At some point this summer, if you are invited to an outdoor cookout, one of the guests will inevitably bring The Rotini Salad.
You know The Rotini Salad I’m talking about. It’s the one with the boiled white spiral noodles, chopped bell peppers, maybe some cucumber, and a slick sheen of storebought Italian dressing. The pasta, overcooked and coated in cheap oil, evades the tines of your plastic fork, causing you to chase it all over your plate. The taste, after you finally stab a bite, makes you wonder how this bland, slightly chemical-flavored dish ever installed itself as a traditional American picnic dish.
It’s time to do better.
Jamie Oliver is tired of your complaining.
“I hear it all the time: I don’t have the time to make meals at home. It’s an excuse—plain and simple,” he says.
The chef, cookbook author, and founder of Food Revolution Day (today, May 17) says that you can make healthy, tasty, inexpensive meals at home in less time than it takes to grab a greasy bag of fast food from the drive-thru.
You are allowed to order pizzas for a party on one of two occasions.
Occasion #1: The attendees are under the age of 16.
Occasion #2: You screwed up the food you were supposed to prepare.
For all other occasions, calling delivery pie signals that you’re dialing it in. it’s the easy out—especially during summer, when your grill can help feed more people quickly due to its high heat.
Lettuce on the grill? Okay, your skepticism is warranted.
Won’t the heat cause the leaves to burn and wilt? Actually, if you use hearty romaine lettuce, the hot grill grates will only singe the leaves slightly, imparting them with a subtle charred flavor.
Won’t it taste boring? Well, not if you use the following recipe, which pumps up the traditional Caesar dressing with two types of heat—chipotle peppers and Tabasco. Plus, you also top the salad with grilled avocado and grilled croutons. It’s spicy, garlicky, cheesy, crunchy, and creamy all in one.
Where’s the protein? This salad tastes great on its own, but, sure, it would also work well with grilled shrimp, steak, or chicken, too.
Ed Schoenfeld, co-owner of RedFarm
in New York City, often grabs a few cartons of rice before leaving his restaurant. He’ll let the rice chill overnight and then, for lunch the next day, chop an onion, some additional vegetables, and whatever cooked protein he has hanging out in the fridge. It’s usually something like bacon or chicken, but Ed’s even cooked fried rice using leftover corned beef and pastrami.
That’s the beauty of fried rice. Anything goes. And anything in your fridge that needs to go (and is still edible) can be saved by a quick stir-fry in the skillet or wok.
When a restaurant breaks up with you, it hurts. You know the feeling. Your favorite taco truck tweets that it’s wheeling to another town. Your go-to pizza joint changes ownership and the pies miss that certain something.
What did you do wrong? Was it something you said? Will that dish you loved ever return?
In an odd love triangle, I watched this happen to my girlfriend. She fell in love with a dish called “drunken man noodles” from a local Thai restaurant. Her loyalty to this spicy, garlicky, salty dish impressed me. Despite my urgings for her to try something else, despite the sodium-induced thirst that followed, despite the indigestion—she’d return to the drunken man.
By this point of the summer, you’ve likely grilled your way through the major proteins: beef burgers, pork chops, chicken breasts, hot dogs, shrimp. To stave off grilling boredom, maybe you’ve even dabbled in some experiments. As a griller, this fatigue of the flame can dishearten—but it is not incurable.
All it takes is one unsung protein, one decadent dish to make you rekindle your love affair with your grill. That protein, that dish, is grilled duck breasts with cherry jus, created by Victor Scargle, executive chef of Lucy Restaurant & Bar in Yountville, CA.
Once, during a particularly bleak period of my young adulthood, I was a vegetarian.
My self-imposed dietary restrictions were for health concerns, not humane ones. After finding relief for my ailment that didn’t include refraining from meat, I ate a steak.
I still remember that steak. If I close my eyes, I’m chewing it. If I concentrate, I can feel that carnal, soul-satisfying feeling of being restored as a meat-eater.
As a supermarket shopper, you’re used to eating whatever produce you want, whenever. Want strawberries in December? Go for it! Peas in February? Sure, what the heck. Seasonality, schmeasonality.
But if there’s one time of year you should pay attention to what’s fresh, it’s right now. This is the moment for peak tomatoes—a type of produce that those off-season varieties can’t match. A summer tomato is plump, juicy, and bursting with bright flavor. A tomato at any other time of the year is meager, mealy, and tasteless. It’s Batman versus Batman & Robin. It’s Born to Run versus Human Touch. It’s a Mustang versus a Focus.
It takes cojones for a chef to create a fish taco that doesn’t depend on a deep fryer. Most restaurants lean on batter to give what’s usually a bland whitefish more taste and texture.
That’s the lazy way out. If you put a little more time an effort into the process, you can make the best fish tacos you’ve ever tasted at home.