During most of my cooking history I reveled in complex and difficult dishes. Foods like cassoulet that take days to make or tricky sauces such as Hollandaise. Frankly I'm glad I did. Those efforts were not only fun but I learned a tremendous amount about food and cooking. But the older I get the lazier I get.
It's artichoke season as I write this and a few days ago I picked up some gorgeous artichokes at the market. That I night I steamed all four of them (recipe here). Simple and basic, a steamed artichoke served with melted butter flavored with herbs and lemon is delicious, easy and ready in 30 minutes. Served with Peppered Tuna Steak, it was an outstanding weeknight dinner and yet a meal worthy of a table cloth, linen napkins and candles.
Four artichokes were more than I could eat at once, but I had a simple plan. That night I ate one artichoke, dipped in butter. The other three cooked artichokes went into the fridge wrapped in plastic. The next day I cut off the stems, peeled off the leaves and cut out the choke (the prickly core of an artichoke). Now I had three stems, a pile of leaves and three artichoke bottoms.
I cut the stems into thin rounds and using a paring knife, I scraped the flesh from the leaves and stored it with the stems in a plastic bowl. This would be the base for an artichoke soufflé the next night. Now I had the three artichoke bottoms to deal with, but I'd already figured that out.
I combined some finely grated parmesan cheese with dried, ground rosemary. Next I beat an egg in a pie pan and dipped the bottoms in the egg before dredging in the cheese. Meanwhile I had skillet with half an inch of oil in it heating over medium-high heat. The artichokes bottoms went into the oil and fried until browned. Sprinkled with fresh lemon juice they were amazing (recipe here).
Recipes for fried artichoke bottoms aren't uncommon. Typically they're dipped in a batter and deep-fried or dredged in bread crumbs, but I wanted that parmesan cheese taste. So I kept it simple and was well-rewarded for the effort. I served them with leftover pan-roasted pork tenderloin (another extremely simple preparation).
So at this point I've devoted little effort and minimal cooking time to two meals that could easily justify a $20 price tag in a decent restaurant. The artichoke soufflé will be a bit more trouble and take more time, but not much.
Keep it simple by using flavors you know and understand applying techniques you know and understand. That doesn't have to mean cooking the same thing over and over again, it means using what you know in new ways.