I finally watched Samin Nosrat’s Salt, Fat Acid, Heat on Netflix. I loved it. (And want to be her friend!) She is passionate and curious about food and it’s infectious. What pulled me in was the connection between culture and food. It’s really fun to see her connect with the different people she meets along her journey throughout Italy, Japan, Mexico, and back to the Bay area. What resonates is her mission to demystify the cooking process.
Incredible meals don’t need to involve a multi-step process. Keep it simple and focus on ingredients, ingredients, ingredients!
There are so many of us that become deflated by overly complicated recipes and general feelings of culinary inadequacy. We look at the latest gorgeous food posts on Instagram … and sigh. It’s the classic case of “compare and despair” over and over. Enough of this. Good, healthy food doesn’t have to be complicated.
Sometimes it’s as easy as learning classic knife skills that help you save time. I swear by this onion chopping technique from Gordon Ramsey. It’s fast and efficient. I feel like a pro when I do it. Okay, maybe I’m easily impressed. But, still.
Let’s get back to keeping things easy. On my trip back from Washington, DC over the holidays (which seems like an eternity ago!) I loved reading the New York Time’s article: How to Eat in 2019 According to the article, the mission for 2019 is to spend less time in the kitchen and more at the table. I’m in!
Here’s one of the recipes that I’ve been using as a base each week. Cold Noodles with Chili Oil and Citrusy Cabbage. There are four main components 1) the rice noodles, 2) citrusy cabbage, 3) herby tahini sauce, and 4) lemony scallions. All parts are great! But here’s the real reason I love it: you can make it your own by adding and subtracting what works for you.
For example, I prefer warm noodles over cold. Sometimes I skip the tahini dressing. I add sautéed veggies like broccoli, carrots, and bok choy. My family likes meat, so I will cook some sliced beef to have on hand. I prefer the vegetarian option or perhaps with shrimp. The key is that you have a meal that has a main component (the delicious noodles, oil, herbs, and vegetables) that can be enjoyed by all. Then you can add several small bowls around the table to help people customize their plate.
This is not labor intensive. It’s actually fun to think of variations. Oh and, if you have time, don’t skip the reader comments at the end of the recipe. You really get a sense of the different ways in which people create their own variations. I love following recipes but I find that the best are usually ones where there is room for me to be me — and work with what I have on hand. Case in point: Star Anise is wonderful — I just don’t typically stock it in my pantry. Spoiler alert: the recipe survives (and is delicious) without it.
Back to Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. My favorite segment is when she visits Japan. She eats a simple meal with grilled chicken seasoned only with soy sauce. That’s it. I tried this exact recipe out on my family. Marinate the chicken with two tablespoons of soy sauce, then refrigerate for an hour before cooking. I have no grill so I used a cast iron pan. I browned the meat for 25 minutes then put it in the oven for 20-25 minutes. A new crowd pleaser. So easy. More time at the table!