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FOOD FOR THOUGHT - May 26, 2004
Mark R. Vogel - Epicure1@optonline.net - Archive of other articles by Mark Vogel

A trend in America that is picking up speed is an increased interest on meals that can be made in a short amount of time.  For us cooking buffs, that’s shortening our time immersed in an activity we enjoy.  We like being in the kitchen.  We find it relaxing.  For us it is not just the end result, but the process as well.  I love spending a Saturday or Sunday planning a menu, doing the food shopping, and preparing the meal.  Ok, doing the dishes is the pits but I enjoy everything else. 

     For many people, cooking is just a means to an end.  That’s a shame because I believe there is something to be gained by the endeavor.  The indulgence of our creativity, coupled with the moans of satisfaction from its recipients is personally gratifying.  But, cooking is not everyone’s cup of tea.  Moreover, even many cooking lovers don’t have the time or the energy to prepare an elaborate meal by the end of the workday.  Thus, the following recipes are for those of you who would rather starve than cook, or whose schedule is unyielding.

     Turn on your broiler.  Take a steak, pork or lamb chops, boneless chicken breasts, or your favorite piece of fish.  Brush it with olive oil and then sprinkle both sides with your favorite jarred spices, salt and pepper.  Wrap your broiler pan with aluminum foil, (so you don’t have to clean it afterwards), and place the meat in the center.  Add a jar of mushrooms or cut up an onion or a potato and spread it around the meat.  The potato must be cut into small pieces to be done the same time as the meat but if you don’t mind the skin you can save time by not peeling it.  When the broiler is fully heated add the pan.  Flip the meat as soon as the first side is seared.  If it is not too thick, it should take four or less minutes a side, especially for the fish, so keep an eye on it.  While your main item is broiling, open up that bag of pre-made salad you bought.  You even have time to make a homemade vinaigrette.  Simply take extra virgin olive oil and vinegar in a 3-1 ratio, add a minced shallot, dried herbs like oregano, basil, or parsley, and salt and pepper.  Whisk it up and pour it over the salad.  Voila!  A healthy balanced meal in less than a half hour. 

     Are you a vegetarian?  No problem.  How about tomato and cheese burritos with Mexican yellow rice?  Turn on the oven to 350 degrees.  Sauté one tablespoon of annatto seeds in 2-3 tablespoons of olive or vegetable oil in an ovenproof saucepan for a minute or two. (Annatto seeds can be found in the Goya section of your supermarket).  Remove the seeds.  Cut up a small onion and a garlic clove.  Sauté the onion in the oil until it softens, add the garlic, and sauté one more minute.  Add one cup of long grain rice and sauté for another minute or two.  Add two cups of well seasoned vegetable broth.  Add salt and pepper to taste and other seasonings if you wish, (cumin, coriander, hot pepper, etc.) Bring to a boil, cover, and then place in the oven for 15 minutes.  Fluff it with a fork when it is done.  If you don’t have a saucepan that can go in the oven you can simmer it covered on top of the stove for 15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.  While the rice is cooking, take 4 plum tomatoes and chop them.  Layer them down the middle of two burrito size tortillas.  Sprinkle with packaged shredded cheese.  Add salt, pepper, and the same seasonings you used for the rice.  Add hot pepper sauce and/or your favorite jarred salsa as well.  Leave them unrolled and place them in the oven on aluminum foil a few minutes before the rice is finished cooking.  Roll them when they’re done.  This should take you 40 minutes tops.

     Here’s a real quick, healthy, and balanced meal.  Make a chef or antipasto salad.  Again you can use the already bagged salad if you want.  Place the lettuce in a large bowl.  Add cut up pieces of deli ham, cheese, pepperoni and/or salami.  Other quick additions include a variety of jarred or canned delectables:  marinated artichoke hearts, marinated mushrooms, olives, roasted peppers, chickpeas, etc.  Add anchovies or tuna if you wish to avoid the red meat.  Finally, you can cut up pieces of raw vegetables like peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, or carrots in a few minutes.  Use the above homemade vinaigrette but this time use less salt.  The above jarred and canned items are already fairly salty.
 

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