Most every home cook has a particular approach to the weeknight meal. Some of us are really into doing ahead. Slow cookers are their thing.
On the other hand, unless we're whipping up goodies for a dinner party, others of us can't bear the thoughts of starting supper in the wee hours of the workaday morning so it'll be ready at dinner time. (And we certainly don't want to deal with it the night before.) Indeed, the only challenge we're willing to take on in the morning is figuring out what to remove from the freezer to thaw for later.
It is the latter group we address here in our project du jour. In other words, we present a small compendium of dinners (main and side dishes included) that can be ready in about 30 minutes. And that are relatively healthy to boot.
A simple stir fry centered on flank steak, with carrots and sugar snap peas added, makes a yummy meal. The "hard" part is prepping the ingredients. Then the fun begins. Cook the rice while you're prepping the stir-fry elements.
We almost always serve stir-fries with pineapple chunks, either fresh or canned in their own juice. If you want to do an Asian style salad, use iceberg lettuce, some cucumbers, carrot shreds, grape tomatoes and a sesame vinaigrette.
Serve some green tea in little cups; the kids'll like the "grown up" offering.
P.S. Despite the fact that we tend to think of flank steak as a cookout staple that we have to marinate for a while before showing it to the grill, when thinly sliced on the diagonal before being cooked, this cut of beef can be quite tender. Unless we overcook it. Fair warning.
6 cups cooked brown rice and quinoa (see package directions)
1 pound flank steak, cut diagonally across the grain into thin slices
3 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce, divided
1 cup reduced fat/sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup beef consomme
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
1 1/3 cups thinly sliced onion
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger root
1 teaspoon minced garlic
4 cups sugar snap peas, trimmed, sliced lengthwise in julienne pieces
1 1/3 cups shredded carrots
In a bowl, combine steak and 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce and toss to coat.
In another bowl, whisk together the remaining tablespoon soy sauce, chicken broth and beef consomme, hoisin sauce and cornstarch. Keep handy.
In a wok or large non-stick skillet, over medium high, heat sesame oil. Add steak mixture, in two batches and sauté about 1 and one-half minutes, until lightly browned. Remove first batch to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm. Repeat with second batch of steak, sauteing it in juices in pan.
When steak is browned, add onions, ginger and garlic to skillet and saute 2 minutes, stirring often. Add sugar snap peas and carrots and saute 2 minutes longer. Return steak to skillet and saute 30 seconds. Stir in broth mixture and bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute, or until slightly thick, stirring constantly. Serve immediately over cooked rice. Makes 6 servings.
Turkey is quick to cook and while more flavorful than chicken, still amenable to a variety of ethnic approaches. Here, we use a quasi-Spanish theme, which we're also going to serve with rice.
You can find soffit in the Tex-Mex section, probably from Goya. Soffit is a flavoring sauce that has annatto seeds as its base. The seeds are sauteed in oil, then removed, leaving behind a red coloring to which chopped onions, green peppers, garlic and other herbs are added. The sauce is used to flavor meat dishes; like this one.
Serve this entree with the rice (which you cook while prepping the ingredients for the turkey dish) and a tossed salad featuring avocado. Or with green beans sauteed with chopped tomatoes and garlic.
6 cups cooked jasmine rice, kept warm
1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup ground cumin
2/3 cup water
5 teaspoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons capers, drained
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 (6-ounce) jars prepared soffit
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
Additional parsley sprigs or cilantro, garnish
In a large, non-stick skillet, over medium high, cook ground turkey, breaking up chunks, until browned. Stir in raisins, oregano and cumin. Cook about 3 minutes, stirring often. Stir in water, vinegar, capers, olive oil, sofrito and parsley. Cook 6 minutes. Stir in cilantro and cook 30 seconds longer. Serve immediately over rice. Garnish with parsley or cilantro sprig. Makes about 6 servings.
We do like capers. And lamb, which may not be your family's favorite. If you prefer to use pork chops, get thinner, quicker-cooking ones. You'll probably only need 6 pork chops as opposed to the 12 lamb chops called for here.
Serve the chops with a side of pasta. Add steamed asparagus with lemon butter. Treat the grown-ups to a rose or Beaujolais nouveau.
12 (4-ounce) lamb loin chops, trimmed
1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2/3 cup chopped onions (store bought is fine)
2 teaspoons minced garlic
3/4 to 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed with mortar and pestle or placed in a plastic bag and pounded with a meat pounder or the side of a rolling pin
2 tablespoons capers
2 cups canned diced tomatoes, with or without herbs
Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper (and a smidge of salt if you must) over lamb chops; have them at room temperature.
In a large, non-stick skillet, over medium high, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add 6 of the lamb chops to skillet and cook 2 minutes per side until lightly browned. Remove to a warm plate and tent loosely with foil to keep warm. Add remaining oil to pan and heat. Brown remaining 6 lamb chops and remove to plate under foil.
To skillet, add onion, garlic and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper (plus a little salt if you feel the need) and saute 2 minutes. Add crushed fennel seeds, capers and tomatoes to pan. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 3 minutes. Return lamb chops to pan, cover and simmer gently for 4 minutes longer or to desired degree of doneness. Makes 6 servings of 2 chops each.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun