Monday, June 14, 2021
June 14, 2021

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Improvising is inspirational

No-recipe greens great way for cooks to test creativity


“Cooking without recipes is a kitchen skill, same as cutting vegetables or flipping an omelet,” writes Sam Sifton, The New York Times food editor and founding editor of NYT Cooking, in the introduction to the recently published “The New York Times Cooking No-Recipe Recipes” (Ten Speed Press, $28).

Rather than specify a precise list of measured ingredients and exacting instructions for using them, Sifton’s compilation of no-recipe recipes is “an invitation for you to improvise in the kitchen.”

Cooking in this manner, he proposes, helps to improve kitchen confidence and brings an element of fun to what, at times, can feel like drudgery.

I’m a no-recipe gal myself. There’s freedom in going off-script, especially since the ingredients I have on hand vary from day to day, as do my level of creativity and the amount of time I can apply that energy toward cooking.

The greens, garlic, raisins and pine nuts form the core for the wilted greens dish here. Warm heat coaxes out bitterness from greens and pungency from the garlic; raisins — currants or golden raisins would be fancy — offer sweetness; toasted pine nuts bring mild buttery flavor and crunch, although walnuts are good here, too. But, as you can see by the ingredients list, other things are welcome to join the pan, and a splash of balsamic at the end gives it just the right mellowed tartness.

No-recipe Sauteed Greens and Things

Serves 4 as a side dish.

This one-pot dish makes for a nice side, whether served warm or at room temperature.

Swiss chard, beet tops, spinach or a combination

Yellow squash, zucchini or both



Olive oil


Balsamic vinegar

Pine nuts

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Wash a bunch of Swiss chard. Roll the bunch up tightly like a cigar, then cut the leaves into about 1½-inch strips and cut the stems into bite-size lengths. Keep the leaves separate from the stems.

Cut the squash lengthwise in half, then cut each half into thin half-moons.

Cut half an onion into thin slivers. Any onion will do, but red onion will be prettiest.

Mince 2 or 3 garlic cloves, more if you like garlic.

Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a large saute pan or heavy-bottomed pot and warm it over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the onion and garlic, and saute, stirring periodically. Once the onion begins to soften, add the squash, stirring to combine, then cover the pan with a lid to encourage the release of moisture. When the squash begins to soften and turn slightly golden, stir in the Swiss chard stems and lower the heat to medium. Put the lid back on and let it cook down a bit. After a few minutes, stir in the Swiss chard leaves and the raisins. Put the lid back on and let cook a few more minutes. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar, a handful of toasted pine nuts, a few pinches of salt and some cranks of freshly ground black pepper. Stir and adjust seasoning. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Nutritional content has been omitted for this recipe because quantities and ingredients will vary depending on your cooking preferences.