Salads, fast

by Lisa

Summer makes it easy to feed your family fast, fresh, healthy food that also should be really good-tasting.  It makes it easy to offer your kids a pre-dinner snack or an appetizer masquerading as a snack.  It’s become nearly ritual here, as I finish the “main” part of dinner, for the kids to sit at the bar, where we often eat, and tuck into the salads, which I prepare beforehand (sometimes at lunch, or right after school, or any fifteen minutes I have to wash and chop and toss the produce with some kind of dressing….) and set out in mini-bowls.

In summer, we like a lot of variety. Small dishes, lots of variety. This makes our market haul last longer, gives the kids a sense of choice and power and just looks prettier on the table. Last Sunday, I set out three side salads, which took maybe ten minutes to prepare, total:

White bean with olive oil, salt, fresh garlic, fresh sage

Cucumber with olive oil, salt, white balsamic, sugar, fresh dill

“Caprese” with baby tomatoes, fresh basil, mozzarella, olive oil, salt, balsamic

We had a large green salad, dressed with my go-to mix of olive oil and white balsamic and lemon pepper, to which I’ve been obsessively adding basil and cilantro. I think cilantro is the new tarragon.

These were to go with a few links of grilled wild boar sausage (Thank you, thank you Holding Ranch! ) and grilled italian bread grilled with olive oil and salt.

All you need to keep on hand to make a range of salads are some

  • good olive oil
  • different salts (herbed, hawaiian, kosher, sea, black, etc.)
  • a range of vinegars (red wine, white balsamic, balsamic, rice wine, anything fancier that you like)
  • mustards (yellow, dijon, country..)
  • lemons and meyer lemon
  • fresh herbs
  • fresh garlic

Keep a light hand with salt, don’t pepper everything, mix acids to oil in about a  1 to 2 ratio (as in 1 part vinegar to 2 parts olive oil) and experiment.

Sometimes Dinner Looks Like This

by Caroline

My family’s vegetarian, so our meals never fall into the classic “meat and two veg” pattern many of us grew up with, but most of our suppers still do offer something recognizable as a main dish and some other things that are clearly the sides. But not always.

I’ve written in the past about a dinner the boys and I make together sometimes when Tony is out, a sort of vegetable buffet, and recently we did a springtime version: pickled carrots, beets, and cauliflower, roasted new potatoes, snap peas, steamed broccoli with lemon, spinach with pine nuts and raisins, fava bean puree, and hummus. A little bread and cheese might have rounded it out nicely, but we happened not to have any, and the kids were happy to dip vegetables into the purees (or even, in Eli’s case, just eat hummus by the spoonful). It felt like a picnic, and on a foggy night in San Francisco, the bright colors and distinct flavors brought a little splash of sunshine into the room.

A Dinner Surprise

by Lisa

This is another fast, easy, intensely flavorful recipe that’s great for a weeknight change. It’s also really affordable & relies on things that you can easily keep in your pantry &/or freezer.  It saved me over the last month, when I needed to get dinner on table with a minimum of prep work.  For the kids, it has the added bonus of being sort of fun and surprising. They get their own, individually wrapped entry on their plates, and they get to unpack it by themselves, which of course makes them feel sort of important .   And like most everything  I cook, it can be varied depending on your taste  and what you happen to have on hand.  The basic recipe is from Food and Wine and you can find it here.

Basically, it’s a pork chop topped with mustard, cured meat, & herbs en papillote (a fancy way for saying wrapped in foil or parchment) and baked for about 20 minutes. It produces a deeply flavored, tender chop surrounded by a few tablespoons of delicious juice. Pair it with some quick sauteed greens, a salad, and a side of white beans with garlic and olive oil.  You’re kids should be delighted when you serve them a plate with their own packet to open, even happier when they cut into it, and you’ll be surprised at how good and easy it is. Every time.

My strategies are below. See the original recipe for a lovely picture.  I only got the taste tester’s verdict:

Pork Chops With Mustard and Bacon

For each packet you’ll need:

  • One bone-in pork chop (the bone is ideal for tenderness and flavor, also you want chops with some fat)
  • 2 t Dijon mustard
  • 1 Slice Canadian bacon, prosciutto, or thinly sliced pancetta
  • Fresh or dried thyme, or other herbs to your taste
  • Foil square

Place the pork chop in the center of the foil square. Top with a teaspoon (or more or less, to your taste) of mustard. Layer the sliced bacon/pancetta/prosciutto on top, then top with another teaspoon or so of mustard and sprinkle with herbs.  Tightly crimp the foil packet closed all around the pork chop. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. Let rest. Serve with or without packet, reserving juices.