I feel like I crossed a milestone this month.
I have begun…to meal plan. And not just scribble down a few rough ideas on the back of an envelope on my way out the door to the market, either. No. I’m sitting down (at my coffee table, so don’t take me for too rigid a woman), for about twenty minutes, on Sunday afternoons and thinking about recipes. It’s something I did years ago when I lived in Philadelphia and then in Seattle — something I was much better about when I was also better about budgeting and wearing non-yoga pants more than three times per week, but now, I’m getting back into the swing of things.
The recipes, you’d think, would be the easy part. What am I in the mood for? But think of those times when someone asks you to name your favorite books…or your favorite movies…and how you draw a complete and utter blank. It’s kind of like that with the recipe ideas. So to keep me from the same ol’ “…uuuhhhh….taco salad?” song-and-dance, I’ve come up with a system of saving the recipes that I find online during the week in a Google Doc, and then using that to narrow down my list.
All through the work week, whenever I find a recipe on a blog (or Pinterest, or anywhere, really) that looks and sounds absolutely delicious, I just quickly copy the URL and paste it into a document or, for Mac/iPhone users — into NotePad, because the two sync. You could also Pin it, if you’re active on Pinterest, but I don’t know, Pinterest really makes me feel all the feelings, and none of them are anything but absolutely drowning in overwhelm. Point is: at the end of the week, you simply go through all the recipes you’ve collected, and pick out the ones you’d like to make. It’s a little work in advance, and it pays off.
This dish is part of my third full week of meal planning. It follows all of my meal planning guidelines. According to, well OK yes, just me, the recipe must be:
1. Healthful (in accordance with my own personal standards, which are admittedly not crazy daisy high, but are reasonable, flexible, and realistic). In general, I like to cook in a wholesome, light way at home. I reserve the more over-the-top, extra-cheesy, ooey-gooey meals for restaurants — unless I’m entertaining.
2. Prep to plate in under an hour. This, unless I’m making something on a weekend, is entirely reasonable. Most meals that I make Monday through Friday can be prepared in thirty minutes.
3. No crazy ingredients. None of the recipe ingredients can be things that I wouldn’t use for at least five other recipes that I can think of off the top of my head. OR, if I do need an exotic spice, I MIGHT be more likely to buy it IF I can buy it in a smaller quantity at the bulk spice bin at Whole Foods — which, by the way, was a genius invention.
4. Budget-friendly. This is something that I’ll focus on MOST of the time. Say, 98% of the time. There will be weeks when I’m going to buy the $15/lb salmon or the $16/lb sea scallops, so I’m just basically preparing both of us mentally and emotionally now.
So. About this dish. Took me long enough to get here, didn’t it?
White bean puttanesca. WITH GARLIC BREAD. It was inspired by two things: 1.) Chicken Puttanesca in a Foil Packet — a recipe in the latest issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine, and 2.) The garlic bread that I ate at Buca di Beppo on Saturday night. Was I interested in the Puttanesca? Of course, sure. Was I interested in creating a saucy something-or-other in which to dip garlic bread? Next question.
I chose to use cannellini beans here because they seemed to be more cost effective and much faster to cook with, and I love the way that they combine with the kalamata olives, artichokes, and diced tomatoes texturally to form a bean salad of sorts. I wanted to say hot bean salad, but that doesn’t sound so good, does it? The sauce for all of this is made simply from onions and lots of garlic sautéed in olive oil, and a can of undrained diced tomatoes. It’s bright and slightly salty in that lovely Mediterranean way olives are, and made a teeny bit briney from the addition of capers.
The garlic bread is as straight-forward and perfect as when my mother used to split hamburger buns, lay them open face on a baking sheet, butter them to high heaven, and then broil them until the tops blistered. This time, though, I used garlic-infused olive oil. A halved baguette, cut into five-inch sections, brushed with oil, sprinkled with red pepper flakes and oregano, and then baked. I obviously burnt mine about a million times, then burnt my hands. Then the oven door fell off — true story. Then I took these photographs anyway, and ate this meal sitting in Sabrina’s room on the floor where I took the photographs. Isn’t that precisely the way it would go?
Hope you’re well, friends!