Tell Me “No Cook” and I’ll Cook. Maybe.

It’s possible I may have the distinction of being the only person who’s been reading Bon Appetit for 30 years without trying a single recipe. Well, that’s a small exaggeration. I’ve tried a handful for better or worse, but my kids have always told me, “You’re better at the basics than when you try to go gourmet, Mom.”

Nevertheless, month after month I inhale the magazine, circle recipes in the index with the best of intentions. Sometimes I even get to the supermarket to get all the ingredients – and that’s where my ambition ends. I do think there is a cook inside me trying to break loose, but I don’t think that cook will be victorious until I retire, which will probably be when I’m close to my last breath.

When I am with my foodie “let-me-tell-you-what-I-just-made” friends, those who in the sleeplessness of later middle age are often at the stove at five in the morning, or those who effortlessly produce spectacular dinners in no time, I am a serious wannabe. I did put meals on the table once upon a time, even going boldly experimental periodically. But what excites me is a recipe that begins with the description “Easy, No-Cook,” something or other.

For those whose interests lie outside the kitchen but who like pleasing family and friends with good food, I offer up these no-cookers, sent my way by friends.

The appetizer: Rainbow Dip. When I first tried this recipe – convinced by a friend that I would love it – the ingredient list did not do much to stimulate my palate. I don’t like caviar, and I am not a big sour cream fan. It is incredible one of those recipes people ask you to email them before leaving your home. Yes, the recipe does call for egg salad, which does require some basic cooking, but store-bought works just fine. Make this one a day ahead, because it is better the second day. Simply layer these ingredients in a small glass bowl:

– Softened cream cheese (whipped or add milk to soften)

– Highly seasoned egg salad

– Roquefort cheese, crumbled

– Sour cream

– Black caviar

– Chives, as garnish

The main course: No-Cook Pasta Sauce, compliments of Fern. All you have to do is a little chopping and cook is the pasta. With tomatoes of every stripe in full season, this is a delectable, easy right-now dish. Just combine all ingredients in a bowl and let sit at room temperature for one hour. Toss with a pound of cooked pasta. If you are feeling ambitious and no one in your home is allergic to nuts, add half a cup of toasted walnuts for a more complex flavor.

– 4 large tomatoes chopped in chunks

– 1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

– 12 oz of crumbled feta

2/3 cup olive oil

– 4 cloves garlic, minced

– 1 6oz jar of Cara Mia artichoke hearts, drained (and cut up if they are whole)

– 1 tspn coarse black pepper

– ½ cup fresh parsley, chopped

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and let sit at room temperature for one hour. Toss w/1 pound of cooked pasta

The dessert: Fluffy Lemon Mousse, compliments of Debbie. Lighter than any dessert you’ve ever tasted, just about calorie-free, easy enough for a five-year-old to make, and great beside fresh fruit. On a dessert overflowing with chocolate wonders, people still reach for Debbie’s mousse. Mix the Jell-O, Sprite, hot water and lemon juice. Refrigerate for two hours. Take out of refrigerator and beat. Add Cool Whip and beat. Put back into refrigerator until ready to serve.

– 2 boxes of lemon Jell-O (0.3-ounce size)

– 2 cans of Diet Sprite

– 1 cup hot water

– ½ tbsp lemon juice

– Cool Whip Topping Free (8oz)

Have any no-cook recipes you’d like to share? Post them as a comment!