Three No-Recipe Recipes

A few weeks ago I headed to Park City, Utah
for a mini reunion with my college roommates, where the seven of us spent a long weekend hiking, eating, and hard-core hanging. One night, as my Seattle friend Jenn and I were putting together dinner for the crew (salmon salad, naturally, plus a version of Samin’s cauliflower) when my San Francisco friend, Cara wandered over to the kitchen to watch as we flaked up the fish, tossing it with all the fresh vegetables. “I think I could actually do that,” she said. I probably don’t need to tell you that Cara has faced more serious challenges than dinner in her lifetime, including, but not limited to, raising three children and, um, medical school. “Of course you can do this,” I told her. “What did you think we were going to do here, Osso Bucco?” It reminded me yet again to remind you all that the best recipes — the ones we come back to again and again — are the simplest. If you can describe how to make a meal in a few sentences (“toss roasted salmon with potatoes, fresh vegetables, and your favorite vinaigrette”) then it’s a keeper, whether you are cooking for seven or seventy or just one. Here are a few I’ve been stockpiling…

Chilled Shrimp and Spring Vegetables
 Toss chilled shrimp (cooked) with sprouts (or pea shoots, above), asparagus, some kind of onion (shallot/scallion/red onion), dill, and your favorite dressing. For this one here, the vinaigrette was rice wine vinegar, a little soy sauce, hot mustard, olive oil, salt, pepper and a few shakes of furikake. So bright, so satisfying.

Refried Bean Tostadas
Spread warmed refried beans on fried tortillas and top with avocado, pickled onions, queso fresco, squeeze of lime. Quick and filling, this has become an excellent go-to for the kid who has late practices and can’t eat with the rest of the family.

Tagliatelle with Butter, Basil and Parmesan.
This doesn’t look like much, I know, but Abby is still talking about it a week later. The key is to buy good tagliatelle (it’s usually a good sign if it comes packaged in little nests), and to use reserved pasta water to distribute the Parm. Oh, and butter. That certainly helps, too.

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Would love more ideas about how you handled dinner and late practices. We just finished our first year of that and I’m dreading when it starts back up in the fall. Thanks! Love you on Cup of Jo too!!


I love your salmon salad. Simple, but not simple to make. Always takes me forever , like, similar to making potato salad – so much cooking and chopping/prepping. I now only make it when I have all day . Wish I could wave a wand …


The salmon salad is amazing but can be faster. We buy the green beans and potatoes in the pre-prepped bags and steam them in the microwave. The salmon roasts fast in the oven. We use grape tomatoes and don’t chop them – just wash and go – and use English cucumbers that we don’t peel. And I serve it on a big platter in piles so everyone mixes their own combo.


Thank you!! I’m trying to survive my return to work after my 2nd baby and these recipes are about all I could handle these days. Pleeeeeeease do more like this! I’m sure recipes like this seem obvious or boring to someone as talented as you but I need them.

Marie Alsbergas

40 years ago I made a similar salad using canned baby shrimp (well cleaned), alfalfa sprouts, spring greens, green onions and tiny cubes of Colby or cheddar cheese. If cherry or grape tomatoes were available, they were halved & tossed in as well. Tossed and chilled, it didn’t need any further dressings.
Thanks for the memories!