You would think a single AC unit would be sufficient for cooling the sort of diminutive New York City one-bedroom for which I am currently overpaying. But, alas, despite racking up what is sure to be a reprehensibly reckless utilities bill, it’s still at least a billion degrees in my apartment this week, so we’re eating a little lighter: less meat, less heat, and nothing that needs to be cooked day-of. Okay, fine, it’s all plants, but mastering staples like a good Caesar dressing will make them much more appealing.
Grocery store additions:
Pantry staples you probably already have (but should add to the grocery list if you don’t):
White wine vinegar
In keep with the intended spirit of this column, virtually all of the cooking for this week can be done ahead of time. Yay! Still, certain things can be made further in advance, and with fewer instructions.
You’ll need a couple servings of rice, made according to whatever box or bag instructions you usually follow. See, that was easy! and economically savvy, too.
Hard boil, oh, six eggs, according to this vintage Foodspin, and take time to appreciate Burneko’s exacting instructions. You might not think that waiting a week for the albumen to dislodge from the shell will make much of a difference, but you’ll think differently once you’re struggling with your fifth egg, desperate to peel at least one without mangling the whole situation.
Whenever you first start meal planning for the week, put together the spicy pickle mix so it can steep for as long as possible. Tailor a combination of sliced cucumbers, garlic, salt, jalapeños, and enough white wine vinegar to cover the whole mixture to your tastes and let it sit at least overnight. These will be potent! Feel free to omit the jalapeños for an equally flavorful pickle with a little less heat. (The garlic alone gives it plenty of kick.)
If you promise not to prejudge this slaw, it’ll revolutionize your understanding of raw cabbage. It’s substantial and satisfying without any of the weird unctuousness of more mayo-heavy coleslaws (half a cup for 8 cups of cabbage goes a long way). I subbed yogurt for the sour cream in concession to a dish you’re making later this week and jalapeños for serrano peppers because when I tried using the latter this happened. Go ahead and make the whole big batch—it lasts at least a week and it’s great on tacos or burgers or, in this case, minimalist burrito bowls.
The star of Monday’s lunch is chorizo—make sure to get the raw, cooking kind and not the sliceable cured stuff. Either one is delicious but you want to end up with something resembling ground meat. Saute at least two links of chorizo removed from the casing in a little bit of olive oil. When it’s fully cooked, remove half and reserve for later in the week. Add a generous glug of salsa to the skillet and stir together with the remaining chorizo to create a flavorful, saucy mixture.
Keep the chorizo, rice, and slaw separate for storing purposes and reheat the rice and chorizo together and top with cool slaw when you’re ready to eat.
Whenever you do the bulk of your cooking for the week, roast beets by wrapping them individually in tinfoil and baking for about an hour at high heat (450 degrees should do it). After letting them a cool a bit, marvel at how easy they are to peel just by rubbing them with a paper towel. Grate the peeled beets into a vibrant pile of fake gore. Stir the beet bits into a couple of cups of yogurt and season with garlic, lemon juice, and salt. This will not only keep, it’ll grow increasingly pink the longer you let it sit, which is neat.
The beet yogurt makes an incredible late afternoon snack with crackers or pita or any sort of carbs you can get a hold of, so I encourage you to bring the whole lot of it into your office to store in the fridge and mildly freak people out with its bubblegum color. But on Tuesday, you’re serving this as part of a Mediterranean-inspired rice bowl with the spicy pickles we made over the weekend and a sliced hard-boiled egg.
A confession: I originally labeled this esquites as elote, which it is specifically not, since elote refers to corn on the cob while esquites is the same corn cut off the cob. Why am I bothering you with this Spanish lesson? Because if, like me, you instead took French in high school (and remember none of it anyway), elote might be a more meaningful reference. The Mexican street corn flavors that you’re emulating are more often seen in elote form at street fairs, which is delicious but not very desk-lunch-friendly.
Regardless of what you call it, cook several ears of corn—on the grill if you can stand the heat, or steamed on the stovetop if you’re in a rush. Cut the kernels off the cob and mix with scallions, jalapeños, cilantro, garlic, lime juice, a few tablespoons of mayonnaise, chili powder, and a crumbly Mexican cheese. (I used cotija but a queso fresco will also work.) And that’s it. It’s delicious and perfect just as it is, but to make it more meal-worthy, we’re topping it (either cold or reheated) with the leftover chorizo from Monday.
The story of this Caesar salad is that I recently waited two hours on a weeknight for a table at a trendy West Village restaurant and ultimately deemed the whole thing worth it based on the salad alone. True, by then I was famished, but have you had a really good Caesar salad recently?
Since even a really good Caesar salad is primarily just lettuce and dressing, the quality effectively comes down to whether or not you’re willing to make your own dressing. And you should! Because Bon Appetit knows what it’s talking about, I followed this recipe almost exactly, swapping out the vegetable oil for more olive oil. The anchovies are nonnegotiable.
You can bake bread in the oven for croutons if you have that sort of forethought, but they’re easily duped just by toasting a couples slices of quality sourdough in your office toaster day-of and then cutting them into crouton size.
It only takes a couple of key additions for this egg salad sandwich to put the cellophane-wrapped piles of texturally homogenous mush available at the corner bodega to shame. First of all, you followed Burneko’s hard boiling instructions, so your eggs are solid but not chalky or over-cooked. And instead of squishy white bread, you’re using the same substantial sourdough from Thursday’s croutons to provide heft and structure.
Mix your chopped eggs with with a restrained dose of mayonnaise, mustard, scallions, salt and pepper. Layer it on some toasted bread and top with the now-super-spicy pickles for crunch and a serious kick.