Wednesday, November 20, 2013


A lazy weekend is one thing, but a totally lazy week does not get food on the table. Failing take-out, PREP is the key word here: preparedness. Mise en place, to the French: it means getting your stuff in place. To that end, there are things that you can keep in the fridge that'll make life so much easier: hard-cooked eggs, cooked veggies, cooked pasta and salsa, for a start. They can all be cooked in a 30 minute period, slipped into containers, and chilled (3 or 4 days) for that moment when a meal is needed but the will to slave isn't there. Then remove 30 minutes prior to serving, slathered with your home-made vinaigrette, and look like a goddess.
This can also be a nice Sunday late-afternoon activity with your responsible youngsters: the tasks are short but basic, so they're learning how to cook without realizing it. And the satisfaction of helping put food on the table not only makes them feel responsible, but when they're your age they'll tell their own kids about it. A no-lose situation!
Prep green beans, carrots, zucchini, and other family favorite vegetables. My kids liked Brussels sprouts (go figure). Parboil in batches (you can use the same water; do sprouts last). Lift from water with a slotted spoon, and plunge veg into ice water. Then put in zip bags and store in veggie drawer. Zucchini and onions can be sauteed briefly, then put in bags when cool. Boil and peel eggs. And you're ready for a summer salad!
One little hint to make things really zing: just before serving, halve a lemon, stick your fork in it and twist. The luscious juice springs forth onto your salad. Makes everything sit up and sing. Do this only with fresh lemons, it's worse than useless with that bottled stuff.
I keep pre-cooked ground pork and chicken in the freezer. When I'm doing my prep work, I just fry it (no seasonings except a sprinkle of salt, who knows what I'll do with it in two or three days).
When I was a kid, my father used to fry up bacon, then toss in a chopped onion until it was transparent and starting to brown, then add left-over cooked elbow noodles and stir-fry (not that the term was known at that point) until they began to crisp. Serve with ketchup. Not sure I could stand all those bacon fat calories (or the incredible amount of sugar in today's ketchup), but the memories are good. And crumbled bacon improves any dish but strawberry shortcake.
Prep green beans, eggs, chunked potatoes and mushrooms (optional, diagonally-sliced carrots). Put cans of albacore tuna in the fridge (one can each two adults). Splash lemon vinaigrette on potatoes and mushrooms; refrigerate separately. Rinse and spin red-leaf and escarole lettuce; will keep overnight in the cold drawer. Ditto red bell pepper and green onions.
Make a bed of lettuce on your largest platter or shallow serving dish. Quarter eggs and Roma tomatoes. Arrange the vegetables in groups atop. Drain tuna and put down middle of platter. Sprinkle with Feta cheese and Kalamata olives. I know, the fabled Nicoise olives are the real deal, but they are tiny, unpitted, and hardly worth the work. And the feta is my idea, use it if you want. I like feta. Serve more vinaigrette separately, but do the lemon trick at the table before the platter is passed.

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