Dinner’s ready! Our most inventive weeknight meals for spring, ready in 30 minutes or less
Written byAmy MachnakMarch 5, 2010
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Photo by Iain Bagwell
1 of20Photo by Iain Bagwell
Grilled Chicken Pita Salad
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.
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. eachkosher 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.
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.
Chicken Burgers with Caramelized Shallots and Blue Cheese
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.
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.
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.
Photo by Iain Bagwell
7 of20Photo by Iain Bagwell
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Photo by Iain Bagwell
13 of20Photo by Iain Bagwell
Sweet and Sour Pork
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.
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.
Photo by Iain Bagwell
14 of20Photo by Iain Bagwell
Grilled Eggplant Naan Wraps with Tahini-Yogurt Dressing
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.
Preheat broiler. Rub 4 bone-in pork chops (2 lbs.) with 1 tbsp. vegetable oil. In a bowl, combine ½ tsp. eachground 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. Keep warm.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Photo by Iain Bagwell
18 of20Photo by Iain Bagwell
Chinese Roast Duck Noodle Soup
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.
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.
Photo by Iain Bagwell
19 of20Photo by Iain Bagwell
Sesame Shrimp with Cucumber-Soy Salad
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.
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.