So what have we been eating? All the usual: protein + vegetable + bread. That's our dinner formula, and it has served us well through late nights in the office, hosting guests, and now having a toddler and a baby to take care off. Here are some sample dinners:
- Bluefish and green beans
- Rack of lamb and beets
- Steak and spinach
I am sure someone will point out that my 20 minute meals are not particularly egalitarian. Not everyone has access to fresh fish, not everyone can afford a rack of lamb and halibut for dinner on regular basis, not everyone's kids are willing to eat spinach, and not everyone wants to get their floor splattered every night while searing. Let me save you the trouble and accuse myself of being an elitist snob. There. Now everyone feels better. If Gourmet magazine was accused of such snobbery, I am in good company. Despite what Rachel Ray wants you to think, there is no one-size-fits-all quickie meal. Everyone has their concerns and limitations. But if the following applies to you, I think my quickie meals might fit you better than Rachel Ray's:
- you have access to decent fishmongers and butchers (or even Whole Foods)
- you have a good bit of money to spend on food
- you are concerned with tastiness and healthiness of your meals rather than calorie per dollar ratio
- you don't mind getting the kitchen a little messy
- you like to learn basic cooking principles rather than follow the recipe
If you want to give this a shot, here are some tips:
- Bread freezes very well. To avoid going to the store every day to buy fresh bread, but a ton, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze. Take it out in the morning before going to work and you'll have bread ready for dinner.
- If you are very concerned with your floor getting greasy, buy a drop cloth (like the ones you use when painting a room) at home depot and put it in front of your stove when searing.
- Learn to test proteins for doneness. This makes or breaks your meal. If your protein is 1/2 inch thick or thinner, it will be done by the time you brown both sides. If your protein is 1 inch or thicker, you'll need to start or finish it in the oven. Here are some tips on doneness and basic cooking principles for fish, chicken breasts, chicken legs, tender cuts of meat (this applies to beef, lamb and veal). For tender cuts of pork, use the same principles as for beef, but slow roast to a slightly higher temperature of 115F before searing.
- You will need good cookware and a meat thermometer, but I warned you -- this is for people who love to cook.
- What proteins go with what veggies? In my opinion, all proteins go with all veggies. So I could reshuffle the above ingredients and serve green beans with lamb, and beets with bluefish, and nothing terrible would happen. Of course, some combinations work particularly well, but it's not worth worrying about when trying to put dinner on the table on a Tuesday night.
P.S. The plate in the picture was one of our dinners last week. It's a salad of watermelon radish (sliced on a madoline), honey crisp apples and parsley. We dressed it with lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper; then topped it with leftover salmon.