At lunch today Sally, a coworker, gaped in envy of the pork loin,  sweet potato, and microwaved broccoli that I was enjoying. Thus began a long discussion about cooking.

When I told her that I made pork loin by just throwing it in the oven for an hour, she stared incredulously. “You make it sound so simple” she said.

The thing is, cooking is simple. The only reason recipes on web sites are complicated is either

a) they are trying to make perfect food, not good food, or

b) they have nothing better to do with their time than chop small amounts of unpronounceable vegetables or seasonings.

In an attempt to prove a point, I offered to write her five recipes (meats or vegetables) you could cook in  less than seven steps. You don’t need to know how to use a knife to make any of these. Her response — “make seven.”

In a moment I will present 7 recipes for the inept, for those who don’t want to think while they’re cooking. But first two quick notes for the absolute beginner, and uh- Sally, You’re welcome.

First, for all baking recipes I assume you line the baking pan with tinfoil: it saves on cleaning later

Second, about time ranges — they exist to introduce a bit of error tolerance. For instance, if someone says “soak the fish for 10-15 minutes”, what they mean is, “10 minutes is fine, but I don’t want you to feel like you failed at life because 12 minutes passed, even though you have, and everyone is disappointed in you.”

Finally, the pictures are taken from online and are the best representative i can find of that food. I am not sending you pictures of my food, got it?

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1. Pork tenderloin Recipe

1) Set the oven to 425F.

2) A whole pork loin (usually 3-5lbs) into the pan, skin/fatty side up.

3) Pour olive oil on the top, followed by 2-3 (or whatever you want, really) spoons of garlic, and sprinkle with black pepper.

4) Throw it in the oven and check it in 45 minutes (an hour if 5 lbs). Stab that bitch with a thermometer. Aim for the thickest part. Meat should be ~145F.

5) If meat is not 145F, put it back in and check it in 20-30 minutes. Repeat until 145F (it shouldn’t take long)

6) When it’s cooled enough to handle, put it on a cutting board and cut off slices of an agreeable width-Or stick your face it in. I’m not your husband.

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2. Baked Salmon Filet

0) Set the oven to 350F

1) Put whole salmon in bowl. Add just enough water to cover it, plus 3 Tablespoons of lemon or lime juice (Or more. It doesn’t need to be pure lemon juice, but it’s got to be lemony, m’kay). Soak it for min 9-15 minutes.

(What this does is dissolve out the chemicals responsible for the “fishy” smell/taste. Any acid will work, but I’d rather not my fish taste like vinegar.)

2) Drop it on the baking sheet, skin side down. Pour over olive oil then sprinkle vigorously with Old Bay seasoning and Black pepper, also drop a couple spoons of garlic on it.

(if you put a little olive oil on the pan before adding the salmon, you can make sure skin does not stick to the tinfoil. But the real question is–why do you care?)

3) Throw it in the oven and check it at ~35 minutes by sticking a fork into the thickest part. It should flake and slide through effortlessly. If this is not true give it another 10-15 minutes.

4) Eat the salmon. This sounds simple now, but may in fact be the hardest part. Having never made salmon this good before, you may instead be tempted to put the filet on a trophy pedestal and show it off to guests. I promise you: you will regret that decision in three days or less.

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3. Chuck Roast

0) At the store, buy a cut of chuck steak, 2 roma tomatoes and a package of sliced mushrooms. (The mushrooms and tomatoes are optional).

1) Throw them into a crock pot. (If you have OCD, wash the tomatoes first. If you’re a slob: don’t; the whole point of cooking is to kill germs).

2) Add 2 tsp (teaspoons) of black pepper, and 2 Tbsp (tablespoons) of garlic. (If you don’t have measuring spoons, just use an ordinary spoon for the garlic and sprinkle on the garlic. It’s whatever.) And mix it in.

3) Turn the crock pot onto low heat for 8-12 hours. Either do it before bed and collect the food in the morning, or do this in the morning and eat chuck roast for dinner.

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4. Pork Shoulder

1) Do the same as the chuck roast but with a pork shoulder, which is a lot more meat, and set the crock pot to “Hi”, because it’s a lot more meat.

2) Mushrooms and tomatoes optional.

 

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5. Asparagus

0) Put a frying pan on the stove & set it to “High” until you can feel the heat radiating from the pan with your hand about an inch above the surface, then set it to “Medium” (10 to 5, if it’s a # dial).

1) Throw the Asparagus onto the pan and toss it with olive oil, garlic and pepper.

(Note: some people say you shouldn’t use “Extra Virgin” olive oil for sauteing stuff like this, as the flavor compounds in it are more sensitive to heat, but those people are dumb. I mean, do they honestly expect you to maintain TWO different kinds of Olive Oil? NO! Buy the olive oil that you like! You deserve it.)

2) Periodically randomly toss the asparagus around so one side is not in contact with the pan for too long. If you notice a side start to get burnt, toss it more often and maybe turn down the heat.

3) Whenever you notice the Asparagus turn a darker shade of green, pull one out and do a taste test. When you like what you taste, then you’re done!

4) To save on asparagus: remember that last shade of green.

(Note: The above works for broccoli, cauliflower, and even carrots if you chop them first).

 

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6. Tilapia

1) Do the same lemon soak as the salmon. Salmon is optional.

2) Put a frying pan on the stove & set it to “High” until you can feel the heat radiating from the pan with your hand about an inch above the surface (pour a little olive oil on it while you wait), then set it to “Medium” (or a little higher) and add the Tilapia.

3) Liberally sprinkle Old Bay seasoning and pepper over the tops of the fillets.

4) When just over the bottom half of the filet has changed color, flip them over with a spatula, and cover the other side with the same seasonings.

5) After a couple minutes, stab one filet with a fork. It should have no resistance, like with the salmon.

6) Also don’t use it as a trophy, like with the salmon.

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7. Baked sweet potatoes

1) Heat oven to 425F.

2) With either a knife or fork, stab it like it owes you money! Then, flip it over and give it another 4-5 jabs.

3) Throw the potatoes on the baking sheet and put it in the oven. Then, spend the next 45 minutes to an hour pretending you have something to do.

4) Check on them. If they look like they’re leaking some sweet potatoey syrup, that’s a good sign. The ultimate test is to break open the skin and give it one last, deep stab with that fork or knife. If the interior is completely soft then you’re done.

 

As for other vegetables, when I’m too lazy to cook I’ll often buy a bag of frozen veggies and microwave them. Some may call that cheating but I prefer to call it, cheating. Cheating is, after all, when you get all the benefits of winning without doing any of the actual work.

There! Now remember to turn the oven off when you’re done, and don’t stick your head in it.