Keep it simple: one Frenchwoman's secret to the effortless meal

Published on Thu Sep 02 14:35:00 UTC 2010
Penelope Wall

Keep it simple: one Frenchwoman's secret to the effortless meal

How would you define an “effortless meal”? For me, it’s the embodiment of simplicity in every way—from the food to the taste to the feeling it evokes.

The first time I came to appreciate the truly effortless meal was in my early twenties. I was living with a French family in Paris. Madame B, super-busy mother of three teenagers, raced around the city all day, waltzed into the kitchen around 8 p.m., and yet still whipped up a 4-course dinner out of thin air in minutes, landing effortlessly at the table with a graceful smile on her face. Her meals were a joy to consume—another factor in the effortless meal.

Related Link: Get 20 ideas for truly effortless weeknight meals

One night I was literally knocked off my chair by a salad made up of nothing more than fresh greens and a light, homemade vinaigrette. Madame B took a small nibble and said to her son in her easy French way, “It’s missing something. Jean, run out to the veranda and snip some basil.” The basil is what put the salad over the top. It was my epiphany: can such a fantastic meal really be that simple?

Related Link: Simple Summer Salads

Ever since then, my inspiration in the kitchen has been to do as Madame B would do: to keep things as simple and as easy as possible, to use the freshest ingredients and let them do most of the work for you. These dinners, paired with fresh summer produce, do just that so you can get out of the kitchen fast and enjoy a healthy meal with your family.

Grilled Pizza with Pesto, Tomatoes & Feta
This pizza is wonderfully simple and features some of my favorite summer flavors, including basil. For convenience, use prepared pizza dough, found in most supermarkets, and pesto from a jar.
Effortless meal: Serve with a simple green salad and a glass of crisp white wine.

Mustard-Crusted Salmon
This updated French dish makes a simple dinner any night of the week. You might want to consider doubling the batch and using the remaining salmon in a tossed salad the next day.
Effortless meal: Serve with wild rice and steamed summer veggies.

Simple Roast Chicken
There's no reason to get overly fussy with complicated techniques when a flavorful, rich and simple roast chicken, the ultimate comfort food, is this easy to prepare.
Effortless meal: Serve with roasted carrots and mashed potatoes.

Grilled Steaks Balsamico
A simple marinade of pureed dried figs and store-bought balsamic vinaigrette adds intense flavor to steak.
Effortless meal: Serve with brown rice and grilled cherry tomatoes.

Pork Chops au Poivre
Turn your dining room into a French bistro when you dress up pepper-crusted pork chops with a rich, creamy brandy sauce.
Effortless meal: Serve with roasted sweet potato slices and green beans.

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