Ok, I had a request for easy recipes. Truth is, I am fundamentally pretty lazy about cooking, even though I enjoy it. I have an abundance of easy recipes and I’ll list a bunch of favorites at the end.
The friend that suggested this topic was one of my high school besties and joked that I was the only one that could teach her math, so maybe I could teach her this too! I have the world’s most fantastic photo of her looking up over a huge algebra text book, looking utterly defeated and miserable while pulling an all-nighter at boarding school. It makes me laugh to even just think about that pic.
It also made me think about cooking like math and could I, in fact, draw a parallel (that’s right, I said “draw a parallel” like a cute little math joke). Here’s the best I can do… in math, you need to have all of the right elements of an equation for it to function correctly – balance, equal the right number, cancel out, what have you.
In making food, you also need the right components for balanced flavor, equalized texture and aromas, and complimentary essences (like canceling out). In looking into this idea once before for my prior blog, I learned that taste has five elements – salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami. And it makes sense, because when I create a dish, either on my own or in following a recipe, I generally like for all of those things to exist. And I think that, just like math, if you master the combination of elements, your food will work – and even be easy (or, at least, understandable).
The other afternoon, I put together a salad following the taste “equation” – almonds & feta for salt, persimmons for sweet, pomegranate for sour, and mixed greens & radishes for bitter. The umami (volumes could be written about this word, but I generally think of it as something savory that pulls a dish together) would probably be the vinaigrette.
Two of my all time favorites are listed below – Fried Chicken Salad (herbs and seasoning for salt, dressing for sweet & sour, beets for bitter, and blue cheese for the umami) and Barbecue Roasted Salmon (fish for salt, sugar for sweet, juice for sour, lemon peel for bitter, and chili, cumin, and cinnamon for umami) both follow the equation.
Easy as 1+1? Well… maybe not quite, but once you get the hang of it, I promise it won’t be as hard as an algebra all-nighter.
Fried Chicken Salad
Barbecue Roasted Salmon
Poblano Mango Black Bean Quesadillas
Santa Fe Meatloaf
Chicken and Pasta with Pecan Cream
Blackened Shrimp with Pomegranate Orange Salsa
You’ll notice that most (all?) of these recipes are from Cooking Light. In ~15 years of cooking, this is hands-down the most consistently reliable source that I’ve found for great, simple, tasty recipes.