Super Fast

What's the One Thing to Do to Get Better at Cooking for Kids?


If you want to get better at cooking for kids, you don’t need to pick up another book. You don’t need to scroll through another blog. You definitely don’t need to take any classes. To get better at cooking for kids, you only need to do one thing: listen to them.

Yes, listen to them. I’m not really talking about infants and toddlers, but rather about slightly older kids. If you give them a chance, they will tell you what they want. Heck, even if you don’t give them a chance you’ll hear all about what they want. I’m not saying you have to give them everything they want, but if you listen to them you might just be surprised at the results.

As anyone who has ever been married knows, listening does not necessarily come naturally. Sometimes, it has to be learned. I can’t claim to be an expert at listening, but I am an expert at studying how to do it. I’ve discovered it’s a three-step process. The first and the last steps are to stop talking. This also happens to be the second step.

While you’re at it, if you’re going to stop talking, you might as well stop blaming, too. And judging. And minimizing. And otherwise invalidating the child’s experience. Listening is key to acceptance. And acceptance is key to everything. I don’t have the vocabulary, experience, or expertise to explain this, and I don’t expect you to take my word for it. Instead, read a bit about the life experience of Marsha M. Linehan, the creator of Dialectical Behavior Therapy. She started out as a disturbed child intent on harming herself and who found freedom and salvation through self-acceptance. For some practical advice, check out this piece on Psychology Today’s website by Dr. Karyn Hall.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that everyday I learn the lesson of how important it is to listen. Just the other day I made Puttanesca sauce for Nina and Pinta. The elder one had been longing for it for a while, and I was pleased to break out of a recent cooking drought (have you noticed a lack of posts???) by stirring up the old favorite.

But that dinner didn’t go quite as planned. I had chopped the tomatoes and both of my children were put off by the chunkiness of the sauce. They didn’t want to eat it, and I heard them. I often make the pasta and sauce as a side for frozen Alaskan salmon (which is so good it needs no recipe), and it mattered little to me if they ate the pasta with a sauce or plain.

Last night, I made the sauce again, but this time around I hit the canned tomatoes with my Braun immersion blender, and the sauce was as smooth as the night was fun. From the second when Nina came home from school and smelled that familiar aroma in the air and wondered what it was, to the moment that Pinta shouted out “Puttanesca,” from her piano bench where she was practicing, it was a peaceful and joyful evening. Listening, it turns out, is good for everyone.

Puttanesca Sauce


  • One 28 oz. can peeled plum tomatoes, crushed (or hit with an immersion blender)
  • 4 or more cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 3 anchovy fillets
  • 1 chili pepper (or a quick shake of red-pepper flakes)
  • 1 T capers
  •  12 or so black olives, pitted and sliced
  • herbs such as basil or oregano to taste (completely optional)


Heat some olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the garlic and anchovies and chili pepper (or red pepper flakes).

Sauté until the garlic is soft, then add the tomatoes and reduce.

When the sauce thickens (in about fifteen minutes), add capers and olives and any herbs.

Serve over the pasta of your choice.

The Secret to the Perfect Steak


I can cook fish like it’s nobody’s business, thanks to spending much of my youth working in a fish market, but cooking steak at home, either on the stovetop or on a barbecue, has long bedeviled me. I never really knew what I was doing, and the results proved it. Sometimes my steak would come out raw. Other times, like shoe leather. It was guesswork, and I wasn’t guessing well.

But no more. After years of trial and error, I’ve finally found a method that I believe is foolproof. It has worked for me twice in the last couple of weeks. Of course, it can be foolhardy to come to strong conclusions after scant experimentation, but I am confident: the system is simple and it is data driven. All you need to do is get yourself an instant-read thermometer. 

I can’t claim that I created this method on my own. I’m sure if I Googled it, I’d find others before me who have figured this out, and I probably read about it somewhere. But truly original ideas are few and far between, and it’s not so much the idea that matters, but rather its execution (ask a copyright lawyer about that). All you have to do is this (indoor method):

  • Heat a cast-iron pan until it is smoking.
  • Then salt the pan heavily.
  • Toss the steak in the pan.
  • Cook it on high heat for two minutes.
  • Flip it.
  • Cook for two minutes more.
  • Then continuously cook it for one minute at a time on each side, until the internal temperature is 125 degrees. How long this takes will depend on how think the cut is. It could take less than ten minutes total, or maybe more than fifteen. Start checking after about six or eight minutes. 
  • Once the meat hits 125 degrees, take it off the heat and place it on a plate or cutting board, and tent it loosely with foil and let it sit for at least five minutes (or up to ten). You will then have perfectly medium rare meat with a hearty char on the exterior.

It helps to start with a good-quality steak (and that’s another reason this method is so good—you won’t risk ruining a pricey piece of meat). If your cut of meat has a thick edge of fat, salt your steaks and then sear that edge in the pan first (by moving it around on the hot metal like you are wiping the pan with it), which will properly grease the pan. If you like your meat more well done, just take it to a higher temperature. Be advised that this will make copious amounts of smoke, if you do it indoors. Outdoors, that's not a concern.

Finally, be sure to pick the right instant-read thermometer. Some of them are too small to read, and others don’t go as low as 125 degrees. Find one that works for you. Now if only they made instant-read thermometers for emotions. That could lead to all sorts of useful ways to get along with one’s spouse, one’s kids, and one's self.  

Be a Good-Enough Cook: Sage-Rubbed Pork Chops

When it comes to raising children, there is the concept of the “good-enough” parent, which traces its origins to Bruno Bettelheim and Donald Winnicott. I don’t know enough about either of them to try to explain what it really means (though I know just enough to be wary—“Refrigerator Moms” anyone?). Fortunately, the phrase "good-enough" is self-evident, and while I'll leave to the experts what it means when it comes to parenting, when it comes to cooking, it should be applied more often.

Especially for weeknight cooking. After working all day, don’t worry about making the best soufflé, the greatest steak, or the most sublime piece of turbot—just get a good and decent meal on the table. If you can do that, you can sit back and enjoy it. You’ll save money, be healthier, and be closer to your family.

I was thinking about this last Wednesday, when I made pork chops. I’ve toyed around with pork chops before, but they’ve never been very popular around the house. Crusting then with cumin, coriander, and corn meal didn’t really help (though they were delicious). So this past Wednesday when I was making dinner, I decided to step back and shoot for “good enough.”

I preheated the oven to 350 degrees, and then chopped up a bit of fresh sage that was leftover from preparing the Thanksgiving stuffing two weeks ago (and speaking of that sublime stuffing, after I made it and packed it up to take to my brother's house, I realized that I had forgotten a whole step in the recipe--that of adding wine--and it just didn't matter; it was more than good enough the way it was). For the pork chops, I mixed the sage with a bit of olive oil, coated both sides of the meat, and I dropped them into a smoking-hot cast-iron pan. I browned them for a few minutes, flipped them, then slid the pan into the oven for ten minutes. The chops registered 150 in the middle, and I knew they were done. They were juicy and tasty.

Were they embraced by Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria? Not exactly, but everyone ate their dinner. Will I make this dish again? Maybe, especially if have left over sage that I want to use up (I hate wasting herbs). Next time, I might try something different. For Wednesday night, though, it was good enough and that was good enough for me.

Good-Enough Pork Chops

  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh sage (approx.)
  • 2 Tablespoon olive oil (approx)
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 boneless pork chops (about a pound)

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put a cast-iron frying pan on to heat on high.

Mix the sage, salt and pepper, and olive oil.

Coat both sides of the pork chops with the herbed oil.

Toss the chops into the hot pan, and brown for about two or three minutes.

Flip the chops and slide the pan into the oven for about ten minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 150 in the center of the meat.

Almost-Empty-Pantry Pasta Sauce

Around our house, we have a shorthand expression for a lazy-night dinner of pasta with red sauce. We call it a “jar sauce” night, because it comes out of jar from a store, and isn’t something that is made by hand. We serve the sauce over pasta, and top it with chunks of mozzarella and shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano. It’s a passable meal. It is certainly not one of my favorites in terms of taste, but for those post-work weeknights and days that a play-date has gone awry, it is perfect. Sometimes, the prospect of cooking is just too off putting.

The jar sauce that we prefer is Colavita marinara sauce, and we like it for one simple reason: it doesn’t have added sugar. I’m astounded by how hard it is to find a pasta sauce without sugar in it. The reason, it seems, there is so much sugar in pasta sauces can be traced back to the work of one man: Howard Moskowitz, a food scientist with a wicked winning streak.

He was first brought to public attention when the New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell heralded his research. According to Gladwell, Moskowitz’s insight was in tracking how American’s prefer chunky tomato sauces. Moskowitz told Prego to make chunky sauces, and a grand success was born.

However, according to the investigative journalist Michael Moss, Prego didn’t just make its sauces chunky. The company made them sweet. “Many of the Prego sauces — whether cheesy, chunky or light — have one feature in common: The largest ingredient, after tomatoes, is sugar,” Moss wrote recently. “A mere half-cup of Prego Traditional, for instance, has the equivalent of more than two teaspoons of sugar, as much as two-plus Oreo cookies.” When I was growing up, my mother used to buy Aunt Millie’s, but once I she picked up Prego for some reason. I can still remember being stunned by how sweet it was.

So, we look for sauces without sugar, and “Jar-Sauce” night is a usually reliable meal. There is only one catch to the “Jar-Sauce” night: You have to have the jar sauce in the cupboard.

The other night, I came home to make dinner, and there wasn’t any sauce in the house. I had some pesto for the children (they prefer that, anyway), but I still needed dinner for myself. Santa Maria was headed out to dinner that night, so I turned to an old recipe for red sauce that I really love.

The trick to this recipe is not adding sugar, but to add butter. I don’t know how the idea came to me, but I thought of it a long time ago. Apparently, it’s a much older idea than I realized, for in researching this post I found a link to Marcella Hazan’s “Amazing 4-ingredient” sauce, and that one is amazing, I’m sure, because it is nearly all butter.

My recipe is a bit more healthy than Hazan’s—I use about equal parts butter and olive oil—and it is extremely delicious. The other secret—besides the butter—is to carefully sweat the onions. You don’t want them to brown, but you do want them to be completely soft and clear. They become quite sweet that way. This doesn’t take long. I made the sauce in the time it took to boil water and cook the pasta, wash the lettuce for the salad, and set the table. It’s almost as easy as opening a jar.

(Mostly)- Empty-Pantry Pasta Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 can peeled-plum tomatoes (28 ounces), chopped (or hit with a hand blender)

Heat the oil and the butter in a heavy-bottomed pan.

Sauté the onion gently until it is completely translucent, being careful not to brown it.

Add the tomatoes and reduce.

Serve over pasta of choice. 


Cracking the Salmon Code: A Recipe to Silence a Crying Child

After years of searching, I finally cracked the salmon code. I have definitive proof, based on a sample size of one, that there is a recipe for salmon that will silence a crying child. Yes, that is correct: It will turn tears to laughter, I guarantee it. I can’t claim any genius in this regard, but I can point to a convenient intersection of common sense and applied knowledge. More plainly put, I used an herb butter. A lot of an herb butter, that is.

We have long been in the habit of eating wild Alaskan salmon, and because of what’s available to us and our budget, that has tended to be a frozen, leaner cut of salmon. As I now know from my good friends at the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, the state is home to five wild salmon species: king, sockeye, coho, pink, and keta. That list roughly describes their richness, moving from the mouthwatering king to the less luscious keta. Keep in mind that all this salmon is delicious, but in my family my kids have been in the habit of eating wild keta at home and, typically, a farm-raised, über-fatty salmon when they are at their grandmothers. Ask them any day which they prefer, and they’ll say “grandma’s.”

It’s my preference, for reasons of health, well-being, and environmental sustainability, that we eat wild salmon from Alaska, and because I’m the one doing the cooking, that’s what they typically get. What I usually get is some grumbling before they eat it, though they always do eat it.

Tonight, for various reasons that I can’t explain (and even if I could, they probably wouldn’t be interesting—haven’t you ever gotten busy with work?) I had a nice fillet of salmon lingering in the fridge that I had defrosted a few days ago. I was going to cook it Thursday. Then I was going to cook it Friday. We were out last night, so that left tonight. The salmon couldn’t wait any longer.

Given that it had been sitting around for a few days, I was a bit worried about how it would smell and taste. I have to say, though, that even three days after being defrosted, it was clean and crisp smelling. There wasn’t a hint of fishy odor. They must freeze those fillets the moment they are cut.

Knowing that I was going to cook some slightly-old salmon, and knowing who I was going to cook it for—my volatile  kids—I softened about four tablespoons of butter well in advance of this evening. (Truth be told, I’ve been softening that butter since Thursday.)

I shook a good bunch of dried thyme into it, and mashed it about. I put the fillet on a piece of foil on a baking sheet, and I turned up the edges of the foil to catch any melting butter. I slathered the herb butter on the fish and I broiled it close to the flame for about five minutes—until it started to brown on top and get sufficiently attractive—and then turned the flame off and let the fish cook through in the hot oven, about four or so more minutes. Your fillet might be a different thickness than mine, and you should adjust cooking temperatures accordingly.

Because of work deadlines and other responsibilities around the house, I was cooking dinner tonight much later than I would have liked. With a six-year-old in the house, that can make a big difference. My youngest was exhausted by the time dinner was on the table, and she was crying inconsolably, saying quite emphatically that she wasn’t hungry, she was tired, tired, tired, tired.”

Santa Maria put her on her lap and let her taste the salmon. She was skeptical, but she took a bite. Her face lit up with smile. “That’s yummy,” she said. She liked it so much that when some dropped on the floor, she picked it up and ate it. Now if that isn’t proof of a good recipe, I don’t know what is.

Smiling Thyme-Butter Salmon

  • 1 salmon fillet (figure about 6 ounces per person)
  • 1-4 tablespoons of soften butter (depending on how much fish you are cooking)
  • 1-3 tablespoons of dried thyme (ditto)
  • Salt and pepper

Put the fillet skin-side down on a sheet of foil atop a baking sheet. Curl the edges of the foil up to catch any melthing butter.

Mash the herbs into the butter and spread it thickly on the fish. Salt and pepper the flesh.

Broil under a high flame, close the flame, for about five minutes, or until the top of the fish is browned.

Finish the fish, if necessary, by leaving it in the hot oven (turn the flame off) for a few minutes. The fish is cooked when the color of the flesh changes and it flakes. Watch it carefully, and you will see.

Note: The fish this evening was supplied by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institue, but all opinions are mine.


Rainbow Trout Surprise

I’ve hit my stride as a home cook, but this success has come at a price. I often make the same things over and over (much like home cooks through the ages) and I've become so good at some of them, I can't get my kids to eat anything else. Worse, I find myself not willing to try something new, not because I might fail at making it, but I might fail at getting anyone to eat it.

This came up for me the other night. It was a Friday, and I had told the kids we'd be having Bolognese. It's one of my favorite end-of-week meals. It's easy (at least the defrosting, heating, and serving part is easy) and everyone loves it, perhaps a bit too much.

That Friday, I was meeting a friend for coffee in the morning, and he surprised me with a cooler full of rainbow trout. He had been fly fishing earlier that week, and he wanted to share his bounty. The stream he had been working was fully stocked, he said, and the fishing was so easy that he imagined hourly workers under the water putting the hooks in the mouths of the fish.

I grew up around seafood—having worked in a retail fish market through much of my adolescence and beyond—and for me, the operative word is “sea.” I’ve mostly been a salt-water man, and I haven’t eaten much fresh-water fish. The trout was new to me, but it made Santa Maria think of her childhood. When she was a girl, her brother used to fly fish for trout near where she grew up, and they had wild trout fairly often. She grew misty eyed while eating it the other night.

Nina and Pinta, who will jump at almost any fish, didn’t want to even try the trout. It wasn’t really their fault, and it certainly wasn’t the fault of the fish. It was the fault of the Bolognese. Short of serving ice cream for dinner, there’s nothing that can trump that sauce right now in the minds of my children, and they weren’t going to fall for a bait and switch. They wanted the Bolognese, so I ended up serving that, and cooking up the trout. I didn’t mind: at least it was something new.

Simple Butterflied Wild Trout

  • 2 wild trout, butterflied 
  • a bit of olive oil
  • a bit of dried thyme

Spread the trout on a baking sheet, flesh side up. Dress with a bit of the oil and the thyme and some salt and pepper.

Trout 2

Put under the broiler about five or so minutes, until the head and any exposed skin is a bit charred and the flesh just barely cooked through. 

Trout 3

Note: fresh fish like this doesn't need much. The less done to it, the better. Same is probably true for kids.

Weeknight Linguine alle Vongole? It Can Be Done!


I often get asked some variation on the following: “What’s a good fast meal for a quick dinner?” And the answer I’ve always given is to plan ahead. With the right ingredients around, there are many recipe options that can be done in about a half an hour.

Planning ahead, though, has its shortcomings. What if you plan ahead, and then the world doesn’t cooperate. Or what if when you’re planning ahead, you happen to be tired? Or worse, still, full of energy, ambition, and hope? In that case, you might plan on doing too much, which gets me around to how we ended up eating linguine alle vongole on a weeknight.

Now that spring is here, and the folks at Blue Moon Fish are back in business at the Grand Army Greenmarket, I’ve switched into my warm-weather routine of getting flounder, porgy, or clams on the weekends. I planned on having porgies last Saturday (they’re perfect for fish tacos—something I need to blog about here next chance I get because I’m sure you’ll love them, seriously) and linguine alle vongole on Sunday.

The thing I didn’t plan on was being out of the house on Saturday evening. Ironically, I was leading a panel on dads and cooking at the Food Book Fair, and I wasn’t able to be home cooking. I punted and had Santa Maria serve everybody Bolognese and pasta.

So I had the porgy tacos on Sunday and that left the clams for Monday. Linguine alle vongole doesn’t strike me as a weeknight dish, but I’ve learned a new trick that can transform almost any dish into a weeknight quickie. I might sound like an infomercial salesman, but I’m not kidding. Here’s the secret: do the time-shift shuffle and take care of the prep work before it’s time to cook. That way, putting the dish together doesn’t take much time at all.

I washed the clams and parsley and other herbs the night before. Had I peeled and sliced the garlic then, too, I would have saved even more time. When I came home Monday night after working all day and was then facing the GET-THE-DINNER-ON-THE-TABLE-BY-6:30 deadline, I was in good shape.

Linguine alle vongole is a quick dish, provided you do the pre work ahead of time. It was a real treat for a weeknight, and it’s nice to know that such delights can be put within reach of the working man.

Weeknight Linguini alle Vongole


  • Enough pasta for three to four people
  • Three dozen of the smallest little neck, or other hard-shell clam
  • One chili pepper or a good shake of crushed red pepper
  • Three or four cloves garlic, sliced in half lengthwise and then sliced thinly
  • One cup or so of white wine
  • A handful of fresh parsley, washed and minced (do in advance)
  • A few leaves of basil, washed and chopped (do in advance)
  • A few sprigs of mint, washed and chopped (do in advance)


        Put a pot of water on to boil

        Scrub the clams well (do in advance)

        As soon as the water boils, salt it and start cooking the pasta, and then proceed to other steps.

        Heat some olive oil in a stock pot.

        Add the garlic and the pepper.

        Cook just a few minutes.

        Add the clams, the herbs, and the white wine and cover.

        Cook until the clams open up, just a few minutes (give the pot a good shake every so often).

Have Faith: Coriander and Cumin Cornmeal Crusted Pork Chops

I didn’t get a chance to post anything here last week because I was very busy with work. I have a couple of freelance articles that have been taking up my time, and I have a few additional professional concerns that haven’t taken up much of my time, but have sapped my mental energy. Then, of course, I have my family, which manages to do both at once—eat up my time and energy. So as I promised, I’m doing a short post on how to feed a family in time of extreme work stress. I will start with the most important point: Have faith that you can do it.

I was recently reading Mark Nepo’s “The Book of Awakening,” and it explained faith to me in a way that suddenly made sense. He talked about a man being thrown into water. If he doesn’t have faith that the water will hold him up (i.e., if he doesn’t believe—and know—that he can swim) he will panic and the water—which by no stretch of the imagination is supposed to be able to support anyone—will engulf him, and he will certainly drown. Of course, there was that gentleman way back when who had so much faith he could walk on water, but I’m just talking about getting dinner on the table, so it’s that much easier.

So if you’ve been cooking for a while, just have faith that you can do it. And if you’ve been reading this blog for a few years, you’ll have a load of ideas at your fingertips: use your freezer, plan ahead, stock your larder.

Here’s a new one: Coriander and Cumin Cornmeal Crusted Pork Chops that I threw together the other night. (In all fairness, if you want a thoroughly vetted, tested, and food-approved recipe, try one of the Cook’s Illustrated ones; they get paid for creating recipes that work—I just do it to survive.)

I always have cornmeal on hand, for my cornbread recipe, and I decided to dress up my standard (read: boring) weeknight pork chops with a bit of flavoring. Maybe it was the alliteration, or maybe it was the aroma, but either way I decided to combine coriander and cumin and dress up my pork chops. I didn’t measure, and I don’t think you should, either. If you’re under pressure at work, with your family, in life, or for whatever reason, don’t sweat the details. Just have faith, and feed your self and your family well.

Coriander and Cumin Cornmeal Crusted Pork Chops

  • A good couple of shakes of cornmeal (maybe three or four tablespoons)
  • A couple of shakes of dried coriander (maybe a tablespoon)
  • A couple of shakes of cumin (about the same as above)
  • 1 to 3 pork chops, boneless, depending on how they are packaged (figure 6-8 oz. per adult, 3-4 oz. per child; less if they are picky eaters, which is an easy way to save money.)

Spread the cornmeal on a plate, and add the spices, along with some salt and pepper.

Mix them well with a fork.

Take each pork chop and place it in the cornmeal mixture until coated well. This is not a perfect coat, and much will fall off, and that’s okay. It’s a weeknight, and you are busy, remember?

Heat a cast-iron or other thick-bottomed frying pan on a medium high heat, and add a bit of olive oil.

Place the pork chops in the pan and keep the heat on medium low. Cover the pan, and depending on the thickness, cook for about three to four to five minutes. Don’t worry about browning them at this point. With thick chops, my concern is more about cooking the interior before browning the exterior.

Flip the chops and cook another four or five minutes on the other side.

If necessary, flip them back and brown them on a higher heat.

They are done when the interior temperature reaches 145.

Let them rest a few minutes while you get the rest of your meal—or your life—in order. Here's how it will look:


Crispy Chorizo, Quinoa, and Sweet Potato Salad

Sometimes cooking can be so easy that it boggles my mind. Take tonight’s dinner, for example. I simply brought together something from a new recipe and added it to an old recipe, and voila, I had a smashing new dish. Okay, it wasn’t completely, 100% new, but, then again, what actually is new? Is anything?

I took the crispy Chorizo sausage from my friend Aran Goyoaga’s sublime Brussels sprouts, sausage, pear, and black quinoa salad, and added it to my sturdy old sweet potato and quinoa salad. It was that easy.

The result was satisfying and delicious. I’ve always liked my quinoa salad, but I often felt it didn’t have enough heft. The Chorizo solved that problem on two accounts. It added a touch of spice and it added a huge hit of protein. Easy, I’m telling you. Go try it, and see for yourself. You’ll be happy you did.

Crispy Chorizo, Quinoa, and Sweet Potato Salad

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
  • 1 large sweet potato, scrubbed
  • 1-4 links of chorizo sausage, depending on how many servings of salad are desired.*
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • ¼ of a red onion, minced
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • olive oil
  • white wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the quinoa in 2 cups of water as you would cook rice, about twenty minutes. Set aside to cool.

Cut the Chorizo sausages in half lengthwise, and then cut into ¼ inch thick half moons. Add a little bit of oil to a large frying pan over a medium-high heat and crisp up the sausages on one side. Flip and crisp on the other. Drain on paper towels and set aside.

Chop the sweet potatoes into small squares, about a half inch each. Coat with a tiny bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, and spread out on a baking sheet or in a large frying pan and roast in the oven until the potatoes are soft on the inside and slightly crispy on the outside, about twenty to twenty-five minutes.

Toss all the ingredients, including the sausages, and dress with the oil and vinegar.

Notes: Dress only as much of the salad as you would like to eat in a given sitting. The remainder of the salad will keep for days, so long as it is not dressed before consuming.

*Crisp up only as much Chorizo as you might like to consume in that setting. Figure one to two sausages per person (though that’s what I eat, and I eat a lot more than most folks).

This recipe makes about five to eight servings of the salad, depending on how large each serving is. Just keep in mind that it makes a lot of salad.

Making a Silk Purse Out of a Sow’s Ear

It’s back to school time, and not just for the kids. On Monday, I started a course in personal financial management—something I need to learn a few things about—and as it was an evening course I arrived home after it late and hungry. I had intended to eat prior to the class, but I got busy at work and had to run for the train, and barely got to the classroom on time. The dinner I had taken with me—a few slices of leftover pork loin and some cold rice—remained in my bag until I returned home that evening. It was not a very inspiring meal, and frankly it would have been downright depressing on its own. But I got lucky.

Once, a while back, Pinta happened to be sick with a stomach bug and I whipped up a homemade soup for her using just chicken stock and rice. After class, I borrowed the same idea and made a kind of poor-man’s wonton soup. No wontons, but pork and rice and that rich homemade chicken stock. The key ingredient—and here’s where I got lucky—was a single scallion that I found in the refrigerator. I sliced it up and added it to the soup. It gave it a touch of green, and just the right bite. With a little salt, I was all set.

The lesson here: keep a few good ingredients—chicken stock, scallions, cooked rice (which you can always keep in the freezer)—on hand, and you’ll never lack for a good meal—last night I could even have made the same soup with slices of hard-boiled eggs. I wouldn’t have won any awards for cooking a meal like that, but, then again, I wouldn’t have gone hungry either.