It’s time to stop overthinking dinner. Stop thinking you need to follow a recipe to the letter of the law. First things first. Relax, it’s just dinner. Start with what is on hand. I had snap peas and French beans in the fridge as well as leftover steamed carrots and broccoli.
This veggie array was perfect for a stir fry, but peering into the pantry, I realized we don’t have any soy sauce. But, I did have Worcestershire sauce, sesame oil and Marie Sharp’s “exotic sauce,” a pepper sauce from Belize. The exotic sauce is made from green mangoes, tamarind, raisins, ginger, sugar, vinegar, onions, garlic, habanero pepper and some undisclosed spices. I figured this would take a different path than soy sauce, but paired with Worcestershire could work as a substitute. Departing from soy sauce gave me the freedom to work in other flavors, which I did with liberal sprinkling of garam masala, Madras curry and coriander. How did I pull this all together? The first thing was to finely chop a few cloves of garlic, a few sprigs of green onion, and a pinky’s length of fresh ginger root, and sauté those in a large pan with sesame oil on medium heat. Then, I piled in the veggies. I let them fry up a bit, but at this point, I wanted to add a broth and placed bouillon in a Pyrex cup with water. Next, I poured the instant broth into the pot with the veggies. Then, I got started with the powdered spices (coriander, garam masala, curry) and the Worcestershire and exotic sauces. Now, I had a pot of beautifully flavored vegetables steaming up with a hot broth.
This was the perfect time to stir in meat. I had tenderized venison on hand, which I had sliced into small pieces. The meat cooked very quickly and maintained moisture with a lid on the pan. Meanwhile, I had cooked quick brown rice. The upshot is dinner came together with relative ease and in short order. The cooking was enjoyable as I smelled the aromas of the different spices, which was therapeutic. The bright colors of the vegetables were aesthetically pleasing. The approach was simple: what do I have? My quick survey ensured I had veggies, spices, meat and rice. To lay the foundation of the meal, I sautéed garlic and onion in oil (in this case, with minced ginger). Then, I added veggies and spice. Next, broth, and finally meat. That’s only a few steps to a beautiful and balanced meal. I do have a confession: I added salt when the meat was cooking.
In review, there are really just a few steps to making a great dinner on a weeknight:
- take an inventory of what you have and make a plan
- start anything good by sautéing garlic in oil in a pan
- add spices and veggies
- opt whether to add meat and/or rice or pasta, etc.
- eat, and proceed to enjoy the rest of the evening
Consider that all of this came together in less than the time it would have taken a pizza delivery to bring us something relatively unhealthy and over-priced. (Not that there’s anything wrong with the occasional pizza.) There also is the satisfaction of knowing you can pull together a home-cooked meal with a little creativity in no time. The best part of all was this meal was absolutely delicious and provided wonderful leftovers for lunch. Before you despair that you have nothing for dinner, take a longer look in the fridge and pantry and get creative!