Tips for Rookie Cooks

Small Plates and  Main Dishes

1-Baked Tilapia with Lemon-Raisin Salsa

Tilapia’s mild flavor makes this fish a perfect host for flavorful foils like our sweet-tart Lemon-Raisin Salsa. And if you’re concerned about the environmental implications of consuming fish, rest assured that farmed tilapia is one of the most sustainable, environmentally friendly fish around (and it’s low in mercury, too).

  • 2 6-ounce tilapia fillets
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼–½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Lemon-Raisin Salsa

2-Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly oil a baking dish.

  • Place tilapia fillets in a prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake in preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until fish flakes easily with a fork. Top each serving with a helping of Lemon-Raisin Salsa.

Serve it with

  • Wild rice or couscous

3-Meyer Lemon and Asparagus Tart

Meyer lemon slices, layered under tender asparagus spears and melted Gruyère, add a surprising element to this simple and beautiful tart. Note that it’s important to blanch the lemons and slice them paper-thin, or you may wind up with a bitter-tasting tart. Be sure to read the section on working with frozen puff pastry.

  • large Meyer lemon
  • 1 pound slender asparagus, woody ends snapped off
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, defrosted
  • 3 ounces grated Gruyère cheese (about 1 cup), divided
  • kosher salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly oil a baking sheet.

Drop lemon into boiling water for 1 minute to blanch. Run under cold water and set in fridge to cool. After a few minutes of cooling, use a very sharp knife to slice the lemon into paper-thin slices. Remove and discard seeds. Trim the ends of the asparagus spears, cutting them to equal lengths so they’ll look nice lying side by side in the tart. Unfold the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. You’ll want the pastry sheet to be a square with sides about 2 inches longer than your asparagus spears, so if it’s not quite big enough, roll it out a little with a lightly floured rolling pin. Place pastry on prepared baking sheet. Using a fork, pierce dough at ½-inch intervals, leaving a 1-inch unpierced border around the outside. Sprinkle half of the grated cheese inside the border. Place lemon slices in a single layer on top of the cheese. Arrange asparagus spears in a neat row on top of the lemons, alternating the orientation of the tips and ends so that if the tart is cut into quarters no one gets stuck with an ends-only piece. Top with the remaining cheese and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until asparagus is tender and pastry is golden brown and nicely puffed up around the edges. Serve warm.

Make it ahead

Tarts are best served right out of the oven, but if you want to enjoy them as leftovers they can be reheated at 400°F until heated through (about 5 minutes)

Serve it with

  • Salad of Bitter Greens with Asiago
  • Any simple salad of mixed greens tossed with a light vinaigrette

4-Lazy Cheese Soufflés

Your guests will swoon when you serve them these smooth, creamy custards in individual ramekins. They’re a perfect start for a fancy dinner or, served with a crisp green salad and warm crusty bread, as the main event for a special lunch. For a dramatic visual presentation, serve immediately, while the tops are still puffed up. But don’t worry if they collapse before they get to the table— they’ll still look beautiful and taste great.

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼–½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¾ cup grated Gruyère cheese (about 2½ ounces)
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 1½ ounces)
  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Boil water in a kettle. Oil six 4-ounce (½-cup) ramekins. Place ramekins in a baking dish.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, cream, salt, nutmeg, and cayenne until well blended. Stir in the cheeses. Ladle mixture into prepared ramekins. Pour boiling water into the baking dish until it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake until the tops are puffed up and golden, 50 to 60 minutes.

Serve it with

  • Raw Asparagus and Mâche Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette
  • Cilantro-Spinach Soup with Crunchy Croutons
5-Apple, Blue Cheese, and Walnut Tarts

Your guests will think you’re a real pro when you pull these sweet, savory, golden-crusted little tarts out of the oven. We recommend using a milder blue cheese like Cambozola, but feel free to experiment with stronger varieties if you like. Crisp red-skinned apples, like Pink Ladies or Fujis, are especially pretty here. Be sure to read the section on working with frozen puff pastry.

  • 1 medium apple, quartered, cored, and sliced into 1/ 8-inch-thick slices
  • 4 ounces Cambozola or other blue cheese, thinly sliced or crumbled
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly oil a baking sheet.

Unfold the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Cut the sheet into four squares and place it on the prepared baking sheet. Using a fork, pierce dough at ½-inch intervals, leaving a 1-inch unpierced border around the outside. Lay 4 apple slices, slightly overlapping, in the center of each square (you may have apple leftover), followed by the cheese, walnuts, and a drizzle of honey, dividing evenly. Grind pepper over each tart. Bake in preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until pastry, is golden brown, and nicely puffed up around the edges. Serve warm.

Make it ahead

  • Tarts are best served right out of the oven, but if you want to enjoy them as leftovers they can be reheated at 400°F until heated through (about 5 minutes).

Serve it with

  • A mixed green salad with Lemon Vinaigrette or Sherry-Shallot Vinaigrette

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