Good Housekeeping’s “Skillet Suppers: 65 Delicious Recipes.” Hearst Books. $16.95.

I think I was in my 30s before I even turned on an oven.

When it came to my early culinary education, the stovetop ruled, and that mostly meant single-pan suppers – in large part because I didn’t have a dishwasher.

There was a lot of trial and error along the way in the form of burnt garlic, raw-in-the-middle meat and pan sauces reduced to a thimble’s worth of sticky syrup, but I’m now fairly adept at knowing when to add ingredients at what temperatures to produce a quick, complete and low-maintenance meal.

That said, my repertoire has gotten a little tired, so I was excited to come upon Good Housekeeping’s “Skillet Suppers.” My kind of cooking, I thought and laughed to myself when the first page I turned to was a picture of white wine and mushroom chicken cutlets, served with sauteed broccoli rabe – pretty much my signature meal.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t have a lot to learn from this 1/2-inch-thick title on making the most of the oh-so-versatile skillet, starting with a guide to different kinds of pans, including the pros and cons of cooking with nonstick (easy to clean but can’t sear), stainless steel (sleek but food sticks) and cast iron (ages well but heats slowly). From there, the collection of 65 recipes is broken down into steaks and chops, chicken, fish, meatless main courses and sweets.

Aside from a couple dishes that require baking, all of the recipes take less than an hour to make with most around a half-hour and some as few as 15 minutes. Almost all serve four people.

The lists of ingredients tend to hover around 10 items, give or take a few, and after purchasing the protein, produce and fresh herbs, you’re likely to have the rest in your pantry. Some complicate the recipe, as they require preparation on their own or purchasing pre-made, such as cooked rice, marinara sauce and shredded chicken.

Generally, though, the cooking instructions are just three or four steps. In addition, several include a “tip” at the end that troubleshoots the recipe or offers an alternative preparation. For example, Spanish noodles with shrimp and peas can be made with vermicelli instead of fideos, you can cut the carbs in the taco hero recipe by substituting rolls with Boston lettuce leaves, and make sure to use extra-thick tortilla chips for the chicken chilaquiles.

While some recipes are truly one-pan meals, like the baked pepper jack–quinoa skillet (a casserole with broccoli) and the veggie supreme pizza, others use the skillet to make the filling for a dish, like with barbecue chicken and cheddar burgers or bean- and corn-stuffed sweet potatoes.

The recipe I chose to make, crunchy salmon with lemony squash salad, uses the skillet twice to make the dish’s two disparate elements.

First, ribbons of zucchini and half-moons of yellow squash are slightly cooked in a couple tablespoons of water boiled in the skillet, an interesting technique I’d never used that keeps the vegetables crunchy and tastes healthier than sauteeing, even though oil is added to the mixture later, along with honey, lemon and dill, giving the side dish a slight, but bright flavor.

The technique used to cook the salmon is also unusual, creating a crust on one side of the fish using sourdough bread. I found the instructions for cutting the bread confusing, but eventually got the gist that it was just about flattening and shaping a section of the soft inside of the bread to fit the bottom of the fillet – literally, whatever way you slice it.

The crusted fish is first cooked, bread side down, in the skillet, then flipped over to finish. The cooking time was right on the mark, and the resulting golden crust added a great crunch to the dish.

Warning: You’ll have a lot of leftover bread, if you buy a standard-sized boule. I’d only recommend making this recipe if you already have the bread on hand or can make good use of the rest. I wonder if it would work with other kinds of bread and other kinds of fish or if the bread was slightly stale. In those cases, this technique could come in handy when you want to use up bread but don’t feel like making breadcrumbs.

Overall, the dish didn’t have a ton of flavor, but was tasty enough and taught me new ways to use my trusty skillet. And although it had a few more steps than my standby one-pan meals, it was just as easy to make and quick to clean up.

Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

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CRUNCHY SALMON WITH LEMONY SQUASH SALAD

Serves 4

1 round loaf country or sourdough bread (7- to 8-inch diameter)

4 center-cut pieces salmon fillet (6 ounces each, skin removed)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 large zucchini, trimmed

1 large yellow squash, cut into very thin half-moons

1/2 teaspoon honey

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil

1 lemon

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

Fresh dill sprigs, for garnish

1. With serrated knife, cut top off bread. Cut two horizontal 1/2-inch thick slices from loaf, then cut off crusts. With rolling pin, roll slices to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut each slice in half and trim to match dimensions of skinned sides of salmon fillets. Reserve leftover bread for another use. Sprinkle salmon with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Press 1 bread slice onto skinned side of each fillet.

2. With vegetable peeler, peel zucchini into wide ribbons. In 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons water to boiling over high heat. Add yellow squash and zucchini; cook for 2 minutes or until just tender, stirring gently. Transfer to large bowl and toss with honey.

3. Wipe skillet dry; heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat until hot. Add salmon to skillet in single layer, bread-sides down; cook for 7 minutes or until bread is golden brown. With spatula, carefully turn salmon over and cook for 4 minutes or until just opaque throughout.

4. Meanwhile, from lemon, grate 1/2 teaspoon peel and squeeze 1 tablespoon juice. Gently stir into squash mixture. Stir in dill, remaining 1 teaspoon oil, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper.

5. To serve, divide salmon and squash mixture among 4 main-dish serving plates. Garnish with dill sprigs.