Not a chef? Me neither. I’m just a regular guy who wants to eat healthy – and not spend hours preparing each dish. Here I present 8 of my favorite quick, minimalist cooking food recipes (and some bonus cooking tips at the bottom).
It’s hard to find truly simple recipes online.
Most recipes require fancy equipment, specific tools, and often, hard-to-find condiments. I set out to a compile a list of home-cooked meals that don’t require anything special (or much preparation time).
Don’t have an oven, food processor, wok, slow cooker, toaster, or grill? No problem – neither do I.
The recipes below only require that you have a basic set of equipment and common condiments available on hand (listed below).
All the kitchen equipment required for minimalist cooking:
- Medium size, non-stick frying pan. I personally like Calphalon’s frying pans.
- Small to medium sized saucepan
- Cast-iron skillet. Lodge makes a good skillet.
- Non-stick spatula
- Chef’s knife (~8 inches long, 1.5 inches wide). My recommendation for beginners: the Victorinox Fibrox Chef’s Knife.
- Stove top
- Cutting board(s): preferably wood or bamboo for vegetables, and plastic for raw meats.
- Optional: measuring cups
Recommended common condiments:
- Black pepper (with grinder)
- Kosher (or sea) salt
- Olive oil (preferably extra virgin)
- Canola oil
1. Pan-Fried Salmon with Lemon
Shopping list: 2 salmon fillets (center cut, approx. 1 inch thick, ~5 oz each), and a lemon. Optional: 4 sprigs of rosemary.
- Take salmon fillets out of fridge (or freezer, if you are storing it for more than 24 hours after purchase). Allow salmon to be at room temperature for at least 15 minutes. Season the salmon fillets with salt and freshly ground pepper. Optional: lay one sprig of rosemary on top of each fillet.
- Heat up a non-stick pan at medium-low temperature setting (with ~1 table spoon of oil).
- Increase stove top temperature to medium-high. Place both salmon fillets into the pan, with the skin facing up. Cook for approximately 4 minutes (bottom should be golden-brown colour).
- Flip salmon over with a spatula and cook the other side for approximately 3-4 minutes.
- Remove salmon from pan and serve with sliced lemon.
2. Steak (Minimalist Edition)
Shopping list: 1 or 2 strip steaks (~1 inch thick), coarse salt, unsalted butter.
- Allow steak(s) to sit at room temperature for at least one hour.
- Season the steak with salt and pepper (applying plenty of both).
- Bring a cast-iron skillet to high heat. Add half a teaspoon of butter to the skillet and immediately put in the steak. Let it cook on high heat for ~3 minutes, until it sears to a brown colour. Important: do not move the steak while it is cooking, so that a crust may form.
- Flip the steak over once and let it cook for another 3-4 minutes (medium rare).
- Remove steaks from the skillet and allow them to sit for 10-15 minutes while the juices inside are distributed. Serve.
3. Jamie Oliver’s Basic Omelette
Shopping list: 2-4 large (free-range) eggs, butter. Optional: grated cheddar cheese, fresh basil, and cherry tomatoes.
- Crack open the eggs, and beat together in a bowl with a little salt and pepper.
- Warm up a frying pan on low heat and add a small amount of butter.
- After the butter starts to bubble on the pan, pour the eggs on and spread evenly. Optional: as omelette starts to solidify, sprinkle on some grated cheese.
- Carefully fold the omelette in half with a spatula. Cook until the underside is golden brown. Slide off the pan and serve.
- Optional (prior to adding the eggs in Step 3): cut a handful of cherry tomatoes in half, and fry on high-heat for a minute. Turn heat down to medium and sprinkle on individual basil leaves (ripped from the stems). Then, add the eggs (continue on to steps 3 and 4).
4. Tomato and Avocado Salad
Shopping list: 1 avocado, 2 small tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, and dijon mustard. Optional: 1 sweet onion and 1/4 cup fresh cilantro.
- Peel, pitt, and dice the avocado into wedges (slices).
- Cut tomatoes into eight wedges each. Arrange avocado and tomato on a plate.
- Optional: chop up the onion and cilantro and add to plate.
- Mix together 1 teaspoon of dijon mustard, 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar and a pinch of freshly ground black pepper.
- Drizzle the tomato and avocado with the dressing. Serve immediately.
5. The Leo Babauta Oatmeal Breakfast
Shopping list: steel-cut oatmeal, flaxseed, frozen blueberries, and almonds. Optional: cinnamon and/or honey.
- Cook the oats as suggested in a saucepan. Alternatively, microwave the oats.
- Sprinkle flaxseed, blueberries, and almonds on top. Serve immediately.
- Optional: add on a pinch of cinnamon and a dash of honey.
6. Lamb Chops with Rosemary and Garlic
Shopping list: 6-8 small lamb rib chops, garlic, chopped fresh rosemary, dried red pepper. Optional: fresh rosemary sprigs.
- Combine 1 tablespoon of minced garlic, 1/2 tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary, and 1/2 teaspoon of dried crushed red pepper in a small bowl. Mix.
- Rub 1/4 teaspoon of the mix onto each side of each lamb chop. Sprinkle salt on the chops. Place chops on a plate (covered), and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (up to 4 hours).
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet on medium. Add lamb chops to skillet and cook about 3 minutes per side (for medium-rare).
- Remove chops from pan and add to platter. Serve.
- Optional: garnish the platter with rosemary sprigs.
7. Teriyaki Fried Rice
Shopping list: rice (can be leftover, cooked rice), 2 eggs, 2 green onions, 1/2 cup cooked shelled edamame, teriyaki sauce, and toasted sesame oil.
- If uncooked, cook rice to specifications (see below recipe for cooking brown rice).
- Heat up 2 teaspoons of sesame oil in a pan on medium temperature setting. Add eggs, and scramble until cooked.
- Add in 2 thinly sliced green onions (white and light green parts only), 1-2 cups of cooked rice, 1/2 cup cooked shelled edamame, and 1 tablespoon of teriyaki sauce.
- Cook all the ingredients, stirring the mixture often, for about 2 minutes. Serve.
- Optional: make one day ahead and store in the refrigerator after preparation. Warm up the next morning – can make for a great pack lunch to the office.
8. Israeli Couscous Tabbouleh
Shopping list: Israeli couscous, 1 small shallot, fresh lemon juice, 1 English hothouse cucumber, 3 cups cherry tomatoes, fresh flat-leaf parsley, and fresh mint.
- Cook 1-2 cups of couscous according to package directions. Then, rinse with cold water and drain well.
- Whisk together 1 small shallot (finely chopped), 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice in a bowl.
- Add in the couscous, 1 English hothouse cucumber (finely chopped), 3 cups of cherry tomatoes (each one cut into two halves), 2 tablespoons of fresh parsley, and 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh mint. Toss ingredients to mix together. Serve.
- Optional: add in seasoning (kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, and more lemon juice).
- Optional: can be made one day in advance of consumption (with the seasoning excluded). Add in seasoning prior to serving.
Extra: Pavlina’s Perfect Brown Rice
Shopping list: brown rice (short or long grain). Optional: tamari (a type of Japanese soy sauce) and sesame seeds.
- Wash rice thoroughly in a pan, until the water that runs through it is clear.
- Add brown rice and water to a pot, using a ratio of 1 cup rice : 1.5 cups water. That is, use 3 cups of water if you want to prepare 2 cups of rice.
- Heat the mix on maximum (highest) heat, until the water comes to a boil. Then, cover the pot with a lid and turn heat to low. Let the rice simmer for ~20 minutes.
- Turn off the heat, and let the rice sit in the pot and cool off for at least 10 minutes (up to 30 minutes is fine). Take off the lid and remove the rice. Serve with just about anything!
- Optional: for flavour, consider adding in some tamari sauce and sprinkling the rice bowl with some sesame seeds prior to serving.
Bonus Cooking Tips
(whether you’re a beginner or not)
- Fresh ingredients make a difference. If at all possible, don’t compromise here. This may be minimalist cooking, but the goal should still be quality dining.
- It is better to season less than season more. The former can be corrected.
- Knife skills are important – learn to use your chef’s knife properly. Invest in a good one, and learn how to sharpen it (if you can’t, leave the sharpening to a professional).
- Wash your hands regularly during food preparation. Keep surfaces clean and neat.
- Recipes are more like guidelines. The recommend amounts and times can be tweaked. Remember: no stove is exactly the same (“medium heat” isn’t the same temperature on every device).
I hope this post was helpful in getting you started with minimalist cooking. Let me know how it goes!
PS. Minimalist cooking book recommendation: Minimalist Baker’s Everyday Cooking: 101 Entirely Plant-based, Mostly Gluten-Free, Easy and Delicious Recipes (Amazon link)