I've shared my favourite reads in the past, and today I'm sharing some faves to cook.
This is not a cooking blog (obviously) and I haven't styled any plates or hired any food photographers. I am no expert, but I do cook great food. This assertion is not self-congratulatory! I have little (no) inherent skill and I attribute all of my good cooking to 1) other people's excellent recipes, 2) access to fresh, reliable, & varied food, and 3) time (ie. the time I currently have currently to cook AND the many years of practice).
I did not cook growing up, and when I was dating my husband, I asked his roommate if I could help out with any dinner prep, "like, stir the rice or anything?" He outright laughed at me.
Now, at age 36, I have come a looong way since my rice-stirring days! Here is why:
Amazing recipes abound! In this era of video content, I would even extend this statement to: if you can follow directions, you can cook. There are so many qualified chefs out there who have developed and tested extraordinary recipes.
For me, it started with Williams Sonoma recipes. I have cooked literally hundreds of WS recipes (from books or their online resource), and I think only 2 turned out badly. Trusting in a good source for recipes has allowed me to follow them to a T and thus... approximate good cooking (even though the only skill I brought to the mix was an ability to understand & follow the directions*)
*this has been a learning curve, too. Once, at 9pm on Dec. 23rd, I had to do a Youtube dive into "how to knead dough" when I was midway into a cinnamon bun recipe 🤷♀️
For 3 years at the beginning of my career, my job was marketing on a small team for a local chain of quality grocery markets. With access to amazing ingredients and expertise from people in the food business, my skills grew exponentially!
As two working professionals with no kids, we were out a lot; I had no idea what was in my fridge at any given time. Besides, I did not have enough of an awareness of ingredients to "use what I had" to "make something".
Every time I needed to cook, I would find a recipe (usually 10 mins before the end of my work day), then head downstairs to the grocery store beneath my office and buy the ingredients I needed.
It was not the most efficient or cost-effective way to eat... I spent way more than I can even imagine now for 2 people! To my shame, I'm sure I wasted plenty of fresh produce, too.
But, I think of it all as educational costs for the skills that I have learned that will serve me over a lifetime.
There are some people who are born with the skill to cook: to understand ingredients and the dynamics of salt, fat, acid, & heat. That is not me. Or, some people grow up in a home where they learn these elements seamlessly. Also: not me!
But, over ~15 years, I have been able to practice and learn enough skill that I can finally do a little bit of substitution & going off the page. I know what is in my fridge, and I understand at least how I could put things together (though mostly, I still prefer a good recipe, followed closely!).
If you are a free-form cook who can throw in a bit of this and a bit of that, and it works out beautifully — power to you! And I'm sure my experience seems absurd.
All I know is that some people can sit at a piano and hear how notes work together to create something beautiful. They practice and become extraordinary. Others can practice piano, and play decently — maybe even get to the baseline of someone with natural talent... but they just don't have *the thing* that makes the skill easy, natural, and (with dedication) exceptional. That is me — and, I think, many others! — with cooking.
Phew! Blah blah blah, thanks for coming with me on that wordy journey.
These are powerhouse recipes! Each one I have made 20+ times, and have been asked for the recipe. Enjoy!
Why I love it:
For the chicken:
(multiply for a a larger amount)
For the tahini sauce:
For the rest of the meal:
In a bowl, stir together 1 Tbs. of the olive oil, the curry, cumin, garlic and lemon juice. Add the chicken, season well with salt and pepper, and toss to coat thoroughly. Let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes. (Or do this in the morning, the night before, or when you buy the meat & throw it in the freezer.)
Meanwhile, make the tahini sauce. (I do it in a mini chopper, starting with the garlic. Otherwise:) In a bowl, stir together the yogurt, garlic, tahini, cilantro and lemon juice; season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Heat a grill pan or frying pan over high heat or prepare a medium-hot fire in a grill. When the pan or grill is very hot, add the onion and grill, turning occasionally, until nicely browned all over, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate and cover to keep warm. Do not wipe the pan clean.
Add the chicken to the pan or grill and grill, turning once, until opaque throughout and lightly browned on both sides, about 3 minutes per side.
Serve in bowls or on a platter & everyone can do what they like: make a wrap, create a platter, etc.
Other options: buy hummus or tzatziki instead of making the sauce. Season chickpeas instead of chicken for a vegetarian version. Grill the chicken on skewers, if you like. Skip the onions. Use pork tenderloin or shrimp or chicken thighs. Eat with spinach or on salad greens instead of the grains. This recipe is perfect in its original form, but it can also stand up to many variations!
Original Recipe link: Pinch of Yum + me (that seems unlikely... but, even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while)
Why I love it:
For the sweet garlic lime sauce:
For the bowls:
For the meat:
If you have a mini chopper, chop the garlic, then add the rest of the sauce ingredients and blend it all up. If not, mince the garlic finely and mix it all up in a jar or bowl.
Prep all the veg; it will probably take longer than you think, so enlist help if you can! Also, prep the rice/noodles, and everything else you want for the bowls.
For the meat: Use a medium or large skillet/pan. Add a small bit of veg oil and fry the onions on med-high for a few minutes, then add the meat & continue on high until it is cooked through. Drain the fat if you need to (turkey & chicken is very lean & it won't be necessary).
Add the water chestnuts. You want to cook it all now just enough to warm them up, so you might want to turn the heat down a bit. This gets very non-recipe-ish, but... just add some splashes of soy sauce and some sesame oil until it tastes delicious. Err towards less, as you can always add it bit by bit.
Why I love it:
Visual learners: Here is the video
Cook bacon in a skillet over medium-low heat, stirring regularly, until it is close to crispy. Remove with a slotted utensil, or pour the whole thing through a fine-mesh sieve set over a heat-proof bowl (to catch the drippings).
In a large bowl, add egg yolks & egg; whisk to blend.
Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water (salty like the sea!), stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving ½ cup pasta cooking liquid.
Immediately add pasta, 2 Tbsp. pasta cooking liquid, and 1 tsp. bacon drippings to egg mixture; toss to coat. Working in batches, gradually add ½ cup cheese & pepper, stirring and tossing to melt between batches. Toss until sauce thickens, adding more pasta water by tablespoonfuls if needed.
Taste & season with salt and pepper.
What is a fave, powerhouse recipe of yours? Share below or email me.
A few stories, as I parse through the complexities of privilege & justice…
We spent time visiting in Dhomina’s relatively large home. The space had been expanded to include a separate cooking space — built upon because of the income she earned making kantha for Basha, for us. Amazing!
What is happening with dignify?
How are the women in Bangladesh doing?
What impact has the coronavirus pandemic had on what you're doing?
These are all questions I have received over the last two months, so here are some updates.
It's too early to know, or comment on, the economic fallout from COVID-19.
Part of what I have personally found overwhelming is the cacophony of varied economic experiences:
Many people are jobless, have had income interrupted, or lost big in the market; others are flush with cash that they would have otherwise spent on restaurants, gym memberships, commuting, and travel. Some businesses and restaurants are shuttered or declaring bankruptcy; while trampolines, puzzles, & Peletons are back-ordered and meal-prep services can't keep up.
One truth that is indisputable: the economy local to our area is immensely valuable.