Before quarantine started, I would regularly write weekend to-do lists that in retrospect seem to have encapsulated the most ambitious pursuits of the person I wanted (or thought I wanted) to be. Among the usual asterisks to populate the to-do list were art projects using natural ingredients like coconut flour to make Play-Doh and turmeric to dye it (it turns out from the dikes of quarantine that I have no interest in becoming this mother), the lofty desire to read at least 10 of the stories I had Pocketed the week prior (I’d probably still do this if I weren’t spending more time on my computer, with even more time to actually read at will), some version of a tidying exercise be it for bookshelves, my closet, a pantry, and there was always–always–a plea to cook something.
Whenever I’d set out to cook, though, a deluge of excuses would interrupt the effort: We’re going for dinner. Don’t waste the chicken. You just had lunch. Can you even make pasta? You hate instructions. You want to bake? Don’t buy the ingredients. And on. What I am realizing now is that cooking is not so different from fashion in that anyone can do it. From the outside, it seems so damn intimidating, like it’s impossible to break in, but eventually, you realize the only barrier to entry is yourself. To be into fashion, you just have to be proud that you like to wear clothes, then wear them. To get good at cooking, you just have to try. Then you keep trying and definitely fuck up, over and over, until you learn the language and boom: a new skill is born.
I’m still in the “over and over” phase of learning to cook, but let me just tell you, it is way less soul-crushing than I thought it would be. All I’m really doing is chopping shit up, then assembling it and turning on fire. Really, that’s it. To be clear, I am also exclusively making only very easy recipes, the most noteworthy of which I am sharing below–two from the New York Times and one I pulled from my ass. Not literally, which feels important to acknowledge in the context of consumable goods. I will apologize in advance for the shitty photos. One of the ways I know I’m not ready to be a food blogger is because I keep forgetting to make fancy plate-scapes before actually eating the thing. The only one I have, in fact, is the feature image of this story–a visual non sequitur given that none of the recipes below call for charred broccoli, steamed spinach, or a Meyer lemon and tarragon-seasoned turkey breast. I can tell you more in the comments if you want, but in the meantime, y’all ready 4 this:
The dish: 30-Minute vegetarian skillet chili
The recipe: Put oil in a skillet (I used a frying pan), heat at medium-high, sauté onion for 5-7 minutes then add garlic, chili powder, and oregano (I didn’t do this last one; replaced with smoked Spanish paprika instead) for 1-2 minutes longer. Add beans, tomatoes, and some salt, and let it all simmer for 20 minutes.
The thing I fucked up: There was a call to pickle onions, which I did not do. I also didn’t have diced tomatoes, so instead I used tomato sauce, which didn’t make a significant difference, but it would have been nice to taste those chunks, less favored and probably waterier (the sauce was kind of creamy). Also, I went ham on smoked Spanish paprika, which I added as a deviation from the recipe, and I would recommend such hamming to anyone else.
But overall: It was stickier in consistency and appearance than I hoped it would be, but we finished 6 servings among 3 people (counting Madelaur as 1) in the span of a meal. So either they were hungry, or it was good; I choose to believe the latter.
The dish: 30-Minute easy chicken curry
The recipe: Put *neutral* oil in a skillet (again, I used a pan) and turn heat to medium-high. Add onions a minute later (peeled! And! Sliced! But I think I wish I had diced them), with salt and pepper. Cook for 15 minutes, then add two teaspoons of curry powder until one minute later when you throw in a can of coconut milk (do not include the meat that coagulates at the top of the can!). Stir for 2 minutes, then add the chicken (I diced it), and stir it for 3 to 6 minutes. Finally, you’re supposed to add tomatoes and cook for another minute, but I didn’t have any tomatoes so I added arugula instead.
The thing I fucked up: Originally, I attempted this recipe with coconut oil instead of a “neutral” oil because I didn’t think I had canola or grapeseed oil and fucked up the first batch of onions I chopped. Then as it turned out, I had canola spray, so I used that for round 2 and it worked. The one thing I’ll say is that 15 minutes was too long to cook the onions–I did closer to 10 minutes and think it turned out fine. Also, I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to include the coconut meat in the can of milk because I am new to this shit and do not excel in the department of common sense. I decided against it, which I think was right, it seemed like it would chunk shit up in an unhelpful way.
But overall: The arugula was a nice add–in the curry and as a garnish. I topped it with a little more salt when the chicken was done cooking. Overall: this tasted, looked, and went down exactly how I hoped it would.
The dish: 30-Minute very boring cookies
Before I get into it, let me just say: My husband is very high maintenance. Not in a fancy-car, flashy-watch, buy-me-a-yacht kind of way, but when it comes to his health, he will spend just about anything it costs to have a healer or shaman or nutritionist or acupuncturist who has never met him much less proven they know how to evaluate the gallons of bloodwork he has contributed over the years tell him what to eat. Or more aptly: what not to eat. Most recently, the exhaustive list he’s deposited in my lap (in an effort to suspend migraines) includes: grains (all of them–the migraine nograine diet?), sugar, dignity, soy, dairy, tomatoes, joy, cucumbers, eggplant, cashews, happiness. The list goes on.
Last week, I planned to make grain-free, dairy-free, sugar-free banana bread, using a 4-ingredient recipe that I’d seen in an Instagram Story, consisting of banana, maple syrup, eggs, oats, and fine, ingredient #5: baking soda. I replaced the oats with almond flour, added Hu Kitchen cacao chunks and a spoon full of peanut butter and poured the batter in a muffin tin because I don’t have a loaf tin, then put them in the oven for 25 minutes, took them out, and let me tell you, those damn bread muffins were good. And amenable! Or so I thought. When I was asked to recite the ingredients to my nutritional dependent, he all but spit as the word “eggs” burped from my throat. Add them to the insufferable list of things he can’t eat eyyy vwala, here we are. On made-up recipe street with a second, sad attempt at something sweet to ingest, c/o:
The recipe: Two flax eggs (I Googled egg replacement, found a recipe for flax eggs and made them–all it takes is 1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds mixed with 3 tablespoons of water to make one)
½ cup of chia seeds in ½ cup of water (I used boiling water so the seeds would sprout instantaneously)
1½ cups of almond flour
A generous pour of maple syrup over the above ingredients
And then you mix, mix, mix your anger out. Mix, mix, mix your anger out. Mix, mix, mix your anger out, then wiggle and waddle away.
On top of these ingredients, I added a handful of a medley of sunflower and pumpkin seeds and walnuts and chocolate chips.
Instead of baking these in my muffin tins, I plopped them down like cookies on a baking tray, then let them sizzle in my oven at 350 degrees for 29 minutes.
The thing I fucked up: Nothing! The beauty of inventing a recipe is that you can’t fuck up following the instructions because you made them, dammit.
And overall: They are a silver lining of quarantine–second only to one that included repurposing gym shorts as leisure shorts and sock as shoes. And, fine, these–everything but the kitchen sink: