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Recipes for Non-Cooks

Here are Mark Bittman's three easy recipes for people who aren't exactly in the habit of making fresh whole food for themselves.

One could set off a heated argument with a question like, ''What are the three best basic recipes?'' but I stand behind these: a stir-fry, a chopped salad, and the basic combination of rice and lentils, all of which are easy enough to learn in one lesson. (''Lessons'' might be called ''recipes,'' and need no ''teacher'' beyond the written word.) Each can be varied in countless ways. Each is produced from basic building blocks that contain no additives, preservatives, trans fats, artificial flavorings or ingredients of any kind, or outrageous calorie counts; they are, in other words, made from actual food. The salad requires no cooking; the stir-fry is lightning fast; the rice-and-lentils, though cooked more slowly, requires minimal attention. The same can be said for other recipes, of course, but not for all of them, and certainly not for the food that most Americans rely upon most of the time.

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