How to cook a restaurant-quality meal in minutes

When you finally get home from work, the question is always, “What’s for dinner?” With pizza or Chinese food only a phone call away, it's easy to get sucked into the takeout trap. But before you reach for a menu, consider an alternative: cooking a balanced, tasty meal from ingredients delivered right to your door.

Services like Plated, a New York-based meal-delivery system now available across the continental U.S., offer a diverse rotating selection of flavorful, chef-designed dinners delivered fresh to your door.

All you have to do is choose your favorite dishes online each week, and all of the ingredients — from vegetables to seasonings, perfectly portioned — will arrive on your doorstep along with step-by-step instructions for how to cook it all in about 30 minutes.

We decided to test Plated out, comparing it to takeout. First, the takeout: On a hectic Tuesday night, we called our local Thai restaurant and waited over an hour for soggy pad Thai noodles and overcooked chicken. It arrived lukewarm, in foam containers.

The following night, we trashed the takeout menus and prepared Thai Beef Lettuce Wraps with Basil Rice from a recipe and ingredients box delivered by Plated. This simple 30-minute meal for two utilized a brown-sugar-hoisin sauce that had more texture and layers of flavor in one bite than the pitiful takeout had in an entire order.

The next night, we made Plated’s Spaghetti and Meatballs with Pesto, Chives and Peas, along with seasonal dandelion greens that gave it a springtime bounce. Plated's recipes introduced us to new cooking techniques, innovative kitchen shortcuts and exotic ingredients — from miso to za'atar.

After your first few deliveries, you won't believe what you're creating in no time on a typical evening: Turkey Spinach Burgers with Radish-Cucumber Salad, Greens-Loaded Minestrone Soup with Parmesan Cheese Crisps, and Sweet and Sticky Tsukune Meatballs, which are easily baked and broiled to perfection.

With delicious Asian, Italian, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern meals at your fingertips, you might stumble upon a new “usual,” except this time you can order it from your own kitchen — no waiting necessary.


Plated is extending a great deal to LA Times readers. Click here to check it out.

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