The car smelled like dirt from the potatoes.
I had just picked up my CSA vegetables and was stuck in the middle of rush hour traffic. As I stared at the car in front of me, the earthy aroma propelled my brain into recipe mode…
By the way, most of my recipes are conceived in the car. I spend about 90% of my time shuttling the boys to the ends of the Earth and there’s only so much Disney radio I can take (I ♥ you Taylor Swift). On this particular afternoon, I imagined an herby potato salad, green bean salad with beets & vinaigrette, and crispy swiss chard cakes.
It sounded dreamy, yet seriously exhausting. Who am I kidding? I’m lucky if I can even get the vegetables in the darn fridge!
But I learned, with a little clever planning, that it can be done…
The idea is to do all your prep in one pot.
For the recipes in mind, I had to work in batches. First, I boiled the potatoes in a large pot of salted water. I scooped them out using a small pasta strainer. Then, I re-used that same water to blanch the green beans, followed by a hefty bunch of swiss chard. With regards to the swiss chard, I didn’t bother washing it first as I knew the sand and dirt would just sink to the bottom of the pot (yes, really!). I just jostled the leaves with tongs to make sure. I did however, chop up the stems and leaves into bite-sized pieces for convenience.
Finally, the beets went in last since they take the longest to cook and subsequently, turn everything an alarming shade of magenta. While they were boiling, I used that time to clean up.
After my prep was done, I had planned to make the recipes that same day. But I had to pick up the kids from school (surprise!) so that went out the window.
The following day, I made these swiss chard cakes inspired by Ottolenghi’s genius book, “Plenty.”
And only 5 ingredients!
Simply combine blanched, chopped swiss chard with 1 egg, 1/2 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs, and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese. Mix well, adding more breadcrumbs if it seems too wet- it’s just like making meatballs. Then shape and flatten into 8 cakes, and pan fry in olive oil until crispy. I like to serve these with fresh lemon wedges.
Incidentally, I brought a few over to my cousin’s house for dinner and they taste even better (in my opinion) after they’ve been re-heated at 400 F. They get super crispy on the outside while the center stays soft. These are the perfect remedy when you run out of swiss chard ideas.
Here’s my herby potato salad…
…on the lighter side.
I sliced the potatoes into rounds, and them tossed with red wine vinaigrette, fresh basil, mint and sun gold tomatoes.
And last but not least, the green bean salad with beets & vinaigrette…
It’s sweet, tangy, crunchy, refreshing- I could live on this, easily. To keep things simple, I used the same vinaigrette from the potato salad which compliments the sweet flavor of the beets. It was topped with cubes of salty feta.
Overall, the whole vegetable prep process took about 1 hour.
Sure, I could’ve used several pots to speed things up, but just picture all that steam! All those pots! I’ve done that before and it’s too much back and forth, drain and strain… back and forth, drain and strain… ugh, exhausting. This one pot method suited me just fine with less stress, less mess and felt very satisfying. Assembling the recipes the following day was a breeze because everything was already prepped.
What are your time-saving shortcuts? Feel free to comment below!