The secret to cooking day and night in an expedient way that coaxes flavors from food is: Ingredients.
The truth is: You don’t need many ingredients and you certainly don’t need much time or recipes to get delicious food on the table.
More than half of the dining out experience has to do with service and ambience: Creating the illusion of privilege, providing comfort, having a staff anticipate needs. Not a home or work environment!
So, at home, many of the daily dishes here have to do with: A stalk of celery, a carrot, a red onion, and a clove of garlic–chopped into tiny pieces, sauteed in good olive oil, and served with tomatoes and a protein.
In light of this, the best discovery I have made in years is Pomi. It’s a product from Italy: Chopped or strained tomatoes in a plastic container. Stirred into sauces, noted above, and with a half can of tomato paste and a bit of chicken stock, it creates dense textures and amazing flavors.
I discovered Pomi by reading Mario Batali’s great, new book, “Molto Gusto,” which is a brief compendium of simple, spectacular Italian dishes with few ingredients and prep that takes typically under 10 minutes.
As Tony Bourdain noted in a recent interview: An example of this fast, easy cooking is Puttanesca: Olive oil, garlic, capers, dried anchovies, black pepper, and canned tomatoes cooked and served in a sauce with pasta. The idea is to cook with alacrity so as to leave the lion’s share of time for talking, listening, and making love. Bourdain notes that the dish was “invented” to provide food for the “sudden” guest. It’s kind of ironic, I reckon, “Whore’s sauce,” is the translation.