Sometimes I decide to make something for dinner because it’ll be a challenge, or we have an ingredient or leftover to use up. And, sometimes I want to make something simple so we can enjoy two episodes of Better Call Saul instead of just one.
This meal *almost* falls under “too easy to blog about”, but I know there are folks out there for whom anything can be overwhelming or proverbially out of reach. This one’s for you.
Woodman’s has a package of inexpensive, frozen, wild-caught salmon that comes as two large, skin-on, separately-frozen fillets. This is basically all you need, but we’ll dress it up a little, to make it look fancy.
Preheat the oven to 400° and get our baking sheet and parchment paper ready. If you don’t have a lemon handy, a little lemon juice will work. Cracked some pepper and salt, sprinkle capers around, and top with sprigs of thyme (this is the fancy part).
I usually bake it for 10 minutes and check the flakiness, then put it back in for 2 to 4 more.
I’d like to note here that salmon and eggs have something in common: albumen. It’s the white protein that surrounds an egg yolk, which keeps the baby chicken safe during incubation. It also seeps out of a salmon steak or fillet when cooked. This can be kinda gross to people who aren’t expecting it, so I usually try to scrape as much off as I can before plating.
While the fish is cookin’, grab your favorite medium bowl and whisk together white wine vinegar, lemon juice, canola oil, and a little agave nectar. Cut up some radishes, carrots, cucumber, and tomatoes and toss in the bowl with a whole bunch of spinach. There are some fancy sprouts pictured, too, but those aren’t required. I almost forgot to tell you to salt and pepper the salad, but you know to do that already.
Everything comes together so quickly! Plate and eat.
This is based primarily on a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen’s Make-Ahead Cookbook, which my mom gifted me for Christmas one year. It’s full of wonderful ideas for preparing dinner, lunch, and dinner and ways to get more meals out of your shopping list. It also gives ideas for freezer meals and slow cooker meals (good ideas for summertime—save the delicious Wisconsin sweet corn and don’t turn on the oven).
This is a fairly simple put-together dish; the only thing that gives it a second eggplant is that you need to blanch the asparagus. The bonus here is that you use the same water to boil the asparagus as the tortellini!
Speaking of, it’s time to start the water boiling. Whoever discovered heat+water=cooked food should be lauded for their curiosity and intuition.
With asparagus, I usually do the bend-til-it-breaks trick, but this time I decided to simply cut enough off the bottom, letting the knife tell me where the woody part starts. I think I didn’t want to be disappointed in how much I paid for it (this veggie is usually priced per pound), and I already have two baggies of ends in the freezer waiting for me to decide to make cream of asparagus soup.
When the water bubbles, pop the greens in and set a timer for two minutes. Grab your trusty stainless steel bowl and put in some ice cubes; then, I usually keep the bowl in the freezer until the last second.
When the timer says so (in my case, it’s Alexa beepity-beeping at me), pull the bowl, fill mostly with cold water, and start slotted-spooning the asparagus into it to stop the cooking process. Let the pot on the stove come back to a boil.
Now it’s dressing time. I’ve mentioned before that making your own dressing is cheaper, better, and faster than buying bottled, and there’s no HFCS hiding at the top of the list, or Yellow #5 and Maltodextrin hiding at the bottom.
The dressing contains a delicious amount of minced shallot and garlic.
In a two-cup bowl, I squirt some lemon juice and realize I’ve run out, so I finish off the acidic liquid with some white wine vinegar. Because I’ve opted to use Lighthouse Farms freeze-dried Italian spices (do not buy this from Amazon, it’s too expensive—I’m sure your local Penzey’s store has a suitable alternative), I pour it in to let it rehydrate for a minute, then add the alliums. Whisk in the olive oil and let sit until everything else is assembled.
Slice up enough cherry tomatoes and put the asparagus into a medium bowl and add salt and pepper.
To add a little bit of smooth crunch (I get the opposition, but pine nuts do that), roast a handful of pine nuts.
Since the tortellini is “fresh” (from Costco), it only takes about two minutes to boil (did I mention this dish comes together so quickly it’s almost silly?) so it’s the last thing to cook.
While it’s boiling, grate some parm and try to contain yourself.
Strain the pasta and rinse with cold water so it doesn’t melt the Parmesan. Pour into the bowl, add the dressing and shredded cheese. Stir carefully so as not to break the little pockets of cheesy amazingness.
This is from Chrissy’s Cravings, which I’ve talked about before; it’s the “lightest” recipe we’ve made from the cookbook (there may be others, we don’t know yet). We’ve made this twice so far and it comes together really quickly because you get to use the roasting and cooling time to do all the other prep and then it seems like you didn’t have to wait for anything!
Break up a head of cauliflower and roast, boil water, cook feta, make the dressing, mix together in a bowl. I know that sounds easy, and I do tend to think that making food is easier than it really is, so I’ll go through it more thoroughly.
The cauli gets tossed in some olive oil, salt, pepper, and minced garlic and roasted; then set aside to cool.
The orzo gets boiled, rinsed, and oiled; then set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, the dressing gets whisked, feta crumbled, and onions cut.
Since I have a huge bag of pine nuts from Costco (it’s the best deal), I like to throw them in salads when I can; toasting gives a nice flavor.
I like using the brick feta because it’s cheaper per ounce, and there aren’t as many preservatives as in the tubs of pre-crumbled feta. Plus, it’s not that hard to slice and crumble.
When the cauli is cool (it always is!), and you’re ready to assemble, throw everything in the bowl, along with a handful of dried cranberries (Chrissy recommends cherries, but I don’t have those) and fresh spinach.
Serve and eat immediately before I take your plate. Surprisingly, this holds up for lunch the next day without getting too wilty.
This is an amalgamation of several Niçoise salad recipes and, since it requires many dishes and methods, it gets five eggplants for difficulty.
I was recently talking to the fella about rating the recipes and timing and how to get everything in the right order and how that seems to come naturally to me, so I’ll try to incorporate reasoning into the recipes that I write so it helps make sense of the whole thing.
For this dish, you can either start with the eggs or make them while the veggies are roasting. They can be hard boiled at any point prior and I use Gwennie’s method because it makes sense to me. So, for this recipe, it’s a nine-minute egg. The eggs can sit in the ice bath in a metal mixing bowl until you’re ready to plate, as far as I’m concerned. The colder they are, the easier they are to peel.
As the salad is served room temp, you can roast the veggies next (or first, depending on your egg situation). This will give them time to cool enough to put atop your mixed greens, which are typically fragile enough to wilt under the heat of a roasted veggie. My recently-discovered trick: after the eggs are peeled, wipe out the metal bowl, put all the veggies in and pop in the freezer for about five minutes.
I’ve been keen on the bag of peppers from Costco since I don’t care for green (they make me burp) and the red/yellow/orange are usually over a dollar a piece at Woodman’s.
Baby potatoes cut into halves will be chewy in about 35 minutes at 400°. The peppers, thankfully, go along for this ride nicely. Spritz with avocado oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, Herbamare, or any of your favorite seasonings and spices.
While your eggs are cooling in the sink, you can steam the green beans using the leftover egg water. You still want the freshly crunch, which is why steaming (for about eight minutes on medium heat) is the best method here.
While waiting for the veggies, you can make the dressing and mix up the tuna. The dressing is just* olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. The tuna is a handful of parsley, capers, minced shallot, and two cans of tuna packed in oil. If you have an abundance of oil left in the can, add it to the dressing. It’s all going to the same place, so it doesn’t *really* matter, but it helps bring all the flavors closer together.
A couple of the recipes I referenced for this specifically call for Niçoise olives (holy crap, they’re expensive on Amazon!), so if you have a patient helper, get them, otherwise, Kalamata olives will do just fine (and they’re already pitted—a huuuuuge time-saver).
Fill a bowl with greens (these are the organic mixed greens from Costco, but we’ve been having varying degrees of luck with them lasting more than a day past “best by”) and tomatoes. It looks like a lot of food but will scrunch down into the bowl after everything else is piled on.
Top with the warmer veggies and dressing. This should, hopefully, get things closer in temperature. I was a bit anxious and hungry, so I may have pressed a bit on this step.
Top with tuna, olives, and a couple of crusty bread slices (as if it weren’t enough food already) and serve to your best friend(s).
A veritable mashup of crunchy, soft, savory, tasty goodness.
Course: Main Course, Salad
2canstunapacked in oil
12cherry or grape tomatoeshalved
2tbspNiçoise or Kalamata olivessliced
For the eggs:
Place eggs in a pot and cover with cold water until an inch over (it's really hard to see what a liquid inch is when you're looking down into the pot). Turn heat on high and watch for boiling bubbles.
As soon as the water boils, turn off the heat, move pot to a cold burner, and set a timer for nine minutes.
Fill a metal bowl with ice cubes and put in the sink. When the egg timer goes off, run some cold water in the metal bowl and put the eggs in there to cool.
For the roasted veggies:
Preheat oven to 400°.
Slice potatoes into halves, slice peppers into strips, and arrange on a baking sheet (covered with parchment, if you like to make your life easier). Spray with avocado oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, herbamare, and/or your favorite seasonings from Penzey's. Bake for 35 minutes. Remove from oven, remove veggies and parchment to another surface to cool.
For the steamed green beans:
Place a steamer basket into a pot of water to make sure you haven't overfilled it. Turn the heat on.
Break off bean ends and cut beans in half. When the water is near boiling, arrange in the steamer basket and set a timer for seven minutes, cover. Remove basket and set on counter to cool (there is a theme here).
For the dressing:
In the vessel of your choice, add olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper (and some dijon mustard, if you're feeling fancy). Shake, whisk, or otherwise mix together and hold for later.
For the tuna salad:
Empty two cans of tuna into a bowl and add capers, shallots, and parsley. Mix well with a fork.
Peel eggs, slice in half.
Place mixed greens in two bowls, throw in the sliced tomatoes, drizzle dressing over the greens.
Assemble veggies, top with tuna salad and olives. Place eggs pleasingly around the bowl edge and serve.
I’ve had my share of mock-tuna dishes made with a slightly mashed chickpea mixture and think this would hold up well if you wanted to make it vegetarian; do this and omit the hard-boiled eggs to make it vegan.
My Take on Dressing
The sooner you learn how to make (and enjoy the simplicity of) your own dressing, the happier you’ll be. No more half-used bottles of Ranch in the back of the fridge, no more zero-calorie (and tasteless) Caesar dressing, no more salads doused with high fructose corn syrup and whey powder. *Just* oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper (also dijon mustard and agave nectar).
And, if you do want Caesar, Ranch, or whatever, you can enjoy the pure calories of buttermilk cuz you haven’t been using the bottled kind.
I use the n+1 theory with garlic cloves. I eyeball chopped onions and grated cheese, but I weigh pasta. I have too many kitchen gadgets, but the Zojirushi rice cooker is probably my favorite.
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