Was one of your resolutions to cook more, and eat less take out? Here are some versatile recipes to make in batches. Then you can quickly add layers of flavor to quick, basic dinners.
1. Pickled Onions: You can make this fabulous recipe, or make a simpler version by slicing red onion thinly, and then salting and dousing them heavily with rice wine vinegar or lemon juice. Either way, this condiment is super versatile. Chop some up to add to relishes, salsa or guacamole, add to your salad (did you know that raw onion has a ton of prebiotics, which will make you happier and healthier?), garnish a piece of roasted fish or braised meat. It also makes a great condiment for a cheese plate. And although it's not exactly grilling season in NH, remember them for your burger next summer.
2. Caramelized Onions: If you have caramelized onions in your fridge, you have dinner! French onion soup! Pissaladiere! Smothered roasted chicken! Or this pasta dish: chop and cook some bacon. Add a can of chopped tomatoes, caramelized onions and some chile flake to taste. Serve with whatever pasta you have in house (though bucatini is the top choice). Using a vegetable peeler, "peel" curls of parmesan or pecorino on top of the pasta. Ultimate comfort food, using only pantry staples.
3. Pesto: I know what you guys are thinking: "We are still sick of pesto from when we figuratively put it on everything back in 1997!" Or maybe I'm just thinking of me. At Avenue 9, the restaurant where I worked in 1997, I was in charge of making the pesto that we served with bread, on sandwiches, and what felt like everything else on the menu. Even the smell of basil made me feel ill for a few years after that. But now, almost 20 years later, I am ready to eat pesto again. Not always the same version: switch up the nuts (I love pistachios in pesto), add different herbs or greens (parsley, arugula, spinach, kale, sage, even a little mint...), add some lemon or orange zest, and probably leave out the cheese for the most versatility. Then add a tablespoon to your simply steamed green beans, roasted potatoes, or fresh chopped tomatoes. Garnish your vegetable soup, or rub under the skin of your chicken before you roast it.
4. Carrot Puree: Have you made this carrot puree yet? If not, make it this week! Then you will have a delicious, healthy, more interesting alternative to mashed potatoes, a great dip to serve with pita chips or warm baguette, a sandwich condiment (one of my signature hors d'oeuvres is lobster salad sliders with this carrot puree... everyone always raves), or smooth it out in your blender with some coconut milk for a delicious soup.
5. Ginger Lemon Brew: I saw this recipe over the summer in Bon Appetit, and it's fantastic. Drink it warm as a tea, add a couple tablespoons to your morning smoothie, or on the rocks in the evening with some good dark rum for an Extra Dark and Stormy. Stir into some miso for a refreshing vinaigrette, or add a little to sauteed greens for a sweet/sour/gingery punch.
6. Pizza Dough: Homemade pizza is a great way to use up leftovers. And the dough freezes beautifully. You can either buy it or make it yourself, and either pull it out and put in your fridge the night before using, or defrost carefully in your microwave, if you need it the same day. If you put pizza dough in a pan and let rise, you can make foccaccia. Roll it out for breadsticks and sprinkle on seeds and spices alonside your soup. And you know the secret to pretzels? Boiling the dough in baking soda. Just follow this recipe starting halfway through step #2, and get out the spicy mustard!
7. Rice/ Quinoa/ Barley/ Farro: Leftover grains are key to a quick dinner. You can either turn them into room temp salads with roasted vegetables, shrimp or leftover chicken, Fry them with greens and a fried egg, or try this ingenious mock risotto.
8. Pureed Vegetable Soup: Most smooth soups freeze very well (just don't add dairy, which tends to separate when frozen). But they also double as great sauces. Thickened butternut squash soup for cheese ravioli? Roasted red pepper soup on the plate, topped with a piece of grilled salmon? Garlicky mushroom soup makes an unctuous sauce for steamed mussels. Or try this ingenious mock risotto. Can you tell I really want you to try the mock risotto?
9.Roasted Peppers: What DOESN'T taste good with roasted peppers? Serve with some homemade ricotta and crostini for an easy hors d'oevre, make roasted pepper quiche, quick fajitas (with pickled onions!), ratatouille, panzanella, roasted pepper marinara, or add them to a warm pan of chickpeas, chorizo and chevre.
10. Chermoula: As Eric says, "This is the greatest condiment ever invented." Here is the recipe for about 2 cups. Double or triple as you see fit*:
2 shallots, finely chopped
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1 cup fresh parsley or cilantro leaves and stems, finely chopped
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, toasted and crushed
3 tablespoons cumin seeds, toasted and crushed
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
3 serrano chiles, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
Place all the ingredients in the food processor and pulse to make a rough paste.
Use it as a topping for grilled fish or lamb meatballs, garnish garbanzo breakfast soup, top a fried egg, or toss with roasted beets.
* If you really want to keep this for awhile, make the "base" with all the ingredients minus the herbs. Then chop the herbs "to order" for the amount you are going to use. This ensures they stay fresh and green. Otherwise the lemon will turn the herbs brown.