In my early 20s, I bought the two-volume set of Julia Child’s classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a fit of inspiration. I gathered the gargantuan list of ingredients required to make boeuf à la mode, slaving over pots and pans from morning to late afternoon.
In the process, I had to learn how to make a bouquet garni (a bundle of fresh herbs tied in a cheesecloth) and ended up drinking more of the cooking wine than intended. Though the final dish was heavenly, I never wanted to see another cube of braising beef again.
These days, I’m a lazy cook. I rely on "minimalist" food blogs like Minimalist Baker, The Kitchn, and The New York Times’ discontinued The Minimalist (VPN required). Most dishes have no more than ten ingredients, with an emphasis on wholesome, healthy, and easy-to-prepare fare.
Even for potluck brunches and dinner parties, my go-to dishes tend to be dressed-up versions of the foods I usually eat, like Smitten Kitchen’s baked eggs with spinach and mushrooms. "I’ve never thought of baking eggs," said my housemate. "But it’s really good!"
Here are a few of my favorite minimalist recipes (I usually get the harder-to-find produce like kale and parsley delivered from my regular stall at Sanyuanli Market):
- Minimalist Baker: Kumquat kale salad with tahini dressing (pictured above) and easy vegan falafel
- The Kitchn: Tabbouleh salad with bulgur, cracked wheat, or quinoa and baked fish, spinach and tomatoes in foil packets
- The Minimalist: Fennel and celery salad and more-vegetable-than-egg frittata
To cut down on cooking time for weekday meals, have the ayi do the grocery shopping and vegetable prep. A friend of mine designed an Excel template that automatically fills in the Chinese translations for ingredients. He then prints out the list and gives it to his ayi for grocery shopping.
For tips on how to instill a love of cooking in your kids, read School Editor Yvette Ferrari’s interviews with Mosto Executive Chef Daniel Urdaneta and Michelin-starred Chef Marc Fosh.
Sijia Chen is a contributing editor at beijingkids and a freelance writer specializing in parenting, education, travel, environment, and culture. Her work has appeared in The Independent, Midnight Poutine, Rover Arts, and more. Follow her on Twitter at @sijiawrites or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Minimalist Baker