How two-minute pasta, chickpeas, and a lot of eggs have saved us on uninspired nights.
Amid an office that's filled with the type of people who bring homemade quiche for lunch, regale me with stories of the previous evening's lamb chops, and casually display their culinary prowess by poaching an egg in the team kitchen, I don't always want to cook.
Despite my belief in Food52's Cooking Manifesto ("How you eat is how you live."), the countless hours I spend styling, eating, and writing about food, and the fact that I have more cookbooks on my nightstand than novels, when I finally get home at the end of the day, I often find myself lacking the motivation to actually cook. In the battle between making Richard Olney's Chicken Gratin (which has been on my to-cook list all month) and going to bed at a reasonable hour, bed always wins. I'm sorry, Richard.
Instead, I rely on a time-tested stand-by: plain pasta. My all-too-frequent routine goes something like this: I stop by the grocery store and make a bee-line to the basil and cherry tomatoes (I'd like to say I use canned tomatoes in the winter, but since this is a confessional post, I'd feel wrong lying to you). Once home, I cook the orzo I keep stock-piled in my pantry in highly-salted water, stir the tomatoes (halved if I'm feeling fancy, but I'm usually not) into the still-warm pasta, add torn basil and some olive oil, and eat it with a spoon out of a huge bowl, and by bowl I mean the pot I cooked it in.
The good news is: I'm not alone—which trust me, is sometimes not entirely easy to believe when you work with editors who bring hand-cut prosciutto for lunch. A few months ago, at a conversation Editor Kristen Miglore moderated, Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen admitted—and I'm paraphrasing here (my memory's not that good), "Do I always wake up out of bed so excited for what I'm going to cook next? No! Some days I don't want to cook at all!" Similarly, Sara Forte of Sprouted Kitchen told the editors over lunch last week that she always keeps hot dogs and pizza in the freezer. Nobody's perfect. Even those prosciutto-slicing editors. Here's what the rest of the editors cook when they just can't even—featuring special guests, eggs, beans, and toast:
Ali: Toast with two fried eggs on top, possibly with hot sauce and ketchup. To make it, I toast the bread, fry eggs in butter (I have one pan that fits them perfectly), and top them with a squiggle of ketchup and a pop of hot sauce.
Caroline: I tend to make a very buttery egg-in-a-hole and use the little cut-out piece of toast as a vehicle for jam. I also make Kenzi's scrambled egg tacos a lot. But the best thing is roasted chickpeas with olive oil and lots of red pepper flakes and salt—and a cold beer.
Bridget: Eggs eggs eggs. Literally just finished a spicy pepper-zucchini frittata with leftover vegetables.
Sarah: Eggs—especially in matzo brei (!)—and chickpeas gently fried in a cast iron skillet. Mostly just cereal, though.
Madeline: A can of beans with lots of vinegar, whatever veggies I see, and a fried egg. This is great because it's so filling, and I am really hungry all the time (I would blame marathon training, but honestly I think I've always been like that).
Amanda: Sometimes I will just mix chickpeas in a bowl with lemon, olive oil, and salt and eat them with a spoon—no mashing or frying required. Actually so good.
Gabi: Butter on a toasted baguette (always on hand because I buy, slice, and store it in the freezer). I add fig jam or honey if I'm in a sweet mood, and extra salt if I'm not.
Riddley: I keep a batch of Marcella's Tomato Sauce in the freezer—that, thawed, with pasta is prefect. Also toast and all its toppings (avocado forever!). Also canned, drained chickpeas, semi-mashed with lemon juice, Parmesan, salt, pepper, and maybe some minced parsley, and eaten with crackers.
Taylor: Cut up a potato, throw in a little salt, pepper, olive oil, rosemary, and a half a shallot, and throw it in the oven until it's done. The ultimate comfort food for winter.
What do you cook when you just don't want to? Tell us in the comments below!
Photos by James Ransom
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).Order now