Wouldn’t it be nice to roll in the door knowing that dinner is going to be on the table in about ten minutes? Wouldn’t it be nice if you even looked forward to the task? This is not a fantasy. All you need is simple food, your skillet, broiler, and microwave. You can cook a meal in ten minutes.
In last week’s TEN MINUTE DINNERS PART I: AN OVERVIEW, I explained how useful it is to know how to make dinner in ten minutes. Whether you need a quick dinner every night or just occasionally, knowing which foods cook best quickly and how to cook them is the first step. The second is practicing. Once you get the hang of broiling and sauteing thin cuts of meat and pairing them with microwave-steamed vegetables, you can get more creative. If practiced often, the ten minute meal will become as second nature as scrambling an egg.
Note: Life can be chaotic and busy. Sometimes, that makes the thought of cooking unbearable. But, if you cook simple meals often, it becomes second nature. The more you cook, the easier cooking becomes. Instead of the albatross you must bear, making dinner can evolve into the most relaxing time of your day. Put on some music. Make a cup of tea or pour a glass of wine. Cook.
Here are four examples of meals that can be cooked in ten minutes or less. The burger dinner is the most basic. In both the sauteed scallop and sauteed chicken recipe, notice how easy it is to dress things up with a simple pan sauce. A little wine or citrus, a little butter, and some herbs can add lots of flavor without much effort. In the last recipe, shrimp and greek style spinach, I take things a little further. Again, without much effort, a few more ingredients can take the simplest dish to new heights.
1. A BURGER WITH GREEN BEANS (AND THE THREE BOWLS)
Keep a supply of meat patties in your freezer. We make burgers out of ground turkey, beef, lamb, and salmon and then freeze them in gallon size freezer bags. Pan-fry them straight from the freezer. Seasoned with salt and pepper, all they need is about 4-5 minutes per side. While you are cooking the meat, thaw buns in the microwave if they are frozen and then toast. Place washed green beans in a microwaveable covered dish with 1-2 Tbsp water. Microwave on HIGH until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain and then drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with the 3 bowls: fruit, raw vegetables and a mix salad.
2. SAUTEED SCALLOPS, BROCCOLI, A BAGUETTE (AND THE THREE BOWLS)
Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet. When it shimmers, add 1-11/2 lbs. paper-towel-dried scallops. Saute on both sides until they are opaque throughout, about 2 minutes per side. Season with salt and pepper and remove to a plate. Squeeze the juice of half of an orange or lemon and then add 1-2 tsps of the zest into the skillet. Add 1 tsp butter and stir until it melts and the sauce is combined. Spoon over the scallops. Serve with a piece of French bread and microwave-steamed broccoli (put broccoli in a microwave safe covered dish and cook on HIGH 3 minutes. Drain and then drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.)
3. SAUTEED CHICKEN WITH BROWN RICE AND WARM GREEN BEANS WITH HALVED GRAPE TOMATOES AND VINAIGRETTE (AND THE THREE BOWLS)
To serve brown rice with a ten minute meal, you will need to precook it on the weekend and refrigerate it. Just reheat the rice in the microwave to serve. To save more time, pound 4 chicken breast halves to an even thickness the day you buy them and then refrigerate. When you are ready to cook, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over MEDIUM HIGH heat. While the oil is heating, dry the chicken with paper towels and season them with salt and pepper. When the oil shimmers, add the chicken. Cook until they are nicely browned on each side and the juices run clear, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the chicken and set aside. Drain the fat from the skillet. Add 1 cup of white wine and bring it to a boil. Using a wooden spoon, stir to scrape up the bits of food that are stuck to the bottom of the pan. When the wine is reduced by about half, add 1 Tbsp or so of butter and swirl. Plate the chicken and spoon some of the sauce over it. In the midst of all of this activity, make your warm green bean salad. First, steam your green beans in a covered microwaveable dish with 2 Tbsp water until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain the water. Toss in halved grape or cherry tomatoes to taste. In a small bowl, whisk 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil +1 Tbsp sherry vinegar + 1 tsp. minced garlic. Pour enough vinaigrette into the green beans to moisten them, toss, and then season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve your meal with the three bowls.
4. SAUTEED SHRIMP AND TOMATOES WITH GREEK STYLE SPINACH (AND THE THREE BOWLS)
Heat a large skillet with 2 Tbsp olive oil and 2 Tbsp butter over MEDIUM HIGH heat. When the butter has melted and the oil is hot, swirl the pan to combine the fats and add 1 1/2-2 lbs peeled and deveined shrimp that have been dried with paper towels. Saute until the shrimp are beginning to turn pink but are not yet cooked through, about 2 minutes. Add 1pint halved grape tomatoes + 1 clove minced garlic and stir about 30 seconds. Add 3/4 cup plain or wholewheat bread crumbs + 1/2 cup minced parsley. Cook until the shrimp are pink on the outside and opaque on the inside, about 2-3 minutes longer. Do not overcook. The bread crumbs will soak up the fats and toast. Divide the shrimp among plates. In another skillet, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over MEDIUM heat. When the oil shimmers, add 1 minced garlic clove and stir for about 30 seconds. Add 1 lb. fresh washed and dried baby spinach + 1/4 – 1/2 cup chopped Kalamata olives. Saute just until the spinach is wilted. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper. Plate the spinach with the shrimp and then sprinkle the spinach with feta cheese. Serve with a sliced baguette.
Peace and love from my kitchen to yours,