The first steps to kitchen mastery

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LifeStyle


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.

Tuna mayo rice bowl, a chance to learn about flavor combinations by experimenting with toppings and seasonings, in New York, June 21, 2022. A collection of 10 absolute beginner recipes that will give you confidence in the kitchen and teach you how to cook. Food stylist: Monica Pierini (Julia Gartland/The New York Times)

Tuna Mayo Rice Bowl

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

By Eric Kim

Yield: 1 serving

Total time: 5 minutes

1 (5-ounce) can tuna (preferably any variety stored in oil), well drained

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon soy sauce

1 cup cooked white rice (preferably short- or medium-grain)

Toasted white or black sesame seeds, furikake or chopped scallions, for topping (optional)

1. In a small bowl, stir the tuna, mayonnaise, sesame oil and soy sauce to combine.

2. Add the white rice to a bowl and spoon the tuna mixture on top. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds, furikake or scallions, if using.

Guacamole

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.)

Recipe: Guacamole

By Eric Kim

Yield: 2 cups (4 appetizer servings)

Total time: 10 minutes

1/2 cup finely chopped white onion (from 1 small onion)

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from about 1 lime)

Salt and black pepper

1 jalapeño

2 ripe avocados

1. In a medium bowl, combine the onion and lime juice, and season with salt and pepper. Let that sit as you chop the jalapeño.

2. Cut the hard stem end off of the jalapeño and discard, then slice the chile in half lengthwise. If you don’t want the spice, use your knife or a spoon to remove the inner seeds and white membrane (this is where most of the chile’s heat resides). If you enjoy the heat, then leave all of that in. Chop the jalapeño as finely as you can and add to the bowl with the onion and lime juice. Be sure to wash your hands very well with soap after handling spicy chiles like jalapeños, and whatever you do, do not touch your eyes after handling them.

3. Cut the avocados in half lengthwise and pull the halves apart. You can use your knife to pit the avocados, but a safer way is to hold the avocado half in one hand so that your thumb is touching the skin side where the pit is and your index and middle fingers are touching the flesh side around the pit. Gently press your fingers into each other to pop the pit out; with a ripe avocado, it should come out very easily. Use your hands to squeeze the avocado flesh out into the bowl with the other ingredients, or scoop it out with a spoon.

4. Using a fork, gently mash the avocados against the side of the bowl until they are mashed to your desired consistency, then stir them into the other ingredients until well combined. Taste and add more salt if desired.

5. Contrary to popular belief, adding avocado pits to guacamole does nothing to prevent oxidation, but if you press a good layer of plastic wrap or parchment paper directly over the guacamole and store it in the refrigerator, it will keep well for up to 2 days.

A crispy-edged quesadilla in New York, June 21, 2022. A collection of 10 absolute beginner recipes that will give you confidence in the kitchen and teach you how to cook. food stylist: Monica Pierini (Julia Gartland/The New York Times)

Crispy-Edged Quesadilla

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

By Melissa Clark

Yield: 1 quesadilla

Total time: 10 minutes

2 teaspoons oil (such as olive, grapeseed or sunflower oil)

1 (8-inch) flour tortilla

2/3 cup shredded cheese (such as Cheddar, Monterey Jack or Mexican cheese blend)

1. Place a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat, then add the oil. Let oil heat up for 20 seconds, swirling the pan around so the oil coats the bottom.

2. Place the tortilla in the skillet and sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top. Once the cheese begins to melt, 30 seconds to 1 minute, use a spatula to fold the tortilla in half. Using the spatula, press down firmly on the top of the tortilla until some of the cheese runs out into the pan. Let the quesadilla cook until the cheese that’s leaked out solidifies and turns brown, 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Flip the quesadilla over and let cook on the other side for another 1 to 2 minutes, until the cheese is crisp and golden. Slide quesadilla onto a plate and serve immediately.

French toast, a strong way to start a tough day, in New York, June 21, 2022. A collection of 10 absolute beginner recipes that will give you confidence in the kitchen and teach you how to cook. food stylist: Monica Pierini (Julia Gartland/The New York Times)

French Toast

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

By Genevieve Ko

Yield: 1 serving

Total time: 10 minutes

1 large egg

1/4 cup milk

Salt

2 slices sandwich bread

1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus more for serving

Maple syrup, jam or other toppings, for serving

1. In a bowl or shallow dish that will fit the bread, beat the egg, milk and a pinch of salt with a fork until very smooth and bubbly on top.

2. Add both bread slices (it’s OK to stack them if they don’t quite fit) and soak them, turning a few times, until the mixture is fully absorbed.

3. Set a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the butter and swirl it around the pan until it melts. The soaked bread will be really soft, so carefully pick up each slice by sliding your whole hand under it, then setting it in the pan. Cook until the bottoms are golden brown, about 3 minutes. Flip the slices, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the other sides are brown, 2 to 3 minutes.

4. Enjoy hot, with more butter spread over the slices and with your favorite toppings.

Cheesy eggs and toast, which will hone your egg-cracking skills and teach a lesson in temperature control, in New York, June 21, 2022. A collection of 10 absolute beginner recipes that will give you confidence in the kitchen and teach you how to cook. food stylist: Monica Pierini (Julia Gartland/The New York Times)

Cheesy Eggs on 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.

Recipe: Cheesy Eggs on Toast

By Genevieve Ko

Yield: 1 serving

Total time: 10 minutes

2 large eggs

Salt and pepper

1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 slice bread

1/4 cup shredded cheese (Cheddar, Monterey Jack or a blend)

1. Crack the eggs into a bowl and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Beat with a fork until evenly yellow. Leave the bowl next to the stove while you make the toast.

2. In a small nonstick skillet, melt a thin slice of the butter over medium-low heat. Swipe the bread in the melted butter to soak it all up. Let sit until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add another thin slice of butter to the pan then flip the bread, swiping it in the newly melted butter until it’s all soaked up. Turn the heat to the lowest setting and let the bread sit until lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

3. Add the remaining butter and the eggs and cook, stirring gently and constantly with a wooden spoon, until the butter melts and the eggs are half wet and half solid, 15 to 45 seconds. Turn off the heat, add the cheese and continue stirring until the mixture is creamy but no longer wet, about 30 to 45 seconds. Scrape onto the toast right away and enjoy.

Roasted vegetables, which can be mixed and matched according to your taste, in New York, June 21, 2022. A collection of 10 absolute beginner recipes that will give you confidence in the kitchen and teach you how to cook. food stylist: Monica Pierini (Julia Gartland/The New York Times)

Roasted Mixed Vegetables

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.

Recipe: Roasted Mixed Vegetables

By Melissa Clark

Yield: 2 to 3 servings

Total time: 45 minutes

For the Vegetables:

8 cups vegetables (any combination of broccoli, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms), cut into 1-inch pieces (see Tip)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving

1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt (such as Diamond Crystal)

Freshly ground black pepper

4 fresh thyme sprigs or 1 teaspoon dried thyme (optional)

For the (Optional) Garlicky Yogurt Sauce:

1 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt

1 to 2 garlic cloves, finely grated or minced

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Pinch each salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Prepare the vegetables: Heat oven to 425 degrees. Add the vegetables to a rimmed sheet pan. Add 2 tablespoons oil, the salt, pepper and thyme (if using), and gently toss vegetables to coat. Use your hands to spread the vegetables out into one layer, spacing them evenly all over the pan.

2. Transfer to the oven and roast until they are tender and browned, 30 to 40 minutes, stirring at least once during roasting for even cooking.

3. While vegetables roast, you can make yogurt sauce if you like: In a small bowl, combine yogurt, garlic, oil, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning. Cover and place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

4. Serve roasted vegetables with a dollop of garlic yogurt, if desired, and a drizzle of oil on top.

Tips:

If you’d like to swap these vegetables for denser vegetables, use any combination of carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, butternut squash and cauliflower, cut into 1-inch chunks. Add an extra tablespoon of oil and extra ½ teaspoon of salt. Roast for 40 to 50 minutes. These vegetables take longer to cook and absorb more oil while roasting.

Broiled salmon, which is done in a flash and can be seasoned several different ways, in New York, June 21, 2022. A collection of 10 absolute beginner recipes that will give you confidence in the kitchen and teach you how to cook. food stylist: Monica Pierini (Julia Gartland/The New York Times)

Broiled Salmon With Mustard and Lemon

Sheet pans aren’t just great for cooking vegetables. You can also put them to use when it’s time to throw some protein into the mix, as in this done-in-a-flash broiled salmon. Even better, there are all manner of ways you can flavor your salmon — brown sugar and mustard, miso and mirin, citrus and herbs — while sticking to this broiling blueprint.

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 p

airing, 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

Recipe: Broiled Salmon With Mustard and Lemon

By Melissa Clark

Yield: 2 servings

Total time: 15 minutes

2 (6- to 8-ounce) skin-on salmon fillets, each about 1-inch thick

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (such as Diamond Crystal), plus more to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Lemon wedges, for serving

1. Position one oven rack 6 inches from the broiler heat source then heat the broiler. Season the salmon fillets all over with ½ teaspoon salt and a couple of grinds of pepper and place them on an aluminum foil-lined sheet pan, skin side down.

2. In a small bowl, whisk the oil and mustard until well mixed. Brush the tops and sides of the salmon with this mustard mixture.

3. Broil until the salmon is opaque with a deep brown crust, about 6 to 8 minutes for medium-rare. (The center of the fillets will be dark pink, if you pierce one with a paring knife and take a look.) If your fillets are thinner, reduce cooking time by 1 to 2 minutes. If you prefer more well-done fish, add 1 or 2 minutes to the cooking time.

4. Squeeze a lemon wedge all over the cooked salmon fillets, then serve salmon with more lemon wedges on the side.

Vegetable tofu curry with a fragrant coconut sauce, a one-pot meal that is simple to pull off, in New York, June 21, 2022. A collection of 10 absolute beginner recipes that will give you confidence in the kitchen and teach you how to cook. food stylist: Monica Pierini (Julia Gartland/The New York Times)

Vegetable Tofu Curry

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

By Genevieve Ko

Yield: 2 to 4 servings

Total time: 20 minutes

2 broccoli heads, 8 ounces green beans or 2 cups frozen peas, or a combination

1 (14- to 16-ounce) container firm tofu

1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk

1 medium onion, chopped

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon curry powder, plus more to taste

Cooked rice or other grains or noodles, for serving

Hot sauce, for serving (optional)

1. If using broccoli, trim the ends of the stems and discard, then cut the stems off near the base of the florets. Cut off the thick peel around the stems, then cut the stems into 1/2-inch slices. Cut the broccoli crowns into small florets. Drain the tofu and cut into 1-inch cubes.

2. Open the can of coconut milk and spoon off an inch or so of the hard white solid part into a large saucepan with a lid. (If the milk is all liquid, add a few spoonfuls.) Turn the heat to medium-high. When the solids melt, add the onion and broccoli stems, if using, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. The coconut milk liquid should have evaporated, so the onions should be sizzling in coconut oil and the milk solids should be brown and smell toasty. Scrape up any bits sticking to the bottom.

3. Turn the heat down to medium-low, add the curry powder and stir until evenly mixed, about 10 seconds. Add the remaining coconut milk, stir and bring to a simmer. Add the tofu and spread the cubes in an even layer, then top with the broccoli florets or other vegetables, sprinkle with salt and cover with the lid. Cook until the vegetables are just tender but still bright green, 5 to 7 minutes.

4. Gently stir so the vegetables are also coated in sauce. Taste and stir in more curry powder, salt and pepper if you’d like. Serve hot over rice or other grains or noodles, with hot sauce if you want.

Turkey chili, thatÕs easy to make in large quantities for leftovers that will last for days in the fridge or a month in the freezer, in New York, June 21, 2022. A collection of 10 absolute beginner recipes that will give you confidence in the kitchen and teach you how to cook. food stylist: Monica Pierini (Julia Gartland/The New York Times)

Turkey Chili

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.

Recipe: Turkey Chili

By Eric Kim

Yield: 2 to 4 servings

Total time: 45 minutes

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large white onion, diced

1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes

Salt

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 pound ground turkey

1 (7-ounce) can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

Shredded extra-sharp Cheddar, sour cream and whole cilantro leaves, for serving (optional)

1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until translucent and starting to brown at the edges, 5 to 7 minutes.

2. Use a fork to fish the tomatoes out of the can and add them to the pot, leaving behind the juice for now. Season with salt and cook the tomatoes, breaking them up with the wooden spoon and stirring occasionally, until jammy and their liquid has reduced significantly, 5 to 7 minutes.

3. Stir in the chili powder and cook until fragrant, just a few seconds. Add the ground turkey, season with salt and stir to combine, breaking up the meat with the spoon. (Don’t worry about browning or cooking it through here, as it will do so when it simmers.) Stir in the reserved liquid from the tomato can.

4. Use the fork to fish out as many chipotle peppers from the can as you would like, starting with two or three, and add to the pot, breaking them up with the wooden spoon, along with all of the adobo sauce. The more peppers you use, the spicier your final chili will be; if you like spice, just add the entire can. (Store any peppers you don’t use in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week and in the freezer for up to 2 months.) Fill the empty chipotle can with cold tap water, swish it around and add to the pot. Stir to combine.

5. Bring the chili to a simmer over medium-high heat — you should see occasional small bubbles breaking the surface of the mixture — then cover the pot and reduce the heat to continue simmering over medium-low, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced and the tomatoes have broken down, about 20 minutes. The chili should look thick and shiny, but not too thick that you couldn’t ladle it into a bowl. (If it’s too watery, then simmer with the lid off for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.) Taste and add more salt if desired. Serve with cheese, sour cream and cilantro, if using.

Lemony chicken with potatoes and oregano, an all-in-one dinner that will leave you feeling accomplished, in New York, June 21, 2022. A collection of 10 absolute beginner recipes that will give you confidence in the kitchen and teach you how to cook. food stylist: Monica Pierini (Julia Gartland/The New York Times)

Lemony Chicken With Potatoes and Oregano

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.

Recipe: Lemony Chicken With Potatoes and Oregano

By Melissa Clark

Yield: 2 servings

Total time: 50 minutes

2 lemons

1 1/4 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (2 to 3), patted dry with paper towels (see Tip)

1 1/4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed, halved and cut into 1/2-inch wedges

1 3/4 teaspoons dried oregano, plus more for serving

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (such as Diamond Crystal), plus more for serving

3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup or hot sauce, for serving

1. Heat oven to 425 degrees and, if you like, line a sheet pan with parchment paper (not essential but helpful for cleaning up).

2. Trim the ends off 1 lemon, then cut the lemon in half crosswise. Thinly slice one half of the lemon into rounds, then cut the rounds into quarters, creating small triangles. Shake out the seeds then place the lemon quarters into a large bowl. Save the remaining lemon half for serving. Cut the remaining whole lemon into wedges, for serving.

3. Add chicken and potatoes to the large bowl with the lemon quarters. Add the oregano, salt and pepper; toss well. (Your hands are the best tools here.) Drizzle in the oil and toss again.

4. Arrange chicken thighs skin side up on one half of the prepared sheet pan, and potatoes and lemons on the other, spreading the potatoes out into one layer. Roast for 20 minutes. Using a long-handled spoon, stir the potatoes, then spread them out again in one layer. (You don’t have to touch the chicken.) Continue roasting until chicken and potatoes are cooked through and everything is golden and crisped, another 15 to 20 minutes (40 to 45 minutes total roasting time).

5. To serve, squeeze the juice from the lemon half all over chicken and potatoes and give everything a good stir to incorporate all the tasty juices and browned bits at the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with more oregano and salt, and serve with additional lemon wedges and condiments on the side.

Tips:

You can substitute 1 1/4 pounds chicken drumsticks for the thighs, or use a combination of thighs and drumsticks. Bone-in, skin-on breasts can also be substituted; because they cook more quickly than dark meat does, you’ll need to start checking on them after 30 minutes of total roasting time.

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.

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