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Articles / "Flavor Comfort" is Good, But Not Every Night

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"Flavor Comfort" is Good, But Not Every Night

Published February 13, 2023

Some successful attempts at getting out of my comfort zone


For the longest time, I’ve relied on garlic, olive oil, and chili flakes to anchor everything I cook on weeknights—tomato sauce, mushrooms, spinach, garbanzos, shrimp, pasta, and chicken cutlets. It is still my sacred trinity. By expanding on that base with a few trusted spices like cumin, paprika, and saffron, I can quickly cook a hundred dishes. Still, I get bored. But I don’t have enough time during the week to fool around with flavors I haven’t mastered. If I make a bad dish for my family, we’ll have to force it down or eat boxed mac and cheese—a pizza wouldn’t arrive until after the kids are in bed. I don’t usually turn to cookbooks, because then I’d have to spend twenty precious minutes hunting for ingredients and devising substitutions for those I don’t have.  

Once again, How to Cook Everything Fast has come to my rescue. Cooking the stripped-down versions of global standards in this book has coaxed ingredients like ginger, soy sauce, peanut butter, garam masala, lemongrass, and coconut out from the dark corners of the crisper drawer and the pantry and onto the countertop. Becoming familiar with these ingredients has trained me to be comfortable with building flavors I might not previously have attempted on a weeknight.