As part of our ‘Sandy’s Six‘ blog series, Executive Chef Sandy DiGiovanni at The Culinary Center of Kansas City shares some of her favorite quick-to-prepare meals…
Even a chef doesn’t always have the time or energy to spend hours on a gourmet meal for dinner – maybe ESPECIALLY chefs. We’re around food constantly, planning, preparing and cooking, and it’s often not appealing to think about it when we get home. So, what do I do when I want a great meal, but I don’t have it in me to fix something elaborate? Here are a few of my go-to meals for those occasions:
Cajun red beans and rice. For a quick fix and a tasty meal, you can use canned beans and any quick-cook rice. Boom, you have your vegetarian-friendly meal. Add some polish sausage or kielbasa, if you like some meat in it.
Italian dinner. Make sure to keep some pasta and jarred sauce in your pantry for a super-quick Italian meal. You can add some garlic or basil to your taste, to feel like you’re putting a little bit of culinary magic into it. Add garlic bread and a salad, and you have yourself a real meal!
Chicken and quinoa. Bake some chicken – that’s a quick fix for any meal. Add some quinoa as a side dish. I like to add collard greens or kale – a light vinaigrette adds a nice touch and creates a meal that seems far more impressive than the work you put into it.
Greek Salad. I always keep some feta cheese in the fridge, so it’s an easy thing to put together a tasty Greek salad at any time. I throw together some salad, feta, cucumber, red peppers and either chicken or shrimp – whatever I have. I always have some olives around too. Top it with a lemon vinaigrette (which is great to have around – throw it together and it will keep in your fridge for 6 months or so!)
Pork Chops. Sear some chops and place them in a baking pan. Slice some potatoes and onions, and add those on top the chops in the pan. Top with peas, fresh or canned. Add a bit of salt, pepper and garlic. Bake for 1 1/2 hours and serve. This one is a family favorite – definitely a regular at our house.
Italian Sausage. I just made this one last night. (It’s another regular at Casa DiGiovanni.) I like to sauté turkey Italian sausage with some onions, peppers and potatoes, and serve it on a Hoagie bun. It’s a flavorful meal with very little time or effort spent.
OK, that’s it. You know my secrets. I like a quick, easy meal as much as the next person. But I don’t like to forfeit flavor for it.
These are some of my favorites – what are your family’s favorite go-to quick dinners?
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with parchment. Place the oats, quinoa flour, sugar, salt and nutmeg in a food processor fitted with the steel blade, and pulse several times to combine. Add the butter, and pulse until the butter is evenly distributed throughout the grain mix. The mixture should have a crumbly consistency.
2. Spread the topping over the parchment-covered baking sheet in an even layer. Place in the oven, and bake 10 minutes. Rotate the pan front to back, stir the mixture and bake another 5 to 10 minutes until nicely browned. Remove from the heat, and allow to cool. You can keep this in the freezer for several weeks in an airtight container or freezer bag.
Yield: Makes a little over 2 cups, enough for one crumble serving eight made in a 2- to 2 1/2-quart baking dish.
1. Bring quinoa and water to boil, cover and simmer on a low heat for 20 mins. Let quinoa cool to room temperature, then transfer to a serving bowl.
2. Mix the garlic and scallions thoroughly with the quinoa and add the remaining chopped herbs and vegetables. Stir in the lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. Finally, mix in the olives and season with freshly ground salt and pepper. Add feta cheese if desired.
3. Set aside for at least 30 mins before serving to allow the flavors to develop and blend.
Although quinoa is new to the American market, it was a staple of the ancient Incas, who called it “the mother grain.” To this day it’s an important food in South American cuisine. Hailed as the “supergrain of the future ,” quinoa contains more protein than any other grain. It’s considered a complete protein because it contains all eight essential amino acids. Quinoa is also higher in unsaturated fats and lower in carbohydrates than most grains, and it provides a rich and balanced source of vital nutrients. Tiny and bead-shaped , the ivory-colored quinoa cooks like rice(taking half the time of regular rice) and expands to four times its original volume. Its flavor is delicate, almost bland, and has been compared to that of couscous. Quinoa is lighter than but can be used in any way suitable for rice-as part of a main dish, a side dish, in soups, in salads and even in puddings. It’s available packaged as a grain, ground into flour and in several forms of pasta. Quinoa can be found in most health-food stores and some supermarkets.
Food Lover’s Companion (available in The Kitchen Shop @ CCKC)