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Every Little Thing We Cook Is Magic

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Cooking is, in almost every way, magic. Every day, we trot into our kitchens with an idea and a few tricks up our sleeve, transforming ingredients and conjuring wholly new creations in the process.

Recipes, then, are little spells, road maps to transcendent deliciousness. Only with a recipe can you turn just three ingredients into an awe-inspiring roasted cauliflower and garlic soup, as Ali Slagle does with her latest addition to the New York Times Cooking database.

Ali is well aware of the magical properties of her own work: “This three-ingredient vegan soup isn’t a trick,” she notes at the top of her recipe. She coaxes optimal caramelization and tenderness out of a head of cauliflower and a head of garlic by roasting them at high heat, forming the base of the soup’s sweet-savory flavor and silky texture. All you need to create exceptional flavor here is heat, water and time. (OK, and an immersion blender. Even Merlin needs his staff.)


View this recipe.


This less-is-more sorcery is at play in Eric Kim’s new single-serving recipe for peanut butter noodles as well. Peanut butter, Parmesan, butter and soy sauce team up for a glitzy and glossy sauce that cloaks spaghetti or packaged instant ramen. And you can absolutely work your vegan magic by using nutritional yeast and olive oil in place of the Parm and butter.

Then there is the charm of bread crumbs, a carby confetti with the power to turn even the humblest of dishes into full-fledged celebrations. In Alexa Weibel’s recipe for creamy Swiss chard pasta with leeks, tarragon and lemon zest, a bread-crumb topping made up of three ingredients — butter, panko and nutritional yeast — adds a tang and texture that will far exceed your expectations based on the effort required.

Ali also leans on the wizardry of bread crumbs in her recipe for lemony orzo with asparagus, but instead dresses them up with olive oil and freshly grated garlic (and a little salt and pepper) for a topping with a bit of verve.

These little kitchen incantations are a welcome reminder that even the most unpretentious cooking can be truly enchanting.

And lastly, a mea culpa: In last week’s newsletter, I pointed readers to a panna cotta recipe that included gelatin. If you eat dairy and eggs, consider instead this supremely easy citrus curd recipe from Melissa Clark. I’m partial to the grapefruit-Campari variation she includes in the tips beneath the steps.

Thanks for reading, and see you next week!


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