Cook This Now: 120 Easy and Delectable Dishes You Can’t Wait to Make

Easy, healthy and tasty recipes from our veteran food writer.
Cook This Now

Melissa Clark is a cook, not a chef. Chefs work with acres of stainless-steel equipment; Clark is in a Brooklyn kitchen. Chefs have a battery of helpers peeling, chopping and sautéing; Clark is alone at the stove except for a feisty two-year-old. That’s why home cooks trust her and the simple fresh food she makes, both for her New York Times column, "A Good Appetite," and for books like the new Cook This Now: 120 Easy and Delectable Dishes You Can't Wait to Make (Hyperion, 2011).

In it, she takes us through a year of shopping at her local farmers’ market. The year starts bravely in January with potatoes, storage apples and whatever-greens-you’ve-got salad. It peaks in early autumn with an abundance of tomatoes and peppers, and finishes in December with parsnip latkes and party-worthy candied nuts.

Because the book is based on farmers’ markets and, therefore, seasonality, the most interesting recipes are for fruits and vegetables. In midwinter, she sautés kale with anchovies and grates pecorino cheese on top. In late spring, she pan-fries asparagus and tops them with fried eggs; in summer, her salad bowl is filled with garlic scapes and sugar snaps, with new potatoes and peas, and with sliced tomatoes dressed with Asian fish sauce, cilantro, brown sugar and lime.

As always, it’s fun to watch Clark’s mind working as she ponders what to do with early baby carrots (pair their sweetness with bitter arugula) or with an overabundance of radishes (pan-roast them). Would Indian spices make split pea soup less porridge-y? Yes, they do. Would grating help butternut squash melt into a risotto? Yes again. For cooks like me, timidly tied to recipes, it’s good to be reminded that when you start with fresh and seasonal ingredients, you can’t go far wrong.

No-apologies turkey sloppy Joes
Clark includes this in the August chapter but says it’s fast and healthy year-round. Don’t be intimidated by the fish sauce: I found it in the Asian section of my supermarket. And if you can’t get ground turkey, use lean pork instead.

Thai-style Ground Turkey with Chiles and Basil

Adapted from Cook This Now (Hyperion, 2011)
Makes 4 servings**
6 PointsPlus® values per serving

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • About 1 Tbsp Asian fish sauce such as nam pla or nuoc mam or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp finely grated lime zest
  • 1 tsp freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp peanut oil
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped ginger root
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 fat scallion, white and light-green parts finely chopped, greens reserved for garnish
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh Thai or regular basil
  • Coconut or regular rice, for serving**
  • Lime wedges, for serving**

Instructions

  • In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, fish sauce, lime zest, lime juice and sugar. (If you think your fish sauce is very salty, start with 2 teaspoons; you can add more at the end if the dish needs it.)

  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add ginger, garlic, jalapeño and chopped scallion. Cook, stirring, until slightly softened, about a minute. Stir in turkey. Cook meat, breaking it up with a fork, until it is no longer pink, 5 to 7 minutes.

  • Stir in soy sauce mixture and cook for a minute or so, until flavors come together. Remove from heat and stir in basil. Scatter with sliced scallion greens. Serve, over warm coconut or regular rice, with lime wedges on the side.

Notes from the book

  • Call it what you will, it’s one of my favorite easy dinners to throw together when I’m in the mood for a punchy, Thai-inflected meal but want something more wholesome and homemade than takeout.

** Notes from WeightWatchers.com

  • When calculating the PointsPlus values for this recipe, we did not include the rice or lime wedges.

Easily improved borscht
The butter doesn’t contribute anything to this lovely soup. You can not only use canola oil but cut the amount in half without harming it. And of course you’ll garnish it with Greek yogurt, which you’ll sprinkle with more dill.

Beet and Cabbage Borscht with Dill

Adapted from Cook This Now (Hyperion, 2011)
Makes 6 servings**
4 PointsPlus values per serving**

Ingredients

  • 1/2 small head green or red cabbage, cut into quarters and cored
  • 4 medium raw beets, peeled and quartered
  • 4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 1 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • Sour cream or Greek yogurt, for serving

Instructions

  • Pass cabbage through feed tube of a food processor fitted with the coarse grating blade. Transfer grated cabbage to a large bowl. Pass beets through feed tube and add grated beets to bowl with cabbage.

  • Heat butter in a large pot over medium heat until foam subsides. Add onion. Cook, stirring, until onion is slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic; cook 1 minute. Add cabbage and beets. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, tossing occasionally, until cabbage is wilted, about 10 minutes.

  • Add broth and 1 teaspoon salt to pot. Bring liquid to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Stir in dill, remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt, and vinegar. Ladle soup into bowls and serve, topped with a dollop of sour cream.

Notes from the book

  • There are elaborate, hearty, meaty borschts that take all day to make and require myriad ingredients. And then there are simple, vegetable-based borschts that celebrate the purity of sweet beets and cabbage without many other distractions. This is a borscht of the latter type. This is just the kind of soup to make during the busy holiday season because it's quick, tasty, festive on account of its exuberant color, and also very, very good for you with all those vegetables bobbing in the bowl.

** Notes from WeightWatchers.com

  • When calculating the PointsPlus values for this recipe, we made the dish serve 6, and we did not include the sour cream or yogurt for serving.
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