Thursday, January 8, 2009

mailbag: an easy after-work dinner

Dear Lisa,

How do I whip up a tasty and nutritious meal in 15 minutes for two kids under five, straight after coming home from a full day at work, that my beloved and I can spice up with chilli sauce BUT that our kiddie winks will still love? They seem stuck on plain-pasta-no-sauce or honey toast.

Busy Parent in Park Slope


Mmm...honey toast. I'm way older than five and that still sounds good to me after a long day at work. Or a bag of chips with a glass of wine and a dill pickle on the side. Or cheese quesadillas for two weeks straight. Or a spoonful of peanut butter (the secret preference of someone whom I may or may not live with).

When the day runs long, it's really hard to find the energy to cook. Add a couple of kids in the mix and I can't even imagine how trying it can be to make something decent for dinner, let alone Friday night post-work dinner guests. Which is rare, I know, but go with me on this.

Here's a menu nice enough to serve company, but fast enough to make and consume while opening the mail, watching the news, putting the kids in their pajamas, and all those other random tasks before going to bed. Just don't forget to chew and swallow; it's really tasty.

Fast weeknight dinner
Grilled salmon
Cucumber-yogurt sauce
Rice and peas
Slapdash chocolate pudding
or Peanut butter chocolate chip cookies
or ice cream straight out of the pint (the best way)

Grilled salmon with cucumber-yogurt sauce
Don't like salmon? Any firm, fairly thick fish filet will work for this. (Think: plump piece of cod, not paper-thin filet of tilapia). Kiddies don't like fish? This sauce goes nicely with lamb, chicken breasts, or shrimp skewers, which will cook in no time at all.
(Serves 4)

For the sauce:
1 5 oz. container plain Greek yogurt (I like Fage 2 percent)
1 lemon
1/2 medium-sized cucumber, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. mint or parsley (or 1 Tbsp. each), chopped
salt and pepper

For the salmon:
4 salmon steaks with skin, or one large filet cut into four portions
olive oil
salt and pepper

To make the sauce, combine the first five ingredients in a small bowl and mix until combined. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

To make the salmon, coat a large saute or grill pan with olive oil and heat over to medium-high heat. When the pan is hot (a drop of water should sizzle on the pan) place your fish skin-side down on the pan. Cook for about five minutes, or until the skin becomes crispy, but before it starts to smoke. Flip over and cook on the other side, for about three minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. The fish is done when you can lightly flake it apart with a fork or knife in the thickest part of the filet. Top with yogurt sauce and serve with rice and peas.

Rice and peas
I don't even think a recipe is needed for this. Just chuck some frozen peas in the pot when you're making rice. Add butter and salt. Eat. Fast.

1 cup basmati, jasmine, or plain white rice
1 cup frozen peas
2 Tbsp. butter

Make rice according to package directions. See above.


Pink of Perfection said...

I can't help but think the perfect solution would just be to have YOU in the kitchen when any tired world weary souls walk through the door. Oh, and honey toast does indeed sound heavenly to me, too. Add a cup of tea and I might not have to cook again, ever.

Jennifer Henry said...

That's a great idea! Lisa, would Dan mind if you came to live with us? I will pay you double what you are currently earning, but cannot guarantee any sort of conjugal pleasure.

Thanks for the salmon dish - sounds PERFECT. You spoil us, offering 2 courses! The kids won;t get dessert, but I love the idea of ice-cream for guests (after the kids have done their Von Trapp family routine and gone to bed).

Many thanks,


PS. For your *maybe* housemate, I prefer peanut butter straight off the finger, but don't tell *my* hosuemate.

Colin P. Delaney said...

Instead of grilling, could you get the same affect with the fish by broiling? I only say that as it regards quicker clean-up, as this is a Tuesday night, down-and-dirty kind-of-menu

Lisa said...

Aww, thanks Sarah! I will cook for you any day.

Jennifer, I am also available for regular visits although I don't think Dan would allow me to sleep over. I keep the bed warm, you know.

Colin: Yes, you can totally broil the fish. For super-fast clean up I'd line your baking sheet with foil before placing the fish on it so you don't have to wash it afterward.

Daniel said...

Jennifer, if I let Lisa live with you, who will prevent my descent into total barbarism? It would only be a matter of time before I ditched the spoon and started digging into the peanut butter jar with my fingers.

Colin, nice job pretending you know the difference between grilling and broiling.

Jennifer Henry said...

thanks, y'all! What IS the diff between grillign and broiling?

Lisa, your next challenge - our ex-nanny brought over a cheese babka before Christmas, we had a slice, and the remaining 80% sits in the freezer. I LOVE using leftover croissants for a bread-and-butter pudding, but what do you suggest for using leftover cheese babka? It's the savory element that has me stumped.

Lisa said...

Grilling is done in a grill pan or on a grill of some sort. Broiling is cooking something in the oven on high heat.

As for the cheese babka, you could definitely make a savory bread pudding using more cheese and cream and some sort of herb like thyme or rosemary. That would be nice, I bet. Can you use it to make cheesy croutons? Some soups call for bread as a thickener, it might work well for that.

Anyone else out there have ideas?


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