I didn’t make any resolutions this year. I don’t know if this is because I’ve gotten lazier and grumpier as I’ve gotten older, or if it’s just that I’m more of a realist about these things working out. But it’s a slippery slope from realist to cynic, something I’m resolved (!) to never become in any part of my life, most of all the kitchen part, so when I see a book like Cook90 come along, I have a renewed sense of optimism. Cook90 might sound familiar to you. On January 1, 2016, David Tamarkin, the digital editor of Epicurious challenged himself (and his readers) to cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner for 30 straight days. From the beginning, the Cook90 program was a hit and it’s no surprise why. The plan isn’t about categorically not drinking or not eating meat or not eating carbs or not eating dessert, like most New Year’s food-related plans. It’s about doing more of something, something that has the power to bring you joy, health, and human connection. Namely: Cooking. You’ve read the research: One of the best things you can do for your overall well-being is cook your own food.
Sure, David’s book is decidedly January-ish in mission but his recipes are both simple and surprising — something hard to come by in a cookbook — and therefore good all year long. And if you follow the 30-day plan, you’ll appreciate his realistic take on things: repeating 7-minute eggs for breakfast, using rotisserie chickens, making good use of the workhorse sheet pan, and cooking extra for dinner to give you a “nextovers,” i.e. a head start on meals for the following day. Here’s a teaser, plus a recipe for the Rice Bowl with Smoked Fish, Quick Pickles and Dill, which is shown above, and which I’m 100% making this week.
Warm Rotisserie Chicken Salad with Asparagus and Creamy Dill Dressing. You know I’m a sucker for any recipe that begins with a rotisserie chicken.
Energy Balls It’s possible that the whole book won me over with David’s lead-in to this Energy Balls recipe: “The night before I start Cook90, I’m nervous about only one thing. It’s nothing to do with cooking or shopping; it’s that I’ll get hungry at 3pm and not be able to do anything about it.” HARD RELATE for me every single day of the year. These honey-cinnamon-coconut-oat-nut snacks apparently help on that front.
Party Hummus with Spiced Lamb or Beef David (rightly) assumes that one might be interested in having people over at some point during the 30-day undertaking and I love what he has in mind for this: A big platter of homemade hummus (using a hacked version of Michael Solomonov’s hummus recipe made with canned chickpeas), alongside an array of bowls filled with spiced ground meat, various pickled things, yogurt, hot sauce, tahini, lemon wedges, and pita. Brilliant, and maybe a good way to feed my flexitarian family on just a regular old Wednesday.
Chickpea Curry with Sweet Potatoes and Greens I know, more chickpeas. What can I say, they’re pretty lifesaving. And I am a huge fan of the lime-sweet-potato-curry trifecta. My kids wouldn’t go near this, so I’m earmarking it for Vegetarian Date Night. Please know I’m joking and that there is no such thing as Vegetarian Date Night.
Sheet-Pan Brownies Exhibit A to support the claim that this plan is realistic: It does not ignore dessert. In this recipe, the brownie batter is spread thin on a sheet pan, and, according to Tamarkin, it’s all about the resulting texture, chewy with a big crunch from the nuts.
Rice Bowl with Smoked Fish, Quick Pickles, and Dill
We have stacks and stacks of Trader Joe’s smoked trout in our pantry and yet have never thought to put them to work for dinner. Until now. My kids will take these without the 7-minute egg, but I’m ok with that.
1/2 cup basmati rice to yield 2 cups cooked (in the book, the rice has been prepared in advance or is nextover’d)
4 7-Minute Eggs, halved
3 tablespoons white vinegar or unseasoned rice vinegar
½ teaspoon sugar
1 cup very thinly sliced cucumber
½ cup sour cream
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
8 ounces smoked trout or smoked salmon fillet, ﬂaked into 2-inch pieces
½ cup thinly sliced red onion
Freshly ground black pepper
Follow basmati package instructions, making enough to yield 2 cups of cooked rice. Make 7-minute eggs if you haven’t already.
In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar and sugar. Add the cucumber slices, toss to coat, and let sit for 15 minutes, tossing every 5 minutes or so. Drain the cucumbers reserving the pickling liquid in a medium bowl, whisk together the pickling liquid, sour cream, dill, and salt to taste.
Divide the rice among four shallow bowls, then follow suit with the egg halves, cucumbers, smoked fish, and red onion. Season the egg halves with a little salt and pepper. Drizzle some of the dill sauce on top of each bowl, or serve on the side.
Photos and recipe excerpted from COOK90 Copyright © 2018 by David Tamarkin, photographs by Chelsea Kyle. Used with permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York. All rights reserved.