From Simple Green Suppers by Susie Middleton.
Before I get into my veggie supper strategy, I should probably tell you that you will be cooking. This is not meal assembly—this is about the sensual pleasure and physical satisfaction you get from cooking, from feeding yourself and others well. By now we all know that there is no magic bullet, no perfect diet. But cooking for ourselves and striving for balance and variety in what we eat are some of the best things we can do for our long-term well-being. So we’ve got to get into the habit of doing it—and of enjoying it too.
All of these recipes can be made in less than an hour—theoretically even in 30 minutes (that is, when you don’t have a child, a dog, a glass of wine, the news, the phone or anything else to distract you). Make anything you can ahead, and you can easily cut your evening supper-prep time.
Now about that strategy…
Adopt a new formula called “veggies + 1.”
Think of supper as equal to one or more fresh veggies plus one major player from your pantry (or fridge). Your nice fresh veggies are the stars of the show, and the essential supporting actors can be noodles, grains, beans, leafy greens, bread or eggs.
Refresh and restock your cupboard.
If we’re going to eat veggies-plus-something every night, we’ll need some other fun stuff—the pantry supporting players—to help keep things interesting. That doesn’t mean having 12 different kinds of mustard and 29 bottles of vinegar on hand. It does mean having a supply of your favorite raw nuts in the freezer. Take a hard look at what you have with an eye toward updating. Whenever possible, we’ll be cooking with whole foods plus the most minimally processed ingredients we can find.
You are certainly not required to make anything ahead for these veggie-supper recipes (this is not a college course, only supper!). But I desperately want to share that gleeful feeling I get when I open the fridge at suppertime and see that I’ve already got a batch of cooked rice or wheat berries on hand. Here are the make-aheads that give you the biggest bang for your buck, so to speak: cooked grains, cooked chickpeas, toasted nuts, workhorse sauces and dressings, roasted vegetables and washed and properly stored greens and herbs.
Forget the “three things on a plate” notion and focus on “one-dish” recipes that have it all.
The last important part of our veggie-supper strategy is to focus our energies on producing just one delicious dish. We may eat this dish out of a bowl (fun and comforting!) or arrange it on a pretty platter (impressive!) to serve ourselves and our family. However we present it, that one dish will be our entire supper. I’m sorry to say that a one-dish supper does not mean that you will use only one pot or bowl or spoon to prepare it. (I am not a genie in this department, but if you figure out how to do it and still make an interesting meal every night, do let me know!) These meals are not heavy; that said, portions are flexible.