A Dinner Pas de Deux

June 11th, 2012 · 7 Comments · Dinner, Quick, Rituals, Seafood, Sides, Salads, Soup, Vegetarian

It’s rare that we find ourselves in the position of having to execute a Saturday night dinner while the clock is ticking — as I’ve mentioned before, we like our weekend meals to be all-day affairs —  but this was the situation we found ourselves in a few nights ago. We had just spent six hours shuttling our two ballerinas back and forth to their recitals and because the girls’ mother (yours truly) had hastily prepared snacks for the marathon (two walnut-sized apricots and a Ziploc of trail mix), we had two starving performers on our hands when we finally walked in the door at 8:00.

The choreography for dinners like these is so rehearsed we barely even have to discuss who plays which part: Andy turns his attention to the main (frying some fresh flounder we had picked up at the farmer’s market earlier) and I focus on the sides: some leftover barley salad from the night before (page 245 of my book) and an Asian-inspired slaw I had been dreaming about all through Abby’s Tarantella. And after about 20 minutes of pas de bouree-ing around each other, we all sat down for the second big show of the night.

Asian Slaw
This slaw is in danger of becoming the only salad I will make all summer. It’s so clean-tasting and healthy and can be turned into a meal in its own right by tossing in some shrimp or shredded chicken. It goes faster if you can buy pre-shredded cabbage, but if you can’t, just do your best to slice the head as thin as possible.


3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon brown sugar
salt to taste
1 teaspoon fish sauce (available at Asian specialty stores and better supermarkets)
lime juice from half a lime
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger (crucial)
1 drop of hot sauce (or 1 tsp minced jalapeno or serrano chile)
1/3 cup neutral oil like grapeseed or vegetable oil


2 to 3 large handfuls of shredded red cabbage
half a handful of shredded baby spinach
1 handful of shredded carrots
1 handful raw sugar snap peas (trimmed and chopped)
1 bunch (about 5-6) scallions, white and light green parts only, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
handful of chopped peanuts (optional) to taste

In a large bowl whisk together all the dressing ingredients. To the same bowl, add all salad ingredients and toss until combined. If you are afraid your kids won’t touch it, separate out the components you are sure they will like and reserve some dressing for them as a dip.

Reminder: Tell me your favorite part of the book (not on this page, but through the official contest survey) and be eligible to win some pretty awesome prizes. You have until July 9 to enter so get reading!

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7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Kimv // Jun 11, 2012 at 8:36 am

    Jenny – I love your book!!!! My standard bday present for my friends for the next year!!! Are lives are very similar – I have three boys 10,8 and 6. I love to cook and read cookbooks. When you write about the girls as toddlers it brought back alot of memories – we too ate after them but always with them. Those were some exhausting years – three kids in 4 years!
    Learned a few things from the book although I feel like I have been reading your blog for awhile(since you had a article in Real Simple appear about it….) Anyhow, after I lived in NYC, I moved to San Fran in my late 20s and met my husband there and well the food scene there changed my life – I even went to cooking classes there. My oldest is my best eater(I made his babyfood!) and the rest are coming along…..we too always have something on their plate that they eat(any sort of carb and any kind of fruit!) We also do glows and glums at the table(our dear friends Gina and Carlton who have three girls the same ages helped us introduce that one- when we go on vacation together its like the brady bunch!) It is amazing to me how many people just sort of give up in terms of cooking their kids good food – I always have looked at it in terms of a challenge. Got a Vitamix last year and smoothies have helped our breakfast routine and one thing you didnt talk about is what you pack the girls for lunch to take to school. Also, wanted to thank you for your book recommendations – my oldest Max and Phoebe read alot of the same books – she should try the series Inkheart(she should not write a book report on this on – just about killed me I was searching the internet to be sure what Max was telling me was right(he was). Lots of characters but completely engrossing! Also, the Beyonders and the Fablehaven series. If you ever want to come to Raleigh, NC please let me know. Would love to host a book party for you – the local book store is Quail Ridge. Also, in the 25th Anniversary of Silver Palate cookbook check out Linguine with Tomatoes and Basil(it has brie in it) it is SO YUM as my six year old Owen would say. Also, I love Giada DeLaurentis cookbooks – her recipes are simple and ALWAYS delicious (if only now I could look like her). My other favorite cookbook that never disappoints is New Basics Cookbook by Rosso and Lukins(Corn Chowder is SO easy and crowd pleaser – it has bacon!) also love the cookbook Mad Hungry Men – that was bday cookbook last year! Well – I know we are not friends but feel like we are! Best of luck to you but now time to start my day!

  • 2 Nancy // Jun 11, 2012 at 9:11 am

    We had a slightly less ambitious Asian slaw with our turkey tacos on Saturday night. Love TJ’s bags of shredded cabbage!

  • 3 Sarah // Jun 11, 2012 at 9:50 am

    This looks absolutely delicious! Going on my must-make list for next week!

  • 4 mommylisa // Jun 11, 2012 at 10:50 am

    I love slaw – I love ginger – I must make this.

  • 5 Hannah // Jun 11, 2012 at 11:42 am

    I love that you two have pre-assigned parts in the hurry-up dinner routine. I need to think seriously about this – I spend too much of my hurry-up time feeling flustered about timing and snippy when Kyle asks what he can do. More like a poorly performed pas seul than a beautiful pas de deux ;) This is a good reminder that it is actually helpful to have help! Oh, and the slaw looks amazing. We make something similar but without the ginger – that will be on my shopping list for next week.

  • 6 Carrie Z // Jun 11, 2012 at 5:00 pm

    Question – what kind of fish sauce do you use? There were numerous choices and I didn’t know which one to pick. Any help is appreciated!

  • 7 Tara // Jun 12, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    Tried this salad tonight and it was great! Came together so quickly, even though it looks a bit chopping intensive. You don’t need a lot of any one thing so it really flies by. I used cashews instead of peanuts and basil in place of cilantro. Will definitely make this again.

    We have a similar division of labor. My husband is usually in the saute station while I do lots of prep and side dish work.

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