It’s fall. And that means teetering on the tightrope-balancing work and school and music lessons and sports practices and Friday night date nights and weekends in the apple orchards with grandparents. How does one eat well when always on the go? The secret is simple: mise en place. With a bit of planning and a few hours of prepping some basic meal components, you can eat with delicious variety all week long.
Here’s how it works. Set aside some time on a Sunday and make a few of these culinary building blocks. Seal them up (they’ll last up to five days in the fridge), and come Tuesday night or Wednesday lunchtime combine a few building blocks with something simple like noodles or seared chicken thighs. (Find some of these ideas on at the bottom of the page). Beautiful, healthful meals materialize in no time at all!
Mise En Place… Marinated Feta, Green Tahini Sauce, Salted Cabbage, Pesto of the Moment, Roasted Broccoli, Toasted Seeds, Spiced Squash, Big Batch Grains, Crispy Chickpeas, Hard Boiled Eggs, Quick-Pickled Veggies, Turmeric Miso Vinaigrette.
Toss Broccoli stems and florets in 2–3 Tbsp. of olive oil. Spread out on a baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Roast at 450° F for 20 minutes, or until edges are crispy and stems are tender.
Peel, de-seed and slice your squash into 1/2-inch thick slices. In a bowl, toss with 2–3 Tbsp. neutral oil like peanut or canola, 1/2 tsp. each of cumin, coriander and ground ginger, 1/4 tsp. each of cinnamon and cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste. Spread on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake at 450° F for about 40 minutes, until tender and slightly browned. Try with Butternut, Acorn or Delicata.
Core a small red cabbage and cut leaves into 1-inch pieces. Toss it with 3 Tbsp. kosher salt in a large bowl. Massage vigorously until cabbage begins to release water and soften, about 2 minutes. Rinse in cold water until no longer too salty; squeeze out excess liquid and pat dry. Toss in a large bowl with 3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar, 3 Tbsp. olive oil, a pinch of sugar, and a teaspoon of toasted seeds (try sesame, fennel, cumin, or caraway).
Rinse a can or two of chickpeas in a colander and allow them to dry thoroughly. In a medium bowl, toss them with 1–2 Tbsp. olive oil, salt and pepper. You could also try smoked salt or garlic salt, or add a bit of curry powder at this point. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake, at 350° F until the chickpeas are crunchy, 50–60 minutes, shaking the pan halfway through baking time.
Bring 2 cups unseasoned rice vinegar, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 Tbsp. lime juice, 2 Tbsp. kosher salt, 1 jalapeño, sliced and 1/3 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. Let cool 10 minutes. Place thinly sliced veggies in a large bowl and add pickling liquid. Cover and chill at least four hours. Try cucumbers, carrots, shallots, radishes or green onions.
Pesto of the Moment
Pesto is the definition of versatile. Something green + cheese + nuts + garlic + oil + salt + a blender or food processor = pesto. Try sage + walnuts + Parmesan. Or kale + almonds + Pecorino. Or mint + pistachio and ditch the cheese. Once blended, place in small container and add a 1/2-inch layer of olive oil on top. That will keep the pesto from oxidizing in the fridge.
Slice a lemon and toss the slices in 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Roast at 400° F until caramelized, 10–12 minutes. Let cool. In a small dish, combine lemon slices, 2 dried red chiles, 3 cloves of garlic, 2 bay leaves and a sprig of fresh thyme or rosemary (or both!) with 8 oz. feta, sliced 1/2-inch thick. Cover with 1/2 cup olive oil, season with pepper, cover and chill for at least 8 hours.
Turmeric Miso Vinaigrette
Whisk the following ingredients together in medium-sized bowl: 1/3 cup unseasoned rice vinegar, 1/4 cup mirin, 1/4 cup vegetable oil, 2 Tbsp. white miso, 2 Tbsp. finely grated carrot, 1 Tbsp. finely grated fresh ginger, 2 tsp. finely grated fresh turmeric (or 1/2 tsp. dry ground turmeric), and 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil.
Seeds add texture and a pleasant nuttiness to meals. Get a dry castiron pan and place it on mediumhigh heat for 2 minutes. Add a seed mixture of your choice (try sesame, poppy and puffed brown rice, pepitas, pecans and coconut flakes, or hazelnuts, fennel, cumin, and coriander) with a bit of salt and smoked paprika and toast, shaking the pan often until fragrant and slightly browned. Remove from heat and let cool.
Green Tahini Sauce
Pulse 3 garlic cloves, 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, 1/2 cup fresh parsley, 1 tsp. ground cumin and 2 tsp. salt in a food processor until similar in texture to pesto. Add 1 cup tahini and 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice. Process 30 seconds (mixture will be very thick). With motor running, gradually drizzle in ¾ cup water and process, adding more water if needed to thin, until sauce is light green and the consistency of sour cream. Season with salt.
Big Batch Grains
Whether you boil, steam or use a rice cooker, having cooked grains on hand is a meal-making godsend. Try jasmine, basmati, or brown rice, quinoa, farro and barley to get different textures and colors in your meals week to week.
A great quick protein, boiled eggs are also super easy. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Gently lower in your eggs with a slotted spoon. For soft-boiled, remove after 6 minutes, medium-boiled remove after 9 minutes and for hard-boiled, remove after 12 minutes. When you’ve achieved the doneness you desire, transfer eggs to a bowl of ice water to cool and stop the cooking process. When ready to use, crack and peel.
Now, Mix & Match!
Bowl O’ Plenty
Big-Batch Grains + Roasted Broccoli + Crispy Chickpeas + Marinated Feta
(Dress bowl with a bit of the marinade oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. Great with a fried egg on top!)
Tacos in No Time
Corn Tortillas + Spiced Squash + Black Beans + Quick Pickled Veggies + Avocado + Cilantro
(Add a squeeze of fresh lime juice and a sprinkling of cotija cheese if you’re feeling fancy.)
The Saucy Stir Fry
Big Batch Grains + Tofu + Salted Cabbage + Roasted Broccoli + Cilantro + Turmeric Miso Vinaigrette + Quick Pickled Veggies
(Stir fry tofu first, until browned on the edges, then add veggies and rice. Spoon over vinaigrette and garnish with cilantro and pickles)
A Salad with Sticking Power
Romaine Lettuce + Hard-Boiled Eggs + Crispy Chickpeas + Red Onions + Green Tahini Sauce + Toasted Seeds
(Or try substituting the chickpeas for Wedge Brand smoked salmon!)
Oodles of Noodles
Ramen Noodles + WedgeMade Rotisserie Chicken + Salted Cabbage + Turmeric Miso Vinaigrette + Sliced Green Onions + Hard-Boiled Eggs
(Prepare ramen-or noodle of your choice-according to package instructions. Toss with chicken, cabbage and vinaigrette, and garnish with onions and eggs. Even better with a splash of toasted sesame oil.)
Sliced, Seared Chicken Thighs + Spiced Squash + Roasted Broccoli + Pesto of the Moment + Marinated Feta
(drizzle pesto over chicken and crumble feta on top of the veggies)
These are just a few ways to bring together your mis en place, but the combinations are nearly endless!