My brother is quarantining alone and asked for some good recipes for one, so I was pulling out my hummus crusted-chicken recipe and trying to find a web link for him. It is actually so old I don’t think O Magazine had a website at the time (they were weirdly longtime holdouts!), but they must have put it up there along with some of the archives. So the pictures are yuck, but the article is the one I remember: recipes so simple you don’t need a recipe.
We’ve tried a bunch of them over the years here at Casa Griffin, but something about the concept is amazing to me, so I thought we should talk about it here. What are your favorite recipes that you don’t really use a recipe for? I’ve shared a few of these over the years, but here are two of mine (apologies for the lousy pictures for both!)
(Psst: We’ve seen a couple of great comment threads on simple recipes recently: this one on using your Instant Pot and this one on “decadent but easy to cook” meals!)
Ingredients: 1 zucchini, 1 squash, 1 onion, 1 lemon, olive oil, salt, 2 chicken breasts, paprika, hummus (sometimes I also add baby carrots)
Cut vegetables into 1″ chunks, toss with olive oil and a smidge of salt, and line bottom of 8×8 pan with them. Cut lemon in half, and squeeze the juice of one half over the vegetables. Cut the squeezed half lemon into slices and layer on top of the vegetables, then add the two chicken breasts on top of the lemon. Season lightly with salt. Top chicken breasts with hummus. Squeeze second half of lemon on top of chicken and hummus. Add a few dashes of paprika to the hummus for color. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.
(Interestingly, I just checked the magazine and my recipe is slightly different — not sure when or how it morphed but mine is good!)
Adapted from a dish served at Siggy’s Restaurant in Brooklyn Heights, now sadly shuttered.
Ingredients: spring mix, 1 jar sliced kalamata olives, 1 cucumber, 1 avocado, 1 cup feta cheese, 1 cup quinoa, lemon dressing
To make the dressing: Honestly, I just buy Hak’s Lemon Vinaigrette; in a pinch you could just juice 1 lemon, add equal parts olive oil and a squirt of Dijon mustard and a dash of sugar.
To make the salad: Make the quinoa and let it cool. Drain the jar of olives. Slice the cucumber into pretty small pieces. (I like to quarter the cucumber first the long way, and then slice it.) Add all ingredients to the spring mix; toss.
If you’re looking for more easy recipes with a small number of ingredients, these cookbooks seem worth a try: Taste of Home 5-Ingredient Cookbook (Amazon, Bookshop), 5-Ingredient Vegan (Amazon, Bookshop), and The Easy 5-Ingredient Healthy Cookbook (Amazon, Bookshop) [affiliate links].
Do you have any recipes that are so simple but tasty that you’ve memorized them? In general, what are you cooking/eating lately?
Stock photo via Stencil.
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The brownie recipe from here is one I have memorized: https://smittenkitchen.com/2014/07/brownie-ice-cream-sandwiches/
They’re delicious and very easy.
One container of ricotta, one egg, handful of some kind of white melty cheese. Add in spinach and/or meat as wanted. Stuff into boiled shells, throw sauce over the top, and bake at the standard 350 for 30 minutes.
I have SK’s kale and quinoa salad memorized – but I sometimes forget the dill, which is a big mistake!
That hummus chicken sounds really good – and we have a bunch of hummus right now.
Thanks, It Has Pockets!
Shrimp scampi, my mom taught me and I’ve never needed to refer back to a recipe. Lots of butter and garlic, a bit of dry white wine (chardonnay is my go-to), parsley, and black pepper. Cook the shrimp in the garlicky sauce, add lemon juice if we have any, then add the pasta for a bit. I also sometimes sprinkle in parmesan cheese towards the end, which I’ll admit I know you’re traditionally not supposed to do, but I do it anyway. I usually make this once a week, often after making Moroccan turkey meatballs (which I do need the recipe for because they’re wicked complicated, but worth it) because we have a lemon and some fresh parsley leftover.
Lemon vinaigrette: a few Tbs. fresh lemon juice, a little Dijon mustard (1-2 tsps), garlic clove (minced), tiny pinch of sugar, and olive oil. Amount of olive oil should be roughly double the amount of lemon juice. Whisk. It is made to taste. So, add more of an ingredient based on your preference. This vinaigrette is AMAZING on Greek salad. It makes Feta cheese taste WONDERFUL.
Chicken rice Roger, from the old I Hate to Cook Book:
Take a cut-up chicken (or a package of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs), cover with flour and salt and pepper, and brown the pieces in some cooking oil. (I like to save the chickeny cooking oil and cook some fresh kale in it for a delish side dish. Yum!) Meanwhile put a cup of raw white rice in a casserole dish along with a tablespoon of dried chopped onion and some minced garlic. Pour a 6 oz can of mushroom stems and pieces, including the liquid, over the rice. Arrange the chicken artfully over the rice. Pour 1-3/4 cups of chicken stock (either a can of stock or 2 bullion cubes dissolved in hot water) over the whole thing. Cover and bake at 350 for 45 minutes, then remove the cover and bake another 15 minutes to let the skin crisp up a little.
This always makes me think of my mom — I made it for the family the night she passed away.
I think of “I hate to cook” every time I fix asparagus (like, this morning!), the recipe starts with “Break the stalk where it wants to break” or something like that.
Haha my favorite was “brown the ground beef while you light a cigarette and stare sullenly at the sink.”
More general question – for normal, everyday meals how often do you look at a cookbook? I feel like I have most recipes “memorized”, or I just make them up, and only use recipes for specific or fancy dishes.
Also, how do you keep track of your recipes? My mom has a handwritten notebook, I’m thinking of getting one.
I don’t cook with recipes, only when I bake or when I’m doing something really specific. My mom is a very good cook and taught me to cook just using my instincts and knowing what flavours go together.
Me too. My mom used to teach Home Economics/Domestic Science and I learned from her. I use recipes for baking or if I’m working with entirely new ingredients, but not otherwise.
Exactly the same
I got the Paprika 3 app based on a recommendation from here. I have it on all my devices and love it! I don’t repeat dishes often so I mostly use recipes when I cook.
It took me a while to come around to Paprika, but man I love that thing.
I got bored with what I knew how to cook, so I’ve been following internet recipes for most of my cooking lately. They often suggest different flavors and flavor balances than I would think to grab. Otherwise everything just starts to get flavored with garlic & thyme.
Two of my cherished possessions: 1) a notebook given to me by my grandmother in which she recorded recipes for me and 2) my mother’s recipe box, filled with a mash of recipe clippings and handwritten recipe cards. Many of their recipes don’t fit my life, but I love having the connection to my mother and my grandmother, both of whom died many years ago. There are a few recipes that I do use from the notebook and card file, mostly holiday recipes or those I strongly associate with family times.
Telco Lady JD
Same here. My recipe box is a walk through time, and I love it!
Ditto! I love how these items have their handwriting, newspaper clippings with recipes of the day, and other small things that now seem very special since great-grandma and grandma are no longer around. I can tell the heavily used pages/recipes based on the number of food stains on the paper!
I have a 3-ring binder with plastic sleeves for holding pages. It’s perfect — you can shove anything in there whether it’s a printed page, handwritten on a card, whatever, and you don’t have to worry about the recipe picking up food stains because you can wipe it off.
I do this, too! I’ll even photocopy frequently used recipes from other cookbooks to put in the binder because it’s so handy to have them in one place. I have them organized into a few basic sections (salads, pasta, etc.), but the thing that’s the handiest is having a tab at the front labeled “to do.” When I order groceries for the week, I’ll put recipes that I’ve ordered groceries for in that section, then during the week my husband can just flip to it to figure out what we have the stuff for (our division of labor is that I meal plan/shop and he cooks) and pick what he wants to make that night.
Beef and broccoli, Thai curry, chili, and numerous pasta dishes. We also make a ton of rice bowls without a recipe, just winging it based on what’s in the fridge and whipping up some sort of sauce.
Dutch Baby/Puffy Pancake – one egg, 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup milk/almond milk/coconut milk, 1 tablespoon butter/Earth Balance/coconut oil. Scale up to six by multiplying times number of people serving. 425 degree oven, preheat pie plate or cast iron skillet, add butter and heat to bubbling. Add batter to hot pan, cook for 20-30 minutes until puffy and golden brown. Can also be made in muffin tin. Serve with powdered sugar and fresh fruit or syrup or stewed apples. Can be made with gluten free flour and/or dairy free but it may not be as puffy but will still be good. Substitute beef drippings and you have Yorkshire Pudding for Christmas dinner.
John Hinterberger’s clam spaghetti, which is the first meal I served to guests as an adult/college student. Saute an onion in oil and/or butter until very soft, add 8 cloves garlic and generous handfuls of dried oregano, basil and parsley (can also use fresh). Add in mushrooms (if you don’t hate them like I do) and black olives. Add 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (optional). Add 1/2 cup of good white wine. Add juice (not clams) of 3-4 cans of chopped (not minced) clams or bottle of clam juice. Simmer as long as possible. Cook pasta (spaghetti or linguine is best but any shape will work, and gluten free is ok too) until al dente. At this point, add canned clams to the sauce. Or add raw clams to the sauce and turn up heat to simmer and cook clams. When pasta is cooked, add 1/2 cup of grated/shredded Parmesan cheese and add pasta to sauce and put on to high heat for 1-2 minutes until cheese is melted and sauce is cheesy. Serve with extra cheese on top. Can also be made dairy-free by leaving out the butter and cheese steps.
Italian farinata/French Socca – 1 cup garbanzo bean flour, 1 cup water, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 2 tablespoons olive oil. Combine and let sit for an hour if possible. Heat oven to 450 degrees, heat cast iron or heavy skillet in oven. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil until hot. Pour in batter and cook for 15-20 minutes until edges are golden brown but not burned. You can broil it for a minute or two to brown the top.
Kinda reminds me of this Eater article about sharing recipes thru a chain letter (which funnily enough, I got one from a friend’s sister yesterday): https://www.eater.com/2020/4/10/21216213/coronavirus-recipe-chain-letter-emails
But anyway, one simple recipe I make over and over is a westernized Pork Larb over Rice with roasted green beans. Recipe here: https://www.hellofresh.com/recipes/thai-pork-larb-5807afcca7c72a4cc06ac623/ I eat it with regular brown or white rice, no need to go all fancy with “jade rice”
Lots of “comfort food” recipes… If you want to get fat and happy, I’m your girl.
Chicken casserole, chicken and biscuits, mac and cheese, noodle casserole, hash brown casserole, roast with carrots and potatoes, my grandmother’s “hunky” soup recipe (don’t ask me why it’s called that, all I know is that it is ridiculously easy and insanely delicious,) and my mom’s veggie soup “recipe” — which doesn’t even have a recipe at all.
I’m seeing a theme here, and I’m also starting to understand why I’ve gained as much weight as I did when my mom got sick… I lived off this stuff. But that’s what comfort food is for, right?
Can you share the hunky soup? Sounds interesting!
I don’t need recipes for most soups. I always have carrots, celery and onion on hand, and the variations from that foundation are endless.
One large can of tomato juice – plus the can full of water
One large can of crushed tomatoes (I give them a whirl through the food processor to break them down a bit more) – plus the can full of water
One large yellow onion cut into big pieces
2-3 stalks celery cut into big pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all in a large stock pot and let simmer for a couple of hours. Strain out the onion and celery and any large pieces of tomato. Cook a 1 pound box of elbow macaroni.
Serve a healthy helping of macaroni in a bowl topped full with the tomato-veggie broth. We’ve always stirred in a spoonful of ketchup for some extra zip.
My dad said he thinks his grandmother may have made this and passed it on to his mom. All I know is that this is my absolute favorite comfort food. It smells so good when the broth is cooking and it’s so soothing, especially when you don’t feel well.
Not many, but I wish I knew more! Black bean quesadillas and miracle mac n cheese from Budget Bytes come to mind right now. I also can rattle off my Gran’s cranberry salad anytime: 3 cups finely ground cranberries, 1/2 cup sugar, 2/3 cup mini marshmallows, 1 cup whipped heavy cream. Combine cranberries with sugar and chill overnight. Fold in marshmallows and cream and freeze until solid.
This entirely too easy to believe chili recipe. My personal modifications to my family’s preferences are to add 1/4 c of brown sugar, a dice jalapeno, a squirt or two of siracha, and use ground turkey rather than ground beef and 2 cloves of garlic rather than garlic powder. This is a true dump it and forget it dish that makes the house smell amazing. I also make popovers to go with it.
This an entirely too easy to believe chili recipe. My personal modifications to my family’s preferences are to add 1/4 c of brown sugar, a dice jalapeno, a squirt or two of siracha, and use ground turkey rather than ground beef and 2 cloves of garlic rather than garlic powder. This is a true dump it and forget it dish that makes the house smell amazing. I also make popovers to go with it.
The only thing I have memorised that’s actually a recipe is my standard bread loaf. 500g flour, 300-350ml water, a teaspoon of yeast, 1.5 tsp salt, and then the kneading/ proving/ baking method. Even that is variable – this morning’s loaf was 100g rye flour and the rest wheat.
Other than that most of my staples aren’t really recipes. I would never look at a recipe for a veggie Bolognese sauce, a standard curry, an easy stir fry, a nice risotto, any of that kind of stuff. Sometimes I’ll check recipes for ideas of quantities or additions but that’s it.
For recipe-led cooking, I’ve been working my way through my cookbooks and picking a recipe or two per week. Tonight I’m making the black bean soup from Ella Risbridger’s Midnight Chicken, and I just recently made loads of things from Alison Roman’s Dining In. I love Smitten Kitchen too, and half the time will use her recipes as a jumping off point. On Thursday I’m planning to make Jamie Oliver’s cauliflower and paneer curry from his Veg book – but he makes the sauce unnecessarily complicated so I will be following his method for the cauliflower and paneer (or halloumi I’m this case) and making my own basic curry sauce.
Oh and I’ve recently started a food Instagram to showcase some of this – it’s at @lilymcooks
Just clicked over to follow you, and I realized I already know you! Ha! Small world.
Oh, gosh, nope, I don’t. Autofill sent me to a friend’s page…I am a moron! Ignore me…go about your day ::facepalm::
4 ingredient pancakes: 1/2c. oats, 1 banana, 2 eggs, 1/2 tbsp. chia seeds – blend, pour, flip, done! Yields 2, and I usually add cinnamon, apples, chocolate chips, something like that. They are not sweet on their own unless the banana is super ripe.
10-minute eggs: saute greens (whatever’s on hand) in EVOO, add salt and desired seasoning (red pepper flakes, garlic powder for me), make two wells, crack an egg in each, cover and cook until eggs reach preferred done-ness. I like to top with hot sauce and everything but the bagel seasoning, and serve with toast. If I have time, I’ll saute some onions, garlic, sundried tomatoes, and/or mushrooms with the greens. Filling and the perfect in-between meetings meal.
Dragon Noodles (from Budget Bytes) are my go to quick dinner!
– Make some noodles (usually lo mein, in a pinch a packet of ramen with the spice mix discarded.)
– While the water boils, mix equal parts sriracha, soy sauce, and brown sugar (I usually do about 1.5 tbsps of each for just me.) If you have them on hand, add a splash each of rice vinegar/lime juice and/or toasted sesame oil.
– Put a generous pat of butter in a skillet, crush a clove of garlic into it and add a pinch of red pepper flakes + some grated fresh ginger if you have it. When the garlic is fragrant, scramble an egg in the pan. Add cooked and drained noodles and sauce to the pan, stir, and enjoy.
I love this thread, and already saved a couple of the recipes. I have a question and a contribution –
Q: How do you all organize digital recipes? Right now when something catches my eye, I copy/paste the link or text into a new email, put the recipe title in the subject line, and save it to my drafts. It’s a great, easy way to quickly save recipes and access them later to browse, but the collection is 50-strong now and lacks organization. Any tips?
My contribution – cornflake chicken, my mom taught me this ‘recipe.’ Take 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, slice into strips. Crush up a big bag of cornflakes seasoned liberally with seasoning salt, or whatever you have on hand, but definitely don’t skimp on the salt. Melt some butter in a bowl, think about whether you should make some vegetables with this meal, and carry on. Dip the chicken strips into the butter (you can use egg too, for real stick, but i like the butter for reasons detailed below) then dip into the cornflakes, press on for stick, and lay in your baking dish. Repeat with all the tenders, then mound some more cornflakes on top, go on, drizzle the butter around, don’t be shy about leaving piles of cornflakes + butter in the corners of the baking dish, you’ll fight over those later. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or whatever, keep in mind the breading adds a little bit of cook time. Tastes like fried chicken, but with a light hand on the butter and some follow-through on the veggies, it’s much healthier. Enjoy!
The Paprika app is perfect for digital recipes. You have to pay for it but I think it’s worth it.
I make this too! On a whim once (and when I was a tad short on cornflakes) I added some of those fried onion rings you use to top casseroles. Oh. My. Goodness! Give it a try sometime! SOOOO good!
I save PDFs on my computer. I have a Recipes folder with a dozen subdivisions by type of dish (chicken, soup, casserole, sauces, etc.).
I make the double chocolate banana bread from Smitten Kitchen in muffin form at least weekly, so have that one memorized. Things like fried chicken, coleslaw, balsamic dressing, tomato sauce, Italian meatballs, beef stew, brisket, seared chicken/steak and pan sauces I have down from frequent use and repetition (season meat, add flour if desired, sear, once done cooking de-glaze pan with fat, wine or beer, aromatics or seasonings as desired, and add in a bare amount of flour if needed, pour over meat, done). Anything new, ethnic, or especially baking I use a recipe for, but will often combine/skip steps, and change up the seasonings to suit our taste.
In fairness, I spent A LOT of my late teens/early 20’s following things like America’s Test Kitchen because my mom wasn’t a good cook and didn’t teach me how to do much beyond broil or seat a plain cut of meat/mash potatoes/boil vegetables/boil pasta. Ethnic ingredients/recipes simply weren’t as widely available then, so I’m still learning and tweaking a lot of those. Honestly if I could get good Indian and Thai reliably I probably wouldn’t have bothered trying to do it at home!
I realize based on the premise of this question that I normally don’t follow recipes. Cakes (baking powder ones) and meats that can kill you at the wrong temperature excepted. Recipes are inspiration, guidelines, or that first idea to try something new. I think I’m a level 2 chef (if you’ve seen the Epicurious series, hehe) at a lot of things, but I used to have less skills. Some of the skills that have stuck, have been recipes once, and I think that’s still what I use recipes for – learning a new skill to freestyle from. I love looking a cookbooks and recipes and see something nice, and then do something slightly different. One thing I’ve always wondered about, are all the “cream of XX cans” in American recipes. It seems to me it’s normally used instead of Bechamel sauce, and I always substitute that, but since the “cream of” cans are not for sale where I live I’ve never been able to test whether I’m missing out.
One of the very few recipes I’ve never really changed is the Delia Smith basic pizza dough, which I do from memory, whenever I want to make real pizza. This has been my only (wheat) pizza dough the last twenty-odd years: 175 g wheat flour, 1/2 tea spoon dried yeast, 1 tea spoon salt, 1 table spoon olive oil, 120 ml warm water. Do the dough thing, listen for the bubble gum pops to know the yeast has activated. Bake on as high a temperature as your oven allows, on a high shelf, with pizza things on it. That’s one sheet of thin lovely, Italian crust.
Just realized that my post duplicated the dressing mentioned in the article. I should have read the whole article first before posting.
How amazing that lemon vinaigrette came to mind for the both of us!!!
Recipe? Peanut butter and jelly.
Thank you for the recipes! I think I will be trying the Siggy’s Salad this weekend. Would probably be a good idea to make my own quinoa salad, instead of buying the Costco one. You made it seem quite simple.
I made the instant pot chicken breast recipe you linked last night. It was delish! Thanks for the inspiration. I save my recipes in Pinterest and also have a messy three ring binder. One of my favorite food bloggers is Gimme Some Oven. Ever recipe I make from her turns out great!
I’ve made this recipe twice now during quarantine, and already memorized the sauce by the second time. 1 Tbs each of brown sugar, soy sauce, and sriracha, per serving of rice noodles (for me, as I like the noodles to be fully coated). There’s a bit more to the recipe but the simple sauce combo is my main takeaway.