We had a few cold days. I was in the market and all of a sudden I saw everything there that I wanted. I wanted to turn on the oven and start roasting these foods.

I make my oven my tool. It is also the hearth; that's the hearth we have in modern times. 

These are recipes that only have a few steps -- you put them in the oven, and go on to the next thing.

 

1. Bruschetta of Wild Mushrooms

Bruschetta of Wild Mushrooms

Recipe: Bruschetta of Wild Mushrooms (Photo: shutterbean / Flickr)

Mushrooms are very porous and they absorb a lot of fat, so I roast them to concentrate their flavors. Start the meal with this dish and a glass of Champagne.

 

2. Herb-Scented Tuscan Pork Roast

Herb-Scented Tuscan Pork Roast

Recipe: Herb-Scented Tuscan Pork Roast (photo: iStock / Thinkstock)

Tuscan cooking is very simple, very potent and wonderful. The reason I wrap the pork roast in pancetta is it gives back the flavor that we've taken out by trying to get rid of the fat. Then it tastes like a real, Italian pig.

 

3. Roasted Winter Squash Puree

Roasted Winter Squash Puree

Recipe: Roasted Winter Squash Puree (Photo: iStock)

Kabocha squash has a wonderful, silky flesh. I'm going to roast it because that is going to concentrate the flavor and bring out the silkiness. 

I also use this method of roasting the squash to make other things. If I add chicken broth and sauteed onions, it becomes a fabulous, silky squash soup. Then I will drizzle in some olive oil or a sage-flavored olive oil with shavings of Parmesan cheese.

 

4. Rustic Rosemary-Apple Tart

Rustic Rosemary-Apple Tart

Recipe: Rustic Rosemary-Apple Tart (photo: bittermelon / Flickr)

I'm kind of a lazy girl, so I'll make a flaky butter pastry, which I can make in the food processor. I'll roll it into a free-form round. I'll pile the apples into the center of this free-form round, and I'll fold up the edges. 

Sally Schneider

A former chef, Sally Schneider has won numerous awards—including four James Beard awards—for her books and magazine writing. She is creator of the lifestyle blog Improvised Life, a featured blogger on The Atlantic Monthly's Food Blog, and author of The Improvisational Cook and A New Way to Cook. She has served as a contributing editor to both Saveur and Food & Wine, and her work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Saveur, Food & Wine, SELF and Connoisseur.