Who: Frank T.
Lives in: New York, NY
Kids: Daughter Julia, Age 7
Marital Status: Divorced
Custody Situation: Joint; Weekends + 1 Weeknight
Dinner Dilemma: In Frank’s words: “My daughter is finally starting to expand her repertoire — it’s not only Mac ‘n Cheese and nuggets anymore. On the nights she’s with me, I want to stop relying on takeout and learn how to make a few really basic healthy dinners for her.”
Also: “I wouldn’t mind eating healthier myself.”
Dinner Dilemma #2: “I’m basically cooking in a bachelor’s kitchen. When it comes to equipment, I have nothing. Like nothing. I need to know where to begin.”
Revealing Detail #1: “I live in a small apartment and I hate waste or having anything extra lying around. I want bare minimum when it comes to both cookware and food.”
The DALS Prescription: Don’t be overly ambitious. It’s like deciding to get in shape — if you decide to run six miles seven nights a week, you’ll burn out after two weeks. Pick five easy recipes that you know Julia will like, buy only the equipment that those dishes require, and report back in a month.
Five Starter Recipes (+ Equipment You’ll Need to Make Them)
1. Roast Chicken with Vegetables
Nothing could be easier, or more delicious, as long as you remember to remove the giblets from the cavity before roasting. This takes about an hour and 15 minutes, so probably better for a weekend dinner. Equipment: Pyrex Roasting Pan, Oxo Silicone brush (to brush melted butter on chicken), Peeler for Carrots, Pure Komachi Knives (Set of Six) for Chopping Vegetables.
2. Grilled Fish with Steamed Vegetables and Rice
I know you love a simple fresh grilled fish — even in the winter — so here’s one recipe that fits all: Take 1/2-3/4 pound of your favorite grilling fish (halibut, tuna, salmon, mahi mahi, please check Seafood Watch for responsible buying guidelines), cut in two pieces and marinate flesh-side down in 3 tablespoons olive oil, about a tablespoon soy sauce, salt and pepper. About five minutes before you cook fish, squeeze some fresh lime on its flesh. Heat grill pan to medium-high, and using your silicone brush, coat with a little olive oil. Grill fish about 3 minutes a side (no poking and prodding while it sears) until it feels firm to the touch (but not rock hard). Equipment: 9 1/2 inch Pyrex Dish for marinating; Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Grill Pan; Calphalon Slotted Spatula; Chef’n Veggie Steam Silicone Steamer for vegetables; Cuisinart 3-quart pot for rice. (You already have knives for chopping)
3. Angel Hair with Shrimp and Steamed Vegetables
This is perfect for a weeknight with Julia — it comes together superfast. Just be sure to pick up the shrimp the night before she comes over if you don’t have time the night you plan to cook it . You don’t want seafood to sit around for more than a day. Equipment: Cuisinart 12-inch Skillet for shrimp and onions; ExcelSteel 3.5 quart colander; Cuisinart 1 1/2-quart pot for steaming. (You already have knives for chopping and 3-quart pot for boiling pasta.)
4. Breaded Chicken Cutlets (page 11 Dinner: A Love Story) with Roast Potatoes
The classic. The important part to remember here is to make sure you pound your chicken breasts (between saran wrap or wax paper) to even thickness. Equipment: Other than the skillet, steamer, Pyrex 9-incher (for potatoes), chef’s knife, and saucepan mentioned above, you’ll need a meat pounder and three dinner plates for your egg-flour-bread-crumb dredging, and saran wrap or wax paper.
5. Fish “Presents”
This is so up your alley. Everything — protein, starch, veggie — is cooked at the same time in the same way. (And if you call them “presents” Julia will love them, too.) The trick is to make sure all your vegetables are sliced very thin, especially the potatoes, so everything cooks through. Equipment: You have all the cookware you need for it, but make sure you have some foil or parchment paper lying around for the giftwrap. (I know you hate creamy sauces, but Julia might like to dip her fish in a mixture of yogurt-mustard-and-dill — see the bottom of this recipe for instructions.)
The Result: Keep us posted Frank!
Pure Komachi Knives. Their Six-Pack is one of the best deals out there. (Not to mention, the coolest looking.)