4 Recipes, 4 Ingredients for Foolproof Meals

Homemade Lemon and Herb Whole Chicken on a Cutting Board
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In mid-March, as the COVID-19 pandemic swept through American cities striking terror, I was alarmed that a friend walked to restaurants every night to pick up dinner. I was shocked to learn her face-to-face food encounters were motivated, not by convenience, but by fear of cooking.

Among many issues, COVID-19 has highlighted that many Americans, approximately 28% of us, don’t know how to cook. This shortcoming has forced too many people from the safety of their homes in search of takeout food, daily trips that put them near countless potentially contagious strangers. Of course, supermarket shopping poses risks, but it can be limited to once a week, or less.

This situation disturbed me, particularly since basic food preparation is an easily acquired skill, useful not only during pandemics but always. Home cooking is economical and often better tasting than takeout food, which sometimes arrives in steamy containers that have cooled.

To help my friend avoid restaurants until the crisis ended, I suggested foolproof recipes, calling for only four ingredients, not counting salt. The prep took 15 minutes or less, plus some fuss-free cooking time. For fast cleanup, there’d be no more than one pot per dish. Cleanup time is a complaint of the cooking challenged.

Until COVID-19 no longer poses a threat, it would be wise to learn a few easy recipes, gradually adding more to your repertoire. Who knows? You may find you actually like cooking.

Baked Fish Fillets | Pareve

Serves 4

Equipment: medium-sized roasting pan or 9-by-13-inch Pyrex bakeware

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 4 (6-ounce) fish fillets, such as salmon, red snapper, tilapia, sea bass or sole
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Garnish: 2 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped fine

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Coat a roasting pan generously with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, or more if needed.

Rinse the fish fillets under cold water, and pat them dry with paper towels. Place then in the prepared roasting pan. Drizzle olive oil on both sides. Sprinkle the garlic powder and salt on both sides. Bake for 20 minutes or until the fish flakes when pierced with a fork. Scatter parsley over the tops of the fillets. Serve immediately.

Presto Pasta of Any Kind | Dairy

Serves 4 as a main course, 6 as a side dish

  • 1 pound pasta of any variety, such as spaghetti, ziti, fusilli, rotini, etc.
  • Olive oil for drizzling
  • A chunk of Parmesan cheese, grated to yield ¼ cup, or ¼ pre-grated at room temperature
  • ⅛ teaspoon fresh black pepper

Prepare the pasta according to package instructions, adding a couple drops of olive oil to the water before boiling it. When ready, drain the pasta in a colander and move it to a pasta bowl or any large bowl.

Drizzle olive oil over the pasta. Sprinkle on the grated Parmesan cheese. Using a pepper mill, grind black pepper over the top. Toss until the pasta is well coated with oil and Parmesan. Add more cheese, if needed. Serve immediately.

Roasted Asparagus | Pareve

Serves 4-6

Equipment: medium-sized roasting pan or 9-by-13-inch Pyrex bakeware

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons for drizzling, or more if needed
  • 1 large bunch of asparagus
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • ⅛ cup pine nuts or skinned, slivered almonds

Generously coat the roasting pan with 2 tablespoons olive oil, or more if needed. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Rinse the asparagus under cold water and drain it on paper towels. Cut off the coarse fibrous ends and discard. Arrange the asparagus in the prepared roasting pan. Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil over the top. Sprinkle with salt. With a spoon, roll the asparagus around to coat.

Place the asparagus in the oven and roast, stirring every few minutes. Roast for 15-20 minutes, or until asparagus are cooked through and browning. Scatter nuts over the top for the last 2 minutes. Do not over-roast. Serve immediately.

You Can Roast A Whole Chicken | Meat

Serves 4

Equipment: roasting pan with a rack, or 9-by-13-inch Pyrex bakeware

  • Nonstick vegetable spray
  • 1 (4-pound) roasting chicken
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder, or more if desired
  • Paprika for dusting

Place a rung inside your oven just below the center. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Coat a roasting pan and its rack with nonstick spray. If using Pyrex bakeware, tear off a 15-inch piece of aluminum foil and crumple it so it’s wrinkled. Open it to about a 13-inch length without flattening the wrinkles. Place it in the Pyrex and coat it generously with nonstick spray.

Pull the neck and gizzards from inside the chicken and use them for another purpose or discard. Rinse the chicken under cold water, inside and out. Pat it dry with paper towels. Sprinkle the salt, garlic powder and paprika on all sides of the chicken. Place it on the roasting pan rack or aluminum foil.

Move the pan to the oven and roast for 80 minutes or until the chicken is nicely browned and the juices run clear, not pink, when a knife is inserted at the thigh.

Move the chicken to a platter and let it stand for 10 minutes. Carve and serve immediately.


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