C'mon, It's Just 7 Days

How to Become a Better Cook in One Week

You're only a few recipes away.

January  7, 2019

In C'mon, It's Just 7 Days, members of the Food52 team share what it was like to take on a personal challenge for one week: skipping caffeine, going plastic-free, and more. (Spoiler alert: We all survived.)


Whenever I tell people that I’m a recipe developer, the usual response is: What’s that? Or something like: So you test recipes? Not quite. Recipe developing means making ’em from scratch. And, on any given week, I’m creating several.

Which is to say: There’s not a lot of time to cook other people’s recipes—from websites, from magazines, from cookbooks. Every weekend, I try to cook or bake at least one or two (besides that I find this very fun, it’s also educational for my work). But on most weeknights, I’m throwing together whatever’s about to go bad in the fridge, with pasta.

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Accordingly, you can imagine my reaction when my coworker Ella Quittner (another recipe developer!) challenged me to cook a new recipe every day for a week. What, like you and your coworkers don’t do stuff like that?

Of all the challenges our team was taking on for C'mon, It's Just 7 Days, this one excited me the most. Because if you make a new recipe every day—even if it’s only for a week—you’re going to become a better cook, period. Maybe you’ll try a new ingredient, learn a new technique, or develop a new skill. Probably all of the above.

Here is what I made during my week and what I learned along the way—lots of tips and tricks but, more importantly, the reminder that every time I make something new, I learn something. That alone makes me want to keep this going. Maybe not every day, sure, but as often as I can swing it. You with me?

Photo by Emma Laperruque

1. Roasted Red Pepper & Cauliflower Dip

Looks like hummus, acts like hummus, totally isn’t hummus. Instead of chickpeas, this rosy-colored dip calls in practically caramelized cauliflower. I served it with crudites at Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, but future batches will be invited to sandwiches of all sorts, to accompany afternoon-slump Triscuits, or even served alongside roast chicken or crispy-skin salmon. One thing I kept wondering: What if I stirred in mashed-up anchovies? If you give it a try before I do, please report back.

2. DIY Cough Syrup

I’m not sick right now but it’s early January and let’s be real: Something’s gonna happen before springtime. I was known to throw quite the temper tantrum whenever my mom brought out the cherry-flavored cough syrup during my childhood. (“You! Can’t! Make! Me!” She did, of course.) This is better. It’s mostly honey, olive oil, and lemon, with whatever herbs strike your fancy (sage and thyme for me), plus fresh ginger and turmeric. Store in the fridge. Break out whenever the inevitable strikes and watch as...no one throws a temper tantrum. Which has me thinking: What other DIY tonics have I been missing out on? Do tell in the comments.

3. Egg Salad With Bagna Cauda Toast

I know what you’re thinking. A recipe for egg salad? Who needs a recipe for egg salad? But this isn’t any egg salad—it’s Nancy Silverton’s. You make a garlicky aioli. You douse crusty bread in bagna cauda, a hot Italian dip that’s all about anchovy, garlic (yep, more garlic), olive oil, and butter. And yet, amid all this magic, my most aha moment was how to hard-boil the eggs. Silverton’s method is sooooo much better than anything I’ve ever tried. You’ll see.

Photo by Emma Laperruque

4. Soft-Scrambled “Tamago” Eggs

Everyone makes scrambled eggs their own way. My go-to is quick as can be, stir-fried in more brown butter than may be appropriate. Meanwhile, my coworker Eric Kim takes inspiration from Japanese tamago nigiri: Soy sauce, sugar, and garlic season the eggs, which are then slowly cooked in sesame oil. Serve atop steamed rice, with snippets of crispy seaweed. My husband took one bite and said, “This reminds me of Japanese tamago!” How about that? More than anything else, this reminded me how habitual I am—and how worthwhile it is to try someone else’s way.

5. Eggplant & Porcini "Meatballs" in Tomato Sauce

I’ve been waiting, waiting, waiting to make this recipe ever since it was published because it is—what’s the term—a labor of love. Which is to say: Don’t make this on a busy weeknight, but do make it. The result is unlike any “meatball” (you got the memo that there’s no meat, right?) that I’ve ever had. Think eggplant parm, downsized into crispy nuggets, served on tomato-sauced pasta. I switched up the shape because 2019 is, for me, The Year of Cavatappi. Join me!

6. Flourless Chocolate-Walnut Cookies

This recipe comes from François Payard by way of Genius Desserts. Author Kristen Miglore explains it as a “recipe that defies all logic,” which pretty much sums it up. There’s no flour, no butter, no egg yolks, but you couldn’t get any closer to a brownie—crackly top, gooey center, and all—in cookie form. (Serve with milk or bust.) Apparently, Payard started recipe development with macarons in mind—a French cookie founded on egg whites, almond meal, and sugar. It never ceases to amaze me how you can start with one idea, change a couple ingredients, and end up someplace else entirely.

Photo by Emma Laperruque

7. AK Cookies, Lucky Peach

This recipe popped up in two Lucky Peach issues—Winter 2014 and the final issue, Fall/Winter 2017—so you know it’s gotta be good. For years, it was Editorial Director Peter Meehan’s family’s secret cookie. But lucky for us, he published it. Meehan scored the recipe from a family friend who lives in Alaska (hence the name). From a distance, it looks like a classic oatmeal–chocolate chip. But the oats are quick-cooking, so they practically turn into flour, adding nutty flavor and chewy texture; unsweetened, shredded coconut accomplishes the same. I increased both the vanilla extract and salt because I’m a monster. Whatever you do, keep the ice cream scoop–sized cookie portion, at least the first time you make them. It yields the perfect ratio of crispy-crunchy crust to blondie-gooey interior.

How often do you make new recipes? Do tell in the comments.

2 Comments

lindamc January 11, 2019
Emma, I rarely comment on any website, including this one, but I just want to let you know how much I enjoy your posts. I love your straightforward, not-afraid-of-flavor recipes (I’m especially keen to try your ginger cake after I recover from holiday indulgence). Looking forward to many more in 2019!
 
Author Comment
Emma L. January 14, 2019
Hi—thank you so much! "Straightforward" and "not-afraid-of-flavor" are two of my recipe development touchstones, so that means a lot. If you do try the gingerbread in the future, please let me know how it goes!