It’s graduation season, which also means it’s first-job season.
That first job often leads to a first (real) kitchen, as opposed to the apartment or house kitchens shared by a bunch of students. You know, ones in which the sink is never empty of dishes and the refrigerator is always full of takeout leftovers.
To go with a grad’s first working kitchen, we feature some recipes that could be, say, tucked into a congratulatory card.
What makes a recipe a keeper?
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Bonnie Berwick of The Washington Post, who collected these recipes, writes that it’s the kind of dish that is easy to master and flexible enough to riff on. It’s something you could never get tired of eating and is worth serving to your friends.
These are worth keeping handy – even if you’re on your second, third or 10th kitchen.
▪ Fluffy scrambled eggs. This is a game-changer and teaches skills that will stay with you. Cook over relatively low heat, use soy sauce instead of salt for even seasoning and add a spritz of citrus juice. Trust us.
▪ Stir-fried Shanghai noodles. You can make this dish faster than the time it takes to get takeout. Add or substitute vegetables as you like.
▪ Broiled berries and cream. This only looks fancy. Make it in a single pan or in individual cups, and change the fruit with the seasons.
Fluffy scrambled eggs
A few tweaks improve this easy anytime meal: using soy sauce instead of salt ensures even flavor throughout the eggs, and the squeeze of lime juice at the end – brilliant.
A whisk, rather than a fork, will aerate the egg mixture better, and that’s what you want here. Ghee, a type of clarified butter, is available in the international aisle of some large supermarkets.
Adapted from “Over Easy: Sweet and Savory Recipes for Leisurely Days,” by Joy Wilson (Clarkson Potter, $27.50, 256 pages).
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons whole milk (may substitute half-and-half or heavy cream)
1/2 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon clarified butter or ghee (see notes)
Lime wedge, for squeezing
Freshly ground black pepper
Whisk together the eggs, milk and soy sauce in a bowl.
Heat the clarified butter or ghee in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-low heat; once it has melted, swirl to coat the bottom of the pan.
Pour in the egg mixture; let it sit for 10 to 15 seconds, then use a flexible spatula to gently move around the mixture while you cook the eggs for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the eggs are creamy and just barely set.
Transfer to a plate, then squeeze the lime wedge over the eggs. Season lightly with the pepper, and serve right away.
Note: To clarify butter, melt unsalted butter over low heat, without stirring. Let it sit for several minutes, then skim off the foam. Leave the milky residue at the bottom and use only the clear (clarified) butter on top.
Stir-fried Shanghai noodles
Serves 2 or 3
Cabbage is the only vegetable featured in the classic dish, but feel free to toss in some crisp vegetables you like. To make this vegetarian, use extra-firm tofu instead of the pork. It’s a cinch to scale up this recipe; cook in batches.
Stir-frying is a handy technique to know and easy to learn. You don’t need a wok as long as you have a skillet or saute pan that’s fairly deep.
Make ahead: The noodles can be cooked, drained and refrigerated a day or two in advance. Leftovers taste good cold, or at room temperature.
Note: Dark soy sauce is slightly thicker and sweeter than regular soy sauce, and is available in larger grocery stores as well as Asian markets. The best noodles to use here are at Asian markets – fresh, and thicker than Western wheat noodles.
Adapted from “China: The Cookbook,” by Kei Lum Chan and Diora Fong Chan (Phaidon, $49.95, 720 pages).
3 1/2 ounces ground pork (may substitute lean pork loin or tenderloin, cut into thin strips)
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 1/2 tablespoons safflower or vegetable oil
11 ounces fresh, flat wheat noodles or lo-mein-type noodles (may substitute cooked linguine; see note above)
3 large napa cabbage leaves, shredded
1/2 tablespoon dark soy sauce (see note above)
1 teaspoon sesame oil (can use toasted sesame oil)
Combine the pork, 1/2 tablespoon of the low-sodium soy sauce, 1/2 teaspoon of the sugar, all the cornstarch and 1/2 tablespoon of the safflower or vegetable oil in a mixing bowl, tossing to coat evenly. Let sit for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add the noodles and cook according to the package directions, until tender. Drain in a colander and rinse under cool running water.
Fill the same saucepan with water and return to a boil over high heat. Add shredded cabbage and cook for about 1 minute, then drain.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of safflower or vegetable oil in a large skillet, saute pan or a wok over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the pork and its marinade; stir-fry for 2 minutes (constantly), or until the meat is cooked through.
Add the drained noodles, tossing to coat; stir-fry for 2 minutes, then add the drained shredded cabbage, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of sugar the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of low-sodium soy sauce and the dark soy sauce. Stir-fry for 2 minutes, until well incorporated and heated through. Turn off the heat.
Drizzle with the sesame oil and toss to coat. Divide between individual bowls and serve right away.
Broiled berries and cream
You can make this easy and flexible dessert in individual 6-ounce ramekins or in a single 10-inch ovenproof skillet. You’ll need a Microplane grater or box grater for the lemon zest.
Make ahead: Individual ramekins can be filled and refrigerated up to a day in advance.
Note: Crème fraîche tastes like a mild sour cream and has more fat than sour cream. You’ll find it in grocery stores near the refrigerated soft cheeses or sometimes near the sour cream.
Adapted from “One Pan and Done: Hassle-Free Meals From the Oven to Your Table,” by Molly Gilbert (Clarkson Potter, $17.99, 256 pages).
1 cup crème fraîche (see note above)
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (see note above)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 cups fresh or frozen berries, preferably a mix
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
Position an oven rack 4 to 6 inches from the broiler element; preheat the broiler.
Meanwhile, whisk together the crème fraîche, heavy cream, lemon zest, vanilla extract and granulated sugar in a mixing bowl, until smooth.
Divide the berries among individual ramekins or arrange them in the skillet.
Pour the crème fraîche mixture evenly over the berries. Sprinkle the light brown sugar on top.
Broil for 3 to 6 minutes, watching closely to avoid scorching or bubbling over, until the brown sugar has caramelized and the crème fraîche mixture is thick and bubbling.