5 Easy Recipes That Make It Look Like You Really Can Cook
I take deep pleasure in cooking. First and foremost because I have a love and appreciation for food that most definitely teeters on an unhealthy obsession. But I also love cooking because it distracts me from the enormous pile of filth that is our world and at times, my brain. I do it often enough that I’ve found a few recipes that like me, are easy AF, beautiful, and appear more complex and intricate than they are. So I’m sharing them with you because sometimes we just want to fake like we know what we’re doing. I do this all the time when picking out wine, conversing about bitcoin, WRITING THESE ARTICLES, to name a few things.
All of these recipes should have very easy-to-find-in-your-own-local-grocery-store ingredients because I hate when people are like, “This is a simple recipe!” and you’re like where the hell do I get pomegranate molasses?
Okay, grab your knives and let’s go.
1. Walnut-Anchovy Pasta with Herbs (above)
Even if you THINK you don’t like anchovies, I guarantee you’ve had and enjoyed them in a restaurant dish without even knowing it. They’re added to so many sauces, salads, and rubs for meats because they have this incredible meaty umami flavor. (Umami is a hard-to-describe savory flavor that basically enhances the flavor of foods.)
ALSO! We’re not really measuring any of this. I’ll give you suggestions as to how much but don’t worry about it. You don’t need to be as anal-retentive about measuring in cooking as you think you do. You’ll learn. You’ll get it.
Take a half a box of linguine (or spaghetti, or bucatini) and get that going in some salted boiling water. Then, heat some olive oil (like three quick seconds of glugs) in a sauté pan and gently fry some garlic, chili flakes, and crushed walnuts, but DON’T LET THE GARLIC BURN! After a few minutes add some roughly chopped anchovies (like 6-8 but again we’re not measuring!) into the pan (you can find anchovies next to the tuna in your grocery store!) Use a wooden spoon to kind of press them down into the pan. They’ll start to get all melty. You’ll start to get all drooly.
Take some pasta water from your pot (like almost a full coffee mugs worth) and add it into your pan. When the pasta is just about done, drain the noodles and add them to your anchovy mixture. The cooking liquid you put in there is going to help form a sauce. Add in some chopped parsley, chopped dill, a fresh squeeze of lemon, and some freshly grated Parmesan. WAH-LAH! (Is that how you spell that?)
2. Greek Yogurt Dip with Herbs
Take this as a lesson: herbs are a shortcut to looking like you know what the f*ck you’re doing. Herbs serve a purpose. They give flavor and freshness and color that definitely only A Real Cook Who Definitely Knows What They’re Doing would care about. I put them on everything.
This is “I Know What I’m Doing In The Kitchen: Party Appetizer Addition.” Greek yogurt is my favorite canvas!! It can be painted a myriad of ways and all the best ones are savory (sorry healthy breakfast Instagrammers!).
Alright, so we’ve got our hefty amount of greek yogurt (if you’re going to a party you’re probably using a tub’s worth – PEOPLE LIKE DIPS), which you’re going to hit with a hefty amount of herbs (I like dill, parsley, and mint for this). Add in some grated garlic (get yourself a microplane, babe!), some freshly ground pepper, a squeeze of lemon juice, a hefty glug of olive oil, and flaky sea salt. Mix it all up, then hit it with more olive oil for aesthetic reasons. Top with more herbs.
3. Bad Day Soup
I will prove the science behind hot soup making bad days better before I die if it’s the last thing I do.
Also if you’ve just started dating someone and want to be very casually like “Oh yeah I can cook no big deal” invite them over for this soup on a Sunday night. Sorry if you’re not ready to get proposed to.
Start by heating some olive oil over medium heat in a big soup pot. Then add some chopped onion, celery, and carrots (you want to chop up the big ones that you can typically buy separately, not the little baby carrots) with some salt and pepper. When your veggies have softened up a bit (eh, like 8 minutes) add in some chopped garlic, farro (a delicious nutty grain, you can find it by quinoa usually!), canned white beans, a can of chopped tomatoes (with the juice!) and a carton of chicken stock.
Bring it to a boil and then turn it down to a simmer (that means just below boiling) and let it sit uncovered for about 30 minutes. Stir in a handful of chopped basil. Taste it! Adjust whatever you think it’s missing (trust yourself!). Serve it with a mountain of Parmesan cheese.
4. Mussels with Bacon Breadcrumbs
MUSSELS SOUND SO MUCH MORE INTIMIDATING THAN THEY ARE. DO NOT FEAR THE MUSSEL.
Preheat your oven to 375. Put bacon strips on a cooling rack over a cookie sheet. Cook the bacon until it’s crisp and then let it cool. While it’s cooking scrub your mussels (let’s say like two dozen-ish). Now crumble up the bacon (reserve the bacon juice – I’m sorry I don’t know what else to call it.) Turn the oven up to 500. Place the mussels on a sheet pan and bake them until the shells open (like 6 minutes). Discard the ones that don’t open.
Put like ½ cup of dried breadcrumbs with chopped parsley, thyme, minced garlic, the crumbled bacon, salt and pepper into a bowl and combine it. Add some of the bacon fat (I found a new term) until there’s enough in there to hold the stuffing together. Spoon it evenly over your opened mussels, then pop them back in the oven for another five or so minutes to get that breadcrumb mix niiiiice and toasty.
5. Citrus Salad with Crunchy Red Onion and Avocado
This is basically just laying really pretty colorful things on a plate. You’re tricking people into thinking this is exotic and takes effort because there will be colorful produce laying in a somewhat symmetrical pattern.
This recipe is from Alison Roman who has a wonderful cookbook called Dining In, which you should purchase immediately.
Take ¼ of a small red onion and slice it very thin. Soak the onion slices in a bowl of ice water for ten minutes – it’ll take away the oniony bite but make it super crunchy. While you’re doing that, arrange and layer four peeled and sliced blood oranges with one thinly sliced avocado. Overlap them, make it look purrty. Drain your onion slices and scatter those on top. Drizzle with the juice of half a lime, then top it with flaky sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Sprinkle with black sesame seeds and cilantro (stems included). Drizzle the whole thing with olive oil.
What are your go-to, easy-as-pie recipes that look like they require you to be a wizard in the kitchen? TELL ME, I have more people to impress.
Liz Welle is a professional feelings feeler but gets paid to do social and digital stuff for brands in Minneapolis while occasionally food styling on the side. She lives in Uptown with her boyfriend and their thirteen plants. She is doing her best.