easy x delicious?
May 27, 2016 3:19 PM   Subscribe

I made a delicious caprese salad the other day, and was really impressed by the amount of tasty it was relative to the amount of prep work. I know lots of things that are easy to cook (or, in this case, leave uncooked) and lots of things that are delicious, but could use a lot more crossover.

What are your favorite easy and delicious go-to dishes? Meals, sides, desserts, whatever. Definitely looking for foods that are made from scratch-ish, and fresh is great, but taste is a higher priority than super healthy. I'm an experienced cook and fine with weird ingredients, but looking for things that are quick and/or relatively hands off...but also unusually tasty for that sort of thing.
posted by lgyre to Food & Drink (32 answers total) 115 users marked this as a favorite
This is a classic you likely already know buuut: chicken in the crock pot. Cover chicken breast in salsa. Cook on low 7 to 8 hours. Add black beans for the last hour. Add a small package of sour cream. Mix everything together well and enjoy over rice or in a taco. Super easy. Super yummy. Spice it up with any herbs/veggies used like.
posted by Kalmya at 3:25 PM on May 27, 2016 [9 favorites]

Almost anything that is fresh seasonal produce, minimally processed, will do this.

My favorite thing is to make ramen (the fancy kind from an Asian grocery, not 10-cent Top) and add fresh greens, snow peas, and other green vegetables that require minimal cooking. Mushrooms are a good add, too, especially nice ones from a farmer's market. You can even poach an egg in the broth.

You can also add this type of vegetable to a stir fry or sautee it in a pan with a little white wine and butter and serve over pasta.

Pasta puttanesca is stupid easy and the most delicious thing ever. So is pasta with basil pesto if you have a food processor.

I also like composed salads. Leafy green salads are good, but I also like things like fennel with blood oranges, or (raw) zucchini sliced thin with mint and goat cheese.

Roast chicken takes a while, but requires almost nothing but a little salt and pepper and a drizzle of oil. You can add half a lemon and some fresh rosemary to the cavity if you want, but it's not necessary.
posted by Sara C. at 3:35 PM on May 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

Cooked, cooled orzo + tub of crumbled feta + jar of seasoned artichoke hearts (and some of the oil) + can of good-quality 3-bean salad (drained) + grape tomatoes. It's my go-to potluck dish because it's so easy that I can make it on site, but it tastes great. You can leave out or sub out the artichoke hearts or the 3-bean salad.

Good fresh asparagus (washed and patted dry, ends removed if necessary), toss in olive oil, put on baking sheet, add salt and pepper. If you have time, add sliced garlic cloves. Bake at 425F for 10-15 minutes, depending on spear thickness. (Honestly, various times and temperatures will work.) Put some parmesan or other good cheese on top when it comes out, if you feel fancy.

If you have leftover roasted asparagus: make an omelet with normal amounts of salt and pepper, put some cream cheese on one side, put the asparagus on top, fold over.

Good fresh asparagus (washed and patted dry, ends removed if necessary), toss lightly in olive oil (or just put it on the bottoms and tips). Wrap several spears in sliced ham, prosciutto, or whatever on a baking pan. Dot a little good mustard on each. Put some nice meltable white cheese across the bundles. Bake time varies depending on size of asparagus and type of meat, but around 10-15 minutes at 425F. Adjust if the meat gets too dry or whatever.
posted by wintersweet at 3:36 PM on May 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

Budget Bytes' Lemony Kale and Quinoa Salad is 100% this for me. It's even easier if you buy pre-chopped kale - Trader Joe's has it.
posted by capricorn at 3:36 PM on May 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Slice zucchini into circles and lay it out on parchment paper. Seasonings + shredded cheese (I use cheddar). Pop in the oven for 20-25 min at 400. Enjoy.
posted by pyro979 at 3:40 PM on May 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

For years Mark Bittman wrote a New York Times reciple column called "The Minimalist" which are recipes that'll really fit your bill. You can find them at the NYTimes site or at his site, MarkBittman.com.
posted by BlahLaLa at 4:07 PM on May 27, 2016 [5 favorites]

grilled halloumi & sliced watermelon, as a platter or composed salad

roasted beets with chevre or other goat cheese, with a balsamic vinaigrette and maybe some chopped fresh basil--this can be served over greens, on bread, or by itself

really good fresh tomatoes and cucumbers (preferably Persian/mini cucumbers), chopped and and served with olive oil, lemon juice, parlsey, salt, and a drizzle of pomegranate molasses

elotes--grilled or boiled corn-on-the-cob rolled in mayonnaise or butter and cotija cheese, with a squirt of lime juice and some chili powder
posted by karayel at 5:02 PM on May 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

Ceviche or crudo is my go-to for a super easy appetizer. You need impeccable ingredients, but the prep work is very minimal and it's really easy to make it look even fancier by putting it in a ring mold or doing some "artistic" drizzling of oil or dressing. Make sure to put your plates in the freezer for a few minutes before putting food on them.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:30 PM on May 27, 2016

salad of halved cherry tomatoes, corn (even canned will do fine), white balsamic vinegar. Torn up herbs are optional.

basil pesto - bunch of basil, couple garlic cloves, plenty of parmesan, whatever nuts you have handy (the "correct" recipe is pine nuts but they're so expensive I never use them) - salt and pepper to taste - whizz in food processor. Put on cooked pasta or use as sandwich spread.

peperonata - slice up onions and peppers, cook down until syrupy, add balsamic and thyme (dry is fine.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:36 PM on May 27, 2016

Ooh another one. Diced tomatoes, cucumbers and onion. Toss with sour cream, lightly salt.
posted by pyro979 at 5:37 PM on May 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

mushrooms cooked in butter with salt, optional but highly desirable garlic, & sherry or port.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:45 PM on May 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Steamed mussels (moules marinières) take about 10 minutes to make. Saute some vegetables, such as onion and garlic, then dump in a bit of white wine and the mussels, and cover for about 5 minutes. Note that cleaning the mussels make take a bit of time. There are hundreds of variations, but the basic idea is stil cook some stuff, then add liquid and mussels.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 6:19 PM on May 27, 2016

A Japanese thing: hot rice with a raw egg and a little soy sauce all mixed together. This has sort of a cult following but if you have access to really fresh high quality eggs it is just wonderful. Something about the texture and richness? People do it for breakfast but it's an anytime food IMO.

My favorite sandwich is prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, arugula, cracked black pepper, olive oil and fig preserves. Flipping incredible, no cooking involved. (But if you have a good sandwich toasting system by all means enjoy it hot.)

I have impressed numerous people with carrots. Cut into coins, toss with juice and zest of one orange, a little salt, a bloop of real maple syrup (the darkest stuff you can find), a sizeable pat of butter. Put them in a big pan and pour in enough water just to coat the bottom of the pan if the juice wasn't enough. Bring to a simmer and cook covered for a few minutes. Then uncover, turn up the heat a bit and boil away the liquid. Toss the carrots around to get everything evenly glazed and let them brown. They are great even if you accidentally let them get a little burny, awesome hot or cold, and take well to many kinds of garnish (though they don't need it) like toasted fennel seeds, sesame seeds, lemon zest, fresh scallions, etc.
posted by Mizu at 6:20 PM on May 27, 2016 [7 favorites]

mushrooms cooked in butter with salt, optional but highly desirable garlic, & sherry or port.

I'll second that and tell you how to cook 'em: on high heat, till they stick to the pan, then you deglaze with the wine and cook till it reduces.

Another of my favorites is savory french toast -- make just like sweet french toast, only you substitute herbs and garlic for the sugar and cinnamon.

Crêpes are super-fast once you learn the knack. I often keep a jar of batter in the fridge so I can make breakfast in ten minutes.
posted by aws17576 at 6:23 PM on May 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

Grill a pile of zucchini sticks, then crumble over some feta, sliced/slivered almonds and lemon juice.
posted by superfish at 11:01 PM on May 27, 2016

Also - quesadillas.
posted by superfish at 11:04 PM on May 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

Roasted cauliflower with garlic.

Just cut up the cauliflower and peel the garlic, mix with some olive oil, salt, pepper, and (optional) rosemary or whathaveyou. Delicious and easy.
posted by saul wright at 12:22 AM on May 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Condiments are often the secret: I'm a big fan of dukkah & using a variation on this at the moment. It's particularly good with eggs, I think, so toast + poached egg + dukkah is really special (even more so with a bit of herb oil/greenery like watercress).

In the simple, but slow, category: rosemary roasted cherry toms. If you have access to fresh rosemary off a bush, take a 6 in branch and smash it up a bit in a pestle and mortar, if you don't you'll need to prep in advance by smashing a tablespoon or two of dried or fresh de-branched stuff and let it sit in olive oil first for a day to infuse before sieving it out.
Cut a load of cherry toms in half, toss in (flavoured) olive oil, put in baking tray with smashed branch if that's what you're using, scrinch or two of salt. Bake low and slow - at least an hour, if not two. remove branch, if you used it, stir whole lot into freshly cooked pasta. Shavings of hard cheese. Fin.
The rosemary isn't essential, but it gives a nice aromatic hit.
posted by AFII at 1:10 AM on May 28, 2016

Dates stuffed with Roquefort and wrapped in prosciutto.

Chicken (roasted, pan-fried, whatever, using berbere or ras al hanout) chopped up and served over couscous and apricots cooked in stock and butter. Serve with harissa and hummus.

Sole or other white fish pan-fried in sweet curry powder and butter, served over basmati and corn.

Asparagus drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, broiled or roasted for a few minutes. Or do the same with halved cherry or grape tomatoes -- except they will need more time, at least a half hour.

Oranges and mint and dried cranberries tossed with champagne vinaigrette, served very cold with lots of pepper. Add spicy-sweet walnuts and crumbled goat cheese.

Chicken over rice with a white wine sauce with lots of nutmeg and pepper.

Tuna salad with olives and toasted pecans, with a little lemon juice mixed in, served on grilled ciabatta.
posted by Susan PG at 1:54 AM on May 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

Roasted veggies of any sort are amazing, but I've recently been adding mushrooms in when I roast broccoli, and the mushrooms are next-level-amazing. Toss veggies with olive oil, garlic and onion powder, and salt and pepper, and throw on a sheet pan until they are browned, maybe 20 minutes at about 400 degrees. Works with : broccoli, red bell pepper, mushrooms, potatoes, carrots, onions. When mixing veggies, cut pieces so they take a similar amount of time to cook. E.g. Small potato chunks paired with larger broccoli spears.
posted by hydra77 at 9:03 AM on May 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Pasta with garlic, anchovies and parsley. Fry the garlic and anchovies gently in olive oil while the pasta is cooking, just to take the edge off the garlic and break down the anchovies, then add some chopped fresh parsley at the end.

Smoked mackerel paté. Smoked mackerel, creme fraiche, lemon juice, and black pepper; stick it all in the food processor.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 10:11 AM on May 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

A traditional Dutch asparagus dinner in 15 minutes, serves one:

Put two eggs in your water kettle (be careful so you don't break them). Switch kettle on. Water will boil, kettle will switch off; leave it be.

Peel some (like five or six) thick white asparagus spears, and cut the ends off. Put them in a microwavable dish.
Add some nice young unpeeled potatoes, cut in halves or quarters if they're big. Cover dish with microwaveable wrap. Nuke on high setting for 8 minutes. They should now be done.

Put eggs in cold water for a short time. Peel eggs.
Serve asparagus and potatoes with the eggs, butter, nutmeg, salt and pepper. If you want, you can mash the eggs up with your fork, and add butter so it melts. Eat aspagarus, potatoes and eggs together. Have a dry white wine with this, if that tickles your fancy.

I absolutely need to have this at least once, every asparagus season (which is! right! now!)
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:46 PM on May 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Spaghetti with butter and sage:
Rinse whole fresh sage leaves in water and dry them with paper or a clean kitchen towel
Boil water.
When water boils, add a small handful of salt, then spaghetti. Set timer to whatever it says on the package.

In a skillet, heat up a good knob of butter (relative to the amount of pasta you are cooking).
Roast the sage leaves gently in the butter - add salt and pepper during the roasting.

When the pasta is finished, drain and add to the butter/sage mix.
Stir well till the butter covers all the pasta, and the fragrance is lovely.

You can add a squeeze of lemon while stirring, but it is not necessary.

posted by mumimor at 3:04 PM on May 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Elote! Microwave your corn to make it even easier.

Soba noodles + poached egg + green onion + soy sauce, rice vinegar, and honey. If you are a fan of this kind of flavor then you might also enjoy rice with too much furikake and a splash of soy sauce + rice vinegar.

Blacken a bell pepper over direct flame. Scrape off the black and then send it into the food processor with some olive oil, garlic, and spices. Enjoy with pita chips.

Keep (peeled) bananas in the freezer for instant ice cream.
posted by miniraptor at 3:29 PM on May 28, 2016

Oh! And spaghetti aglio e olio. Garlic takes on yet another first-class role.
posted by miniraptor at 3:49 PM on May 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

Stir-fried egg and tomato: very very quick, truly delicious, and comforting. Looks unassuming, tastes wonderful. This should give you an idea of the range of proportions and consistencies.

I confess that I like to "salt" the eggs with vegetarian bouillon granules instead of salt, after a friend told me that his family never did it any other way. This is basically a delivery system for salt+msg+a little sugar, but it does taste good. It also tastes good with just regular salt though. This is what I like to do:

Cut three nice ripe juicy tomatoes into wedges. Set them aside. Don't lose the juice.

Beat three eggs together with a pinch of salt or a similar amount of Guilty Flavor Granules. Heat the oil over high heat in a wok. Pour the eggs in and let them cook a little, pulling the edges in toward the center with your wok scoop so that the runny bits flow out. Before they're fully set, scoop them back out into the bowl, leaving oil behind.

Now stir-fry the tomatoes quickly in the remaining oil, again over high heat. Salt them lightly. Add a little sugar if you like. They should give off plenty of juice. When they start to smell delicious, tip the eggs back in and scramble/mix up/break up the lot. Serve with/over rice.

You can also get ginger/garlic/scallions involved in there, but try the super basic version--it's really good!
posted by redfoxtail at 6:37 PM on May 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

I stole this one directly from the the BJ's Restaurant menu. I look forward to watermelon season every year so I can make it.

Fresh Watermelon and Feta Salad
Cubes of watermelon, arugula, mixed baby greens, pickled red onions and mint tossed in honey vinaigrette. Topped with crumbled feta cheese.
posted by MexicanYenta at 11:02 PM on May 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

I just came home from four days of really hard work abroad, and I can't get myself to cook. Also, I'm tired of eating out/take out after those four days.
So: In my fridge, I always have high quality bacon - sometimes vacuum-packed from the butcher, in this case just plain packed from the supermarket.
I have ripe tomatoes
I have mayo
I have black pepper
In this case, I had a country-style bread I'd baked before I left. Could have been store bought. In any case not fresh. I sliced and toasted it.

Tada, I made bacon and tomato sandwiches. I skipped the lettuce even though I had it. It was delicious, I'm full and well.

I guess it's like your caprese, the whole thing depends on the ripeness of the tomatoes, and the quality of the bacon and bread. With excellent produce, you will always be happy, regardless of the complexity of the recipe.

On my work-trip, I actually had a caprese at a high end restaurant, and I was really disappointed - the tomatoes and the cheese were great, but there was no basil and they had sprinkled with dried oregano and balsamic vinegar, and that was both unnecessary and not nice. I suppose they were scared of the simplicity of the dish in it's original form.
posted by mumimor at 10:26 AM on May 29, 2016

My go-to side dish: start some quinoa on the stove, cut up a cucumber and toss with salt and roasted salted peanuts. When the quinoa is cooked, combine with the cucumber and peanuts and top with sliced avocado. You can adjust the ratio of ingredients to suit you (I use just a little quinoa and go heavier on the cucumber).
posted by GoldenEel at 2:41 PM on May 31, 2016 [2 favorites]

One more: when I went to university, I lived in a dorm with a common kitchen and we each had a meal-day. My gran had snatched up that one of the Jewish guys was uncomfortable with the food, and since I am half-Jewish, she'd made a sort of deal with his gran that I would be cooking Kosher on my days. (But no, not a real kosher kitchen)
She taught me this recipe which was simple enough for a 17-yo to cook but delicious and always a winner:
Take a cheap cut of veal - shoulder, chuck, whatever. Rub it well with salt and pepper
Brown it in oil in a pan that can go into the oven.
When it is browned on all sides, add a carrot, an onion and maybe a sprig of thyme and a bayleaf, and a half cup of water with a tablespoon of vinegar in it. Put it in the oven at low-medium heat. Roast till it has the level of doneness you prefer (remember this is cheap meat, you don't want rare. But you can do pinkish). The cooking juices are amazing.
These days, I do this in a cast-iron dutch oven, and it is the easiest and tastiest meat I know. I just did it yesterday, and the leftovers will become vitello tonnato. So good.
posted by mumimor at 3:26 PM on June 1, 2016

These salads follow a similar formula to caprese (fruit, something rich, something bitter or herbal, acidity, oil, simple seasoning). Just toss the ingredients together, check the seasoning, and you're done.

Avocado and Grapefruit Salad
2 avocados, cubed
1 red grapefruit, cubed (pith removed)
juice of half a lemon
1/8 cup olive oil
salt and pepper

(This has been my go-to summer salad for years but, alas, I can't eat grapefruit right now.)

Watermelon, feta, and mint salad
~4 cups fresh watermelon, cubed
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
~1/8 c. chopped fresh mint leaves
juice of half a lemon
1/8 cup olive oil
salt and pepper

Peach, feta, and shiso salad
~2 cups ripe peaches, peeled and sliced
2 ounces crumbled feta cheese
4 or 5 fresh shiso leaves, torn in half (you can also substitute arugula or mint)
2 Tbs. red wine or rice wine vinegar
1/8 cup olive oil
salt and pepper

Fig, almond, and goat cheese salad
~8 ripe figs, quartered
3 ounces goat cheese*
~2 Tbs. fresh thyme leaves
1/8 cup toasted Marcona almonds
2 Tbs olive oil
salt and pepper

*Toss the other ingredients and then top with the cheese for a prettier presentation.

When it's hot out, and I don't want to heat up the house by cooking anything, any one of these can become a meal by adding a big bowl of salad greens and a piece of crusty bread. Otherwise, they make tasty and easy side dishes.
posted by ananemone at 9:59 AM on June 25, 2016

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