Diversivore periodically launches new thematic features. This month’s Recipe feature is designed to help you hit the ground running this fall (and to keep your from wanting to tear your hair out in the kitchen) – it’s all about REAL FOOD, READY FAST. Keep coming back for updates and recipes related to this theme, or subscribe to make sure you don’t miss out on anything new.
Remember that episode of the Simpsons where Marge is spending too much time at the casino, and Homer puts together breakfast with the items he can find in the house? So he fills a bowl with cloves and Tom Collins mix, then tops it off with a pie crust?
We’ve all been there. Ok, maybe not THERE exactly, but we’ve all had one of those moments where you think “Uh… wait… what am I going to eat?”
It’s September, which means things are about to get nuts for many of us. Maybe you or your kids are going back to school, or you’re struggling to regain momentum after your summer vacation(s) have wrapped up. Life tends to get pretty busy right about now, so it’s time to figure out how to get food on the table quickly. I’ve actually been planning this theme for months, and I’ve come to realize just how difficult it really is. We talk about good food prepared quickly all the time, but the category is sadly inundated with bland, mundane, uninspired, and/or heavily processed shortcuts. So I’ve decided to take this chance to say, in my own little way, that exceptional food can in fact be prepared on the fly. This month, it’s “Food Fast” because the food should always come first; quality and flavour shouldn’t place second to expediency.
I know that ‘quick weeknight meals’ might seem like a pretty obvious theme for me to tackle this most hectic of months, but I want to be clear about what this theme is, and what it isn’t. First of all, this is about getting food ready fast, with little or no planning ahead. I love being organized (who doesn’t?) but let’s face it, it’s not always going to happen. So you’re not going to see any marinades, slow-cooking, or other time-intensive preparations that involve being a well-organized human being. Likewise, the ingredient list has to be relatively easy to work with; I do a lot of my own home-preserving, but I’m not going to give you a 15-minute chicken dish if one of the ingredients in that dish is my homemade rhubarb barbecue sauce (which of course you would have to have made months earlier). The object of the game here is to hit the store (if necessary), start cooking, and be finished with food on the table within a half an hour of entering the kitchen.
As for what this month is NOT about, I think it’ll come as no surprise when I say that there will be no processed shortcuts. I’m not going to slap 3 ingredients on a frozen pizza crust and pretend I’ve reinvented the wheel. Nor am I going to ask you to go out and by X-brand sauce and Y-brand frozen protein so that you can heat, mix, and serve (I’m looking at you, ‘Mexican section’ of the grocery store). To be clear, I’m not disparaging all packaged and pantry items. I certainly appreciate how important it is to get food on the table, and I fully appreciate the value of CERTAIN ready-to-go ingredients; I’ve made my own tomato paste from scratch before, but I’m not exactly going to do that on a Tuesday evening at 5:15 with a hangry baby in my arms. But the jars, cans, and packages found in the grocery store are not all created equal, and the world doesn’t need another heavily processed hodgepodge masquerading as home cooking.
Alright, that might sound a little snobby. I’m not implying that I’m a paragon of home-cooking – I’ve picked up a rotisserie chicken and bag of tray buns and called it dinner on more than a few occasions. But food mega-corporations have done a pretty great job of convincing us that when we buy a series of highly processed ingredients and slap them together that we’re preparing healthy, hearty meals. I’m not buying it, literally or figuratively. So I’m going spend this month looking at the healthier, more delicious alternative – delicious, honest food that also happens to be fast.
Because this is Diversivore, and I’m all about keeping things… well, diverse… I’ll also be tossing a variety of recipes your way, ranging from dinner to breakfast to snacks to dessert (yes, sometimes you need a 10 minute dessert). So stay tuned, and don’t panic the next time you look at the clock. Take a deep breath. I’ve got your back.
Can’t wait for the new stuff? Here are a few recipes already up on the site that fit the bill. These can all be made quickly, and with minimal prep.
Garlic and Lemon Bok Choy
Bok choy is easy to find, easy to use, and a heck of a lot more interesting than a lot of people realize. It has a tantalizing, creamy texture when cooked, and it makes a good foundation for a vegan or vegetarian stir fry (like this one).
Pico de Gallo
It’s raw, it’s easy, and it’s amazing. Seriously, nothing this simple deserves to taste this good. Make this so that you can sneer with haughty derision at the bottled salsa on the grocery store shelf while quietly muttering “You call THAT salsa?” It’s an amazing snack as is, and you can you can build a meal around it pretty easily. It makes for killer tacos if you just add tortillas, some shredded chicken or grilled fish, a chopped avocado, and some lettuce or cabbage.
Cucamelons are, admittedly, a little tricky to find. Fortunately, this is equally amazing with thinly sliced cucumbers. Even if you’ve never cooked Japanese food before, a quick stop at an Asian grocery store and 10 minutes of ultra-simple prep (there’s no cooking) is all you need to put this amazing salad/appetizer on the table.
Grilled Halloumi with Basil Cannellini Hummus
A can of beans. That’s what you need to get started here – just some cannellini beans. After that, a trip to the dairy section followed by a quick jaunt through the produce aisle, and you’re ready to put this together at home (plus-or-minus a fresh baguette). The hummus is fool-proof, and the halloumi and lemons grill (or pan-sear) in a flash.
Scallops and Asparagus with Lemon Spaghettini
Pasta is such a tempting go-to when you need a quick meal, but it can go SO wrong so easily. Don’t be tempted to dump a bottle of grocery-store tomato sauce on your spaghetti and call it a day (especially since those sauces are often ridiculously high in fat and added sugar). This pescetarian delight is a breeze in the kitchen, and fancy enough to seriously impress.
Watermelon and Ahi Tuna Crudo
Ten minutes of prep, fifteen minutes of waiting. Seriously, that’s it. Then you’ve got something delicious, gourmet, and ridiculously simple. This one’s all about the quality of the ingredients, so you’re going to want to get to know a great grocery store/fishmonger. You’ll wish you’d done it sooner.
Chicken with Marmalade and Balsamic Vinegar
I’m breaking my own rule a LITTLE here, because I make my own marmalade. But assuming you can find a good one at the store (a lot of them are REALLY sugary, and lack the bitter-citrus kick you want), this meal comes together insanely fast. It’s also wheat-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and soy-free, so it’s about as allergy-friendly as you can imagine. It’s so tasty, I might just make it again this month (and re-photograph it…).