Hard-boiled eggs with gray rings around the yolks? There are far worse things in life. However, I am so easily pleased by simple things such as nicely cooked eggs. And a few, simple well-cooked elements, like eggs, beans and vegetables, make for lovely meals in myriad combinations.
I’ve been immersed in my most recent e-book–A Little Prep, A Lot of Freedom–and have been practicing what I preach. When I have a spare hour, I cook a bunch of vegetables, make a vinaigrette, toast some seeds and cook beans and then come dinner time, things come together with minimal effort. Take the classic Nicoise Salad: to make it all at once is straightforward but it does involve cooking 3 different things (eggs, potatoes, beans), making a dressing, etc. However, with the vinaigrette already done and the potatoes and eggs already cooked, it’s pretty effortless.
This idea of prepping a handful of building blocks is about really cooking by using your senses and preferences within whatever constraints you have. It’s kind of the antithesis to meal planning in that you prep not knowing what exactly you’ll do with these elements but that they are there for you, for any need that arises. It’s how my family eats often–different base ingredients, different sauces, same method of balancing flavor and texture! The new e-book includes a dozen recipes/templates as well as a handy guide of how to get 7 elements prepped in an hour. It embodies the cook-with-what-you-have method and makes those simple pleasures a daily reward!
Happy prepping & cooking all this mid-summer goodness!
Cook-with-what-you-have Nicoise Salad
This classic salad is actually a wonderful template. Cooked and raw vegetables, savory dressing, tuna, chicken or just vegetables are all delicious variations.
¾ lb cooked green beans
1 lb boiled potatoes, cooked and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 large tomatoes, cut into 3/4-inch wedges
4 hardboiled eggs, sliced
2 5-oz cans albacore tuna or fresh if you have it, seared and sliced (optional, see headnote)
Handful brined or oil-cured olives, halved or 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
4 cups lettuce, arugula, tender mustard greens, washed and torn (optional)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
2 tablespoons wine vinegar
5 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon fresh or dried thyme
Put all dressing ingredients in a pint jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake well until emulsified. Taste and adjust with more vinegar and/or salt or whatever else you think it needs. It should be bright and strongly flavored.
Toss the lettuce, if using, with a little of the vinaigrette and spread on a platter and arrange the eggs, beans, potatoes, olives, if using, and tuna on top. Generously drizzle the dressing over everything.