Why, hello there. Ada here with some ideas on what to cook this week, quickly.
A few weeks ago we put out a survey asking you what types of recipes you wanted to see more of. (Link here if you want to take it.) One theme that several of you pointed to was the need for quick, low-fuss, minimal-ingredient recipes. Which makes sense. Zucchini noodle lasagna layered with bechamel sauce and homemade pesto would really hit the spot, but I usually only cook something with so much fuss once a week, if that. It's the simple, quick, humble food that gets us through our busy weeks. If you're like me, you both love to cook and hate to cook. I need easy sustenance on the days when I hate.
Just last week, I was stupefied by the simple genius of a lunch a friend made me. The setting: My friend and I were spending the day together co-working, each of us encouraged by the other's company, the laptop burn on my legs stinging a little less because there were occasional tea breaks, a 7-minute walk break (trying to walk more, join me?), and a devoted lunchtime. My friend whipped us up the simplest lunch. Two acorn squash cut in half, brushed with olive oil and salt, and roasted in a hot oven (cut side down) till soft.
When they were done, we flipped them over and filled the acorn bowls with heaping piles of kimchi, plus some generous squirts of tahini and a Japanese bbq sauce (links below), the trifecta instantaneously transforming the simple roasted squash into something that had acidic crunch, creamy intrigue, and sweet umami. There was no recipe involved, and instead, we roasted the squash and cherry-picked some condiments from the refrigerator door to complete the plate. I can't stop thinking about this squash. It was so good, and with the addition of the kimchi specifically, it felt like a whole meal. And it took less than maybe 5 minutes of hands-on time to prepare. Literally. (Cut squash, scoop seeds.) Today's Recipe Roundup is inspired by this simple lunch that I'll inevitably repeat several times this fall. After all, what's more autumnal than a winter squash?
What are some recipes that are so simple, they're barely recipes? What are some condiment ideas that add instant interest to a simple roasted squash, a tray of broiled zucchini? When you're cooking with locally grown and just-harvested vegetables, you don't need to do much to make lunch. A rhyme!
I've shared this recipe before, and I'll share it again. The ingredient list looks long, but it's all pantry staples you probably have, except for maybe the gochujang, though I highly recommend keeping this fermented chili paste around if you don't already. I make a version of these addictive noodles often, usually with the addition of whatever vegetable in place of the broccoli rabe. This week's komatsuna would work great. (What is komatsuna, you may be wondering?) Also of note: I usually use the noodles that come in the brick ramen packages (discarding the spice packet) because that's what my HEB has.
If you're like me, you're close to hitting your zucchini wall. This easy pasta in which the zucchini almost melts away is a go-to at my house. "I am a little bit obsessed with this spaghetti. If we’ve spoken recently, I didn’t let you not asking me about it keep me from going on about its simple summer dinner bliss."
I often find myself thinking about how chef David Chang started to cook nearly everything in the microwave when he had a toddler and life became busy. (He also started a line of microwave-friendly cookware.) It's an interesting idea. Here's a link to all of his "one-ingredient" microwave recipes, though he's got plenty of other recipes for cooking braised chicken, clam chowder, and even CAKE in the microwave. The concept still shocks me, and I don't hate it.
If you're a CSA member looking to simplify your time in the kitchen, please ready Tamar Adler's The Everlasting Meal if you haven't already. She has a few pages (a chapter?) devoted to the art of boiling vegetables, a technique we're quick to scoff at, but one that is so useful, easy, and relatively hands free.
I keep packages of fresh sausage in the freezer. A tray of roasted veggies + sausage, plus a pile of kraut or dollop of yogurt, is such a satisfying meal that can come together so quickly. A 'sheet pan' meal, so to speak. See also: How to Make a Sheet Pan Dinner without a Recipe.
I grew up in a rice-based (Cajun) culture. It seems everyone I know had an old rice maker they'd use. Five or six years ago, I was serving gumbo to 40 people and scurried to Walmart the day before to buy a rice cooker, which still makes its way to the counter once a week. White rice is perhaps the most commonly eaten grain at my house, and vegetables + rice is a common duo. In fact, that's what I'm making tonight. White rice, furikake, and grilled okra. Probably 10 minutes of hands-on time? I always double the amount of rice I need and make fried rice on night 2. Click on the link above or other ideas on how to up your rice game.
A baked potato - sweet or otherwise - is the perfect base for toppings. Copy my acorn squash meal, and pile it high with fermentable, + sauces sweet and nutty. Leftover proteins also make an excellent sweet potato topping. Don't forget the green onions.
I love a good pureed soup, even in the summer. It's nourishing, and hydrating, and can be adapted to just about whatever vegetable you have. If I didn't have an immersion blender, I would probably put this in the "too-fussy" category, but this tool makes this soup a 10-minute affair. This week I'm having creamy zucchini/coconut soup, with some sweet corn kernels added at the end. (Did I mention I'm close to my zucchini wall? I've got a crisper drawer full...)
Creamed greens: a recipe (and technique) to remember as we enter the long season of leafy greens. Use your komatsuna here. "Greens like kale, chard, and mustard are like a troublesome boyfriend. At the market, they look so appealing, so lush and irresistible. But as soon as I get them home, I find myself stressed out by how much room they take up in the fridge, and how quickly they begin to lose their lustre." Related: Creative Ways to Blitz Your Greens
Condiments + Accoutrements to help turn something simple into something zazzy.
Pre-Made salad dressings.
I know, I know. I'm usually such an advocate of making your own dressings... here are my favorite two recipes that aren't hard... but sometimes having a pre-made dressing is the difference between whipping yourself up a homemade lunch and feeling the need to order something to-go.
The squirtable kind I recently tried at a friend's was this brand. Though I usually make a dressing with my tahini (lemon, water, garlic, tahini)... a quick squirt straight from the bottle of this stuff did the trick, instantly.
Kimchi + kraut + other fermented things.
Good for crunch, good for your gut, good for more complex, acidic flavors that you didn't have to create from scratch. Austin's own Casper Fermentables has awesome products, as do the farmers' markets. (Come say hi to VRDNT at Mueller!)
My friend Mackenzie gave me a jar of this garlic achaar, and I use it on everything. "Traditionally it's eaten with rice, curry, dal and yogurt, but you can use it as a base for pizza or pasta sauces, aoilis, soups or marinades and it's fantastic in garlic bread or top it on most anything - burgers, eggs, sandwiches, tacos, chicken, ramen, etc."
A chili crisp.
White rice, roasted, steamed, or (gasp) boiled veggies plus chili crisp. It's a meal! So many chili crisp options. This is a classic and the one I most often buy (99 Ranch, anyone?) and this is a younger brand, marked by branding as wonderful as its flavor. (I mean, just look how fun their website is!) I love fresh, fun CPG branding, especially when attached to a delicious product.
Speaking of fun branding. Don't let the word 'bbq' deter you. This sauce is good on anything. A small-batch product, worth the fridge space. "For as long as I can remember, my Bachan—you might say Granny—would cook up the most amazing meals with our umami–filled, teriyaki-ish sauce! The recipe has been passed down and perfected over generations and today, my family and I are honored to share our authentic Japanese Barbecue Sauce with you."
I'm Hellman's girl, but my Louisiana brethren would be mad if I didn't mention Duke's. Scroll to the end of this post - the "Lagniappe" section - for my very quick mayo-oriented salad hack that I'll live and die by. Also insert spreadable, thick, tangy greek yogurt.
What condiments do you use to bring life to your plate?