5 Iconic Dishes That Start with Just 3 Ingredients
In France, They Start with Onion + Carrot + Celery
Warm Lentil Salad with Poached Eggs
A medley of finely diced onion, carrot, and celery is the basis of iconic French dishes like lobster bisque, duck with Madeira sauce, and this lentil salad. You won’t immediately notice the vegetables, which are sautéed in butter until tender. The lemony mustard dressing takes the spotlight, along with creamy goat cheese and crunchy almonds. But this soft-spoken holy trinity is the root of its multidimensional flavor.
In Puerto Rico, They Start with Onion + Garlic + Cilantro + Cubanelle Pepper
Many Latin and Caribbean cultures have a version of sofrito, a base of ingredients used from Spain to Brazil. In Puerto Rico it’s referred to as a recaito, a blend of onion, garlic, cilantro, and Cubanelle peppers (four is technically the magic number here).
Chicken with Rice and Pigeon Peas
Recaito is a must in the Puerto Rican version of the one-pot wonder arroz con pollo—chicken and rice. The flavors infuse the rice as it simmers, permeating the whole dish. What makes this recipe even more distinctive is a generous helping of pigeon peas (which keep their firm texture even when braised), olives, and capers. Purists may point out that it’s missing ají dulces, small, mild peppers that can be hard to find in this country (we used chili powder instead). But that’s the beauty of homestyle dishes: You can make them your own.
In China, They Start with Ginger + Garlic + Scallion
Ginger, scallion, and garlic are staples throughout China, but they’re often accompanied by chiles and vinegar.
Quick-Braised Red Snapper
If you think frying a whole fish is for advanced cooks only, consider this quintessential Chinese-restaurant dish and Cantonese specialty, marked E for easy. The ginger and garlic flavor the oil, and the fish drinks it all in as it crisps up. Then it braises along with the scallions. Whether you use a wok or a large cast-iron or stainless steel skillet, remember to preheat the pan until it’s blazing hot before you add the oil. And if you need a fast weeknight dish, look no further: Once you’ve prepped the ingredients, this guy’s done in under 15 minutes.
In Laos, They Start with Ginger + Shallot + Lemongrass
In parts of Southeast Asia, shallots are more common than onions, and lemongrass and ginger are local ingredients found in nearly every kitchen. This bracing trio is at the core of soups, curries, and mains that incorporate chopped meat and seafood, aka larbs.
Laotian Shrimp Larb
Each aromatic is used in multiple ways—in the caramel sauce, fried as a garnish, and, in the case of the shallots, sautéed with the shrimp filling. Make it a day (or at least a few hours) ahead, so the complex flavors can meld in the fridge. This also allows the ground toasted rice to absorb some liquid and thicken into a sauce. To serve, wrap the larb in tender lettuce leaves and top with basil, mint, cucumber, the fried aromatics, and peanuts. Then skip the utensils—this is a hands-on feast.
In Poland, They Start with Carrot + Leek + Onion
Vegetables that keep well in the cellar through a long winter (carrots and onions) plus another allium (leeks) form the Polish holy flavor trinity. Milder leeks complement the more robust yellow onion beautifully.
Kapusniak is the kind of meal a Polish mother might mix up on Sunday morning and let simmer all day. It looks like any vegetable soup, but its brothy appearance belies a depth of flavor that is remarkably sophisticated and full-bodied. The stock features pork in two forms—smoky bacon and meaty ribs. Leeks are sautéed with bacon until they turn velvety, while onion gets stirred in later and holds onto its texture. Fresh and fermented cabbage (sauerkraut) impart heft and give the soup its name: Kapusta is Polish for “cabbage.” Finish with sour cream and fresh dill.