There are times, after several long days of reporting and writing at the Seattle Times, that I just want a simple and easy dish to eat that doesn’t destroy my clean kitchen. In my younger years that meant grabbing a burger or tacos at a fast-food joint, just to kill the hunger pangs. Since then I’ve learned a few things about single cooking along the way and I hope you can take a few of my ideas into your kitchen.
There are days I’m jazzed about tackling complicated, multi-step recipes, realizing I have the time and patience. But often times we all are in a rush or getting home late from errands or a fun happy hour with friends and we still need to nibble.
If you don’t have the time to cook something elaborate, don’t worry about it. The reason some dinners and snacks are so great is because they are simple and fresh – and that typically means healthy too.
Visit your farmer’s market or local store and grab fruits and vegetables that are in season. Those fresh foods are the foundation of a flavorful, simple dish. So when I’m in a hurry, salads are my go-to meal. Chopping the vegetables, greens and toppings take only a couple minutes and you can create your salad.
I grabbed fresh greens, tomatoes and purple carrots from my garden. The purple carrots catch your eye with the color and surprise the palate with a spicy, sweet flavor.
Hot in the Kitchen
Mixed Green Salad with Plum Vinaigrette:
Three cups chopped or torn fresh mixed greens, including any combination of mesclun, spinach and arugula if available
Two carrots sliced into coins
Four cherry tomatoes quartered
Two tablespoons crumbled blue cheese such as Cabrales
One tablespoon fresh herbs like thyme, cilantro, oregano and parsley if available
Any other ingredients from your pantry or kitchen that inspire you
Plum Vinaigrette (Bon Appetit, August 2012)
2 black plums, pitted, chopped and halved
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Dash of salt and pepper
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Bring plums and ¾ cup water to boil in small saucepan and then simmer on medium-high heat, stirring and mashing plums for about 15 minutes until they are broken down. Pour plum mixture through fine-mesh sieve, pressing solids through to make a puree. Let cool. Then add oil, vinegar, 2 tablespoons water and salt and pepper and whisk. Add hot pepper flakes, if you like a little kick. This can be made ahead of time and will last for at least one week in frig.
Toss salad ingredients and drizzle dressing on top.
Tailor a salad for your palate
Another great thing about making salads is that you literally can open up the refrigerator and use leftovers or extras from a previous dish. Maybe you grilled salmon the night before and you can add some bites to your salad. When I grill a chicken breast for dinner, I make sure I either buy an extra large one to grill so that I have chunks to add to the next day’s lunch.
Also see what mood you are in that day. Are you craving protein? Then add tofu, salmon or shrimp. If you are craving something sweet, add fruit like strawberries, nectarines or apples. Are you yearning for some salt? Add some olives, pecans, pumpkin seeds or hazelnuts. Be creative by topping your salad with something different. My favorite additions to a simple salad are any of the following: edamame, avocado, hard-boiled egg, peas and dried cranberries. You can also add caramelized onions or crispy fried shallots. If you are like me, I also love cheese as part of my salad, so I usually sprinkle feta or goat cheese on top.
What are your favorite foods to add to your salad? Let the Solo Cook know.