Our latest installment of Your Questions comes from Tamara:
What a great question! Both of us have (literally) been there.
Before we recommend some specific recipes, here are three pieces of general advice for getting started in the kitchen:
1. Only buy fresh ingredients with a plan in mind. It's easy to go to the grocery or the farmers market and buy bags full of pretty things, but it's also so depressing to find that those same ingredients have died a lonely death in the crisper. Prior to going shopping, we try to think through what we want out of the next three to four meals, and we also take stock of what we already have on hand. Of course, if you're like us, impulse buys are still inevitable. But we try to limit them, and when we do go all shopaholic, we commit to exploring new recipes with the ingredients.
2. Know what's in your fridge. We use a Vegetable Board to make sure we're not wasting produce. It works for us, helping us to focus on what we have on hand when trying to figure out what to cook, but you may find a method that works better for you.
3. Get a cookbook that can be a go-to resource for simple recipes. We recommend Mark Bittman's excellent How to Cook Everything or Everyday Food's Great Food Fast. In fact, you may want to consider getting a subscription to Everyday Food. It was one of Clay's first food magazine subscriptions and every issue is filled with great, not overly complicated recipes.
Here are a few recipes we've loved -- they're perfect for beginners and they require few ingredients:
- Chicken Breasts with Zucchini Pappardelle. It has 5 ingredients, takes 30 minutes and will take advantage of zucchini, which we'll soon all have in spades. The recipe suggests using a mandoline to slice the zucchini thin, but you can also do it (very carefully) with a knife.
- Flank Steak with Paprika Butter. They can be made on a grill or in a grill pan. Don't want to buy the paprika? Leave it out!
- Baked Eggs in Tomato-Parmesan Sauce. This dish has only 6 ingredients (plus salt/pepper and olive oil, which you likely have on hand). It's super flavorful and one of our favorite meals!
- Learn to roast a chicken. This is a great skill to have, it doesn't require many ingredients, and if you're only cooking for one or two people, you'll have plenty of leftovers for salads, stir fries or just to eat as chicken. We're partial to the Barefoot Contessa's recipe. This is also a good roast chicken recipe that uses chicken thighs instead of a whole chicken.
- Sugar Snap Peas with Mint and Orange. This is great with snap peas, but you could also do it with green beans.
- Fajita Sweet Potatoes. They're ridiculously easy and only require a few ingredients.
- Buy some great salad greens -- the freshest you can get -- and make this simple Honey Lemon Dressing. It will keep in the fridge and you can use it a bit at a time until it's gone.
- Tipsy Affogato. Can you brew coffee? You can make this delicious dessert!
- Make a crumble! This is the best, most impressive way to show off fresh summer fruit. Here's a super easy Basil-Blackberry Crumble, and here's a blueprint for creating your own Mix-and-Match Crumbles.
Hopefully those dishes and tips will provide you with some ideas for beginner cooks. What would you recommend for Tamara?
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