“What’s for dinner tonight?” Oftentimes the answer in my house in the early evening is, “I don’t know yet.” Once I’ll take stock of fridge and pantry, and if I’m really desperate also the freezer, I’ll see what’s there and decide what I can make of it. Often what I cook and put together doesn’t have a name, such as eggplant or chicken parm, stuffed zucchini, or perhaps salmon on a bed of leeks. As a matter of fact, what I mostly make is no-name dishes, something you can’t look up in a cookbook because I just made it up from what I had.
You see, I usually work backwards. Instead of making a list of dishes for the week ahead and shopping for the ingredients, I shop for what’s in season, on sale, available, fresh, or what tickles my fancy and inspiration, then fill my fridge, pantry and freezer with possibilities.
Last night I was in a pickle working late and having to put dinner on the table fast. My trick is always to have meal building blocks at the ready. I had a portion size baggie of cooked and thawed sorghum, some leftover sautéed red and yellow peppers from the previous night’s dinner, and a wedge of a Mexican fresh cheese they called Mexican Parmesan (ahem – not the same, more like Feta cheese without the sheep’s zing) to play with. Thinking quinoa salad, which you can really make with just about anything, I made a sorghum/cubed cheese/sautéed peppers/diced shallots meal salad with a simple vinaigrette. No name, made up on the spot, very healthy, very nourishing and satisfying. With a few basic building blocks, a few basic techniques, and the dare to throw some things together, you’re on your way to making no-name dinners in a jiffy. Add some fruit for dessert, add a piece of fish, some sautéed tofu or a piece of meat if you like, and you have full meal. Some no-name dinners will be better than others, but hey, they’re fun, fun, fun and so easy to make - and you won’t have to buy take-out.