Cooking, like many hobbies, has a lot of depth. People on Instagram and YouTube are out there flambéing geoduck, while you don’t know how to flambé, or even what a geoduck is. Well, you’re in luck, below are four recipes that are simple to get a hang of, and even easier to add your own riff to. Once you get these recipes under your belt, you will understand basics like knife-skills, seasoning, heat-control and timing!
Making an omelette is a great first recipe to master, because you can game-ify it. It’s so incredibly quick to make, requires one ingredient, and you can do it over and over again until you have mastered it. Start with one egg, beaten in a bowl. Add a pat of butter to a pan on medium-low heat and wait for it to melt. Pour your egg. As the egg cooks, continue whisking until the egg has set. Fold, cook for another 30 seconds to a minute, plate and serve. What makes this a great recipe is that each time you make it, you can play around with the different variables – heat, timing, amount of eggs, seasoning, folding technique, how long to whisk. All things that, ultimately, don’t change the final product TOO much, but enough to notice difference, and importantly, improvement.
Not only is it easy, it’s also a great brag to your friends (who makes their own tomato sauce anymore? You do!). There are probably 1000 different recipes for a simple tomato sauce, so this recipe is great to practice spicing dishes. Start with a splash of olive oil in large pot over high heat. Add one finely chopped onion, and 6 cloves of minced garlic. Sauté until you can smell that wonderful aroma (until they are fragrant). Lower the heat to medium and add one small can of tomato paste, and stir together with a small splash of water. Then, add a large can of peeled San Marzano tomatoes. Yes, it must be San Marzano tomatoes. The reason is because this Italian plum tomato is sweet and low-acid, which makes the final sauce less bitter. Add the can, and crush the tomatoes into the sauce using a wooden spoon, until the sauce is smooth. Fill the can about halfway with water, and add to the sauce, turning the heat down to low, to maintain a gentle simmer. After about 20 minutes, taste for seasoning. Add salt (it will need it, trust me), pepper, and whatever else you think would taste good. Smoked paprika? Sure! Lemon juice? Sounds like that might be good! Anchovy paste? Not sure who has that in their kitchen, but that’s actually a classic Italian addition, go for it!
I’m not talking about the boxed stuff. This recipe is great to practice your timing. You will be making the sauce as you boil the pasta, so you want both to finish at the same time. Start with two pots on the stove. Fill one with hot water, add salt and begin to boil. The water should boil in 5 to 10 minutes, and the pasta should cook in about 8, so you have at least 15 minutes to make a cheese sauce. It will not take 15 minutes, so plan accordingly. In the second pot, whisk together flour, butter, salt and pepper. When the flour starts smelling like baked bread, slowly whisk in milk, a little bit at a time. This is called a roux! Once all of your milk is whisked in, allow the roux to cook for about a minute longer, before removing from the heat. Add shredded cheese (the cheese doesn’t matter, but it DOES matter than you shred it yourself. Preshredded cheese has cornstarch added to prevent caking, which will make your sauce goopy. No one wants goopy sauce). Whisk until melted. Taste for seasoning. Add your drained pasta, toss and serve!
This recipe might be simpler than the omelet, because all you’re going to do is cut ingredients and serve. You don’t have to cook anything! Bust out your sharpest knife! Start with a tomato, and slice in half. With the first half, lay on its cut face, and slice into 1/4 inch pieces. Repeat with the second. Next, get some mozzarella, either a ball or log, and slice into 1/4 inch pieces. This will require a sharp knife and a little confidence! If you aren’t sure just take it slow and keep your fingers tucked back in a claw-grip. On a plate, line the cheese and tomatoes in an alternating pattern. Next, bunch up some fresh basil and rough chop (tip: bunching your herbs before chopping makes them easier to manage!). Sprinkle over top the plate. Drizzle with olive oil. Serve!
Cooking, like many hobbies, is only has hard as you make it. No one is a born natural at anything they do, so a little practice and self-encouragement can go a long way. Now get out there and cook!
(by the way, a geoduck is a kind of clam, if you’re still wondering)