During your starving articling days, chances are you couldn’t affordfancy ingredients. Now you can splurge on groceries but don’t have thetime to do anything with them (note to Alanis: that’s irony). But thetruth is that with a little forethought and a modicum of creativity,you can enjoy life-affirming meals in less time than it takes to makemac & cheese from the box — literally.
Talent in the kitchen isn’t even a prerequisite. If your basic culinary skill set is at, say, the Paris Hilton level, these tips will help deliver instant culinary gratification and free up some valuable time — allowing you to sleep for five hours instead of the usual four.
Feather your nest: The key to spontaneous, quick, and easy cooking is a well-stocked artillery of non-perishables. The more staples you have on hand, the more options you have when you get home tired and hungry. Here’s a quick shopping list: toasted sesame oil, hot chili oil, safflower oil, olive oil (a cheap one for basic uses and a fancy one for drizzling), balsamic vinegar, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, Dijon mustard, kalamata olives, anchovies, canned black beans, capers, dried oregano, dried thyme, ground cumin, ground cayenne pepper, flour, dried pasta, rice, and honey (which tastes sweeter when served from a honey bear).
Get semi-fresh with yourself: If you buy semi-perishable ingredients at the top of the flavour and freshness chain, they will remain on call in your fridge for more than a week and do a lot of the hard work for you. You can make a world of difference with one ounce of tangy blue cheese melted on a steak or burger, a diced-up fennel bulb in (or as) a salad, or a few chopped-up slices of pancetta or bacon, which can infuse anything it comes into contact with, such as eggs, pasta, or sautéed greens.
Pimp your tongue: Fifty cents worth of fresh garlic, ginger, shallots, green onions, lemon grass, chilies, parsley, lime, or lemon, and a few seconds of squeezing, zesting, or chopping can instantly transform any ho-hum dish into a party in your mouth that would pass judgment with any foodie. By developing the confidence to add them in bold quantities, you can knock out simple meals that are as flavourful as they are fast.
Roll with it: A rustic baguette or dinner roll is a perfect accompaniment to almost any meal. Portion and store bread in your freezer. To serve, put it straight into a cold oven and crank the heat to 400ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢Ãƒâ€¹Ã¢â‚¬Â Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã†’ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢Ãƒâ€¹Ã¢â‚¬Â Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚Â¾F. It will be hot and crispy in about eight minutes.
To close my case, I’m dropping my aglio olio recipe on you. Ready, set, GO!
Six-minute aglio olio
(Serves two hungry, impatient diners)
2 servings fresh angel hair pasta
(or dried, if you have an extra two or three minutes to spare)
1 tablespoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4-3/4 teaspoon chili pepper flakes (depending on your heat tolerance)
1 lemon, zested
1/2 cup fresh parsley (regular or Italian), chopped finely
1/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper
1. Add salt to a medium-size pot of water and bring it to a boil.
2. Add pasta and cook according to directions.
3. As pasta cooks: in a sauté pan over medium-high heat, add oil, minced garlic, and chili flakes. Sauté for one minute, or until garlic just begins to turn golden. Remove from heat until pasta is cooked. Use a glass or cup to reserve 1/4 cup of pasta water. Then drain pasta. Move sauté pan back on to the heat. Add pasta and reserved pasta water to the ingredients in the pan, then add the zest, parsley, and black pepper. Toss thoroughly. Top with parmigiano and serve immediately.