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: What do you eat for dinner when you’ve been cooking (and dishwashing) all day long? Justine Doirion, the star content creator behind Justine Snacks, repurposes work leftovers for a summery, quick meal that requires little clean-up.
In the summer, everyone is going hard on tomatoes, or zucchini, or eggplant, but my fiance and I really like peppers. So this recent dinner we had peperonata left over from some content I worked on. It needed a protein and I didn’t want it to be eggs again, and I don’t eat red meat and my fiance’s not a big bean guy…which is a huge pressure point in our relationship. So we steamed halibut on top of the soft, sweet peppers.
For the peppers themselves, I pick them up from the Grand Army farmers market. I’m a big Grand Army Plaza farmers market girl. It’s a small market compared to the Union Square market, which overwhelms me. I forgot the farm’s name but they were like, we have lemon basil, we have Thai basil, and we have Italian basil, and I was like, this is too much responsibility for me to look into.
I used a mixture of sweet bell peppers in all colors because in the summer, when you get the full rainbow, it’s hard to resist. I also picked up cherry bombs, which are a small hot pepper that I don’t think are too hot. I get red pepper flake fatigue so if I can ever sub out red pepper flakes for another form of spicy, I go for it.
I will dabble in the green bell pepper. Do they get the bad raps because they’re bitter? I don’t see the problem, especially when you’re cooking them down really slowly, which is what we did for this dinner. I think they add a nice break from the sweet peppers.
Peperonata is a very simple recipe because the Italians know what they’re doing. Sliced onions go in first, and then sliced peppers, and then you cook that for like 13 to 15 minutes in a lot of olive oil. My biggest mistake when I was a newbie cook was that I just skimped on the oil and I was like, why is cooking vegetables so sad?
Then I add in garlic and chopped capers, and then it’s usually a mixture of whatever herbs I have on hand. Every day my end mission is to use at least a handful of herbs — otherwise they all go bad. This time, I added parsley. And then I finish it with three tablespoons [of red wine vinegar]. It needed a lot to make everything not feel heavy. And then I poached the fish on top. I had some halibut in the freezer that I got from Alaska, so I just threw that on top and it took like twenty minutes. It was a good one.
Nine times out of 10, the content that I make is my dinner because I live in a household of two and all my recipes are scaled to four. The issue with being a singular content creator and not having a media conglomerate behind you is that to test your recipes, you’re then left with a lot of food, and food waste is my biggest pet peeve. People try to pretend there’s no food waste in our industry and that’s just a blatant lie. I do the due diligence of testing my recipes twice and then nine times out of 10, I don’t have to think about dinner because my fridge is full.
This is cocky to say but some meals I make for work I wish I could eat every day for the next seven days, so the leftovers kind of satiate that. And then by the time I’m done with the leftovers, I never want to eat it again.
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, Colombia, and raised between Colombia, the Netherlands, and the U.S. She currently lives in sunny Los Angeles with her husband, their son, Lou, two kittens, and a pup.