When my niece secured a great job with New York chef extraordinaire, Mario Batali , I had no idea who he was. In the ensuing years, I have become aware of his fame and fortune. But it wasn’t until I heard an interview with him last week on NPR’s “America’s Test Kitchen” that I became a true fan.
For me, the climax of the interview was when host Christopher Kimball asked Mario to offer a few basic concepts for the busy parent looking to prepare simple, healthy, easy dinners for their family. Even if you heard the interview, Mario’s rapid fire response during drive time may have been missed, so I repeat it here for you to savor slowly.
“When you go shopping, start on the outside of the store,” Mario begins. “You’re looking for 2-3 vegetable dishes and one protein. Start in the Produce Department.”
He tells us to choose any vegetable that’s fresh and in season, ( I may have added that proviso) that you can cut into 1-2” inch cubes and roast with a little olive oil, salt, and herbs of your choice, in a 450 oven for 30- minutes. We’re talking carrots, turnips, pumpkins, potatoes, parsnips — “anything that you can cut into a cube.”
“Use those very same vegetables the next night” he suggests. “This time for a very different taste and texture, make thin julienne strips or shred in a food processor so they look like hash browns. Add oil, lemon juice, salt and your favorite herb. Maybe cilantro.”
Your raw dinner feature is a leafy green salad.
For protein, Mario advises us to look for what looks best and is probably on sale. For more expensive cuts of meat, fish, and chicken, you’’re going to braise, sear, or broil for just a few minutes until barely cooked through. If you have time, the fatty, less expensive, more flavorful meats will require cooking for 45-90 minutes.
“I always marinate whatever meat I’m preparing for about half an hour with vinegar and herbs.”
At the conclusion of Mario’s speed talking wisdom, Kimball says “that’s the best response I’ve ever heard to this question. That was actually useful…”
I agree. I hope you find it useful, too.
Theodora Wilner, MA, HC, RYT, a recent graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, offers Wellness workshops and presentations, and coaches active older adults who are seeking to reclaim their health, reduce their cravings, and restore their energy. www.wilnerweb.com