No-Recipe Cooking

Last week, in my Friday round-up, I linked to a recipe on Nate Appleman’s instagram feed and said it would be on this week’s line-up. I’m pleased to report that I am ahead of schedule on that one, making it not only once, but twice in two days this past weekend. Above is our chicken version of the salad-y dish, which was Saturday night’s dinner for just Andy and me. On Sunday (sorry, no photos), we made a steak version for the girls and two friends who we’ve been meaning to invite over forever. Can I just say, I could eat like this every night. And let me add to that: I could cook like this every night. I think maybe it’s because, for the past few months, I’ve been working on an assignment that has me testing a ton of recipes — as in, by the letter, following step by step — a process which forces me to grow and learn of course, but which also can be hard since I have such engrained techniques and methods when I’m trying to get a meal on the table. (Read: I like shortcuts.) Enter Appleman, who is the culinary director at Chipotle (I first read about his story in Bon Appetit), and whose steady feed of fresh, colorful composed dinners give only the broad strokes (caption “hangar steak with wild arugula, cucumber, avocado, sesame and lime. #homecooking”) without being do-or-die about the instructions. It’s inspiring and it’s efficient and exactly what I need right now. Of course, I know some people not only like that do-or-die element, they NEED it. So here you go, my riff on Appleman’s delicious song.

Sesame-Soy Grilled Chicken with Vegetables
Serves 4

4 large chicken breasts, pounded thin, and halved (or 6-8 chicken thighs, not pounded, one 1-pound piece of flank or hangar steak)
1/4 cup olive oil or grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
juice from half a lime

4 small cucumbers, skin on, sliced thin (we also tried peeling into ribbons, which the girls loved)
2 avocados, sliced as shown
1 handful cilantro, chopped
handful fresh lettuces, torn (optional)
sesame seeds for garnish

1/4 cup rice vinegar
juice from half of lime
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar
squeeze of  Sriracha (about 1/4 teaspoon)
1/3 cup grapeseed oil

Add chicken and all of marinade ingredients to a Ziploc. Marinate for at least three hours and up to 12. When you are ready to eat, heat grill to medium-high and grill chicken until cooked through, about 5 minutes a side. While chicken is cooking, lay remaining salad ingredients on a large platter (taking some composition cues from Nate) and whisk together all dressing ingredients. Arrange chicken (or steak), sliced, throughout platter, drizzle with dressing, sesame seeds, and serve.

Related, Sadly: Are Instagram and Snapchat the New Cookbooks? (Answer, um: NO.)

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Yum! For me, it’s not dinner if there’s not a starch, but I bet this would be awesome as a rice/noodle bowl. I’m


same! i think a loaf of crusty bread might complete the meal for me. (also, a margarita)


I made this after seeing your post on Friday. “Tony’s Steak” made an excellent start for the hangar steak. It turned out so good! I’m plotting reasons to make it again.


I can’t follow a recipe for the life of me! (Well except when it’s baking.) Photos of food are much more inspiring to me – I’ll have to check out this guy’s Instagram asap!


I added snap peas and served this sans chicken alongside Trader Joe’s potstickers. It was a hit with the toddler and the husband. Thanks for a great, fresh new recipe to add to our rotation!


I tried this based on your Friday round up picture. Winging it, I didn’t quite get the dressing right. I love a recipe to follow, can’t wait to try this one.


Recipes in French language cookbooks tend to be brief, straightforward, and simple. When I was learning to cook, I needed explicit directions. Now, with more than a few years under my belt, I love the freedom and creativity that no-frills French recipes inspire in me.


I made this last night and everyone loved it – the two and four year old to the grandparents. Thanks!


Do you use a regular vegetable peeler to make the cucumber ribbons? It seems like they would come too thin, so I was wondering if you used any special tool. Thanks!