“Subway Philosophy! What’s for dinner?”
–G, the interweb
Well, I usually order sushi. So I think you mean: what do I make for dinner when I’m broke and sick of spaghetti? I do dinner in two steps. That’s it.
Step one: I buy a piece of meat or fish and prepare it as simply as possible. I’ll broil a piece of salmon with lemon, saute a chicken breast in some white wine and a pile of herbs, or grill up a small steak. That’s it. As long as your meat is fresh, don’t go crazy with it. Let the protein do the talking.
Step two: I make easy sides. And that’s the trick — keep away from the boxed flavored rice or the canned vegetables. Forget about frozen french fries. Here are my favorite side dishes I whip up that are fast, delicious, and–best of all–super cheap.
Soy Glazed Snow Peas
I stole this idea from my favorite restaurant after I found a huge container of snow peas in my expensive NYC grocery store for two bucks. That’s damn cheap. Throw a some soy sauce in a skillet. I’m broke, so I just hoard the packets from my sushi delivery. True story. Add a glob of honey, and let it cook for a few minutes and get all thick. Add some minced garlic if you have any. Toss in the snowpeas and coat. Cook them for about two or three minutes, so they’re still crisp, and add some cracked pepper.
Parmesan Parsley Rice
I love carbs, but I’m over the boxes of rice with the seasoning packets. They’re so salty and taste processed. So here’s what to do: Boil some white rice. If you don’t know how to make rice, just make it like pasta– boil water, add rice, taste, drain when it’s done. My mom taught me that. Okay, return the rice to the pot. Add butter or margarine, loads of grated parmesan, lots of parsley (fresh chopped is better, but dried works, too), and some pepper to taste. Stir like crazy. This is my guilty pleasure.
Frozen french fries are gross, and baked potatoes are boring. So cut some red potatoes into thick rounds. Throw them in a skillet with some oil and garlic powder and heat them on a medium-low flame. It’ll take some time to cook through. When they’re close, add fresh chopped rosemary (fresh really works best for this, but again, you can use dried if you need to), salt and pepper. These are like french fries if french fries were healthy and tasted herby and fresh.
Put asparagus in a pan with the juice of one lemon and some of the zest. Add a tablespoon of butter, and some white wine if you have any lying around (I always do). Also really tasty with a diced up shallot or onion. Cook on medium heat until tender but still crisp.
Garlic Green Beans
Throw fresh green beans, some olive oil, and loads of minced garlic over heat until tender and crisp. I don’t think it can get any easier or cheaper than this recipe. This is like cooking for idiots.
Fresh Dressed Salad
Buy some fancy lettuce. I like butter lettuce, but get whatever non-iceberg greens you like. Put in whatever you want in your salad, or just go plain and stick with the lettuce. Grab a bowl and pour in some oil, some white vinegar, salt and pepper, all spice, and parsley. Toss it in your lettuce and revel in your healthy, preservative-free green eats.
I love mashed potatoes more than anything else in the world. Quarter a few Yukon Gold potatoes and boil them until they’re falling apart. Drain them well and throw them back in the pot. Get out your masher — or even better, your blender. Add a little 2% milk and more melted butter than you could ever imagine needing. And I don’t like sour cream in general, but a few spoonfuls of the stuff will really make your mashed potatoes super creamy. Add a lot of salt and cracked black pepper and white pepper if you have any to add a soft kick. Mash like a psychopath. At this point, you can also flavor them with truffle oil, or pesto, or cheese. Me? I just like them plain and buttery.