Save the Nancys With Your 30-Minute Specials
This one’s dedicated to my editor, Nancy, who loves to cook but recently lamented rarely having time to do more than carry out sushi for supper. And it’s dedicated to another Nancy, my dear friend and a full-time mom in the Midwest who confessed to me she’d like Santa to bring her a kitchen genie this year. Short of that miracle, she’ll take a handful of quickie dinner ideas to keep hope (and the domestic peace) alive.
Time. We always seem to be running out of it or looking for more, except when it comes to dinner, for which there is none. By sundown, we’re either wrung out, beaten down or just too tired to lift a spatula. You know what happens next -- dinner in a bag or a box.
For a while, dinner on the run can be fun, but it gets tired, salty and expensive real fast. Just ask the Nancys. They’re so over dinner that the Jetsons-style meal-in-a-pill is beginning to sound tantalizing.
But before they place their Internet orders for capsulated cuisine, I’d love to have a word.
Whaddya say we give dinner another chance, and we do it the old-fashioned way, with plates, cutlery and at least 10 minutes of chewing? Here’s what I’m thinking: I set you up with 10 quickie meal ideas that take about 30 minutes, start to finish, and you’ll pick one to humor me. By dinner time, I’m pretty sure my very resourceful band of MA readers will have contributed a plethora of ideas to keep dinner interesting for week, maybe months, and who knows, you just might be overwhelmed with choices. And then, imagine, dinner will no longer be a four-letter word. It’ll be a reason to wake up in the morning.
Pasta Puttanesca: Because plain ole red sauce is, well, plain. This one gets a briny zip from anchovies and olives (even capers if you like), and plenty of chili flakes for heat. Hate the little fishies? Leave ’em out.
Canned tuna or salmon with extra five minutes of your time: Take the canned fish to another level with a few teaspoons of sesame oil, and soy sauce, a teaspoon of Dijon and a small red onion, diced. Terrific with a few boiled potatoes and your favorite salad greens, or on a few pieces of toasted crusty bread.
Joe’s Special: So much better than his Sloppy cousin. Ground beef gets seasoned with garlic and onion in a skillet, then joins forces with chopped spinach and a couple of beaten eggs. The whole thing turns into a makeshift pie without the crust, a cozy one-skillet number that needs little attention.
Savory purees: A less daunting word than soup, particularly if you own a stick immersion blender, which makes pureeing a breeze. Two of my favorites are sweet potato (Boil three peeled sweet potatoes, quartered, until fork tender. Puree, using cooking liquid, until smooth, add a chipotle chile in adobo sauce, smidge of honey, a squeeze of ½ lime.) and the self-pureeing red lentils.
Caesar salad, sans bottle: Once you try this at home, you’ll never want to order a Caesar at a carry-out shop ever again.
Grilled cheese, a little greened and fibered up: I’m thinking a black bean quesadilla, enriched with a cool weather green such as spinach, kale or chard. Warm up a can of beans, seasoned with a chopped onion, some garlic and if you like, the heat of a chile. Reduce beans a bit to eliminate liquid. Spoon onto a tortilla or roti skin, add meltable cheese of choice and plenty of chopped greens. Cover with another tortilla, then place on a baking sheet and into a 400-degree oven. Bake until somewhat crisp and cheese is melted, about 8 minutes. Brown under broiler for 1-2 minutes if that’s an option. Cut into wedges and serve with your favorite salsa.
Ad hoc noodle bowl: I prefer Asian noodles, but spaghetti will do in a pinch. While noodles are boiling, stir fry any of the following: chopped bok choy, carrots, peppers, snow peas, seasoned with garlic, ginger, chiles, shallots, soy sauce and sesame oil.
Do-ahead weekend projects that will come in handy during the week:
Make a pot of rice, refrigerate, then fry it in a wok with veggies and a fried egg for another rice bowl option.
Roast a bunch of peppers, peel and cover with a shallow layer of olive oil and use to dress up a bowl of penne, canned white beans, rosemary and goat cheese, an omelet, pizza dough or a bunch of wilted spinach.
And when all else fails, make hummus. It takes seven minutes, teams up with practically any raw veggie in the crisper (apples and pears, too!) and is cheaper than that box of cereal you had your eye on.
Now it's your turn; share your tried-and-true quickies and save the Nancys.
And while you're at it, talk to me today at 1 ET for this week's What's Cooking.
By Kim ODonnel |
October 28, 2008; 8:13 AM ET
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