Privilege Blog

Simplifying The Kitchen, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:34am



One imagines that in retirement one might indulge deeply in one’s interests. Yes, and occasionally no. In particular, I’ve always loved to cook, but now find myself looking to spend less time in the act.

Turns out that the kind of cooking I liked, and did well, was of the Dinner Party variety. You know. Main course, 2 sides, perhaps even a soup, and dessert. 3 different cooking techniques, 29 ingredients, and 1842 dirty implements. All the spoons in the universe.

The rush and steam of final minutes. Metal spatula clanging in the saucepan, transmutation. Doesn’t a wood spoon against Le Creuset enamelware feel almost silky? Burned elbows.

The sigh of settling to table, breath drawn in as everyone looks at their plates, the clink of wine bottles. Talk. Chairs pushed back. The remove to sofas and upholstery, the curling up, the talk.

Dishes were done by men, or in the morning.

I remember the dinner parties of my late 30s and early 40s as stellar accomplishments. But all that hubbub and chopping loses its thrill with one person cooking and cleaning, and just two people eating. So much sound and stirring, way more effort than satisfaction.


I still like to eat. The other day I went through my old cookbooks, muttering, “Why the cream, why so much cream?!” Above you see what I’m working with. Authored by Tara Duggan, Pierre Franey, Marian Burros, Nigel Slater and America’s Test Kitchen. If a test kitchen can be called an “author.”

I don’t like to use processed foods, or more than a teaspoon of sugar per dish. We shall see. I’m guessing I’ll make a lot of cringe-inducing dinners, some decent ones, and gradually sort out the over-arching patterns of simple, healthy, good-t0-eat food. And manage my ego along the way.

Old dog, proverbial new tricks. Anyone else in the same situation?

Ideas for resources – cookbooks, blogs, even annoying videos of people with very broad accents – welcome. Have a great weekend everyone –  dine wisely and well.

129 Responses

  1. I don’t get home from work until 7ish so I like to have dinner ready to go quickly, otherwise we end up eating too late and I don’t sleep well. Everything works best if I have a menu plan for the week. I read “Cooking Light” magazine, it’s long on quick meals that are light on cream. I also go through the Food section of the paper on Wednesdays and pick off things in their quick meals section.

    1. @RoseAG, By “the paper,” do you mean the New York Times? I have been resisting paying to subscribe, but just might surrender. I’ve never read Cooking Light, and suspect it’s time to start.

    2. @RoseAG, The New York Times has a great food writer, Martha Rose Shulman. She’s all vegetarian. They also have columns by Mark Bittman.

      I also like the Washington Post’s Food offerings. They’re ready with holiday menus, wine choices, easy dinner recipes. I think it’s more practical then the NYT.

  2. One night when I couldn’t sleep, I went downstairs to the kitchen and started sorting through my recipe box. I wound up weeding out more than half the recipes. Many were ones given to me and I had planned to try someday. After looking at the ingredients (lots of sour cream, mayo, butter, and canned soups), I thought “What were they thinking?!” I think we are all more mindful of what we put in our bodies these days. Meanwhile, I am having fun trying out new recipes in my retirement. Some are gleaned from new more up-to-date cookbooks and some from newspaper cooking articles or from blogs. Sometimes it’s problematic for my waistline!

    1. @Jane, Ellie Krieger writes a column titled Nourish in the Washington Post and her recipes are healthy, delicious and easy! Lindaraxa’s blog has some good ones that I like. Chronica Domus inspired me to make souffles via the recipes at epicuriouscom. I use Ina Garten’s cookbooks and her recipes are very well written. I enjoy looking at the blogs of David Lebowitz, Dorrie Greenspan and Manger for inspiration. I am just a very curious cook always looking for something new to try.

  3. Blogs can be helpful. I also like Allrecipes and Food Network sites for help. I am also retired, yet want tasty and simple foods. I think we in America need to change our view of foods. It is nourishment, not amusement. So the goal appears to be to find this nourishment in simple to achieve methods. I look forward to reading what others have discovered.

    If one is judicious Pinterest can also be a useful source.

  4. I love to cook and don’t mind cooking for two. Of course the issue is leftovers, so I try to make things that can be frozen and taste great when thawed. Last night, I roasted a pork tenderloin and served it up with Kentucky Wonder Beans (which had been fresh frozen) and brown rice. We’re having that same thing for lunch today.

    Have you planned more dinner parties?

    1. @Susan, No, no more dinner parties. Husband and I are very happy on our own for now. The blog is my dinner party equivalent, I guess. And what are Kentucky Wonder Beans?!?!?!

  5. I just got the cookbook “Well Fed” by Melissa Joulwan and it was so excellent I splurged for “Well Fed 2”. The recipes are paleo (I’ll leave it to you to look up if you’re unfamiliar) but are so delicately seasoned and delicious and lovely that even my non-paleo husband requests them over my traditional standard creations. They tend to have a Mediterranean seasoning base – I highly recommend the mulligatawny soup, the Cincinnati chili, and the Silky gingered zucchini soup. Yes, a few odd ingredients, but every one I’ve tried so far is a winner (as in chicken dinner winner . . .)

    1. @Christine, Great. I’m familiar with paleo – and of course another thing I’m trying to do is add more vegetables to our dinners vs. meat, so the recipes you have listed look good.

    2. @Christine,

      YES!! I am an absolute evangelist of these two cookbooks–I have made almost literally every recipe in each with not a single misstep. I adore the cauliflower-carrot soup and could happily eat it every day of my life. Also the five-spice ribs are worth the time in the slow cooker.

  6. Check out Heidi’s food is vegetarian; whole grain and legume heavy. This carnivore often adds an animal protein to her dishes (chicken to salads, thinly sliced steak to noodle dishes, etc.)

    Even if the food doesn’t strike your fancy, the photography is absolutely stunning and you will be inspired to make simple, nutritious, beautiful meals.

    I cook for one, and like Susan, I manage leftovers by freezing a lot of things. Stews, curries, beans, individual servings of brown rice/quinoa/barley all go in the freezer. And then I have easy lunches or midweek dinners, which cuts down on the amount of time I have to spend in the kitchen.

  7. I like The Barefoot Contessa cookbooks. You can also find her recipes online. Usually I decide what ingredients I want to feature, then look up a recipe. I do cut back on the recommended salt to a half portion, then salt to taste. Gourmet magazine put out a few good cookbooks with simple fresh preparations as well. I like On Top Of Spaghetti and Guiliano Hazan for Italian I won’t spend more than an hour making a meal – other than Thanksgiving!

  8. I am sure you’ll do it all with style no matter what! Funny to me your cooking evolution and I understand how different it feels to cook for just 1 or 2. With the imminent house move, I am looking forward to the all cooking for future dinner parties! I’m sure the novelty will wear off soon enough :-)

  9. If you’re looking for more vegetarian ideas – my favourite cook book is Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s “Veg Every Day”.

  10. I confess to being a “foodie”, but I too have changed my menu preparation in the last few years, cooking for two. I like ethnic cookbooks, as they are usually healthier in terms of proportions of meat to vegetables…especially South-East-Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean…

  11. I’m transitioning to from dinner party/family supper cook to just the two of us. I’ve found some recipes from the magazine Real Simple’s online site that we’ve enjoyed. Honestly, tho, about three nights a week it’s either grilled salmon, chicken or pork tenderloin with spring mix or spinach salad, and a melange of whatever vegetables are on hand to roast–grape tomatoes, yellow squash, asparagus, red onion, whole green beans, red peppers, carrots, cauliflower and so on. I’m looking forward to reading your findings!

    1. @Paula, I think what I’ll do is order a bunch of these recommended cookbooks, try out some of the blogs, and report back. Eventually. I am hoping I can sort out the guiding principles, but I have to absorb a lot of data first:).

  12. I am reading and following the principles of English nutritionist Amelia Freer. Aside from a really healthy outlook she speaks of ‘assembling food’, which sounds like where you’re at, that is quick and delicious.
    I’m also drinking green smoothies (as recommended by her) and feel great; skin clear, nails strong. Her book is ‘ Eat Nourish Glow’, she slso has a blog.
    All the best,

    1. @Meg, Thank you. I have always differentiated between “cooking” which is what I used to do, and “food preparation,” which I did for my children. Since adults don’t really want to eat 62 varieties of noodles, time for some new tricks.

  13. If you heed more vegetarian books, the Cranks ones are well loved in our house. Written by nadine abensour, I think. I like Nigel Slater – he writes for the Guardian at the weekend – early Nigella (How to Eat is a great book) and Hugh FW.

  14. Mark Bittman has two goodies. “How to cook everything Fast” and “How to cook everything Vegetarian”. We have both and they are excellent resources. In the spirit of full disclosure tho’ — the aroma’s du jour are Pho-stock-done-our-way. (sorta Vietnamese/French/Cajun… kinda ;)) How did yours come out?
    Speedy is good, but sloooooow is better.

    1. @Rosie, I LOVE Mark Bittman. I always feel I can trust him. I have his first book – which is one of the more recent books I own:)

    1. @Melody, LOL! Confession. I always used to mix him up with David Sedaris and therefore haven’t read his food writings:).

  15. Jamie Oliver. I have all his books along with a lot of other cookbooks but always seem to go to him. Fresh. Healthy. Tasty.

    1. @Janey, Seconded on Jamie Oliver! Lots of Italian and modern-British (don’t be afraid! They’re delicious!) dishes, simple techniques with sophisticated results. I am also a huge fan of Smitten Kitchen’s blog. It’s home cooking, not cheffy (though I’ve made many of her recipes for guests) and every. Recipe. Works. Lastly, consider Marcella Hazan’s revered book, Classic Italian Cooking. Many of the recipes are magical combinations of just a few ingredients.

  16. Check out the website it has recipes, food and nutrition info, lifestyle, etc. I have liked Lynn Rosetto Kasper’s, “How to Cook, Supper” as a reasonable take on everyday food preparation, and I would second the suggestion of Mark Bittmans cookbooks which have a reasonable approach to healthier food without huge amounts of kichen time.

  17. Another really good vegetarian cookbook is “Passionate Vegetarian” by Cresent Dragonwagon. Husband and I retired about 3 years ago, I really love to cook so am having a ball with the extra time. We grow about 75% of our food and make as much from scratch as possible, canning/freezing/drying the extra. Buy our meat from local farmers who don’t use hormones etc. Last count I have 82 cookbooks of just about every ethnic variety there is….its just the two of us, but still I like to make meals into a big production. The drawback to this lifestyle is that it takes ALOT of time growing and preparing food from scratch. But we love it!

  18. Pierre Franey – LOVED his cooking shows, he made it look so easy and delicious!

    For someone very different –
    You might enjoy Susan Branch’s blog:

    I have many of her books, which are cookbooks surrounded by her artistry, quips and anecdotes from her youth, and her life on Martha’s Vineyard. She makes you feel like you are one of her close girlfriends!

    1. @Candace, Thanks – I’d love to read about someone living on the Vineyard. I miss it, and loved the times when we’d visit my father there in the summers.

  19. Have you tried Munchery? They’re a Bay Area delivery service that we use– relatively healthy meals. We’re in slightly different situations in that I have a one year old, am working full time, and have my father-in-law living with us. I would rather spend time with my son than my appliances and coping with my father in law’s veiled complaints. This way, he chooses what he wants and if he doesn’t like it, he can call Munchery and they refund it to our account. He still complains at dinner but it isn’t directed toward my efforts and usually isn’t about the food. The portions are plenty– they’re not perfect or cooked exactly the way that I would do it but the service buys me one hour a day to spend with my one year old who is growing up faster than I can wrap my mind around. So if you’re wanting a break, or to try some new things which you could replicate at home…

    1. @elizabeth, I’ve heard of them – I’d like to try them at least once, just to understand what’s going on in the world! If I had children, and a job, that’s totally what I would do.

  20. Canal House Cooks Lunch seems right up your alley – both in terms of more vegetables but also in style and flavor. The recipes sometimes seem a bit much for lunch but completely right for dinner. I also like Dinner: A Love Story which is more about dinner with families but some terrific non/dinner party quick meals are to be found. Plus Jenny Rosenstrach is a pleasure to read. And I’ll second (or third) Food 52.

  21. I too recommend Ina Garten’S the “Barefoot Contessa” cookbooks. She has a Blog as well and a show on the food network (BTW…her home is lovely). Many of her recipes are perfect for 2 to 4 people.

  22. I live by myself so fanciness in food just leads to waste. I switched over to primarily paleo-style a while back and am experimenting with kitchen minimalism. Favorite cookbooks include Melissa Joulwan’s Well Fed books, Russ Crandall’s Ancestral Table, and a few more that are at home that I don’t remember the names of offhand. Oh and the Ottolenghi books.

  23. I usually look at cookbooks for ideas, rather than to follow a recipe exactly.

    I subscribe to the NYT online. It comes with a cooking ap for my ipad. I’ve only used it a couple times, but I was able to search on an ingredient.

    We used to get the SF Chronicle delivered and the food section was pretty good. We get the paper online now.

    I also look at, an offshoot of Apartment Therapy. Some of the posts aren’t very good, but some are excellent.

    1. @AK, I have two SF Chronicle cookbooks, and they are great. However, the recipes are all pretty complex, if I remember correctly. Maybe the ones online are simpler? I wonder if they ever do “weeknight” recipes, that’s really what I’m looking for, I think.

  24. I’ve also used some of the sites and cookbooks mentioned above. Over the years, has been my primary source of recipes. I’ve also used allrecipes and epicurious (not all recipes are healthy).

    More recently, my younger son has gone vegetarian, bordering on vegan, so I’ve had to change the way I cook, and still provide large quantities of food for him (now 16-yo) and his older brother. I have Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian and love it. I’ve used, mentioned above, but I find her recipes to be very complicated so I haven’t tried many. One that I have tried, that is incredibly good, is fettucini alfredo with cauliflower as the main ingredient in the sauce:

    My main source of recipes now is, Sarah Britton, and I’ve ordered her cookbook, to be released at the end of March. Her recipes are mostly vegan, mostly gluten-free. Everything I’ve tried from this site has been wonderful. She also knows a tremendous amount about nutrition. Her lentil soup is one of our favorites, and so is this recipe: – basically a huge pile of shredded greens with a nice sauce over brown rice noodles. My sons gobble this up. Like most of her recipes, this one can be simplified. I never use the toppings, except for the cilantro and mint if I have them. She also has some recipes for seasonal bowls, like this one: Again, I leave out some ingredients, like the pickled radishes.

    I’ve also made up some very simple dishes, for example, steamed or wilted green vegetables (broccoli, pea shoots, sugar snap peas, baby spinach) over brown rice pad Thai noodles with bottled Thai peanut sauce.

    1. @Marie, I hadn’t thought to look at Cooking Light online. I will wander on over there. Thank you. The truly vegan/gluten-recipes are probably too far to the left on the spectrum for my particular pod right now:).

    2. @Marie, I should add that I don’t always keep the recipes vegan. For example, I use regular milk and parmesan cheese in the cauliflower fettuccine I mentioned above. My son will eat those. I find these sites a good source of information on vegetarian protein sources and recipes that use a lot of vegetables.

  25. Yes, same situation. I cook very simply for us now. Vegetable soups, grilled fish or chicken, quinoa or brown basmati rice, roasted vegetables, various combinations of that. An occasional stir fry as well. Lots of fresh ginger and garlic. We both eat for health, weight control etc. when home – so it’s all about getting fresh, organic food and simple, clean cooking. Nothing impressive. Luckily we don’t get easily bored with food.

    1. I have a mini Cuisinart herb chopper, I only peel – no hand chopping anymore. I do occasionally use the pre-chopped in the jars as well.

  26. I like the Moosewood cookbooks. They have one for simple dinners. I get some good ideas from Greene on Greens, (even though he uses a ton of cream and such, I’ve found you can usually cut down to half/use full fat yogurt instead of sour cream). Nigel Slater has one called Real Fast Food. Terry Walters, a local woman, has three healthy eating cookbooks… Deborah Madison has some great cookbooks. Also, Kathleen Daelemans, her cookbooks seem to be out of print, but if you can find them… (I’m a cookbook junkie)… Madhur Jaffrey has a vegetarian one that is also great. For me, what also helps is getting a CSA share… you get so much produce you get creative about using or canning it!

  27. Back in the day I whipped up Julia Child style meals and fed on the words of NY Times Food Editor Craig Claibourne. Then I fell in love with Pierre Franey and his quick style with French results. I still depend on Pierre. He had fabulous taste, but I just don’t use all of the cream and butter he did anymore. I adore Ina, as many above readers do, but she is liberal with butter and sweets too. We just don’t eat that way anymore. Simple is best, no processed foods, and spend less time in the kitchen with better results is my motto. Food with a Flair.

    But remember, food is like fashion, everyone has their own taste and style.

    1. @Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen, That is so true. I love the recipes you post – but they are less accessible to those who don’t like olives and tang. We seem to be a meat, soy, and onions household at the moment, and are expanding to a lot of simply done fish. You, being an expert, make the very good point that flavor profile is key.

  28. Food preferences like clothing are so subjective and I think it is important to identify the elements that really bring us the most enjoymet. I am an enthusiastic home cook and love French food but more the home cooking style versus the fancy restaurant/celebrity chef creations — I think of it as elegant comfort food. If I had to pick two favourite cookbooks it would be Dorie Greenspan “Around My French Table” and Wini Moranville’s “The Bonne Femme Cookbook”. Both are based on French cooking but are judicious in their use of rich ingredients so that it is possible to find everyday fare that is indulgent without being excessive. I think we owe it to ourselves and our family to enjoy the simple pleasure of a good home-cooked meal whenever possible.

    1. @Carla, So subjective. I’ve gotten to the point, after spending so much time with Asian foods, that French food seems almost bland. I’d like to get it back on my list.

  29. I, also, have had to adapt my cooking style for 2, aside from weekend brunches with the children and significant others. My weekday standbys all have the same algorithm: a lean protein, usually in a cutlet form that can be quickly done in a grill pan or on the grill in good weather ; one starchy/sweet side such glazed carrots; edamame salad; orzo with parmigian cheese; quinoa with golden raisins and pignoli or almons; tiny red potatoes glazed with olive oil; sea salt and rosemary; and a second side that is just a fresh green veggie with lemon and a tad of butter like a kale salad; haricot vert; or a good old crunchy iceberg with a viniagrette dressing. I find that if I keep this template in mind, I can quickly run through Whole Food on my way to the parking lot after work and assemble what I need quickly. Nigel Slater is excellent for this!

    1. @Loretta, See, that’s exactly what I want, an algorithm! I just need the meat to extend to fish, and the meat to be often ground or chopped! And how are you seasoning your proteins? A rub? Marinade? Pan sauce?

    2. @Loretta, that’s exactly what my husband (the cooker in the family) does! We call it “a thing, a thing and a thing”.

  30. Another vote for Food52! They’re a great aggregation site, and they often have wonderful vegetable dishes and inventive main courses. (Although they still talk too much about dessert, as is the case with too many food sites.)

    I agree with the poster who mentioned ethnic food. There are so many tasty vegetable-centric dishes from around the world, and many of them come together fast. I’ve been cooking from “Jerusalem – A cookbook” this week, which has some great stuffed eggplant recipes, e.g.

  31. I hope you have checked out Serious Eats blog. It is so inspiring the kinds of food they dream up. Of course America’s Test Kitchen various brands/arms/blogs all bring me a ton of inspiration, too. I’m not one to limit the kind of sugars or salt in a dish. Although I (unless baking) never ever add more than a 1/4tsp of salt since most dishes don’t need it anyway. But I adore cooking… it’s right up there with a massage in terms of getting me to relax so I hate the thought that I’d limit myself just to be healthy. I guess maybe with aging I will change my thought on that, but life’s too short and if I only have one portion I don’t mind it, IMHO. I hope you’ll check out those blogs I mentioned!


    1. @Whitney, I’ll take a look. I just can’t see my way to putting in all the time and effort it takes to cook unless it supports my health goals – and I absolutely love good food:).

  32. Skinnytaste blog has tasty recipes with WeightWatchers facts. She makes some pretty amazing dishes.

    1. @Christine G, Wow. I would have gone my whole life without going near Skinnytaste, since the name gives me the willies, but her recipes look great. And now I want a Spiralizer:).

  33. Well , I don’t know about you Lisa but I am totally befuddled now – all these great suggestions from everyone , especially the veggie ones . I’m a lifelong non- meat eater & it is wonderful that veggie food is now considered something to aspire to ,rather than weird & cranky as used to be the case . I’m going to work my way through all these posts as I do like variety in my food , one of life’s real pleasures – as long as we don’t overdo it . Thanks for this post & to all the posters too
    Wendy in york

    1. @Wendy, I’m encouraged. My first step has been to start a Food category in my Feedly blog reader. Next step, I’ll buy 3-5 of the recommended cookbooks, read them, extract concepts, and try 5-10 recipes. Then I will report back!

  34. Whether or not we’re working, what works best is having some delicious roasted/grilled/baked meat on hand – often that I have prepared on a Sunday, in quantity to make up several lunches and dinners, in a different incarnation. I may roast sweet and regular potatoes in olive oil and herbs to go with, or a big pot of rice, or other grain. As we all know, having one or two thirds of a meal ready to go is great.

    Sometimes, we stop at our local deli for their pot roast, or meat loaf, and eat with said grain or previously roasted potatoes and vegetables, etc.

    As Kathy commented above – simple works well, and is healthy. One of my favorite recipes is from Vegetarian Times, and Jane Brody’s Good Food Gourmet book is still helpful.

    1. @Lisa Ann, Yes, I think I am going to want to start making the roast/braised meat in a one-day extravaganza, and then eke out its consumption over a couple of days, in different dishes. I do it with a slow cooker pork adobo, and I know I can do it with red-cooked beef, for example.

  35. Hmmm. I am only cooking for one now, but I have started throwing a few small dinner parties. I even want those to be fairly simple and casual though. I have always loved to cook, but used to cook things that now seem to complex and too much work. A lot of my energy used to revolve around food and I want to spend less energy now but I still want excellent flavor and satisfaction, again with little sugar and no processed foods.

    I don’t have much to add beyond what has already been suggested. I’ll be very interested to see where you go if you are willing to share.

  36. I see you have received many excellent suggestions by the time I got to this post! I used to love cooking for two, although I am definitely a fan of the Big Ambitious Dinner Party as well.

    If you’re on Facebook, following the NYT Food section usually provides good inspiration these days. Keep us posted!

    1. @Dawn, Aha! That’s a way in to the NYT resources! And I will now RSS your blog too – I had been refraining from seeing food in my day to day reading:).

  37. LOVE this topic. Here goes:
    As a foodie, I also went through my younger married years cooking elaborate dinner parties. Had a great time, all through the years, I cooked, chopped, shopped treating my guests to all kinds of wonder. Then one day, BAM it hit me. How many times have I sat at their table? Wow. What a day that was. Maybe they were scared to cook for me since I was a proverbial Jacques Pepin among their midst. But no, people are too lazy now days to make dinners. So I started a three strikes youre out program. If you eat at my house three times without ever inviting me to something, your are dropped from the eat list. Sure they are still friends, but we meet at a shop or other event. Made my life easier, now I only cook for those who really appreciate it and reciprocate!! I am not selfish, just wiser.

    1. @susie, I agree, there’s no point engaging in elaborate food if the people on the other end don’t appreciate it. I didn’t require food reciprocation, but I certainly wanted people to visibly enjoy what they were eating.

    2. @susie,
      Susie, so glad you took the time to post this. My husband and I had the same experience…while there’s nothing we enjoy more than having friends and family around our table, we went through more than a year of regularly hosting dinner parties without ever once receiving a return invitation. Family continues to be invited, but like you, we meet friends out for dinner. We enjoy it, just differently.

  38. I bought America’s Test Kitchen’s “Cooking for Two” on the recommendation of a friend, and really like it. Some of the recipes are noted as “Fast” or “Light”. There’s only a single chapter on vegetarian main dishes, but most of the recipes include a decent amount of veggies.

    1. @Carol, Aha. I didn’t know they had a “Cooking for Two” book out. Sometimes their food seems kind of, um, prosaic? On the other hand, they really do test the recipes, which is a true service. Thank you for the recommendation, I might not have given this another look without your words.

  39. I love this discussion and just spent a snowy Sunday looking up all these new blogs and cookbooks. Lisa, please let us know how it works out for you!
    And I see that you have asked a few times about the Jerusalem cookbook. It is easy to use, but I tend to use it for entertaining. It is simple dump, mix, and cook recipes, but the ingredients are a bit hard to find.

    1. @Carol, Hard-to-find other-culture ingredients, if they are perishable, are not so great for 2 people:). Indian spices, however, I am OK buying even when they are highly unfamiliar.

  40. I’m coming late to this but can’t resist posting a few suggestions because it’s a topic I love. Someone has suggested Nigel Slater’s REAL FAST FOOD and I heartily second that recommendation–it’s wonderfully written and will inspire you to get into the kitchen and make something yummy. Since you already have APPETTITE I think you’ll love this. I also second the recommendation of Nigella Lawson’s HOW TO EAT. Another wonderfully written book full of practical and easy recipes–and again, a joy to read. And finally, just for fun and because you are the kind of thinker and writer who would respond to his work–I highly recommend the books of John Thorne. He writes about food but so much more than that. My favorite of his books is probably OUTLAW COOK but all of them are marvelous. You will get good recipes from him but even better than that, you will get a sense of being and living, if that makes sense.

    1. @GS, John Thorne looks like he’s happy to talk theory, which I love, and will be a fantastic read. Thank you!

  41. Such an interesting discussion! I love to cook, perhaps because I have never had a family to cook for, but I am now cooking for a man with major dietary restrictions AND a minuscule kitchen. So whenever I make something I prep and freeze excess, e.g. kale left over from kale salad gets steamed and frozen to add to soup or a stir fry. Leftover roast chicken gets pulled off the bone and frozen, along with stock made from the carcass frozen in 1C or 1/2C portions. With pantry staples I can always pull together something “from scratch” via the freezer. Braised meats and sauces get frozen in portion-sized containers. He likes to buy flash-frozen protein from TJ’s; I’m not so crazy about this but it does make for a quick risotto or one-pot improvisation.

    My cookbook collection is out-of-control, even after purging. Have hardly bought cookbooks in years because I pursue inspiration from multiple recipe sites. Example: after a stay in Zurich I HAD to find a recipe for a delicious hazelnut cookie tasted there, and it took several blogs in English and German to understand the recipe and come up with a formula.

    But I do occasionally buy a cookbook to support favorite bloggers. Such nice work being done out there!

    1. @Susan B, I have not made any use whatsoever of my freezer to date, beyond ice cream, frozen stock, and frozen peas:). Time to change that.

  42. I can cook anything and like to eat everything. I have a shelf full of old cookbooks and use the internet as well. My husband likes at least four nights of home cooked meals, which is fine with me. My problem is “What to cook?” The answer is Blue Apron, a meal/ingredients delivery service. I’m not sure if has complete national saturation but we love it in New York. Now when I have an evening meeting, my husband looks forward to cooking one of their meals. See:

    1. @Karen Kane, I’ve read about Blue Apron, on Amalah’s blog. I am fascinated that even an advanced cook like you enjoys their services.

    2. @Karen Kane, Wow – thank you for posting this. I just checked and they deliver in our neighborhood. The menus look incredible, and the prices are reasonable, $9-$10/meal. When we order food in from the local deli, it costs more than that, and it’s not nearly as good. I’ll have to look into how much they have on their vegetarian menu.

      This could really help me keep the boys fed!

  43. Late to the party here. Our dinner parties have morphed into larger occassion events rather than the random sit down for 6 or 8.

    So many great suggestions in the comments. Plenty of fodder for a snowy afternoon.

    Cooking for 2. We are now in month 3 of my husband’s very restrictive diet. Dinner is 3/4s of the plate is vegetables, the last quarter split between a low fat protein and maybe some quinoa, plus a fresh side salad. Presentation is key in any cooking but crucial with this diet. Crucial. Fresh herbs always. No dessert unless it’s someone’s birthday. One thing I haven’t changed is my own salad dressing. It’s a simple classic, easy to vary, everyone loves it.

    I use a micro planer for fresh ginger; just peel and plane. Garlic and smallish shallots go in the garlic press.

    1. @Linda Pakravan, Oh my gosh, that is a seriously restrictive diet. Kudos to you. And I should use the microplaner for ginger – I hadn’t realized that shallots could go in the garlic press. What about green onions?

  44. I’m not sure what you mean by “no “processed foods.” No vinegar? No olive oil? No chicken broth–unless you’ve put it up yourself? No frozen wild blueberries? No maple syrup? No bottled salsa? Myself, I couldn’t survive without processed foods. Just thinking about it gives me Even whole chickens are processed before we buy them.

    You might want to give “How to Cook Without a Book” by Pam Anderson (not the actress!) a look. It changed how I thought about cooking and meal preparation.

    If you can find a used copy, “Microwave Gourmet,” by Barbara Kafka, has some fast, easy recipes–and yes, many that are too complicated and too caloric. It was published in the nineties, so her recipes do have to be recalibrated for today’s more powerful microwaves.

    After years of looking, I recently found a used copy of The New Mayo Clinic’s Cookbook, 2nd edition. Their emphasis is on healthy eating and simple preparations.

    If recipes are too complicated and time-consuming, I don’t make them. Period. But as you already know, there are no perfect cookbooks or cookbook writers. Pam Anderson’s book is terrific but hers is more of a how-to book than a recipe book. Usually, I feel lucky if I find more than one or two recipes per book that end up in my regular rotation.

    1. @Wendelah, Was using the convention in which “processed” means, “ingredients modified or added which would not be found in nature.”

  45. The missing word in the above comment is anxiety. Hives would also work. I badly need comment preview.

  46. I love the subscription home delivery service, Blue Apron. All the ingredients and recipes you need to cook 3 meals for 2 people are delivered right to your door. I’ve been a subscriber since April 2014. Check is out at I’m not affiliated with the company in any way, just a very satisfied customer.

  47. In previous years, when our kids were younger, my good friend/neighbor across the street and I used to cook double and trade meals. So once a week I would get a complete meal, ready to eat, from her and another day I would cook (not much more work to cook twice as much) and send it over to her. Now both of her kids have gone, so not so much cooking going on.

  48. I meant to respond to your question about the Ottolenghi cookbooks. I have all of them, and think they involve some detailed recipes and some that are very simple. I’ve used the first, Ottolenghi, the most, primarily because I had it when I was cooking more and I haven’t explored the others as thoroughly. Jerusalem is the next most used book by this author. There are at least 4 recipes from Ottolenghi that are dead simple, easy on pots, and delicious — that have become staples of my weeknight family repertoire.

  49. I heartily endorse the posters who mentioned Food 52. By now you have likely found it for yourself. I also am a huge fan of Sylvia Fontaine who is based in Portland and writes at http://www.feasting at Seasonal, fresh, global flavors that keep cooking (and dining) fun and interesting. Plus she has a worldview that echoes my own. I think you’ll like her.

  50. I’m gratified to see so much consensus around some of my favorite recipe sources! I’ve been cooking nearly every meal from scratch in an effort to avoid common commercial additives and increase vegetables. I’ve found it’s not just about the recipes, it’s also about tricks to manage shopping/supplies/menu planning/leftovers, and therefore how to repeat recipes. I was having trouble remembering where I found a particular recipe – in what book, blog, ancient printout, etc.

    Two new habits that are working well, is to copy the successful recipe onto a 4×6 card. So the card box is my “wardrobe” of favorites. Then when menu planning/shopping list writing, I gather the ingredients I have (a can of tomatoes, garlic cloves, etc) into a small plastic box, binder clip the card to the box, and leave the whole thing in either the fridge or the cupboard as appropriate. This takes a lot of the cognitive load off getting the meal started after my commute, and my husband can pitch in because the plan is clear.

  51. What a great resource here – this list , and this blog. :) Read Tamar Adler’s book. I think weekly rhythm makes for so much less time in the kitchen.

  52. Nigella Lawson has books and TV series on fast, easy cooking.
    As I find her delightful to watch and listen I like to watch her shows on YouTube, but the books are also very pleasant to read and work with.
    Nigella Express is all about fast, easy good food.
    A little downside, for me, is her tendency to use out-of-the-jar ingredients, whereas I try to use the least amount of processed ingredients possible…

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