The best kitchen wisdom from our favorite cookbook authors


Thanks to the incredible variety of authors who have published cookbooks in the last 12 months, I’ve prepared some of the best meals and most mind-blowing desserts of my life over the past year. Some of them were legends like Nigella Lawson and Lidia Bastianich; some were debut authors such as Joshua Weissman and Molly Baz. I have gained new family favorite recipes and clever tips from her books. And from our conversations for Salon, I’ve gained insights into how great chefs approach the age-old questions of what to eat and how to cook it.

As Quick & Dirty celebrates its first birthday, I thought it would be insightful to look back at some of those interviews and the best advice from them. Some of this wisdom was incorporated into the recipes we performed, others are now appearing in the original logs for the first time. We hope they motivate, encourage and inspire you.

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“I refuse to accept that there are only people who can’t cook. I would say 90% of these people actually can and are just afraid of making a mistake. We’ve all been through things in life, we’ve all done so many different things and had to learn so many things. And it’s like when someone manages to figure out how to write a check, become a parent, or start a business? You can cook a chicken. Relax, you’re fine.” — Joshua Weissman, author of “An Uncompromising Cookbook”

“I think a lot of people don’t cook or struggle for reasons that have more to do with not feeling good enough, because they feel like they kind of failed growing up because they don’t cook the way they do imagine that makes it so much harder to go into the kitchen every time and it really hurts people “Good and cheap”, I’ve had so many emails or people reaching out and saying, “Thank you for this section that just came up stuff on toast. It makes me feel like I’m allowed to eat this way and I’m not eating badly.’” — Leanne Brown, author of “Good Enough. A Cookbook”

“I always tell people, ‘Cook for yourself. No one else will judge you. Your shoulders will sag, you will learn what you like and what you don’t like without that sense of judgment.’ We live in an era of clickbait, where there are a plethora of articles saying, “You’ve been cooking scrambled eggs wrong your whole life,” as if there was ever a way to cook or eat scrambled eggs that one wants one as dry curd and the other more or less as a drink, good.” — Nigella Lawson, author of “Cook, Eat, Repeat”

“Jerry and I have committed to four vegan dinners a week. Then he goes out with his friends. That’s fine. But as a family we decided, ‘Let’s do four nights a week, let’s see how it goes. ‘” — Jessica Seinfeld, author of “Vegan, sometimes: 120 recipes for every day or so.”

Simple dishes and superstar ingredients

“Honestly, canned chickpeas are my go-to choice. Release them. Roast them in the oven while something else cooks, then toss together some sort of salad of roasted root vegetables, veggies, and roasted chickpeas. Whatever random condiment is in it, that’s mostly our dinner. Canned chickpeas, that’s my girl Friday. They’re so versatile.” — Abra Berens, author of “Grist: A Practical Guide to Grains, Beans, Seeds, and Legumes”

“Homemade croutons are so much better than bagged stuff. They are so delicious. They not only add texture and flavor to salads. Feel free to mash them up on pasta and veggies, just throw them in the soup. They’ve always been at the top of my list of favorite foods, period, so I’m only singing their praises. – Dawn Perry, author of “Ready, steady, cook”

RELATED: My year of quick and dirty cooking: How I lowered the bar and set myself free

“I have spaghetti pomodoro. You take tomatoes, cut them up and fry them in the pan. It seriously takes 5 minutes to do it. It’s olive oil, a clove of garlic, some chopped tomatoes. Then you cook your pasta on the side, you mix them together. It’s very quick and easy to make and all in one place.” — Eric Ripert, author of “Vegetables easy”,

“A good pantry staple is tahini. It’s not just a spread or to mix with hummus. I often use it in my kitchen for sauces and dressings. It thickens a lot of things. Sometimes I put it in sauces as a good neutral base that’s greasy and creamy. Even when we eat a plant-based diet, we can definitely eat good fats and incorporate them into our meals as much as we want.” — Lauren Toyota, author of “hot to eat all day”

stretch it

“Are you familiar with Richard Olney? For me he is the greatest. Really super uncompromising on many different levels, but he was a big fan of the whole concept of the gratin with leftovers. So you have a leftover roast from last night or leftover vegetables. His whole thing was to chop it all up, mix it up, butter it, sprinkle in some breadcrumbs, pour some cream or no cream on top and cheese and just bake in the oven. It just completely changes everything around you.” – David Kinch, author of “Home in the kitchen”

“The classic really is eggs and what you can do with eggs — make a frittata with lots of what’s in the fridge and some kind of cheese and run it under the grill. Then at least you have something that looks like something.” – Dorothy Kalins, “The Kitchen Whisperers: Cooking with the Wisdom of Our Friends”

“Sometimes I invest in making something that I know will last for more than one meal so I can pop it in the fridge and enjoy a couple of dinners.” — Frances Moore Lappé, author of “Diet for a Small Planet”

“Something you like to make ahead of time or the day before is really good. Yesterday I prepared a chicken and put it in the fridge. When I’m done with you I can put it in the oven and then I can spend an hour talking to the kids or helping them with their homework. An hour later dinner is ready. Or make a large batch of something that you actually want to eat two days in a row. Little tricks matter, it makes things a little easier.” — Mikkel Karstad, author of “Nordic Family Kitchen: Seasonal home cooking”

Bought in the store is fine

“I don’t shame anyone for doing anything in the kitchen. It’s ok if you want to buy store-bought things. Palmiers using store-bought puff pastry is super easy. Just throw on some nuts and sugar and roll it up and bake, and it feels like a fancy French dessert.” — Kristina Cho, author of “moon cake and milk bread

“Sometimes I make my own pie crust, sometimes not. Especially with graham cracker crust, you can literally go to the store and buy one. I call it cheat codes. Like when you play video games, you have to skip something and go to the next level.” — Vallery Lomas, author of “Life is what you make it”

Techniques worth knowing

“That’s always an argument for more cowbells. I’ve long said that restaurant food so often tastes better than homemade food because they use more butter and salt than you can imagine, and it’s true. I also keep in mind that once you realize that, you can expand your understanding of this to say that you actually need more hot sauce, you need more lime juice, you need more yogurt, you need more will taste damn good . I also like the fact that in my experience here I talk a lot about big flavors, but I’m not talking about big portions. One of the interesting things about cooking for yourself and cooking for you family like this is, I bet your portion sizes get smaller.” – Sam Sifton, author of “The New York Times Doesn’t Cook Recipe Recipes”

“That’s how I cook. I pull out a pot and try to get everything in. Very Italian, putting vegetables together with proteins. Maybe at most a pot of water for the pasta or for the starch. But other than that, it’s all in that one pot. Time is precious , it’s limited. How can we cut the extra time and get to the basics? Cut it down to the essentials. Let’s get something in the pot or let’s get something in the oven and we’ll have dinner ready.” — Lidia Bastianich, author of “Lidia is a Pot, a Pan, and a Bowl: Simple Recipes for Perfect Meals: A Cookbook”,

“Nacho Success – You need to make a single layer on a sheet pan. I make half the cheese first, and that creates a layer of fat between the wetter toppings and the fries, and it’s better to keep them crispy. And I make sure these things are small, so you can get any of those fries bites with all your different toppings.” — Dan Whalen, author of”Nachos for dinner

“Basic knife cuts like slicing, dicing, chopping are really great to be armed in the kitchen.” — Brette Warshaw, author of “What’s the Difference?: A Culinary Reference Guide for the Curious and Confused”,

“What I have practiced myself is the peppy, rustic frosting. It’s something anyone can do. If you practice your dives just a little and get infinite reps on the dive, you can just keep diving to your heart’s content. It looks so stunning. There is something very nostalgic and simply beautiful about a rustically decorated cake that is just very inviting, even more so than a perfectly decorated, completely smooth cake with amazing decorations on top. It just says, ‘Come eat me.’” — John Kanell, creator of Preppy Kitchen

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