- 1 can of sardines or two eggs (or if you’re vegan, some hummus or an avocado)
- 1 lemon (not that plastic bottle thing shaped like a lemon)
- A handful of arugula (sliced cucumber also works, or baby kale)
- Red chili flakes
- Kosher salt (I like Diamond Crystal)
- Warm up a saute pan (not too warm!). Add a good-sized piece of butter (the size of your thumb, maybe?). Let it melt.
- Cut a piece of bread an inch thick. (With a bread knife, the one with the bumps on the blade.) Put it in the butter and move it around until all the butter’s gone. Stand there watching it; don't walk away. If you're bored, listen to music. If it starts smoking, it’s too hot. (Turn the goddamn pan down!) Every once in a while, look at the bottom. When it’s golden, add more butter to the pan and flip the toast. When that side is golden, put the toast on a plate.
- If you’re making eggs, instead of sardines, poach them now (you can skip the whole thing with the sieve).
- Put the arugula in a small bowl. Cut the lemon in half. With the cut side against your palm, give it a squeeze (this keeps the seeds in your hand). Add enough olive oil to coat the leaves. Add salt. Taste a piece. Do the flavors keep getting more intense as you taste? (In cooking school, they’d tell you the flavors should “build.”) If not, add more salt. Does it taste tart? If not, add more lemon. Repeat. Add a pinch of chili flakes. Toss it around again.
- Put the sardines or eggs or avocado on the toast. Salt assertively (skip for hummus or if sardines are already very salty). Drizzle with olive oil.
- Put the arugula on top.
Roasted Carrot, Avocado, and Orange Salad
- 3 carrots
- 1 avocado
- 1 naval orange
- Dry roasted almonds
- Extra virgin olive oil
- The rest of that lemon
- Kosher salt
- Red chili flakes
- Fresh mint
- Crumbled feta (optional)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Trim the ends off the carrots and wash them. (I don’t bother peeling.) Cut into bite-size chunks.
- In a salad bowl, toss the carrots with a tablespoon or so of oil, until they’re coated, and a few pinches of salt. Put them on a sheet pan and put in oven. Set a timer for 10 minutes.
- Wash the orange. Without peeling it, cut in half lengthwise. Then cut into thin slices (2–3mm). If you hit seeds, take them out. Leave the peel on unless you can't handle bitter flavors—in which case, peel. Add slices to salad bowl.
- Cut the avocado in half and take out the seed. Cut the halves into quarters. Peel off the skin. Slice however you like.
- Keep checking on the carrots until they’re roasty brown and soft and sweet—you have a lot of leeway. Even burnt carrots are good. When they are ready, add to the salad bowl.
- Add more olive oil, salt, and lemon. Mix. Taste. Add more if you need to. Add the almonds, whole mint leaves, and plenty of chili flakes.
- Add avocado and feta last. Mix gently (so the avocado doesn’t become dressing) and put on a plate.
Mushrooms Over Rice
- 1/2 lb of mushrooms. Shitake are nice, but any kind works.
- 1 cup of rice, any kind
- Rice wine vinegar, or the rest of that lemon
- Soy sauce or tamari
- Toasted sesame oil or canola oil
- Kimchi (optional)
- Two eggs (optional)
- Furikake (optional)
- Scallions (optional)
- Make rice. All kinds of rice get cooked differently. The packaging has instructions. Follow them exactly. Yes, you need to measure. No, you shouldn’t skip that part about washing it.
- While it’s cooking, slice the mushrooms into bite-size pieces.
- Put a nonstick pan over medium-low heat. Add a couple tablespoons of oil. Hold your hand a few inches over the pan. When it's hot, it's ready.
- Add the mushrooms and stir so they’re spread evenly. Let cook for a bit. When they have browned, give them a stir. Repeat until they’re golden brown and have lost some water.
- Add a splash of vinegar, or squeeze of lemon, a tablespoon or less. Stir. Let it cook off.
- Add a couple tablespoons of soy sauce. Stir. Cook until the soy sauce glazes the mushrooms. Pull one out, let it cool a little, and taste it. If it's properly salty—remember it's going over rice—it's done. Otherwise, add another splash of soy and cook more. Turn off the pan.
- Pour the mushrooms over the cooked rice. For extra points, add a side of kimchi, some toasted nori or furikake, and a poached egg or two. Thinly sliced scallions are also fun.