Easy-to-learn recipes?
May 8, 2024 10:43 PM   Subscribe

I would like to hear about recipes you like that are easy to learn. By "learn", I roughly mean "memorize". That is, if I make the recipe enough times, I won't need to look at the recipe anymore, because I will have it in my head. Ideally, you like both making and eating these dishes (or drinks, even).

You can probably skip a few things that are so easy I've already learned them -- such as: basic eggs, BLT, French toast, grilled cheese sandwich, egg salad, tossed salad, tuna salad.
posted by NotLost to Food & Drink (31 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Biscuits (American style rolled biscuits, not English cookies) are incredibly easy to remember, especially if using the Michael Ruhlman Ratio recipe: 3 parts flour, 1 part fat, 2 parts milk. The only tricky part is the salt and baking powder, but that fits in, too, depending on your scaling.

For six big fluffy biscuits, you want 210g of flour, 70g of fat (cold butter or lard), and 140g of milk. With that recipe, you want 1/2tsp salt, 2tsp baking powder. If you double the primary ingredients, double the salt and baking powder, too. Mix the flour, salt, and baking powder, then add the fat. I use a pastry blender, but if you don't have one, you could use frozen butter and a cheese grater to add the butter, then mix it decently well.

Once the fat is mixed in, add the milk all at once. Mix until just dry/all the flour is part of the dough.

Flour the counter top and a rolling pin, and roll out to 1/4inch thick. Cut into circles (don't twist, it'll keep them from rising), or into squares with a knife (less re-rolling scraps, which activates gluten and gives you tougher biscuits), and bake at 220C for 15-18 minutes.

Optional: brush tops with butter, or add shredded cheese before adding milk.

I know it sounds like a lot, but once you do it once or twice, it's just like falling off a bicycle.
posted by Ghidorah at 10:58 PM on May 8

I'm not much of a cook and lately I've been into shakshuka for this, specifically this recipe from Chef John at Food Wishes Dot Com. It's a very forgiving dish re: amounts of stuff and even missing entire ingredients (e.g. I'm not really sold on his addition of mushrooms). After a couple attempts I'm pretty happy to just wing it, which is very much not my comfort zone.
posted by davidest at 11:22 PM on May 8 [3 favorites]

Gâteau au yaourt, which French kindergarteners learn to make. They sell plain yogurt in half-cup pots so it's easy, just 1,2,3 then 1,2,3.

1 half cup plain yogurt
2 half cups sugar
3 eggs

Mix, then:

1 half cup oil
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 half cups sugar

Add a flavor if you want, otherwise it's just a pleasantly sweet, moist cake that is a fine base for jam, frosting, ice cream, etc. Bake at 350F in a greased and floured loaf pan until a knife comes out clean, usually like 30-40 minutes.
posted by blnkfrnk at 11:35 PM on May 8 [2 favorites]

blnkfrnk - that sounds good, but is there flour involved at all? It sounds very wet...
posted by amtho at 12:52 AM on May 9 [10 favorites]

If you learn some basic recipes, they can be combined afterwards into a whole bunch of different things just using your own creativity. Over time, you could learn
- white sauce/bechamel
- a basic meat or tomato sauce
- a basic curry sauce
- how to roast vegetables
- how to bread and fry things
- how to make a stir fry, and a simple stir fry sauce

Now you've already got the basis for whipping up a whole bunch of easy meals! Some other things that are simple:

- guacamole
- frying fish, steak, pork chops, etc
- flatbreads
- an interesting salsa
- vegetable soup, as a principle (use whatever veg you have)
- crumble topping

I'd guess 95% of my weeknight meals involve some combination of these things. I might make curry sauce and add chickpeas, or make meat sauce and have it with pasta, or turn meat sauce into chilli, or fry some fish and put it in a flatbread with rice and salsa and guacamole, or make bechamel and add cheese and pasta to make mac and cheese. You get the idea!
posted by quacks like a duck at 1:07 AM on May 9 [1 favorite]

I'm literally trying to write a book about this, for kids going to uni. So I have a lot of recipes.

One I use a lot for myself is inspired by tuscan bean soup, but I like a more stew-like consistency:
1 tbsp of olive oil
1 or 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
finely chopped chili or chili flakes to taste
1 tsp dried oregano
1 can of crushed tomatoes
1 can of cannellini beans
some chunks of frozen spinach
salt and pepper to taste

Gently fry the garlic and chili in the oil until you can smell their aromas developing. You don't want any color.
Pour the beans and the tomatoes into the pot, bring to a simmer, add the oregano and a little salt and pepper, like a tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.
Put in as many chunks of frozen spinach (or kale which would be more authentic) into the pot. Don't stir, it looks nice with little islands of green in the red and white stew.
Cook for as long as you like. It's OK to eat when the spinach is hot, but nicer if you give it 10-15 minutes more.
Taste and add seasoning as you like it, but be careful not to disrupt you spinach islands.

Eat with a sprinkling of hard cheese, and croutons if you feel fancy. Or a chunk of good bread on the side.

This only improves in the fridge. I haven't tried freezing it, because I always eat it up over two days. You could use a jar of marinara sauce instead of the tin of tomatoes if seasoning worries you.

Spaghetti aglio e olio is a basic pasta dish, and it is mostly about technique, rather than ingredients. When you master that technique, you can move on to the other classic pasta dishes. Serious Eats is a great guide to all of them.
posted by mumimor at 2:45 AM on May 9 [1 favorite]

Mixed rice/fried rice. For me it's not a recipe so much as it is a template. Some frozen or fresh mushrooms, a bit of onion and garlic, roughly equal parts of 2-3 frozen or fresh vegetables, a protein (gochujang tofu, JUST egg, edamame, etc.). I do all the vegetables first in my wok then add the cold grain (usually half rice, half quinoa) or riced cauliflower last. For serving, drizzles of sriracha and vegan kewpie mayo plus a couple dollops of chili crunch. I make a giant pot of this almost every week and it turns into 4-5 tasty meals, but it's always different because I am using leftover veggies from other dishes, usually soups. Sometimes it's a rainbow of veggies, sometimes just green and brown. Sometimes I will eat a small serving with a veggie egg roll, sometimes I will just eat a healthy sized bowl of it on its own.
posted by MagnificentVacuum at 4:02 AM on May 9

For an impressive-looking breakfast or brunch treat, a Dutch baby is easy to memorize and even easier to make. You just throw all the ingredients into a blender or into a bowl for whisking and then pour that batter into an oven-safe skillet or frying pan (10"/25cm diameter is good) coated with melted butter. The skillet/pan must be oven-safe! This recipe is good to split between 2-3 people, but I've been known to eat a whole one myself on occasion.

3 eggs
½ cup flour
½ cup milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt (only if you're using unsalted butter)
dash of nutmeg

Preheat your oven to 425°F/220°C. While waiting for the oven to heat, blend or whisk together the above ingredients until smooth. When the oven is ready, put 3-4 tablespoons of butter in the skillet and stick it in the oven for a minute or two, just until the butter is melted. Then take it out of the oven, swirl it around a bit so it's well-coated with melted butter, pour the batter in, and put it back in the oven on the middle rack for about 16 minutes. After 16 minutes, lower the heat to 300°F/150°C and give it another 5 minutes. Then take it out of the oven and serve with whatever toppings you like to put on pancakes or crepes.
posted by theory at 5:02 AM on May 9

This Ask may be relevant to your interests.
posted by gueneverey at 5:05 AM on May 9 [1 favorite]

Salmon fillets. Don't pan fry them — bake them at 400 degrees for 11-13 minutes. Memorize that.
Preheat the oven to 400
Line a baking pan with foil or parchment paper and drizzle some olive oil on it
Rub olive oil, kosher salt and pepper on the salmon fillets (or use seasoning of your choice)
Put the salmon fillets in the pan, skin side down if they're not fully skinned (you can do the seasoning in the pan too)
Bake for about 11-13 minutes. The timing depends on the thickness of the fish, and you'll know it's done when you see white stuff oozing out. My rule for fish is if it looks done, it's overdone. If it looks almost done, it's done.

This is one I've memorized and can do in my sleep:

Shrimp in green sauce, à la Mark Bittman
6 peeled cloves of garlic
1/3 cup olive oil
Just the green parts of 6 scallions, chopped roughly
1 cup parsley, leaves and thin stems
2 pounds shrimp, peeled
Salt and pepper to taste
crushed red chili pepper
1/3 cup stock (shrimp, fish or chicken) or white wine or water

Preheat the oven to 500
Combine garlic and oil in a food processor until it's smooth
Add the scallions and parsley, pulse until everything is minced up.
Put the sauce and the shrimp in a bowl with salt, pepper and chili pepper and toss to coat the shrimp
Put the coated shrimp in a large pan. Add the liquid
Roast for 5 minutes. Stir the shrimp around a bit to ensure cooking evenly. Roast for another 5 minutes, or until the shrimp look done to your liking.
posted by emelenjr at 5:28 AM on May 9

Pancakes. My non-recipe recipe is: mix a couple cups of flour, a few spoonfuls of baking power, a dash of salt; mix two eggs and some milk in a little well on top, then combine with dry ingredients. Add more milk if too thick. Optional: oil/butter and sugar. Fuller recipe. Even better recipe.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 6:37 AM on May 9

The viral tiktok tomato and feta pasta, or uunifetapasta, is perfect for this.

We substitute two courgettes for the tomatoes and instead of thyme use a big handful of fresh dill right at the end or dried dill from the start, whichever we have. I've also done it with aubergine and courgette, but frankly aubergine is more of a faff to prepare than courgette is, so we usually don't bother. Most of the timings can be eyeballed once you've done it once or twice. It's probably the best effort:payoff recipe I know!
posted by In Your Shell Like at 6:46 AM on May 9

I had the Toll House cookie recipe from the bag of chocolate chips memorized in middle school because I made at least one batch a week.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 6:56 AM on May 9 [1 favorite]

Sweet or savory crepes! Pick your components, roll, serve. Each of the components is a non-recipe in themselves. In the time it takes to cook the vegetables, you can make the crepe(s) and sauce and have dinner in 1/2 hour. So versatile and impressive and good.

Steamed vegetables
Cut, cleaned vegetables to steamer basket over water, boil, cover with lid, soft vegetables such as zucchini or mushrooms for 4 minutes, or hard vegetables like broccoli or corn or small potatoes for 9 minutes. Adjust the time to your taste and the size of the vegetables.

Roasted vegetables
Cut and clean, toss with olive oil, salt and seasoning, roast 425 for 20 minutes, adjust longer time at lower temperature or less time at higher temperature and for size of vegetables and for hardness of vegetables. I like to separate the vegetables by type then pull out whatever cooks first. Eggplant, zucchini, slices of tomatoes or whole small tomatoes, slices of onion.

Whisk 1/4 c milk, 1/4 c flour, 1 egg for 1 crepe. Heat pan, very lightly wipe the pan with oil or use nonstick, pour in crepe batter, swirl pan to thin batter, cook until you see some cooked parts then flip by picking up one side and putting it down on other side. (This ratio is heavy on the eggs, you can add more milk and flour to taste.)

Bechamel (or Gravy if using broth or bouillon)
1 part fat (oil or butter) to 1 part flour (for a small portion use 1 T each), melt and cook a little so the flour is not raw, then add milk or broth a bit at a time whisking in between additions until you have the thickness that you want (about 1/2-1 cup of liquid for the small portion). Season as you wish with herbs, soy sauce, mustard, red or black pepper.

Cheese sauce option
Make the sauce a little thinner than you want then add handfuls of freshly grated cheese, melt gently (too hot will make for grainy sauce).

Bonus stovetop mac-n-cheese or veg-n-cheese
Add cooked pasta or steamed vegetables such as cauliflower or broccoli to the cheese sauce.

Assemble Crepe
Roll the crepe around veggies, pour sauce over, sprinkle with fresh herbs if you have them.

Bonus dessert or breakfast
Saute fresh or frozen fruit (optional butter), add a bit of sweetener (maple syrup, sugar, brown sugar, honey) and a little water until the fruit is lightly cooked and sweetened and sauced. Alternately mix a small amount of cornstarch and cold water in a separate dish then pour this into the finished fruit and cook until thickened for a thicker sauce.
Whip fresh cream with electric beaters or a whisk.
Roll crepes around fruit then top with whipped cream.
posted by RoadScholar at 6:59 AM on May 9

I’ve got a vegetarian burrito recipe committed to memory and it’s pretty easy. Takes me maybe 45 minutes including veg prep.

Make some rice - we like brown, which we prepare by bringing 3.5c water to a boil, adding 2c rice, moving to medium heat (the midpoint on our small electric burners), and cooking for ~27 minutes.

Veg prep — to feed 3 people with enough leftover for a lunch I use 1 large or 2 small onions, 3-4 bell or poblano peppers (a mix is best), and 8 oz mushrooms. All should be sliced.

For the filling - start a can of black beans simmering on med-low heat and add onion powder, oregano, cumin, and salt in some reasonable proportion. In a large cast iron skillet, on med-high heat, start the onions and peppers frying in oil. Once they have softened some, after maybe 10 minutes, add the mushrooms. Continue cooking for a few minutes, then add taco seasoning once the mushrooms have reduced. Normally we make the seasoning from scratch but it’ll also work with an off-the-shelf mix. My husband adds a squirt of lime juice when he’s at the stove; I always forget but the recipe still works without.

Serve with warmed tortillas and sour cream, salsa, cheese, avocado/guac, cilantro, whatever you like on your burritos. Everything except the warmed tortillas can sit quietly and wait for other elements to be finished without deteriorating in flavor, so do those last!
posted by eirias at 7:12 AM on May 9

Lemonade is 1-1-5. 1 part lemon juice, 1 part sugar, 5 parts water. If you want to genericize this you'd say it is 1 part citrus or sour, 1 part sweet and 5 parts lengthener. This allows you to keep the 1-1-5 template and substitute different ingredients for tweaks on the same theme.

Many, many cocktails also follow a similar templatized formula. "Sour" drinks are almost always 2-1-1. 2 parts "strong" i.e. the prominent alcohol, 1 part citrus, 1 part sweet. Thus, a margarita is 2 parts tequila, 1 part orange liquor (the sweet) and 1 part lime juice. Swap the tequila for mezcal and you have a similar but different drink. Use half tequila and half mezcal and you have yet another drink.
posted by mmascolino at 7:22 AM on May 9 [1 favorite]

Oh, I've got two!
Egg noodles from my grandma's recipe:
One cup of flour, make a 'volcano' and crack in one egg.
Now the cool part from when she let me make it as a 3-year-old: You take half of the eggshell and fill it full of vegetable oil, dump it in and mix with your hands. Sprinkle a little flour on your counter to keep it from sticking and roll it out as thin as you can. Slice it in to strips 1/2"x2". Let it dry for an hour or so and cook by adding into boiling water by the handful. The amount of water isn't critical, as long as the noodles are covered while they cook. Grandma put it in the cupboard, when she kept it as dry noodles, I put it in the fridge. It will keep a couple days.
Her spätzle was easy to remember for a kid, too.
Cup of flour, two eggs, use 2 half shells of water. Mix by hand. This a judgement call as you may want to add another teaspoon of water to make a moist but firm dough. Grandma said not too dry, not too wet; find somewhere in between, then you can't go wrong. Drop into boiling water or soup by pinching off little pieces about a half teaspoon to a teaspoon in size. Cook until they "look" done, then cut one in half and make sure it's firm all the way through. You can undercook them, but you can't over cook them, because in a soup they can cook for hours. Great added to soups or cooked in a gravy-type sauce, or you can eat it plain with salt and butter. Go wild and add basil, oregano, or your choice of spice. Grandma was adventurous when she added Mrs. Dash.
Grandma schooled me on how to be safe with the boiling water, and I could do it by myself at 5. I was a real cook!!
posted by BlueHorse at 8:01 AM on May 9

Red wine vinaigrette! So good as salad dressing or on cooked or raw vegetables. The ratio is 3:1 parts olive oil to red wine vinegar, salt and pepper and whisk it all together. If you do three tablespoons oil to one tablespoon vinegar that’s perfect for two big dinner salads but it’s easy to scale up or down (use teaspoons, or do 6:2, etc).
posted by stellaluna at 8:05 AM on May 9 [1 favorite]

Overnight oats. Super flexible breakfast for most of my mornings. Barely counts as no actual cooking is involved.

Criminally easy:
1 part rolled oats
1 part milk or water
1 tablespoon (or to taste) of sweetener like maple syrup, or honey
Combine everything in a jar, shake, leave in fridge overnight

Eat as is, or add anything you like as toppings/extras in the morning: fruit, jam, nuts, cocoa, peanut butter etc. all work. I use half a cup as my "part" measure and that fills me up for the morning but you can double or halve that easily.

Optional extras:
Throw in some (1 tablespoonish) of chia seeds for texture into the jar with the oats, liquid, and sweetener.

I've seen and tried an optional tablespoon of greek yoghurt as well to give it a bit more body, but when made with milk, that doesn't feel necessary to me.
posted by slimepuppy at 8:09 AM on May 9

I have made this recipe enough that I have it memorized Five ingredient one-pan chicken.
posted by statusquoante at 8:19 AM on May 9

My mother's cobbler recipe (which I've learned is really a buckle):

Mix together a cup of flour, a cup of sugar and a cup of milk. (Maybe a dash of salt, also.)

Melt a stick of butter in an oven-proof pan (a Dutch oven works great if you make this on a camping trip).

Pour in the batter, then pour in two cups of fruit (blueberries, cherries or peaches, ideal)

Bake around 375°F for 45 minutes or so.

Serve with vanilla ice cream.
posted by Rash at 8:31 AM on May 9 [2 favorites]

I make King Arthur's Naan recipe and pizza crust recipe at least weekly each, and they're simple and straightforward enough that I have them memorized.

- - - - -
Another favorite is 1:1:1 mac and cheese.
16oz elbow macaroni
15oz evaporated milk (1 can, eehhh close enough)
16 oz shredded cheese (I use a blend of cheddar, monterey jack, and mozzarella)
salt and pepper to taste

Pour the dry macaroni into a deep pot, and add enough cold water to cover the noodles. Bring to a low boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Continue to cook until noodles are just shy of al dente, about 5-6 minutes. The water should be mostly gone. Add evaporated milk and return to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Add cheese. Reduce heat to low, and stir and simmer until a creamy sauce forms. Season with salt and pepper. Adding a pat of butter with the milk kicks it up a notch, or toss in a handful of (real) bacon bits when you add the milk. This makes a nice, thick, creamy mac and cheese, and is amazing when fried in butter as leftovers.
posted by xedrik at 8:56 AM on May 9 [1 favorite]

Youtube.com/@proHomeCooks hosted by Mike Greenfield doesn't really use recipes, but instead, shows you what you can do to craft a meal via a "formula" without exact proportions. For example, his "weeknight pasta formula", which consists of pasta, aromatics, sauce, protein, veg, and garnish, basically creates INFINITE variations on pasta once have some ingredients prepared in the fridge or quickly cooked from the pantry once you got the basics, like cooking pasta, down. The rest is simply mixing the ingredients and serve.

In fact, he'll give you a 10 recipe booklet containing all 15-minute meals for free, link's in the description of the above video, and he has TONS more content.
posted by kschang at 9:40 AM on May 9

You can also mix up a LOT of different sauces by simply combining the common home condiments such as mayo, ketchup, sriracha, yellow mustard, worchestershire, apple cider vinegar, hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, soy sauce (light), and so on in different proportions. In fact, buy one of each and start experimenting yourself. You may be surprised how well these sauces turn out.
posted by kschang at 9:47 AM on May 9

Enchilada Lasagna

Spray a glass baking tray with cooking spray.
Add a thin layer of enchilada sauce.
Tear up tortillas & cover the bottom of the tray completely, like you would with lasagna noodles.
Add a layer of your chosen filling. We use refried beans & canned green chilis, but you could do shredded chicken or something else. Sprinkle with cheese.
Add a layer of tortillas.
Add another filling. We use corn, black olives, more cheese.
Another layer of tortillas.
Top with enchilada sauce & a layer of cheese.
Bake at 350 until the filling is hot & cheese on top is melted. Maybe 30 minutes?
posted by belladonna at 10:43 AM on May 9 [1 favorite]

These are two that I've absorbed really well-- Cast Iron Baked Chicken Thighs (via America's Test Kitchen) and Risotto Ai Gamberri (via Lidia Bastianich). With the latter, I also make a shrimp stock out of the shells, basically riffing on this recipe (I don't measure, eyeball garlic, etc. )
posted by actionpact at 12:35 PM on May 9

Toll house / chocolate chip cookies

pumpkin pie

buttercream frosting

simple syrup
posted by amtho at 2:09 PM on May 9


1 can chickpeas, drained (save the liquid)
Juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon (to taste)
1 small clove minced garlic
1/4 cup tahini
Cumin (about 1/2 teaspoon)
About a tablespoon of olive oil

Mix everything in a food processor. Add some reserved liquid from the chickpeas if needed, and process some more.
posted by Dolley at 2:22 PM on May 9

If you don't mind using grams, Nigella Lawson's cupcake recipe is fairly straightforward:

125 grams self-raising flour

125 grams caster sugar

125 grams soft unsalted butter

2 large eggs

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

I've also seen it doubled to 250, 250, 250, 2 large eggs.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 2:53 AM on May 12

that gateau recipe above might have been closer to
1 pot of yogurt
2 pots of sugar
3 pots of flour
4 eggs

or so, if https://www.croque-maman.com/blog/gateau-au-yaourt/ is to be believed.
posted by adekllny at 6:36 PM on May 14

Please note and correct a couple errors in my mother's cobbler recipe upthread:

Butter: not a whole stick, just a half (4 tablespoons), and
Baking Powder: mix a couple teaspoons into the flour

(sorry Mom)
posted by Rash at 11:01 AM on June 16

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