The Kitchn has been posting recipes for recent graduates all week.
Here are the recipes that have gotten me through since college. There's a farmers' market in my neighborhood, so each week I buy a tomato, an onion, garlic, eggs, a loaf of bread, and either some cheese or some nuts. A small basil plant, if you have an apartment with windows, can be an enormous asset. Most of the recipes are based on those ingredients. Cooking in the city is a treat & saves a lot of money at lunch hour.
Penne Frittata with Basil and Ricotta
This one's quick and leaves enough for lunch the next day. You can get fresh ricotta at Garden of Eden stores in the city. Ricotta is great just added to a little fresh pasta with marinara or vodka sauce, or used for stuffed shells.
Pasta al Pomodoro
Make sure to use red onion to get the sharp summery flavor.
Chop tomato, onion, garlic, and basil. Slice a loaf of French bread (about half) into small pieces. Pour olive oil onto a plate; dip both sides of the bread into the olive oil. Spoon tomato/onion/garlic mixture on the top & bake until the edges of the bread are brown. Try variations on this theme. You can make crustini with just bread & olive oil, which is especially useful if the bread is a day old. If you mix olive oil with balsamic vinegar, a little fresh pepper, and basil if you have it, you can serve it as a dipping sauce with plain bread.
Totally delicious, and you can bake leftover potatoes in the oven with butter and rosemary. Or make homemade potato chips, or rosemary roast potatoes.
Pretty much anything with quinoa
I never made quinoa until after graduation--a box will make at least four meals, and it's versatile. Sometimes if there's no bread to pack a sandwich for lunch, I sautee red pepper, onion, and katamala olives in a little olive oil, then mix in quinoa and a little cumin. Takes ten minutes.
Most fruit markets in the city and in Brooklyn carry fresh tofu, which is an added bonus once you've gotten the hang of cooking with it. Serve with rice.
If you have rice left over, cook rice with warm stock and white wine. Flavor with whatever is on hand.
When our neighbors moved out, they donated a bottle of truffle oil to our cabinets. My roommate and I made many a grilled cheese with truffle oil. But you can do a lot with the basic recipe (check out the ten versions in the link above).
Omelettes, or eggs in general
Don't worry about perfecting Julia's style. Heat the pan with oil. Beat 3-4 eggs with a little milk, a dash of salt, and a splash of water (which makes them fluffy). If you have herbs d'Provence, add a sprinkling. Pour into the pan and cook over medium heat (err on the side of low). Run a knife over the edges when they start to brown. Add cheese (sharper cheese makes for a stronger flavor) and whatever toppings you have on hand, fresh basil if possible. Cook open-faced for a minute or two, then flip half the omelette over. Continue cooking on low heat until the cheese melts. Flip off the pan onto your plate & enjoy.
Here's how to open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew. (Friends of mine once Googled for this and wrapped the wine bottle in a rug, then broke the top of it against the wall. 1/3 of the wine remained in the bottle.) Happy cooking.