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The Top 5 Recipes Every Woman Should Know

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Learning to cook (well) might seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Just start with these five recipes, says New York Times columnist Mark Bittman, author of How to Cook Everything Fast. “Everybody says they don’t have enough time to cook, or they don’t know how,” he says. “In this book I tried to take away those two excuses.” At this year’s James Beard Foundation Leadership Award dinner, where he was an honoree, we asked him what are the top recipes to master—here’s what he had to say.

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Rice and Beans

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“It’s so basic, and so cheap, and you can make it a million different ways,” says Bittman. “Every culture has a form of rice and beans.” Try his recipe for a twist with broccoli and white beans, which break down and get super creamy as the rice cooks.

Serves: 4

Ingredients:
2 cups cooked or canned white beans (rinsed and drained)
1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
Salt
Water or stock (2 1/2 to 3 cups)
2 garlic cloves
1 medium head broccoli (1 to 1 1/2 pounds)
2 ounces Parmesan cheese (1/2 cup grated)
1 large bunch fresh basil (2 cups leaves)
2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
Pepper

Directions:
1. Put beans and 1 1/2 cups rice in a large pot or deep skillet; add a big pinch of salt and water or stock to cover by about an inch. Bring to a boil. Peel and thinly slice 2 garlic cloves; add to pot.
2. When liquid boils, adjust heat so it bubbles steadily but not vigorously; cover. Cook, undisturbed, until rice is beginning to get tender but is still too hard to eat, 5 to 7 minutes. Trim broccoli and separate into florets; slice any thick stems.
3. When rice is beginning to get tender, stir in broccoli, adding more liquid if necessary. Cover pot and cook, undisturbed, until rice and broccoli are tender, 5 to 7 minutes more. Tip pot; if any liquid remains, cover and keep cooking until rice is dry, checking every minute or 2.
4. Stir in olive oil or butter, Parmesan, basil, and some pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning and serve.

Recipe adapted from How to Cook Everything Fast by Mark Bittman, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2014.

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Roast Chicken

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Everyone likes chicken, but too many dishes are fried or processed, says Bittman. But roasting is healthy and has a million variations. Try our herb roasted chicken recipe with vegetables.

Vegetable Soup

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You might think of soup as a cook-all-day dish. "But you can make a great vegetable soup in half an hour or 45 minutes," says Bittman. Try this version, which uses frozen veggies as a time-saving shortcut.

Serves: 4

Ingredients:
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 large onion, chopped
Salt and pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 cups any chopped frozen vegetables
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock or water

Directions:
1. Put 1/4 cup olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onion to the pot and stir.
2. Cook, stirring occasionally until onion softens, 3 to 5 minutes. Organize the packages of vegetables from firmest, longest cooking—like squash or shell beans—to the most tender, quickest cooking, like spinach and other greens.
3. When onion mixture is soft, start adding vegetables, firmest first, stirring occasionally until they thaw and begin to get tender. (Timing will depend on the vegetable; keep an eye on the pot and test frequently.)
4. Continue adding and stirring, adjusting heat to prevent burning, until vegetables begin to brown in places and become almost as soft as you like.
5. Add 6 cups stock or water, raise heat to high, and cook, stirring once or twice, until soup just comes to a boil. Taste and adjust the seasoning, divide among 4 bowls, and serve.

 

Recipe adapted from How to Cook Everything Fast by Mark Bittman, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2014.

Photo: iStock

Salad and Vinaigrette

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Fresh vegetables, no cooking, and a simple dressing—you can’t get faster than that, says Bittman. And a tasty vinaigrette demonstrates that you can put a couple things together in a minute and suddenly make everything taste better. This recipe from Candice Kumai is full of healthy fall vegetables.

Broiled Fish

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A lot of people are intimidated by fish—but don’t be, says Bittman. “It’s really good for you and very fast to cook—hardly any seafood dish will take more than ten minutes.” Try Bittman's recipe for salmon and asparagus, topped with toasted breadcrumbs. 

Serves: 4

Ingredients:
5 tablespoons butter
1 large bunch thin asparagus (1 pound)
4 thick salmon steaks or fillets (1 1/2 pounds)
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup bread crumbs
1 lemon, cut into wedges

Directions:
1. Turn broiler to high; put rack 4 inches from heat. Melt 5 tablespoons butter in the microwave or in a small pot over medium-low heat. Trim asparagus.
2. Put salmon and asparagus on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with butter, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. If using skin-on fillets, place the skin side up.
3. Broil, turning salmon and asparagus about halfway through the cooking, until salmon is cooked as you like (no more than 10 minutes for medium to medium-well, and less if you like your salmon closer to medium-rare) and asparagus is tender and browned.
4. Put 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add 1 cup bread crumbs, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and stir gently to coat with oil. Cook, stirring frequently and adjusting the heat to avoid burning, until crumbs are golden and crisp, 3 to 5 minutes.
5. When salmon and asparagus are done, divide among 4 plates. Then sprinkle bread crumbs over the top, and serve with lemon wedges.

Recipe adapted from How to Cook Everything Fast by Mark Bittman, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2014.

Photo: iStock

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