As the days get busier, we can all benefit from new ways to streamline the cooking process. Starting a meal from scratch each evening can often demand more time and brain-power than we’re able to spare. But, we do still prefer a fresh and warm meal over leftovers, round 4. The strategy we’d like to present today is called component cooking. We first learned about it from Erin of Naturally Ella, and have been fans ever since!
The theory is that of building blocks – you’ll prep a few basic staples in large batches to use in different combinations throughout the week. A good way to go is to prepare a green, a vegetable, a grain, a protein, and two sauces. (The sauces are key! These will take a combination of simple ingredients and turn them into flavorful meals.) You’ll need to have some other groceries on hand to fill out each meal, but with these components on hand, you’ll significantly reduce the amount of time you spend cooking dinner.
Here is a guide to cooking the components to make three meals for 2 hungry people.
WHAT TO BUY
- 5 small-medium zucchini
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 bunch lacinato or dino kale
- 1.5 cups dry brown rice
- 1 bunch each fresh parsley and cilantro
- 1 jar roasted red peppers
- 2 large avocados
- 6 corn tortillas
- 1 jar salsa
- 1 pizza crust, or 1 ball pizza dough
- about 1 lb. fingerling potatoes
- 6-8 oz. mozzarella cheese
WHAT ELSE YOU’LL USE
- extra virgin olive oil
- red wine vinegar
- salt & pepper
- red pepper flakes
- almonds, toasted
- hazelnuts, toasted
- tomato purée
- smoked paprika
- cayenne pepper
WHAT TO PREP
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Chop zucchini, and toss with extra virgin olive oil to coat, salt, and pepper.
- Roast for 22-25 minutes, until zucchini is tender with sections of golden brown.
- Add chicken breasts to a saucepan and add just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook for 10-12 minutes, until meat is no longer pink. (You can also skip this step and shred a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken.)
- Transfer to a bowl, allow to cool, and shred chicken with two forks.
- Remove thick stems from kale, tearing leaves into pieces.
- Add to a bowl and add 1-2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil and sea salt.
- Massage the kale with your hands for 1-2 minutes, making sure to coat each leaf with olive oil. Continue until kale is tender and bright green.
- Cook rice according to the directions on the package. Use a rice cooker if you have one!
- 1/4 cup each finely minced parsley & cilantro
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk together until well combined. Let sit for 20 to 30 minutes before serving.
adapted from Bon Appetit
- 1/4 cup each toasted almonds and hazelnuts
- 1 large roasted red pepper
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/4 cup tomato puree
- 2 tbsp. fresh parsley
- 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper
Pulse all ingredients in a food processor or small blender. Purée until the sauce is well blended but with some texture remaining. Add additional salt and pepper to taste.
WHAT YOU’LL MAKE
Here are our three suggested meals to make with these components:
Green-Powered Grain Bowl
Warm up about 1/2 of the shredded chicken, 1/3 of the roasted zucchini, and 1.5 cups of the cooked rice. Toss chicken in a generous amount of the chimichurri sauce.
Assemble the bowls: start with a layer of rice in each bowl, then divide chicken and roasted zucchini between the two servings. Add some of the massaged kale and top with more chimichurri sauce, sliced avocado, and fresh lime juice, as desired.
Chicken Chimichurri Tacos
Add about half of the shredded chicken to a bowl and stir in 1/3-1/2 cup salsa. Heat some extra virgin olive oil in a cast iron pan, add the chicken, and cook until warmed through.
Heat up about 1 cup of the cooked rice and about 1/3 of the roasted zucchini. Warm up 6 corn tortillas.
Assemble the tacos by layering rice, zucchini, chicken, and chimichurri sauce, topping with sliced avocado, additional salsa, and fresh lime juice as desired.
Romesco Potato Pizza
adapted from Erin Alderson
Preheat the over to 450°F.
Slice the fingerling potatoes into 1/4″ slices, add to a saucepan with about 1 inch boiled water, and blanch for 4-6 minutes, until slightly tender. Drain water and toss with romesco sauce to coat.
Layer a pre-cooked pizza crust with romesco potatoes, mozzarella cheese, and roasted zucchini. Cook in the oven for about 15 minutes. For the last 5 minutes or so, add the kale and bake until crispy.
Slice and serve, topping with parmesan cheese and extra virgin olive oil as desired.
If you have any leftover components, you’re in luck! These building blocks are all endlessly versatile and repurposable. Frittatas, pastas, sandwiches, baked potatoes… all are fair game! We hope you see the beauty in component cooking. Happy cooking, and share your ideas and creations with us on social media @CAoliveranch!