Julie Giuffrida is Test Kitchen coordinator for the Los Angeles Times.
Put a sumptuous meal on the table in 45 minutes or less.
Making dinner in 30 to 45 minutes gives me enough time in the kitchen to feel like I’ve cooked something and gets me out of the (cleaned-up) kitchen with plenty of time left for an evening activity. Key to making quick, easy dinners are recipes that employ simple techniques to create fresh, bright flavors and also use very few pots and pans. These recipes can all be made in 45 minutes or less, and most use only one pan.
Vegetarian and full of flavor, Lentil and Rice Bowls with Grated Cauliflower, Spinach and Yogurt is a one-pan wonder. The cauliflower steams in the pan on top of the rice and lentils as they cook, and the spinach is then piled on top and left to wilt in the residual heat before mixing in fresh lemon zest and a squeeze of lemon to brighten the flavors. Make it vegan by swapping out the Greek yogurt for one made from an alternative-milk base.
Steamed Halibut with Ginger Sauce is another good one-pan option. Shiitake mushrooms and baby bok choy cook together with the fish after which lemon and cilantro enhance its delicate flavor. For a more boldly seasoned dish, try “Blackened” Snapper with Crunchy Pickle Salad. A dollop of spicy butter seasons the fish while green onion and garlic add a pop of flavor. For the salad, tomatoes, cucumbers and radishes are quick-pickled and then tossed with sesame oil, which softens the tang of the vegetables and adds a rich nuttiness to the crunchy salad.
While technically this dish is a two-pan affair, I tend to consider pasta a one-pan meal—the pasta pot is such a breeze to wash that it hardly qualifies as a second pan. Caramelized Lemon Pasta with Mushrooms and Broccoli is tangy, earthy and full of contrasting textures. To make the dish vegan, swap out the grated parmesan for nutritional yeast.
Melty, fresh Mozzarella cheese smothers the cauliflower and/or butternut squash (your choice) served with the garlicky, spicy pasta in this Vegetable Mozz with Spicy Spaghetti. The cheese also takes the edge off of the heat. Pasta with Italian Sausage and Broccoli uses a great trick for keeping pans at a minimum: cook the broccoli in the pasta water along with the noodles. Other vegetables, such as broccoli rabe, Chinese broccoli or even kale can be substituted for the broccoli. And feel free to use salt pork, guanciale or prosciutto in place of the Italian sausage.
Grated zucchini is mixed in with the ground meat to make these juicy Lamb and Zucchini Burgers with Yogurt and Arugula. (And if you don’t tell, nobody will know about the added vegetables.) Caramelized Lemon and Feta Turkey Meatballs are served with a salad of fresh parsley and mint and a lemony yogurt, giving the dish the flavor of the Mediterranean.
Go ahead, up your weeknight dinner game with any of these quick and easy options.
“Blackened” Snapper with Crunchy Pickle Salad
Red snapper fillets are blackened with Korean chile flake butter and served with pickled crunchy vegetables.
YieldsServes 4 to 8.
Lentil and Rice Bowls with Grated Cauliflower, Spinach and Yogurt
Grated cauliflower adds body to lentils and rice, topped with yogurt and cilantro leaves.
Lamb and Zucchini Burgers with Yogurt and Arugula
Zucchini adds moisture to lamb burgers topped with yogurt and cold, crunchy arugula.
Caramelized Lemon Pasta With Mushrooms and Broccoli
Caramelized lemon adds umami flavor to this vegetarian pasta, packed with mushrooms and broccoli, finished with a grating of fresh Parmesan cheese.
YieldsServes 4 to 6
Vegetable Mozz With Spicy Spaghetti
Tomatoes and mozzarella blanket roasted vegetables in this simple baked dish, perfect with a side of garlicky, spicy pasta.
Steamed halibut with ginger sauce
A few lemon slices and sprigs of cilantro enhance the flavor of the halibut without masking it.
Pasta with Italian sausage and broccoli
This pasta dish is easy, quick and flexible. You can make it with broccoli, broccoli rabe or even Chinese broccoli and Italian sausage or salt pork, guanciale or prosciutto.
Caramelized Lemon and Feta Turkey Meatballs
Ground turkey gets a jolt of flavor from creamy feta and caramelized lemon paste, which mimics the flavor of grilled lemon.