Five Easy Pieces

With just five ingredients--and some imagination--a cook creates five different recipes.

Fashion magazines have a favorite gambit: They show how five simple pieces, in various combinations, become a double-digit number of outfits. They'll take a pair of pants, a shirt, a sweater, a jacket and a great piece of jewelry or a fabulous scarf, for instance, and style them for a day at the office and a night at the dance club. (The secret to the latter, one learns, is strategic unbuttoning and killer heels.) That mix-and-match idea works as easily with food as with clothing. Consider these five ingredients: tomatoes, goat cheese, chicken, potatoes and the fashionable flavoring of the moment, fennel pollen. Tomatoes can be a braising sauce, the base for a salad dressing or a glaze for chicken wings. Goat cheese can thicken mashed potatoes or become a crisp-creamy topping for broiled tomatoes. And fennel pollen (luxurious but not crucial) accents a potato galette or a chicken stew--turning a basic recipe into one that even Vogue's notoriously abstemious editor in chief, Anna Wintour, might eat.

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