Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Worknight Dinner From Scraps

Tuesday nights are always a bit of a scramble for dinner at our house. With my first grader at Grandma's until I close the shop at 7 and husband at an evening class, we often get by on grilled cheese or worse. This was, of course, never my intention and I often think I'll plan a menu for the week, making something Monday night when I have the day off that can be transformed into various healthy, quick meals for the rest of the week. I mean, that's what so many magazines tell me I can do, yes? Here's what actually happens: Monday night's dinner is either all gone or sent off as lunch. I spend Tuesday cooking or prepping pie fillings, braising meats and rolling out dough. I close the shop as quickly as possible, race to my mom's house, get my daughter, race home smelling like sausage or beer braised beef or whatever the smelliest thing at work was that day and S. says, "mom I'm STARVING! What's for dinner?" While in my head I'm thinking, "the olives on the toothpick in the martini I'm about to make," but what I say is, "let me see what we have in the fridge".
And then it's the fridge's turn. There is food in our fridge. We're not one of those houses that only use it to store condiments and juice, but often it's full of things that need preparation. You know, ingredients. Raw vegetables, eggs, random bits of leftovers that should have been thrown in the bin days before, and of course, condiments. Sometimes it holds some sort of gem that I can morph into real food and last week I got lucky. Salvaging whatever edible goods I found in the produce bin and a peek in the freezer ended up producing one of S.'s favorite dinners yet.

With no time for shaking martinis I turned on the oven and cleared some space and set up a cook's snack.

I love a salad. But only a good salad. Throwing together marginal greens and a little oil and vinegar does not a salad make for me. Luckily on this day I had the remains of green produce that had once belonged to some other recipe but happen to go together beautifully: Butter lettuce, celery and fresh tarragon.

I would say it was more of a frantic tearing than actual chopping that put those together but they still seemed to be missing something. I really wished I had an avocado, but I hardly ever have an avocado when I really need one. I opted for some feta cheese instead. I should note, though, that the feta I had was one I brought from work (I use it in the greens and feta tarts for anyone who knows the shop) and it's an Israeli feta which is creamier and milder than the Greek version we're most used to. This is a survivalist style salad, however so if you're going to make it at home, for God's sake use whatever is handy.

By this time the frozen goodies are in the oven, S. is almost out of the shower (I don't think she knows I can hear her singing when the water is on) and it's time for dressing. Now, my kid has no problem with veggies. I don't know if we're just lucky or if it's because I've always refused to make two dinners. She eats what we put on the table or she doesn't eat and I can tell you with those options she always eats. But she's still only 7 so if I'm going to make this salad truly appealing I need one special thing:

S. is putting on pajamas, I'm turning off the oven and it's time to eat.

Oh, I almost forgot to show you what's in the oven. And don't judge, it was a long day and the fact that I managed a salad and the showering of a child all at the same time deserves a visit from our friend the chicken nugget.

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