Feeding a family is a never-ending job, which is why I rely on repetition.
Who knew young children could have such insatiable appetites? Cooking enough food each day to feed my kids feels like a second full-time job, and requires hours of meal-planning and grocery shopping on weekends to ensure that weeknight dinners go smoothly.
As I've written before on TreeHugger, I've come to rely on repeated favorites, cooking the same recipes over and over again because they're easy, cheap, delicious, and can be made in large batches. Gone are the days when I prioritized variety and experimentation; now I'm just in survival mode.
Here are five more recipes that make regular appearances on my family's dinner table. (You can read another list of favorites that I wrote in January.)
1. Bean soup
Bean soup takes time, but hardly any effort. I buy enormous quantities of dried beans from a local armer who grows gorgeous organic, heirloom crops. These beans are so beautiful, I just like opening the paper bags they come in and running them through my fingers! But that only lasts a few seconds before I get to work...
I pre-soak white beans or black turtle beans overnight; sometimes I do a mix of similarly-sized beans. In the morning, I drain them, add plenty of fresh water, and put them on the stove. As it heats slowly, I chop onions, carrots, fennel, garlic, and celery and add them to the pot. If I have some bulk sausage in the freezer or cured meat or ham, it goes in. I add a tablespoon of dried oregano and thyme, maybe a can of tomatoes if I want a 'red' soup, and a generous spoonful of salt, lots of pepper, and a bay leaf. It simmers for two hours and transforms into a filling, scrumptious soup that my kids can't get enough of. Serve it with olive oil (and maybe a dash of truffle oil for the adults) drizzled on top.
2. Peanut sauce
This recipe for peanut sauce was featured in a Bon Appétit article from 2013 and I haven't stopped making it since. It takes a couple minutes to blend all the ingredients together, and the result is a silky, tangy, flavor explosion that can be used in a variety of ways.
Most commonly, I boil soba (buckwheat) noodles, fry some tofu cubes, and sauté a bunch of greens, like kale, bok chop, or rapini, in order to make vegetarian bowls for dinner. I suppose you could also use it as a dipping sauce for spring rolls or dumplings. Any leftovers keep a while in the fridge and help to spice up my at-home lunches.
3. Lentil dal
When I don't have the time or ingredients to make a full-blown curry, I make lentil dal as a main. I like Madhur Jaffrey's many dal recipes in Vegetarian India, but I recently made this recipe for Curried Lentils with Coconut Milk, and it was fabulously rich. I like serving dal with rice, but my kids like it with naan, which they can dip. I don't have time to make naan from scratch anymore, so I buy it from a local baker through a food co-op, which delivers it frozen to my door. It goes into the freezer and makes for a quick, tasty addition to supper.
4. Eggplant parmesan
This may sound labor-intensive, but it's not. I discovered this recipe in a cookbook by Alice Waters, called The Art of Good Food II. It was so long ago, though, and I copied such a simplified version of the recipe in my notebook that I don't know how close to the original my version is. It's still tasty, nevertheless!
I like this recipe in summer, when eggplants and fresh basil are at their peak. I slice eggplants and roast them in the oven with olive oil, salt, and pepper until soft. Meanwhile, I make a batch of Marcella Hazan's famous buttery tomato sauce, which is shockingly simple, yet utterly divine. I wash and dry a ton of basil leaves, and grate a mountain of parmesan and mozzarella cheeses.
The eggplant parmesan gets assembled like a lasagna: tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9x13 pan, followed by a layer of eggplant, tomato sauce, cheese, and basil leaves, repeated as much as you can. Bake for 20 minutes till hot through, melty, and slightly browned on top.
5. Oven fish tacos
I mentioned tostadas in my previous article on this topic, but in the past two months we've been eating more tacos. Sometimes I make a chili-lentil filling, but fish is good too, and arguably faster. I buy MSC-certified filets from the grocery store (they'll even put them in a reusable container) and roast them in the oven with cumin, salt, pepper, and some chile. I figure there's no point bothering with frying; it's too messy and time-consuming.
Meanwhile, I slice avocado and limes, maybe some cabbage and radishes if I feel so inclined, and make a batch of quick pickled red onions in the microwave. I heat the store-bought corn tortillas in a pan on the stove, and voilà, tacos! Everyone is happy.