During a six-month period of extreme money-saving in the lead up to moving to New York, I had the same thing for lunch every single day: a can of tuna and half an avocado, sliced, served on three round rice cakes. At the time, I wondered if I’d ever get bored of this beyond-basic meal, but every day for six months at 11.30 a.m. (the best time to have lunch) I looked forward to it. Even now, more than three years later, I’m still overcome with delight whenever I realize I have all the makings of this meal in my pantry.
While I love my lunch recipe with the whole of my heart, I’m very aware that most people—particularly the tuna-fish averse—would definitely not. In an effort to find more delicious but simple recipes to add to my limited mental recipe book, I reached out to three female food experts (read: restaurant owners and chefs) to share their best recipe with fewer than five ingredients. Here’s what they came up with:
The Homemade Salsa That Will Make You Feel Like You’re Capable of Anything
Natalie Hernandez, chef and owner of Boca Santa
4–5 Serrano peppers
4 plum tomatoes
2 medium garlic cloves
1½ teaspoons salt
Place a comal or a cast-iron skillet over high heat. Place plum tomatoes and Serrano peppers on skillet or comal to char, flip occasionally, until all ingredients are cooked through and charred, about 15–20 minutes. Turn the heat off the comal or skillet, and set aside.
While veggies are charring, place garlic cloves, salt, and ⅕ cup water in blender and blend on high for about 30 seconds, or until garlic is completely broken down and there are few to no chunks left.
Once veggies are charred and cooked fully through, add them to blender, making sure to have removed stems from peppers, and pulse veggies and garlic mixture in blender until veggies are broken down but still have a chunky consistency.
The Cookie That’s a Thousand Times Simpler Than It Looks (and Tastes)
Christina Tosi, chef, founder, and owner of Milk Bar
This is the recipe I grew up making. It’s what I make with my nieces and my family, and it always gives me a little sense of togetherness—plus, it’s only four ingredients!
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup packed light brown sugar
2 cups flour, plus more for dusting
½ teaspoon salt
Heat the oven to 350°F. Spray your baking sheets.
In a large bowl, combine the softened butter and sugar with a wooden spoon (or in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment). Mix until the butter and sugar are smooth. In a separate bowl, stir together the salt and flour, then mix this into the sugar and butter, a little at a time. After the first two additions of flour (if you’re not doing this with a stand mixer) it may be easiest to ditch the spoon and use your hands.
Form the dough into a ball, and divide the ball into three pieces. Place each piece into a plastic sandwich bag and pat the dough smooth and flat with your hands. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Dust a clean, dry section of your countertop with flour. Place the dough down and use a flour-dusted rolling pin to roll it out until it is a ¼ inch thick (use a ruler!) Use your favorite cookie cutters to cut the dough into shapes. Using a metal spatula, lift the shapes and transfer them to your greased baking sheets. If you use a range of sizes and shapes, keep the bigger cut-outs on one baking sheet and the smaller cut-outs on the other baking sheet.
Bake the cookies at 350°F for 5 to 10 minutes (depending on size of your cut-outs), until the edges of the cookies are golden brown. With oven mitts, remove the baking sheets from the oven and cool the cookies completely on the baking sheets.
The Mac and Cheese That’s Begging For Your Potato Chip Crumbs
Libby Willis, owner MeMe’s Diner
A simple comforting recipe that can be made quickly and feel luxurious rich with even cheaper ingredients.
1 lb pasta (any shape will work here—at MeMe’s we use shells)
1 12 oz can of evaporated milk
1 lb shredded cheddar cheese (any kind of easily melting cheese works here—I like sharp cheddar)
8 oz American cheese cut into cubes
Optional toppings: A pinch of salt, chili oil, or crumbled potato chips (really anything crunchy!)
In a large pot, boil salted water. Then, cook pasta until al dente.
For cheese sauce: In a saucepan over medium heat, add evaporated milk, shredded cheese, and American cheese. Stir frequently with a flexible spatula to avoid scorching cheese. When the sauce is melted, add cooked pasta. Stir until combined.
Top each serving with crushed potato chips and something spicy. If you are making a batch for just yourself and plan to have leftovers, I recommend storing the cheese sauce and the cooked pasta separately. This way you can reheat the sauce before adding the pasta, to prevent it from overcooking. The cheese sauce is also great added to eggs for a cheesy scramble, or on chips like queso.
What’s your favorite just-a-handful-of-ingredients meal? Send your suggestions my way! And don’t forget to let me know if you try out any of the above—I’ll be cheering you on from my apartment.
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