A long time ago, I wrote about learning that pretty much any quickbread/muffin/coffee cake could be reduced to a simple proportion: 1, 2, 3. One part oil, two parts sugar, three parts flour. With that metric, I had banana bread, zucchini bread, carrot cake, and lemon muffins at my fingertips even when there were no cookbooks within reach.
Memorization may be beyond the pale, but I think it’s worth knowing a few recipes well, no matter how close at hand you keep your cookbook collection or bookmarked recipes from blogs. Cooking a favorite recipe is a different experience than cooking a brand new recipe: the smells strike you as familiar, you know when to turn the heat up or down, and you won’t be nervous about the food at a date or a dinner party–even if you’re nervous about the company, or the state of your apartment, or the quantity of wine in the fridge. . .
Here are a few favorite recipes I think of as classic. I’m curious–what recipes do you think every cook should master?
**9 Easy, Versatile Recipes You Might As Well Master**
1. Chicken Marbella. This marinated chicken was once a classic, and I’m on a mission to bring it back. Here’s the story: you do all the prep work the evening before you want to eat. Then add a few more ingredients, pop the chicken in the oven, and wait for dinner to be served. A hodgepodge of sweet, savory, and rich ingredients mingle to create a distinct and impressive flavor. Pictured above.
2. Baked Shells with Tomatoes and Mozzarella. This recipe is a nice way of saying that you’ve got to master homemade tomato sauce. There is no better meal – for one, for two, for a crowd – than marinara sauce cooked up. Yet as soon as you toss excellent sauce with fresh mozzarella, a lot of parmesan, and shells, you’ve created a comforting baked pasta main that you can bring to a potluck or easily make the center of your meal.
3. Vinaigrette. I’m a total snob about bottled salad dressing – sorry, guys. Fortunately, about the time the book came out, we made this video about making homemade vinaigrettes, either using a Mini Cuisinart or a low-tech bowl and whisk. Better yet, remember the basic proportion for most vinaigrettes: 2 parts vinegar, 1 part prepared mustard, 4 parts olive oil. After that, feel free to add salt, herbs, and honey to jazz up the dressing.
4. Guacamole. The super dip that everyone loves, that’s healthful but rich, and perfect for the sports watching and ladies’ nights alike. Grab a ton of avocados and mash them with tomatoes, onion, garlic, salt, and lots of lime–you’ll up your cooking credibility immediately.
5. Best Brownies. Very little flour, lots of chocolate, and a premature emergence from the oven make these the best brownies you’ll ever eat. And when you serve them to friends, they’ll beg for as many squares as you’re willing to give away.
6. Banana Bread. I learned banana bread early on, under my mother and Joy of Cooking‘s direction. Later on, I learned that this was easy enough to make using those proportions I mention above: 1, 2, 3. The result is a gooey, rich loaf you’ll be proud to whip up for breakfast and brunch.
7. Udon Noodles with BGSK Peanut Sauce. If you’ve been a BGSK fan for any length of time, I hope I don’t have to beg you to try this recipe. The peanut sauce is amazing, and it coats any kind of noodle you choose. Read the post to see how to make peanut noodles the centerpiece of an easy party.
8. Homemade Hummus. I know, I know, you can buy hummus in a container at any supermarket. Homemade hummus transcends those dips. Even if you don’t have time to boil the beans up from scratch, throwing beans, tahini, garlic, lemon, and olive oil will craft you the best dip you’ve ever had.
9. Huevos Rancheros for a Crowd. This simple, delicious, and inexpensive egg preparation will save you – I promise – if you’re ever on the hook to make brunch for two dozen hungry friends or family members. Top cheesy scrambled eggs with chipotle-spiced black beans and creamy avocado, then plate the huevos rancheros individually for maximum eating pleasure.