We all have to start somewhere. That’s the inspiration behind this small but mighty collection of recipes for absolute beginners. We’re talking can-hardly-boil-water beginners. Maybe you just graduated from college and are on your own for the first time, or perhaps you never quite got the hang of cooking. Not to worry! These dishes – ranging from a no-cook tuna mayo rice bowl to oven-roasted chicken thighs with potatoes and lemons – are a fantastic place to start. Because no one wakes up one day and can suddenly, say, run a marathon or, in this case, cook.
But anyone can make something good to eat. With a little help from our Cooking columnists Melissa Clark, Genevieve Ko and Eric Kim, you’ll become the cook you always wanted to be: a confident one. Start with the recipes below, which are ordered from easiest to hardest. With practice, repetition and patience, you’ll not only develop a set of skills that you can apply to other New York Times Cooking recipes, but you’ll have 10 delicious dishes under your belt worth cooking on repeat.
You’d be amazed by how much great cooking you can do without ever turning on the stove. Take this tuna mayo rice bowl: All you need is canned tuna, your favorite mayo, leftover rice and whatever you want to sprinkle on top. Sesame seeds add a nutty little crunch; roasted seaweed, such as nori or furikake, offer crispy saltiness; and scallions bring a delightful freshness. Think of it as a blank canvas and get creative.
Recipe: Tuna Mayo Rice Bowl
Here’s your chance to prove (and share) your culinary mettle. All you need to make this guacamole is a sturdy bowl, a fork and some elbow grease. Mash your avocados et al. until smooth – or chunky if you’re big on contrasting textures. Then, take the opportunity to learn how to taste as you go, adding salt along the way, deciding whether to throw in jalapeño seeds for spicy heat and squeezing in more lime juice if you like your guacamole tangy. Just be sure to wash your hands after handling the jalapeños! (The capsaicin that makes them spicy can also irritate your eyes and skin.)
All right, it’s time to get the stove into the mix. Grab a nonstick skillet because it’s really going to take you places, starting with cheese-pull heaven when you make this quesadilla. Here, you’ll want to lean into mess-making, sprinkling cheese not just inside your tortilla but along the edges as well for a latticelike halo of crispy-crunchies.
Recipe: Crispy Quesadilla
If you’re staring down a tough day, start it off strong: Few dishes can do that better than really good French toast. In this case, you’re using standard sandwich bread, which becomes especially custardy because it’s thin, soft and cooks quickly, but sourdough, milk bread and brioche will all work just as well. Just give the slices a little time to soak up all that rich, eggy milk before they hit the pan.
Recipe: French Toast
Cereal, take the day off because it’s eggs-on-toast time. Here’s your chance to practice your egg cracking skills – be confident – and to really unlock the beauty of butter-scrambled eggs. It’s also a lesson in temperature control, keeping the heat low to help you avoid overcooking your eggs. If you’re vegan, a tofu scramble is just as doable, and cooking with olive oil in place of butter will taste just as good.
Perhaps you’ve heard about the glories of cooking on sheet pans. For those who are busy, have limited means or time, or have picky eaters to feed, sheet-pan cooking can be a lifesaver. You’ll be blown away by the flavorful, satisfying meals you can pull off with nothing but a sheet pan, including these simple roasted vegetables that you can mix-and-match according to your taste.
Break out the saucepan, the last of the kitchen items you’ll need to complete this cooking marathon. When it comes to one-pot meals, this tofu curry is simple to pull off, with a fragrant coconut sauce that imparts its flavor to broccoli, tofu and onions. And with all the fat and liquid coming from full-bodied coconut milk, vegan cooks will rejoice.
Recipe: Vegetable Tofu Curry
What better way to feed a big group than this hearty turkey chili? (It’s also a great way to make lots of meals for yourself: Leftovers will last for days in the fridge or a month in the freezer.) The recipe starts with frying onions and canned tomatoes in olive oil before adding chili powder and chipotles to the mix for spice and heat. You’ll have to let things burble away for a good 20 minutes, but you can trust that, like these 10 recipes, the process is working.
OK, time to roast a whole chicken! Just kidding: Let’s start with just the thighs, and work from there. When you’re seeking comfort and an all-in-one dinner, this lemony chicken will deliver and leave you feeling very accomplished in the process. The result will warm the soul, with just a touch of zip and zing from a generous helping of lemon juice.
This isn’t the end of the kitchen marathon – it’s just the beginning. We hope you come out of cooking these 10 recipes feeling capable enough to feed not only yourself but the people you hold nearest and dearest as well. Even at the start of this journey, you’ll find the joy in cooking. And it only gets better.
And to Drink…
Many wine lovers recognize salmon as a fish to eat with red wine, notably Burgundy or pinot noir. While that can be a wonderful pairing, the pungent mustard-and-lemon flavors in this broiled salmon recipe would go best with a white wine. My top choice would be dry riesling, whether from Germany, Alsace or Austria. A modest one would be fine, but this dish would complement an excellent bottle, too. If not riesling, how about a Chablis? The same is true: A young village wine would be good, a premier or grand cru with a little age even better. Other options? An Oregon chardonnay, a Savennières from the Loire Valley or a good assyrtiko from Santorini would all be delicious. If you are set on red, try a good cru Beaujolais. ERIC ASIMOV