Mark Bittman wrote an excellent article in the Week in Review, which said that we don't need any more diet books. People just need to cook more at home, instead of getting take out food or frozen dinners.
The problem is, real food is cooked by real people — you! — and real people are cooking less than ever before.We know why people don’t cook, or at least we think we do: they’re busy; they find “convenience” and restaurant foods more accessible than foods they cook themselves; they (incorrectly) believe that ready-to-eat foods are less expensive than those they cook themselves; they live in so-called food deserts and lack access to real food; and they were never taught to cook by their parents, making the trend self-perpetuating.
He provides three basic recipes for a stir-fry, lentils and rice, and a cabbage salad. They're good recipes. I'm going to try out his lentil recipe for sure. I'm always looking for a new way to make beans.
I have Rachael Ray's Big Orange Book, but I'm not a huge fan of hers. I don't like gooey casseroles and I prefer simple hamburgers. She assembles meals, rather than cooks food. My favorite simple cookbook is Dad's Own Cookbook. I regularly use it for his chili recipe and his cold tortellini salad.
If I had to teach a non-cook one simple recipe, it would be a marinara sauce. It's healthy and it's flexible. Advanced cooks can keep tinkering with it, so it doesn't get boring.
The basic recipe requires five ingredients: garlic, salt, onion, olive oil, and a can of crushed tomatoes. Saute two cloves of crushed garlic in olive oil until they turn white. Add one diced onion and cook until soft. Then add a can of crushed tomatoes and some salt. Cook for half an hour and add to pasta.
It can be cranked up with a few of the following ingredients: dried or fresh herbs (basil, parsley, rosemary, thyme, oregano, cracked pepper), heavy cream, wine, meat (beef, sausage, ham, meatballs, pork chops, tuna), vegetables (artichokes, spinach, olives, capers, carrot).
It also doesn't have to be added to pasta. You can use it to cook chicken breasts or meatballs and just pair it with a salad. A vegetarian could pile in extra vegetables, including eggplant. Add a box of chicken broth, a can of beans and you have a tomato soup.
We need a marinara sauce revolution. Teach a kid how to make a marinara sauce and he'll never go to McDonald's again.