There’s No Need for Recipes Now

Good morning. I roasted some black sea bass, the fillets painted with a mixture of mayonnaise and sesame oil, oyster sauce, a dash of lime juice, another of honey. I served the fish over rice with a stir-fry of cabbage and pickled chiles. It was fantastically delicious and required no recipe because I was cooking off the top of my head as so many of us are these days. I just stared into the pantry for a while and waited for the muse to arrive with her gift. And then there it was: dinner, salty-sweet-crunchy-spicy-rich. So great!

It’s good to cook this way — without recipes, with only ingredients and a running idea of how you might use them — particularly if you’re cooking a lot and right now you probably are. Cooking this way is the translation of ideas into action and, because it’s inexact, it rewards your personality particularly. It results in food that is inescapably yours.

My muse is condiments, I suppose. Yours could be Melissa Clark. Melissa’s been an absolute fount of ideas during these awful homebound days, ginning us up a lot of pantry recipes that lead to incredible meals. Riff on her riffs this week, if you can. Try her big pot of beans one night. Or start your day with her baked oats with nut butter. She’s got guidance on pasta with canned fish, olives and celery. And an any-vegetable soup (above). Pantry crumb cake for dessert? Yes, please!

Melissa even has an actual recipe-recipe this week, which I’d make and eat as a main course with a green salad, myself: roasted potatoes with tuna and melted anchovy brown butter. Melissa Clark is a national treasure. (And so is our Margaux Laskey, who is well aware that your children may not want any truck with anchovies. She ginned us up a fine collection of recipes for cooking with and for kids.)

More actual recipes, for your consideration: A one-pot French onion soup with porcini mushrooms; a savory Dutch baby; chicken adobo; flourless cocoa cookies; black bean tacos with avocado and spicy onions.

Many, many more of those are waiting for you on NYT Cooking. We’ve made a lot more of them than usual free to read even if you haven’t yet subscribed to our site and apps. (It’d be nice, of course, if you did subscribe, to support our work.)

We’ll post further inspiration on our Instagram page and news on our Twitter account. We have videos for you to watch on YouTube. You can ask us for help about anything at [email protected] And we’re enjoying all the fellowship and good spirit that’s running through our community group on Facebook. Come join us!

Now, it’s nothing to do with recipes or what to do when you’re low on flour, but I think poems ought to be a bigger part of our lives right now. They encourage us to think and imagine and feel. Here’s a good one, from Rachel Hadas: “Love and Dread.”

Pure escapism: Read Hal Sundt on python hunting in the Everglades, in The Bitter Southerner.

Likewise: Watch Catherine Opie on Thomas Eakins, a production of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.