We all could use a little dinner inspiration — even Ali Slagle, who dreams of dinner. In “Dinner Is Served,” she asks colleagues about one night when they somehow transformed ingredients into dinner with all this life going on. This month’s installment: Even the Barefoot Contessa struggled to make dinner every single night during the pandemic. In her new — thirteenth! — cookbook Go-To Dinners, she shares her new take on dinner. It could be breakfast, or lately, a plate of roasted vegetables.
[Dinner is] usually last minute because I’m testing recipes all day, so to go home and start cooking dinner is not so easy to do. I don’t like testing a recipe during the day and then eating it for dinner. It’s like, I am so done with it by the time I’ve tested it three to four times. So dinner at our house is pretty simple.
I always make roast chicken and it’s just the simplest thing in the world. You end up with an entire dinner because you can use whatever seasonal vegetables are around. This time of year there are squashes and little onions and great things you just get from the garden. But I mean roast chicken … everybody makes roast chicken.
One of the things I learned during the pandemic was getting dinner on the table every night was really hard. [This new cookbook] is all of the things I learned about getting dinner on the table without so much stress, like making too much of something like roasted kielbasa, [then] using leftover kielbasa to put into a pea soup. So it’s not leftovers, it’s something completely different.
Also dinner doesn’t have to be such a rigid thing. It could be a great Gruyere omelet and a big green salad. It could be a lunch board with ham, cheese, jammy eggs, bread, and celery.
During the pandemic, we started really shaking up what we felt like was dinner: It could be breakfast. I love making roasted vegetables with jammy eggs on top. It doesn’t really feel like breakfast or dinner, it just feels like a really satisfying meal. And it’s [something different] as opposed to a meat, a vegetable, and a starch. You just get so sick of all that.
For my go-to roasted vegetables, all the vegetables can be cut up before and you can refrigerate them in a plastic bag. Then you just transfer them to a sheet pan with olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast them. I usually do pretty high heat for vegetables, between 400 to 425 degrees so that the sugars in the vegetables caramelize. To make the jammy eggs, put eggs into barely simmering water for 6 1/2 minutes and then peel them, and then you just put them on top. When the vegetables come out, I put a bit of the herb butter on them and mix them around so the fresh herbs really flavor them. And then you’ve got dinner.
I make a lot of herb butter at one time and just have it in the fridge. I use whatever herbs I have, like dill and scallions and garlic and parsley. I always have rosemary. And I like a little edge, so I put a bit of lemon zest in it. It’s salted butter. But then I add salt. I’m a salt freak. I think salt makes everything taste good and people are terrified of salt and it’s crazy.
This interview was condensed and edited for clarity.
Ali Slagle is a recipe developer, stylist, and — most important of all — home cook. She’s a frequent contributor to the New York Times and Washington Post, and her cookbook is called I Dream of Dinner (so You Don’t Have To): Low-Effort, High-Reward Recipes. Daniela Jordan-Villaveces is a creative director and illustrator. She was born in Bogotá and raised between Colombia, Holland, and the U.S. She currently lives in sunny Los Angeles with her husband, their son, Lou, two kittens, and a pup.