If abiding by resolutions were as easy as setting them, perfection would be attainable and the self-improvement section of the bookstore would be cobweb city. Still, self-reflection can be a rewarding exercise at the beginning of a new year. What better place to start than in the kitchen, where you have to spend at least a little bit of time each day?
Consider a gentler approach to resolution-making: Try to become just a little bit better at something, rather than change your habits wholesale. Perhaps you’d like to incorporate Meatless Mondays into your weekly routine, or maybe you’re resolving to bake the birthday cakes for your loved ones this year. Maybe, just maybe, this is the year you finally learn how to cook.
No matter what your goals, we have recipes to bring you closer to them. Give these a try in 2024, and, by this time next year, we’re certain you’ll be impressed by how far your cooking has come.
For the New Vegetarian
Red Lentil Soup
Credit…Joseph De Leo for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Monica Pierini.
Few dishes embody the potential of meatless eating quite like Melissa Clark’s five-star red lentil soup, the most-reviewed recipe in the entire New York Times Cooking database. It expertly executes on the promises of any good vegetarian recipe: It honors the cook’s time. It transforms simple pantry staples and vibrant fresh ingredients like lemon juice and cilantro into something surprisingly complex. And it won’t leave you hunting around the kitchen for something more substantial to eat afterward.
Recipe: Red Lentil Soup
Quinoa and Broccoli Spoon Salad
For the uninitiated, resolving to eat more vegetarian meals may sound like resigning yourself to a future of listless salads. Don’t let that myth deter you. Sohla El-Waylly’s quinoa and broccoli spoon salad is proof that salads can be plenty hearty, crunchy and balanced without a blanket of grilled chicken on top. The unexpected combination of flavors and textures here — raw broccoli, crunchy nuts, dried and fresh fruit, nubby grains and salty cheese — only get better as it sits, ideal for packed lunches when you’re back to your post-holiday routines.
Recipe: Quinoa and Broccoli Spoon Salad
Sheet-Pan Paneer Tikka
The gateway to more regular meatless cooking for some people may just be, well, cheese. A soft cheese, like the immensely versatile South Asian paneer, soaks up a flavorful marinade of yogurt, ginger and garlic pastes, garam masala and a handful of other spices in this knockout recipe from Zainab Shah (though you can just as easily use cubed tofu). The bouncy bits of cheese, which don’t melt even when roasted at a high heat, cook alongside vegetables for a satisfying one-pan meal in fewer than 30 minutes.
Recipe: Sheet-Pan Paneer Tikka
For the Beginner Cook
True novices should look no further than this three-ingredient recipe from Melissa Clark. The focus is strictly on technique, which makes an otherwise straightforward quesadilla more texturally compelling with no more effort. “Nice, easy way to make a quesadilla sing more than normal,” wrote one New York Times Cooking commenter. “Honestly, I am a little disappointed I didn’t think of this myself before!”
Recipe: Crispy-Edged Quesadilla
Gyeran Bap (Egg Rice)
This Eric Kim recipe rests on two critical tent poles of cooking: frying eggs and making a simple sauce for topping white rice. It was developed for those cooking for one, whether the college freshman or the retired empty-nester. With only five ingredients, the dish creates little mess and can serve as a canvas for whatever else you have on hand, like sliced avocado, scallions or even everything-bagel seasoning.
Recipe: Gyeran Bap (Egg Rice)
Broiled Salmon With Mustard and Lemon
Once you’re comfortable at the stove, it’s time to graduate to the broiler. Melissa Clark’s 15-minute recipe for skin-on salmon fillets brushed with Dijon mustard and olive oil is so foolproof, it deserves to become your go-to recipe for preparing fish. “What kind of magic is this?” a New York Times Cooking commenter wrote. “I followed the recipe to the letter and it came out perfectly.”
Recipe: Broiled Salmon With Mustard and Lemon
For the Aspiring Baker
Rice Krispie Treats
Scott Loitsch’s recipe includes two valuable lessons for new bakers: the importance of salt in any baked good, and the depth that browned butter can provide. To balance the sweetness of all that gooey marshmallow, you need more salt than you think (1¼ teaspoons of Diamond Crystal kosher salt, or five grams of any coarse or table salt); otherwise, your treats will taste one-note. Simply browning your butter — slowly cooking out its water and then caramelizing the milk solids — adds a nutty warmth that will have you adding browned butter to any cookies or brownies you make in the future.
Recipe: Rice Krispie Treats
This recipe, adapted from the cookbook “Basque Country” by Marti Buckley, is a testament to the idea that less is more. Fewer ingredients, fewer tools and fewer fussy tricks yield a stunning dessert that will convince those you’re feeding — and maybe even yourself — that you’re an expert baker. This type of cheesecake spares you the water bath, and is instead baked at a higher temperature than the classic New York style, creating a burnished surface that, at first, puffs like a soufflé, then sinks into itself and takes on a toasty flavor reminiscent of a fire-roasted marshmallow.
Recipe: Basque Cheesecake
Flourless Chocolate Cake
Gluten-free, with just six ingredients and restaurant-caliber flavor, this recipe from Genevieve Ko is packed with smart tips for novices. Despite the notion that bar chocolate is always better for baking, Genevieve employs chocolate chips, which contain less cocoa butter but more cacao solids than their bar counterparts, and thus more chocolaty flavor when baked into cake. And they serve double duty in this one-bowl dessert, helping to bind the minimal ingredients in the absence of flour.
Recipe: Flourless Chocolate Cake
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