As promised, here is my “Recipe to End &c.” (see part 1 of this two-part series):
Meat, fish, eggs, or beans*
Salt, pepper, spices, herbs***
Pasta, rice, bread, or another grain (optional)
Avocado, cheese (optional)
1. Cook the meat or fish, if using. Add salt and pepper before cooking. Use the directions on the package. If there are no package directions, Google a random recipe and use its directions, ignoring any other ingredients and any fanciness. It’s often as simple as heating it in a skillet and turning or stirring it.
2. Fry up or boil the eggs, if using. Use Google for directions, if needed. Add salt and pepper.
3. Cook the beans, if using. Use either the package or Google for directions. Add salt, pepper, and spices or herbs. (Note that beans often need to be soaked ahead of time.)
4. Pour some olive oil into a skillet and put it on medium to medium-high heat. As the olive oil heats, it will thin and spread out. Swirl it until it is coating the bottom of the pan. Add more olive oil at any point if needed to prevent things from sticking. (If the olive oil starts smoking, it is too hot, and you should immediately add veggies or remove the skillet from heat. Ideally, add veggies when the olive oil is thin and hot, but not smoking.)
5. While the olive oil is heating, wash and chop**** the more substantial veggies—that is, veggies that will take longer to cook, such as carrots, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, the stems of swiss chard, etc. Add the substantial veggies to the skillet. Put the lid on and stir occasionally.
6. While these are cooking, chop the less substantial veggies, such as onions, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, summer squash, mushrooms, tomatoes, the leaves of kale or swiss chard, etc. Add the less substantial veggies—except for tomatoes or anything leafy—to the skillet. Put the lid on and stir occasionally.
7. While these are cooking, mince the garlic (mince is a fancy term for “chop into itty bitty pieces”). Add the garlic to the skillet. Put the lid on, stir occasionally, and cook for 2 minutes only so it doesn’t burn.
8. If using fresh or canned tomatoes, add them now; if desired, add tomato sauce and tomato paste to thicken it into a sauce.
9. If using anything leafy, add it now, along with enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. Cook until there’s no more liquid in the bottom of the pan (or very little liquid).
10. Add salt and pepper, as well as any spices or herbs.
11. It’s done when it looks done, and you taste it and it tastes done. (If you have trouble with things burning, next time try using a lower level of heat, stirring things more thoroughly or more often, or adding more olive oil or water.)
Directions: Grain (Optional)
12. Prepare the pasta, rice, or other grain according to the package directions, or get out (and heat, if desired) some bread.
Directions: Plate and Eat
13. You now have a protein item; a veggie item; and a grain item (optional). You can choose to mix them together, or serve them separately. (Optional: slice and salt some avocado and place on top.) (Optional: sprinkle cheese on top.)
14. Bon appétit!! However, if your appétit is not so bon—not every meal will come together as hoped—try something different next time!
15. Put leftovers you will eat in the next few days in the fridge. Put leftovers you won’t eat in the next few days in the freezer.
Have I forgotten anything important, or would you do anything differently? Let me know in the comments!
*If your budget allows, buy humanely raised meat and eggs from local farms. Otherwise, buy humanely raised meat and eggs from the grocery store. Other good options: eat fish; eat beans; buy game meat; hunt game meat yourself; humanely raise animals yourself.
**It always amazes me how amazing veggies taste when harvested locally. For truly gourmet meals, buy them from a farmers market, join a co-op, or grow them yourself.
***Some herbs can be grown with almost zero maintenance. In my area, these include sage, thyme, rosemary, chives, and oregano. You might try planting some herbs and seeing if they survive year after year, with minimal to no effort from you.
****Since chopping is usually the most time-consuming part of the process, it's worthwhile to invest in a big ol' chef's knife; sharpen it a couple times a year. A big ol' cutting board is also helpful.