AUSTIN — I love it when my husband cooks, but he has a habit of using a pot or pan on every burner of the stove that drives me a little crazy.
One small sauté pan for the vegetables, a pot in which to boil the pasta or grain, a third to cook the meat, and maybe even a fourth for gravy or sauce.
He’s a great cook, and his cooking style has made me an even better dishwasher, but it’s one of the reasons I’m increasingly drawn to one-pot cooking when it’s my turn to put dinner on the table.
I was happy to see a trio of cookbooks coming out this fall that are based around the idea of using as few dishes as possible to make breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert.
Robin Robertson’s book One-Dish Vegan: More than 150 Soul-Satisfying Recipes for Easy and Delicious One-Bowl and One-Plate Dinners makes up in healthfulness what it lacks in photography; the enticing cover photo of brown rice, white beans, shiitakes, and spinach is the only one in the book, sadly. But if you’re looking for new ways to use beans, grains, tofu, and vegetables, you’ll find them here.
Yvonne Ruperti appeals to bakers like me who love sweet treats but hate making a sinkful of dishes in the process. The Singapore-based writer’s new book, One Bowl Baking: Simple, From Scratch Recipes for Delicious Desserts, is a dream book for beginners who can follow a sequence of directions or ganache-making pros who can appreciate the nuances between muffin and cake batter.
But my favorite is Take One Pot: Super Simple Recipes Cooked in One Pot, Full Stop, by Georgina Fuggle, a British author who will inspire you to think differently about that heavy Dutch oven sitting on your kitchen shelf.
Such a pot is the original “only tool you’ll ever need in the kitchen,” but one that has been cast aside in favor of entire sets of pans in every size, shape, and nonstick coating.
Fuggle shows that one-pot cooking isn’t just about reducing the number of literal pots you have to watch boil; it’s about building flavors on top of one another so that the finished meal doesn’t taste like disparate parts pieced together at the end. The key is knowing when to add each of the components so that they don’t over or undercook.
For instance, last week I made a shrimp dish with couscous, green beans, and garlic. In order to prepare everything in one pot, I started by sautéing the green beans in garlic, then added the shrimp, followed by the broth, and finally the couscous. The same dish with brown rice would need another sequence to work because rice takes a lot longer to cook than couscous.
The polenta dish featured on the cover of Fuggle’s book calls for whisking polenta, butter, and vegetable stock over medium heat on a stove for about five minutes, then topping with mushroom slices, tomatoes, and feta and finishing under the broiler for about 10 minutes.
It’s a 20-minute meal that you could serve for dinner or brunch and make with just about any quick-cooking produce, including kale or small pieces of broccoli.
Fuggle’s book also will get you thinking about what constitutes a “pot.” She has recipes for quiche baked in a bread bowl, cakes “baked” in a mug in a microwave, butternut squash stuffed with vegetables and lentils, and fish wrapped in parchment paper, which reminds me of a fancy version of the foil packet dinners we used to make when I was a kid.
If you’re used to cooking each part of a meal in a different vessel, it will likely be harder than you expect to break that routine, but it will also get you thinking differently about dinner, which is helpful when routine starts to feel repetitive.
Brown Rice and White Beans with Shiitakes and Spinach
Heat the oil or water in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook about 3 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender. Stir in the rice and cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, season with salt and pepper to taste, cover, and simmer for 35 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Uncover, and add the scallions and spinach, stirring until the spinach wilts. Stir in the beans and dill. Cook for 5 minutes longer, or until the broth is absorbed and the rice is tender. Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed. Serve hot.
Yield: 4 servings; Source: One-Dish Vegan: More than 150 Soul-Satisfying Recipes for Easy and Delicious One-Bowl and One-Plate Dinners, by Robin Robertson
Spanish Chicken with Chorizo and Garlic
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a large casserole dish, heat the olive oil until smoking hot. Cook the chicken legs on both sides until they are crisp and golden, then transfer to a waiting plate. Keep the heat on high and add the chorizo chunks to the pot. Fry for a minute on each side and remove from the casserole with a slotted spoon.
Add the onion, leeks, and smoked paprika and saute in the chorizo oil left in the pan. Reduce the heat, cover, and soften the vegetables, 3 to 4 minutes, but check they don’t catch on the bottom of the pot.
Add the saffron, garlic halves, thyme, wine, and chicken stock to the pot along with the chicken and chorizo. Season well, cover, and simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes.
Stir in the lima beans and cook for another 10 minutes before serving with a baked potato or two.
Yield: 6 servings; Source: Take One Pot: Super Simple Recipes Cooked in One Pot, Full Stop, by Georgina Fuggle.
Peanut Butter and Jam Bars
Place an oven rack in the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350°. Lightly butter a 9-inch square baking pan.
To make the crust: In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Add the butter and peanut butter, then mix with your hands until the mixture forms moist crumbs. Reserve 1 cup and set aside. Firmly press the remaining mixture into the bottom of the pan. Bake until golden, about 20 minutes.
Let the crust cool slightly while you prepare the filling.
Using the same large bowl, stir together the peanut butter, butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and salt until combined and smooth. Spread over the baked crust. Drop tablespoons of jam onto the peanut butter filling and then use a butter knife to swirl the two together. Scatter the reserved crumbs over the top. Bake until the crumbs are deep golden brown and the filling is almost set, about 25 minutes. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool. Cut into bars while still warm. Cool completely before serving.
Yield: 16 (2-inch) bars; Source: One Bowl Baking: Simple, From Scratch Recipes for Delicious Desserts, by Yvonne Ruperti