There’s a formula to cooking without recipes. So, to be completely honest, there’s a recipe hidden inside every non-recipe. And, there are a couple of disclaimers as well.
First, if you can’t follow one of those 5-Ingredient-30-Minute recipes then you probably can’t cook without a recipe either. Sorry. Second, cooking without recipes requires a dash of good intuition when it comes to food, or a baseline of kitchen sensibility (which is a blend of knowledge and experience or an addiction to watching cooking on television). Ultimately, anyone can cook without a net. All it takes is some heartfelt practice and a little patience.
When I gave some thought to no-recipe cooking I realized that the food I make for my lunch – when I eat alone and actually make time to make food – is just the sort of food that even a novice can make on the spur of the moment. I use shortcuts that include conveniences like microwave brown rice bowls, rice noodles that cook in minute and ready made broth. I’m currently quite fond of Trader Joe’s Ginger Miso Broth. Hot sandwiches are a goldmine as a medium to test flavor combos (look for some in future posts). Yesterday I had a duo of grilled Dubliner cheese sandwiches with heirloom tomatoes, Dijon mustard, and a few hefty grinds of black pepper.
When I got hungry at AndyFood I refused to make a mess, because then I had to clean it up. Unlike cooking at home, even if I was alone in the place, I had to be able to pass unannounced health inspections. Talk about a buzz kill when it comes to playing around in the kitchen.
One of my favorite lunches was (and continues to be) Pad Thai brown rice. Here’s the how-to:
Heat a rice bowl in the microwave per instructions on the label. I use the kind with plain brown rice from Costco. This takes 90 seconds.
While the rice heats put a mounded tablespoon or two of peanut butter in a deep 6-inch across ceramic bowl. The amount is up to you, and other nut butters also work, but if it doesn’t taste like peanut it’s not Pad Thai. Add some lite soy sauce, a good squirt of Sriracha, and a few tablespoons of water. Stir this and put it in the microwave for 15 seconds when the rice comes out. Empty the rice into the bowl with the hot spicy peanut butter and soy sauce mixture and stir to combine.
The result is creamy, rib-sticking, spicy-salty, and a tad sweet. It’s the perfect hot lunch. Cleanup is easy; a single just-emptied bowl and a spoon.
I could probably figure out how to do all this in the plastic bowl that comes with the rice, but that’s not going to happen. Even when I’m in a hurry I have standards.