Updated: Sep 14, 2019
Here are some of my current favorites for cooking inspiration and decent recipes.
The problem with the internet is that there’s too much of everything, which often makes it hard to find quality content or what you’re looking for in the first place. This is especially annoying when you’re looking for cooking inspiration or just a decent recipe. One way to cut through the noise is to use a few trusted sources for cooking inspiration and recipes.
AMERICA’S TEST KITCHEN (“ATK”)
You can view recipes from the current season. Beyond that, you must pay to subscribe, but it’s worth it. Here’s why: these guys may try a recipe 50 different ways before they land on the final version. Essentially, they do the whole trial and error piece, so that you’re less likely to attempt a terrible recipe. Not all recipes are perfect, but the quality of recipes across the internet varies significantly. Plus, an online subscription to ATK also includes access to content from sister websites Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country. Since ATK and Cook’s Country have television programs (on PBS), you can find videos for many of the recipes. I find it helpful to watch how something is made in addition to reviewing the recipe before cooking. And most of the recipes are written well, so it’s ok if there’s no video. And last but not least, ATK regularly does equipment reviews (for everything from blenders to spatulas) as well as taste tests of supermarket goods.
Some of my favorite recipes from ATK and its sister sites:
Green Chili Pork Verde: this dish was awesome! If you love tomatillos, you will love this one. (I used roasted Hatch chilis instead of poblanos when I got my hands on some this season, and that was fine.) Find the recipe here.
Ragu a la Bolognese: This is the real deal. While this recipe calls for a fair amount of ingredients and some creative ones too, it works really well. To avoid having to leave this on the stove for days as is done traditionally, you’ll use some interesting ingredients like throwing in chicken livers at the end. Putting them in the food processor is kind of gross, but it all pays off. I make a double batch of this and freeze a bunch of bags that contain 2 servings each. It’s great for carbo-loading before an open water swim race or super long bike ride. I even ate a bowl of this the night before taking the GMAT! (The GMAT is the entrance exam for business school.) Find the recipe here.
Thai Grilled Cornish Hens with Chili Dipping Sauce (Gai Yang): This recipe is so tasty! ATK has done a great job of adapting this recipe for the American kitchen. However, it’s not dumbed down. You make an incredibly flavorful marinade and let the meat sit for up to a day (the longer the better). And then you serve it with a spicy, sweet, and sour dipping sauce and sticky rice. You can use the Cornish hens per the recipe or even thighs or leg quarters (make sure you buy meat with bone and skin). Find the recipe here.
Sweet Potato Soup: this recipe uses a couple interesting tricks (in terms of ingredients and technique) that produces a rich, velvety sweet potato soup that actually tastes like sweet potatoes and not butter, chicken broth, etc. Find the recipe here.
Fresh Egg Pasta: This recipe is awesome since you use your Cuisinart which is much less messy than the traditional method of using your hands. Find the recipe here.
PATI’S MEXICAN TABLE
There’s no way you can’t love Pati. She is so warm and enthusiastic about what she cooks and is just so genuine and real. Pati hails from Mexico City and has eastern European Jewish heritage via her grandparents. I’ve always enjoyed her show on PBS and started cooking from her repertoire when I got into cooking Mexican food this year – being stuck in my house due to a couple snow storms may have had something to do with that! In the last couple of seasons, Pati has done a cooking and travel show format, which is fun to watch as meets folks making all kinds of delicious and creative food across Mexico.
While I still have so many of Pati’s recipes to try, here are some that I’ve enjoyed:
Cali Baja Fish Tacos: This recipe is so good! The fish is perfectly cooked, and the coating is delightfully crispy. It’s worth making all the fixings too including pickled onions, cabbage slaw, and salsa macha. The salsa macha is a really unusual salsa and it can be used with tons of things. I like putting it on roasted sweet potatoes. This salsa keeps well in the fridge – just take it out and let it warm up for at least 15 minutes before use. Find the recipe here. Watch the video of her making this here.
Shrimp Enchiladas in a Rich Tomato Sauce: this recipe has you make a shrimp stock with shrimp shells and a bay leaf, which eventually goes into the tomato sauce. This is a flavorful and unique take on enchiladas. Find the recipe here. Watch the video of her making this here.
Ming Tsai has helmed a cooking show on PBS for a while now. He does a lot of cool fusion cooking that leverages his Chinese heritage, as well as French culinary training. Plus, his show is fun to watch as each episode brings a famous chef as his co-chef. Each chef takes a turn playing lead chef and sous chef. Guests –who often return – include Jacques Pepin, Carla Hall, and Rick Bayless.
Hot and Sour Mussel Tomato Soup: If you like mussels and spicy food – and butter – this recipe is for you! The broth/soup is so good that I’ve even used what I had leftover to make gazpacho once. I make this dish with a modification: I skip the cheese toast. Serve with crusty artisan bread, rice or even pasta. If you have trouble finding sweet tomatoes (which is the story of my life for 10 months of the year in the Pacific Northwest), use cherry or grape tomatoes or even take a 14.5-oz can of whole peeled tomatoes and just chop them up. (I substitute whole-peeled tomatoes often as these are actually picked when they’re ripe before being minimally processed.) Find all recipes from the episode including the mussels one here. Find the video of the show here.
MILK STREET KITCHEN
Christopher Kimball, who created what became the America’s Test Kitchen empire, eventually left (if you really want to know all the behind-the-scenes drama, Google it). Now he has a new TV + web + publishing empire called Milk Street. This is somewhat similar to the Cook’s Illustrated arm of ATK. It’s a fun show to watch, especially with the recent international focus.
Hummus: this recipe takes a while since you use dried chickpeas and soak them in water overnight. However, it makes delicious and super creamy hummus that doesn’t separate. Note: while Milk Street argues that this should be served warm, I found it equally good if not tastier served cold. Find the recipe here.
Crispy Sichuan-Chili Chicken: This is a more adventurous fried chicken recipe as it features unique flavors. Sichuan peppercorns aren’t actually a type of pepper. Instead, they are the husks of the seeds of the prickly ash shrub (read more about it here). They come in both green and read and have a lemony and piney flavor and a numbing quality – they numb the heat from all those chilis in Sichuan cooking! Find the recipe here.
SAMIN NOSRAT / SALT FAT ACID HEAT
I admit that I still need to finish the overview portion of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat so I am fully equipped for the recipe portion. Samin wants you to understand some key things about cooking and learn how to use your intuition so you’re not just blindly following a recipe. However, the parts I’ve read have been really useful – especially the section on salt. Now it makes sense why boiled potatoes (cooked with tons of salt) then smashed taste so good! I enjoyed Samin’s TV special (on Netflix) and her focaccia recipe is a winner.
Ligurian Focaccia: This recipe makes a delicious and beautiful focaccia. I’ve also experimented with adding rosemary and garlic cloves to it (push them into the dough just before you bake it). Make sure you have plenty of olive oil on hand, as well as yeast that is not expired! Note: while Samin recommends wrapping focaccia leftovers in parchment paper to store it, I prefer to use tinfoil since parchment absorbs the oil (which you don’t want to happen). Find the recipe here.
In the future, I’ll share which cooking equipment is a must have versus a nice-to-have. Cheers and happy cooking!