In Which I Figure Out Dinner—Again

09.21.11 A few rules for kitchen convenience and dining without whining


Okay, I think I finally figured out the late afternoon, pre-dinner formula (I know, I’m always trying to do this, but hear me out). The following activities can be accomplished at the time of day when everyone is most tired, hungry and generally cranky:

Steaming vegetables

Cooking plain proteins (eggs, fish, or my new fave, a Latin cheese called queso para freir) in a non-stick pan (I am loving our new Ecolution pans!)

Washing and dressing salad

Cooking a grain like rice, pasta or quinoa

This means that sautéing, simmering, braising—heaven help us, roasting and stewing are all best done in advance. So, salsa verde for the queso, turkey Bolognese for pasta, ratatouille to serve with whole wheat couscous, pork curry to serve over rice…you get the picture, all the real cooking has to be done on the weekend, or late at night or early in the morning or whenever time exists to do actual cooking. It must be separate from dinner.

Maybe you already knew this, but for me it’s a breakthrough that has made our early evenings much calmer and more pleasant. And—I would venture to say—healthier, because I set out crudités for an appetizer while I cook, I steam multiple vegetables, and we are generally eating way more produce than ever.

So, at least until I acquire a slow-cooker, this will be my method for feeding us all. And it means that there have been great leftovers in the fridge for making lunches and future dinners as well. I used leftover steamed cauliflower to make this quinoa pilaf, and I feel like I’m on a roll. Amazing how simplifying and setting more reasonable goals can boost self-confidence!

Recipe: Lemony Quinoa Pilaf with Cauliflower and Pine Nuts

Zoe Singer is a freelance food writer and cookbook editor and co-author of The Flexitarian Table. Food Editor and blogger for The Faster Times, she tries not to eat for two now that her son is a toddler.