But it brings up a good point, and one that people ask me about all the time: how do you get to that culinary zen where you don’t need to follow a recipe, and you can just wing it? Well, it’s not something you learn overnight, that’s for sure. But there are a few things you can do to tweak a recipe into a winner, salvage a broken dish, or anticipate what’s going to work and what’s not:
Now before you get all bent out of shape and protest to drinking spinach or kale at 7:00 in the morning, let me make one, very bold statement. I promise you, you will not taste it. Seriously. I’m telling you, I have no idea how it works, but somehow the spinach is cancelled out and it is all nutritional goodness and no vegetable taste. I love sneaking leafy greens in all sorts of food, because who doesn’t need more kale? But this spinach-in-the-smoothie is one pretty legit trick.
So I guess I can’t completely blame you, when you read the title: BEST THING I’VE EVER COOKED, and you are a little wary. I get it. I’ll chalk it up to consistent writing and pat myself on the back for the ability to keep you all coming back with (exaggerated) bated breath. But this time it’s not me. The designation of THE BEST THING I’VE EVER COOKED is completely (partially) unbiased, (mostly) unprompted, and (probably) warranted. Even divided by 60, this was still an above normal dinner.
Nothing beats a your favorite neighborhood takeout’s pad thai, but this dish is a good alternative. And it comes together in about the same time it takes to call in delivery. The best part is that it doesn’t use any of the authentic (read: hard to find and never in my pantry) asian ingredients. There’s a very good chance you’ll have almost everything on hand, or can source the missing ingredients from your favorite grocery store’s ethnic aisle. While the authentic versions are fairly consistent, this recipe is totally flexible. One of those great “clean out the fridge” dishes that tastes good no matter what you throw in it – use whatever vegetables and/or meat you like and have.
Can you operate a can opener? Check! Can you fry an egg? Check! Guess what – you can assemble this delicious dinner in like 10 minutes. No kidding. Everyone needs these super quick recipes up their sleeve for busy nights. This is one of my favorites because it’s delicious and (fairly) nutritious. Plus the ingredients are usually in my pantry, or it’s a cheap stop at the market if they aren’t.
Dinner Party Rock Star: Fish en Papillote – Maple Glazed Salmon with Bok Choy and Mustard Mashed Potatoes
Fish en papillote is a method of steaming fish in a parchment envelope. (“En papillote” means “in parchment” in french. Bonus points, now you’re throwing a FRENCH dinner party!) There are myriad reasons why this method is amazing, from juicy, succulent fish, to flavorful veggies, to a show-stopper table presentation that includes theatrical unwrapping of your own personal envelope of deliciousness.
Imagine my surprise the first time I ate a homemade scone. They taste infinitely better. They are moist, but still dense, sweet, but not too sweet, and don’t make a crumbly mess when you bite into them. And here’s the kicker – you can whip up a batch in less time than it takes to go to your neighborhood Starbucks and buy one. Seriously. Like 10 minutes hands-on time. And years more delicious.