Dinner’s ready! Our most inventive weeknight meals for spring, ready in 30 minutes or less
Prepare grill for high heat (450° to 550°). Rub 2 boned, skinned chicken breast halves with olive oil and cook, turning once, until no longer pink. Slice.
Meanwhile, whisk 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice, 1/3 cup olive oil, 1 tbsp. fresh oregano, and 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper; set aside. Boil 1 lb. asparagus (ends trimmed), cut in spears and halved lengthwise, just until bright green; rinse with cold water.
In a bowl, combine reserved chicken; 4 oz. feta cheese, broken into chunks; asparagus; 2 cups halved grape tomatoes; ½ cup pitted kalamata olives; and 2 cups pita chips. Toss gently with reserved dressing. Add 2 cups baby arugula and toss once just to combine.
Print or save recipe: Grilled Chicken Pita Salad
Use a food processor to chop 3 celery stalks, ½ small white onion, and 1 small fennel bulb.
In a large pot, cook mixture in 1 tbsp. olive oil until softened. Add 1 cup dry white wine, 1 cup water, 1 can (14 oz.) fire-roasted diced tomatoes, ¼ tsp. red chile flakes, and ½ tsp. each kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook, covered, for 10 minutes.
Add 2 cooked crabs (1½ lbs. each), cleaned, quartered, and cracked. Cook, covered, for 5 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with chopped fresh oregano, flat-leaf parsley, and fennel fronds. Serve with warm, crusty bread.
Print or save recipe: Quick Crab Stew in Fennel-Tomato Broth
In a large pot in olive oil, cook 4 chopped green onions and 1 cup Arborio rice until fragrant. In 4 batches, stir in 1 qt. hot vegetable broth and cook, stirring, until each is absorbed and rice is al dente, 20 minutes, adding hot water if you need more liquid.
About 5 minutes before rice is done, add 2 lbs. asparagus, ends trimmed and cut into 2-in. pieces; 2 tbsp. unsalted butter; and ½ cup grated parmesan cheese; cook until asparagus is tender-crisp.
Print or save recipe: Asparagus Risotto
Caramelize 2 sliced shallots in a little olive oil. Set aside. Mix 1 lb. ground chicken, a minced garlic clove, 1 tsp. each chopped fresh rosemary and freshly ground black pepper, and ½ tsp. kosher salt, then form into 4 patties.
Brown in same pan with 1 tbsp. more oil. Serve on toasted kaiser rolls with shallots, lettuce, and a mixture of ¼ cup each mayonnaise and crumbled blue cheese.
Print or save recipe: Chicken Burgers with Caramelized Shallots and Blue Cheese
Cook 4 oz. thin rice noodles as package directs. On a large platter, set out leaves from 1 head butter lettuce; 3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken; 2 peeled, seeded, and sliced papayas; 1 cup fresh mint leaves; ½ cup store-bought spicy peanut sauce; ½ cup chopped roasted, salted peanuts; 3 green onions, sliced into thin strips; and lime wedges.
Put 12 large sheets rice paper on a separate plate. Set out a large bowl of boiling water so diners can dip their rice papers (allow 1 minute to soften), then assemble spring rolls.
Recipe: DIY Chicken Papaya Spring Rolls
Fast & fresh tip: Buy pre-toasted nuts They’re readily available, and pack a lot more flavor than untoasted.
In a frying pan over medium heat, cook 1 chopped small onion and 1 large minced garlic clove in 1 tbsp. olive oil until softened. Add 16 oz. sliced mushrooms and cook until browned.
Add 2 tbsp. tomato paste, 14 oz. canned diced tomatoes, 1 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary, 1 tsp. kosher salt, and 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper. Simmer 10 minutes, then serve over 12 oz. cooked spaghetti. Sprinkle with shaved parmesan cheese and chopped fresh oregano.
Recipe: Mushroom-Herb Spaghetti
Fast & fresh tip: No-brainers Salad-in-a-bag, pre-sliced mushrooms, and pre-made pizza dough are part of the busy cook’s repertoire.
Preheat oven to 400°. Sauté ½ cup chopped onion in 1 tbsp. vegetable oil in a frying pan until softened. Add 1 lb. ground bison* or beef and cook, stirring to break up meat, until no longer pink, 4 minutes. Season with ½ tsp. black pepper.
Spread 4 oz. corn tortilla chips in a shallow baking dish and top with half of meat, 1/3 cup fresh salsa verde, and ¾ cup shredded jack cheese. Repeat layers. Bake until cheese melts and chips start to brown, 6 minutes. Serve with shredded lettuce, sliced avocado, diced tomatoes, sour cream, and salsa.
*Buy at well-stocked grocery stores.
Recipe: Bison Nachos
In a pot, cook 1 sliced garlic clove in a little olive oil just until fragrant. Add 2/3 cup dry white wine, 1½ cups fresh orange juice, ½ cup canned diced tomatoes, ½ tsp. kosher salt, and ¼ tsp. each freshly ground black pepper and red chile flakes; simmer 5 minutes.
Add 2 lbs. mussels in shells and cook, covered, until mussels open. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil and serve with crusty bread.
Recipe: Orange and Basil Mussels
Preheat oven to 350°. Season 4 boned, skinned chicken breast halves with kosher salt, then brown one side of each in oil in a nonstick, ovenproof frying pan. Turn chicken over, transfer to oven, and bake until
no longer pink in center.
Spread a little Dijon mustard on each, then top each with thinly sliced smoked ham and a thin slice gruyère cheese. Return to oven until cheese melts.
Recipe: Chicken Cordon Bleu
Prepare a grill for high heat (450° to 550°). Rub 1 lb. thickly sliced halloumi cheese and 4 slices onion (cut ¼ in. thick) with 2 tbsp. olive oil, then cook, turning once, until grill marks appear.
Cut onions in half. Rinse and pat dry ¼ cup sliced roasted red peppers. Fill 8 pita bread halves with the cheese, onions, red peppers, and ½ cup sliced pepperoncini. Brush outsides of pitas with a little oil and cook, turning once, until grill marks appear. Serve with mixed olives.
Recipe: Grilled Halloumi Pitas
Whisk 2/3 cup red miso* into 6 cups boiling water. Add 2 cups frozen edamame and 1½ tsp. soy sauce. Remove from heat and add 14 oz. cubed firm tofu. Serve each bowl of soup with a few strips of nori and some green onion slices.
*Buy in the refrigerated aisle.
Recipe: Miso Soup with Tofu and Nori
Prepare a grill for high heat (450° to 550°). Combine ¼ cup harissa*; 1 large garlic clove, minced; and ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil; set some aside for serving.
Cut a 1-lb. lamb knuckle or bottom roast into 4 pieces; brush 2 tbsp. of sauce over each. Grill lamb, turning and brushing with a bit of sauce, 10 minutes for medium-rare. Let rest, then slice.
For salad, combine 2 cans (14.5 oz. each) drained chickpeas, 2/3 cup fresh mint leaves, thinly sliced peel from 1 lemon, 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice, ½ tsp. kosher salt, ¼ cup thinly sliced red onion, and ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil. Serve lamb over salad with remaining harissa on the side.
*Buy in the international foods aisle.
Recipe: Harissa Lamb with Lemon Mint Chickpea Salad
Fast & fresh tip: Stock up on canned fish and beans They’re good quality and real timesavers. Canned salmon is a sustainable choice, and many markets now carry sustainable pole- and troll-caught tuna.
In a bowl, mix 3 tbsp. hoisin sauce, 3 tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce, and 2 tbsp. water. Set aside. Heat wok over high heat until smoking. Add 1 tbsp. oil, then add 2 cups sliced bell peppers; 8 green onions, cut into 2-in. pieces; 1 lb. pork tenderloin, cut into strips; and 1 tbsp. each minced garlic and fresh ginger.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until meat browns, 5 minutes. Add 1 lb. fresh pineapple chunks and reserved hoisin mixture, stirring to coat, and cook until warm. Serve with white rice.
Recipe: Sweet and Sour Pork
Fast & fresh tip: Cherry-pick at the salad bar At the grocery store, pack up the exact amount of cut, washed produce you need―like pineapple chunks and pepper slices for this recipe.
Prepare a grill for high heat (450° to 550°). Slice 1 large eggplant into ½-in. rounds and quarter 2 ripe tomatoes. Brush vegetables with 2 tbsp. olive oil, then grill until softened.
Cut tomatoes in half. Whisk together ¼ cup tahini, 1 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt, 1 tbsp. minced garlic, 3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice, and 1 tsp. kosher salt. Top each of 4 pieces warmed naan bread with 1½ cups baby spinach, a few pieces eggplant, 4 tomato pieces, and a spoonful of the yogurt mixture. Roll to eat.
Recipe: Grilled Eggplant Naan Wraps with Tahini-Yogurt Dressing
Preheat broiler. Rub 4 bone-in pork chops (2 lbs.) with 1 tbsp. vegetable oil. In a bowl, combine ½ tsp. each ground cumin, allspice, cinnamon, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper and evenly sprinkle both sides of pork. Broil 4 in. from heat, turning once, until browned and cooked through, about 8 minutes.
Cut 2 ripe (black) plantains in half crosswise and lengthwise to make 8 pieces. Sprinkle cut sides of each with 1 tsp. packed brown sugar and broil until caramelized. Serve pork chops with sliced plantains, warmed black beans, sour cream, a few slices serrano chile, and cilantro.
Recipe: Spiced Pork with Plantains
Prepare grill for high heat (450° to 550°). Combine 2 tbsp. horseradish, 2 tbsp. olive oil, and 1 tbsp. minced garlic; spread half over one side of a 1-lb. flank steak. Lay steak, sauce down, on oiled cooking grate. Spread remaining sauce on top. Grill, turning once, 10 minutes for medium-rare.
Also grill 1 lb. mixed wild and common mushrooms, cut into chunks, for 6 minutes. Set steak on cutting board, sprinkle with sea salt, and tent with foil; let rest. Toss mushrooms with 4 oz. mâche plus olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste. Serve with steak.
Recipe: Grilled Horseradish Steak with Mushroom Salad
Marinate a 1 lb. rib-eye steak in 3 tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce. Broil until done the way you like, let rest, then slice thinly. Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix 6 tbsp. fresh lime juice, ¼ cup Thai fish sauce, 2 tsp. sugar, and 1 red jalapeño chile, halved and sliced thin. Pour half of dressing over 4 oz. cooked thin rice noodles. Add sliced steak and 1 cup mixture of fresh dill, basil, mint, and cilantro leaves. Toss together and top with 2 sliced shallots tossed in flour and quickly fried in vegetable oil. Serve with remaining dressing.
Recipe: Vietnamese Steak Noodle Salad
Fast & fresh tip: Shave, don't pick herbs Rinse bunches of fluffy herbs under water, then hold upside down and shave off leaves with a sharp knife.
Set 2 store-bought, sliced Peking or Chinese barbecued duck breasts* on a baking sheet and warm in a 350° oven.
Meanwhile, simmer 1 qt. chicken broth with 2 crushed garlic cloves and 2 smashed fresh ginger slices, 15 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove garlic and ginger and discard. Add 8 oz. fresh thick udon noodles, 2 cups roughly chopped bok choy, and 1 tbsp. soy sauce to broth; simmer until warmed through. Ladle into 4 bowls. Top each with duck pieces and a drizzle of Asian (toasted) sesame oil.
*Buy from a Chinese take-out restaurant.
Recipe: Chinese Roast Duck Noodle Soup
Fast & fresh tip: Let someone else cook the protein Hit the deli counter for rotisserie chicken, the fish counter for crab, and to-go restaurants for Chinese duck.
Prepare a grill for high heat (450° to 550°). Marinate 1 thinly sliced English cucumber with 2 tbsp. rice vinegar, 1 tbsp. soy sauce, 1 tsp. sugar, ½ thinly sliced red jalapeño chile, and 2 diagonally sliced green onions. Meanwhile, toss 1 lb. peeled and deveined large shrimp in 1 tbsp. each vegetable oil and Asian (toasted) sesame oil. Skewer each shrimp lengthwise through the tail, then grill until pink and grill marks appear. Sprinkle shrimp with 1 tsp.
toasted sesame seeds and serve with reserved cucumbers and cooked sushi rice.
Recipe: Sesame Shrimp with Cucumber-Soy Salad
Prepare a grill for medium heat (350° to 450°). Coat 1½ lbs. fingerling potatoes, sliced lengthwise, with olive oil. Lay a cooling rack on half of cooking grate and spread potatoes out evenly. Grill until brown, turning, then transfer to
a platter and sprinkle with ½ tsp. kosher salt and some chopped flat-leaf parsley. Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine 2 tbsp. chopped capers, 1 tsp. each fresh lemon juice and zest, and 1/3 cup mayonnaise. Rub 4 striped bass fillets (with skin on, about 2 lbs.), halved and skin scored, with 1 tbsp. olive oil and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. kosher salt. Grill
on oiled grate, turning once, until grill marks appear, about 5 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges, potatoes, and caper mayonnaise.
Recipe: Grilled Fish and “Chips”
More spring meals for four, ready to eat in 30 minutes or less: