Here we are, on the 179th or 971st day of the pandemic (who knows?), and we’re still cooking through it. We are tired, though—burned out, really—and we’re guessing you are, too. So we wanted to ease your decision fatigue for the week to come and put together a super-flexible—and truly easy—meal plan that will give you a break from having to figure out what to cook for dinner.
We’ll be cooking along on Instagram all week, starting on Monday, September 14, and we’d love to hear from you if you decide to join us, whether it’s for just one night or the whole shebang. Just tag us @epicurious and hashtag #easiestweekever.
Day 1: A cheese plate and something green
Master recipe: Just cheese! And Everyday Greens Salad
What we have today is a hard reset. No cooking, except for (maybe) whipping up a simple salad.
Gather some bread or crackers, one or two or three of your favorite cheeses, and call it dinner. If it makes you happy to add olives or nuts or cured meat or fish, do. If that’s too much fuss and expense, don’t. A dinner that’s just cheese—really, just cheese!—can feel freeing.
If you need a little inspiration for the green part of the meal, follow the salad recipe above. Or ignore it and pair whatever salad greens (and herbs) you have with the easiest-possible vinaigrette. (Start with 2 parts oil and 1 part vinegar and/or citrus, taste and adjust as desired, adding mustard, a sweetener, or garlic/shallots if you want.)
Swap the cheese… for a can of white beans dressed in some olive oil and garlic and piled on bread. Or leftover roasted vegetables whizzed into dip in a blender. An assortment of cheeses just too much to deal with? A big bowl of whipped ricotta (or cottage cheese) with figs or tomatoes or greens or crispy beans on top is another great way to go.
Swap the salad… with any vegetables you have in the house, simply steamed and dressed in a vinaigrette. Or served raw. Sliced apples or plums are a nice partner for the cheese too. Or just open a jar of pickles.
Day 2: Breakfast for dinner
We sometimes think of this as a kid-pleasing move, but the truth is, everyone feels better when dinner is French toast. Or pancakes. Or creamy eggs. Pick your favorite and consider putting on your pajamas early. We’ve highlighted a sweet and a savory option above.
Swap the challah: Any rich bread will work. Brioche is nice.
Swap the spices: Switch the cinnamon out for ginger, cardamom, or pumpkin pie spice.
Swap the milk... for any liquid dairy (cream, half-and-half) or dairy alternative (coconut, almond, or oat milk.)
Swap the maple syrup… for honey, jam, or fresh fruit macerated in sugar.
Swap the spinach and artichokes… for any leftover cooked, chopped veg; or raid the freezer and pantry to see what you’ve got. Canned chickpeas and frozen cut okra? Great. Jarred red peppers and frozen corn niblets? Sounds good to us. Find more frittata ideas here too.
Day 3: A dressed-up can of beans
Master recipe: Black-Eyed Pea Salad With Hot Sauce Vinaigrette
Legumes can be great even when it’s hot out and you don’t feel like cooking. (Or when it’s not hot out and you don’t feel like cooking!) And they’re especially great when they’re tossed with a super-flavorful, tangy vinaigrette and a few odds and ends from the crisper drawer.
Swap the black-eyed peas… for any canned bean, or if you’re an overachiever: black-eyed peas or other legumes cooked from dried.
Swap the cider vinegar… for sherry vinegar, rice vinegar, or red wine vinegar; or lemon juice.
Swap the cucumber… for another crisp vegetable like celery, radishes, or fennel.
Swap the tomatoes… for plums, if you have them, or add a little more heat with sliced pickled peppers.
Swap the dill… for any fresh herb, or just leave it out.
Day 4: The quickest pasta
Master recipe: Pasta With 15-Minute Burst Cherry Tomato Sauce
One upside to cooking right now: It’s the very best time for tomatoes, especially the littlest ones, which are packed with flavor and savory-sweet. That’s probably why we’ve been seeing this recipe trending lately. We get it. We love it. You’ll just boil some pasta, heat a little oil, add garlic, then a few pints of cherry tomatoes, plus pepper, salt, and a pinch of flavor-enhancing sugar. The tomatoes will burst as you briefly cook and stir—that’s how you’ll wind up with a silky sauce. The whole thing comes together in less time than it takes your kids to figure out their passwords to Zearn.
Swap the basil… for arugula, or any mixed tender herbs (any combo of fresh mint, oregano, tarragon, and parsley is nice!)
Swap the Parmesan… for Pecorino, Grana Padano, or toasted breadcrumbs.
Day 5: Herby Rice, Topped With Whatever
Master recipe: Green Rice With Tomatoes, Eggs, and Almonds
We’re still having days that are plenty warm; this herby rice is plenty cooling. Essentially you’re just seasoning a pot of rice with a sauce of fresh green herbs, almonds, oil, lime juice, garlic, and salt. Then you top it with…pretty much anything. Boiled eggs, almonds, and chunks of tomato are an easy, satisfying option.
Swap the herbs… with basil, mint, dill, tarragon, fennel fronds, or spinach leaves.
Swap the rice… with any cooked whole grain or pasta.
Swap the toppings… with cubes of feta, paneer, or soft goat cheese, roasted mushrooms or squash, poached shrimp, or corn kernels and black beans. The almonds can be swapped for smoked almonds or any toasted nut.
Day 6: Foolproof salmon
Master recipe: Slow-Roasted Salmon With Harissa
There’s no easier way to cook perfect salmon than slow-roasting. This version has a warming rub of harissa and a flurry of fresh herbs, but it’s really the method we’re after: a gentle cook with a bit of citrus and plenty of olive oil. Serve with couscous or rice or any grain.
We’re nextovering today! Make extra salmon—just over a third of a pound of additional fish for each person who wants to eat easy lobster-roll-style salmon salad rolls tomorrow.
Swap the salmon… with arctic char, trout, or halibut
Swap the harissa… with any flavor-packed sauce or paste, like pesto, chimichurri, mustard, gochujang, Thai curry paste, or miso. Or skip it, season well with salt, and layer some citrus slices on top of the fish too.
Swap the lemon… with orange slices or a mix of lemon and orange. You can add some rings of onion too.
Day 7: Salmon salad rolls (or sausages) and 3-ingredient cookies
Master recipe: 3-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies
Your salmon from yesterday is begging to be served as a luscious salmon salad, which is just a fancy way of saying: Take your leftovers and stir in a little bit of something creamy. Think lobster rolls but filled with tender slow-cooked fish. No recipe is needed here: In a big bowl, add a few teaspoons of mayonnaise per serving to the flaked fish and stir gently—you can add a bit more mayo if desired, or leave it just lightly dressed. A chopped celery stalk is nice for crunch as is a splash of lemon juice for brightness. If you have chives or scallions, slice in a few. Serve in buttered, toasted split-top buns with potato chips on the side.
This meal is so easy (it’s really just stirring…) that you just may have enough energy to make dessert too. Especially since it’s a flourless cookie whose recipe you could memorize right now: Egg, peanut butter, sugar, and an optional sprinkle of flaky salt.
Swap the salmon salad rolls… with your favorite sausages or hot dogs.
Swap the mayo… with melted (or browned) butter or crème fraîche. Feel free to add a small dollop of mustard as well.
Swap the celery… with chopped fennel.
Swap the chives or scallions… with sliced shallot or tarragon leaves.
Swap the peanut butter… with any nut butter. Cashew butter is a favorite of ours. Tahini works too.
Originally Appeared on Epicurious