Desperation dish

Apparently it was Hippocrates, the same guy who gave us that sacred oath for physicians, who coined the phrase: “Desperate times call for desperate measures.”

Author aside, I’m pretty sure we can all relate to this axiom when we are faced with the culinary challenge of preparing yet another meal on those days when time has somehow slipped away in the chaos of just trying to keep up.

Our mother, Antoinette Vespalec Paolini, certainly had her go-to meal for those days.

And boy, did she need it. In addition to carting around nine kids, tending to their needs and never ending drama, she was active as a journalist, photographer, political rabble rouser, dabbler in antiques, oil painting, rug making and myriad other endeavors. And, yet, she invariably had dinner on the stove and ready to serve at 6:30 p.m.

So what was her go-to meal? She took a passel of potatoes, onions and peppers, chopped them, threw them in a large cast iron pot and sautéed them in olive oil. Then she grabbed an entire package of hot dogs, sliced them into pieces about one inch in thickness and added this to the stew. She seasoned this hearty fare with some thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, a little salt, some garlic and onion powder to boot.

We loved this meal. (Well, I may be speaking more from the boys’ perspective than the girls’). We scarfed this stuff down, with dollops of ketchup.

This is my go-to “desperation dish” when the day gets away from you.

My version of Mom’s masterpiece

I haven’t eaten a hot dog since I don’t know when. But I have come up with a variation on Mom’s desperation dish. I don’t use the cast iron pot (which I inherited and use frequently). Instead, I take a panoply of vegetables — onions, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, mushrooms — basically what ever I have lying around. I cut them into chunks about 1 inch cubed. I place them in a bowl and season with:

  • 2 tbsps of lemon juice
  • 2 tbsps of olive oil
  • 2 tbsps of Dijon mustard
  • A dash of Herbs de Provence

Then I pour this concoction onto a broiler pan lined with parchment paper and lay a few strips of salmon on top of the vegetables. I coat the fish with a little Dijon mustard and a bit more of the Herbs de Provence. Cover with tin foil. Roast this for about 40 minutes. And serve.

You could, of course, substitute tofu for the fish if you’re a vegetarian.

Give it a try!

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