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Sometimes it's not that simple to cook simple

The other night I diced some fresh Kennebec potatoes from the farmer’s market, tossed into hot olive oil with a bit of smoky bacon and garlic, and sautéed, adding salt, fresh oregano, and white wine along the way. The result was probably the best dish I’ve cooked in six months--soft/crisp/luscious potato perfection.

But here’s the unspoken truth about simple cooking: it isn’t always all that easy. Sometimes it's luck. I actually find potatoes tricky--much more so than, say, complicated curries or homemade pizza. I am spud-challenged. The small number of ingredients had little to do with the dish’s success; everything rested on cooking time and temperature, until the potatoes reached that state in which the pieces came together into a whole mass but also came apart in soft, starchy bites as you ate; there was a crust, but it was delicate. The problem was that I wasn’t really paying much attention while I was doing this, and now, having hit a surprise hole in one, I’m trying to picture the exact cooking sequence in my mind, like a golf swing, so I can repeat it. I’m going to try it again next weekend.

Meanwhile, I tasted a delightfully simple salad at a restaurant (precise location forgotten) that featured pickled beets and raw radishes, and here is the sort of dish that’s very easy to create at home. Very thinly sliced radishes offer nice pepper-and-crunch texture against sweet-acid pickled beets, and I simply tossed them together and let sit for half an hour in the fridge, then added a drizzle of hazelnut oil and some chopped toasted hazelnuts. Goat cheese would go nicely here, but it’s not necessary: Just sprinkle with a bit of sea salt and dig in.

Check out our collection of simple sides and summer salads for more inspiration.