Five 30-minute meals to try so you can make the most of the weather

Five 30-minute meals to try so you can make the most of the weather
No one wants to spend hours over the stove in this weather, says Emily Weinstein, so here’s a week’s worth of meals that will keep you out of the kitchen

Friends came by to visit last weekend, and my three-year-old announced that we had “a fabulous pineapple” for the occasion. I don’t know where she got the phrase “fabulous pineapple”, but it was true: the pineapple, which I bought to garnish piña coladas, was fabulous. There was plenty left over for making dishes like the pineapple-marinated chicken below, an exuberant meal for the summer to come. And if this heat keeps up, Judy Kim’s chilli-oil noodles are next in my rotation.

Chilli-oil noodles with coriander

Substitutes are welcome here

In this 20-minute recipe, a mixture of savoury condiments coats bowlfuls of wide noodles chilled slightly by a quick rinse in cool water. While you cook the udon, take the time to prepare the sauce, abundant with contrasting flavours, and the fresh herbs. The sauce can be made in advance, but make sure it’s at room temperature before tossing it with the noodles and the coriander at the last minute. Substitutions are welcome: swap in chilli crisp in place of the chilli oil with crunchy garlic, or spring onions in place of garlic chives. Sichuan chilli oil brings a citrusy flavour that is hard to replicate, so don’t skip it. It can vary in spice level: for a milder sauce, use only the liquid oil, or add Sichuan peppercorns from the bottom of the oil for extra tingle. Fried shallots are here for texture, but omit them if you use chilli crisp.

Makes: 4 servings

Total time: 20 mins

Ingredients

400g dried udon noodles

60ml chilli oil with crunchy garlic

2 tbsp pure sesame oil

2 tsp Sichuan chile oil, or to taste

2 tsp soy sauce

25g finely sliced garlic chives or spring onions, plus more for garnish

2 tbsp store-bought fried shallots, crumbled by hand (optional)

30g finely chopped coriander (see tip), plus a few sprigs for garnish

Method

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook noodles according to package instructions, stirring from time to time to prevent them from sticking. Drain well in a colander, then run noodles under cold water until cooled.

2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine all three oils with the soy sauce and 25g garlic chives.

3. Toss cooled noodles into the chilli oil mixture. Gently fold in the crumbled fried shallots and chopped coriander. Divide among four bowls, and top with more garlic chives and coriander sprigs.

Tips: For crisp coriander, place leaves and stems in an ice water bath until the leaves are firm. Drain and spin in a salad spinner. Store coriander in the spinner and refrigerate until ready to use.

Prawn and avocado salad with citrus vinaigrette (camarones a la vinagreta)

A refreshing and satisfying dish for summer

Versions of seafood “coctel” are found around the Caribbean, usually with ketchup as a base for the sauce. In this recipe adapted from Von Diaz’s Coconuts and Collards cookbook, the tomato and onion are part of the salad, and the dressing is based on citrus and olive oil, plus a bit of mustard to make it creamy. It’s a refreshing and satisfying dish for hot weather, perfect with a cold beer at the end of a long summer day. Diced avocado makes the dish more filling, but it is optional.

Makes: 4 to 6 servings

Total time: 20 mins, plus chilling

Ingredients

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 black peppercorns

2 dried bay leaves

450g fresh prawns, peeled and deveined

2 ripe plum tomatoes, diced (or 12 cherry tomatoes, quartered)

2 tbsp chopped red onion

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp fresh lime, lemon, grapefruit or any tart citrus juice

1 tbsp fresh orange juice

2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander, culantro (also called recao) or flat-leaf parsley (or a combination)

1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano or thyme

tsp Dijon mustard

1 ripe avocado

Whole lettuce leaves, for serving

Method

1. Cook the prawns: in a pot, combine 950ml water with 1 tablespoon salt. Add peppercorns and bay leaves and bring to a boil over high heat.

2. Prepare an ice bath: add enough ice to a large bowl until half full. Sprinkle the ice with 2 tablespoons salt and top with enough cold water to cover. Set aside.

3. When the water boils, stir the prawns into the hot water and turn off the heat. Let cook until just pink and opaque, 1 to 2 minutes depending on size of prawns. Drain prawns and transfer to the ice bath. Stir well and set aside until prawns are completely chilled, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain prawns again and transfer to paper or kitchen towels to dry.

4. Make the dressing: in a medium bowl, stir together tomatoes, red onion, oil, fruit juices, herbs and mustard. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add prawns, toss to coat and chill for at least 1 hour (or up to 1 day).

5. When ready to serve, peel and dice the avocado and fold into the prawns salad. Serve chilled, in a serving bowl or on individual plates lined with lettuce leaves.

Pineapple-marinated chicken breasts

Pineapple salsa brightens up juicy morsels of aromatic chicken

Bromelain, the group of enzymes in fresh pineapple, is excellent at breaking down the connective tissues in thick, fibrous chicken breasts. In this simple marinade, grated pineapple completely alters the texture of the breast meat, resulting in something that’s akin to luscious dark meat. Briefly marinating here is important: leave it too long and the chicken will fall apart during cooking, becoming shreddy and a little gluey. Fifteen minutes is the sweet spot. The accompanying pineapple salsa is a bright topping for the juicy morsels of aromatic chicken and rice.

Makes: 4 servings

Total time: 30 mins

Ingredients

3 packed tbsp dark brown sugar

2 tbsp rice vinegar

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp fish sauce

2 tbsp olive oil, plus more for cooking

1 tsp salt

1 tsp garlic powder

¼ to ½ tsp ground cayenne

½ tsp black pepper

210g diced fresh pineapple

15g finely diced red onion

2 tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander

2 tbsp finely grated fresh pineapple, including accumulated juices

680g pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 4cm chunks

Cooked white rice, for serving

Method

1. In a large bowl, stir together the brown sugar, rice vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce, 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, garlic powder, ground cayenne and black pepper. Transfer 1 tablespoon of this marinade mixture to a separate medium bowl and add the diced pineapple, red onion and coriander. This is your salsa; toss until well mixed and set aside.

2. Add the grated pineapple and its juices to the marinade mixture in the large bowl, then add the chicken and toss to coat. Set aside to marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes (and no longer).

3. Once the chicken is done marinating, heat a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high and add enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken pieces, leaving any marinade behind, in a single layer so that they don’t touch and let cook until the bottoms are browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until browned on all sides and no longer pink on the inside, 4 to 5 minutes more.

4. Serve the chicken over rice and top with the reserved pineapple salsa.

Grilled Tofu

Turn the tofu into satisfying vegetarian sandwiches by tucking into pita bread with lettuce and tomato

Pouring hot marinade over tofu slices encourages faster absorption of flavours, eliminating the need to marinate overnight. In a pinch, this method yields tasty results in three hours, but the recommended six hours deliver a much more complex, richer flavoured tofu. Grilled, it makes a versatile side dish and is delicious warm or at room temperature. Pair it with steamed rice and a simple green salad, or turn the tofu into satisfying vegetarian sandwiches by tucking it into pita bread with lettuce and avocado.

Makes: 4 servings

Total time: 20 mins, plus 6 hrs marinating

Ingredients

1 (400g) block extra-firm tofu, sliced crosswise into eight equal slices (about 12mm thick)

2 tablespoons safflower or canola oil, plus more for greasing grates

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

75ml low-sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped spring onions

Method

1. Arrange sliced tofu in a single layer on a paper towel-lined plate. Press top with more paper towels to remove excess water. Arrange tofu in a 22-by-33cm baking dish, or any shallow dish that can hold the tofu in one layer.

2. In a small saucepan, combine oil, garlic and ginger over medium; bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring frequently, until softened and fragrant, 2 minutes. Add soy sauce, sugar, pepper and 60ml water, and cook, stirring to dissolve the sugar, about 2 minutes.

3. Pour hot marinade over tofu. Gently turn tofu slices to evenly coat, then cover dish tightly with plastic wrap to seal in heat. Refrigerate for 6 hours (or up to 8 hours), flipping tofu slices halfway through.

4. Heat grill to medium and grease grates well (or heat a cast-iron grill pan over medium and lightly grease). Grill tofu over direct heat until golden and caramelised, about 3 minutes per side.

5. Meanwhile, transfer marinade to a small saucepan over medium and warm through, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in spring onions.

6. Transfer tofu to a serving plate and spoon over the sauce. Serve warm.

Basic pesto sauce

Fabulous for pastas, pizzas, salads and more

The key to making creamy pesto is to add the ingredients to the food processor in the right order to ensure that the nuts break down to a fine paste before the greens have a chance to turn brown. Use basic basil pesto as a pasta sauce, or thin it out with a little olive oil to drizzle it over steak, chicken, fish, pizza or tomato salad. The mint-pistachio variation is inspired by chef Travis Lett, of Gjelina in Venice, California.

Makes: 250g

Total time: 20 mins

Ingredients

135g pine nuts, lightly toasted

175ml cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves

75g packed basil leaves from 1 big bunch or 2 small bunches

85 grams finely grated parmesan cheese

½ teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste

Method

1. Pulse pine nuts in a food processor until they’re completely broken down. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula from time to time. Add olive oil and garlic and pulse until garlic is finely chopped.

2. Chop basil very roughly – just run a knife through it once or twice to cut most of the leaves into halves or thirds – then add to food processor. Pulse, stopping every 15 seconds to push the leaves down with a rubber spatula, until basil is entirely worked into the oil. Pulse for another few seconds, and then stop to prevent turning the basil brown.

3. Pour pesto base into a bowl and add grated cheese and salt. Stir to combine, then taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Leave the sauce thick to toss with cooked pasta and a little pasta cooking water. To use the pesto as a garnish for grilled or roasted meats, fish and vegetables, thin it out with 2 to 3 more tablespoons olive oil until it’s the consistency of a loose paste. To store leftovers, pour a little more olive oil over the pesto to cover. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to three days.

Tips: To make wild nettle pesto, substitute 225g stemmed nettle leaves for the basil. Set a large saucepan over high heat and add 3 tablespoons olive oil. When the oil shimmers, add the nettles and sauté, stirring constantly with tongs, for 30 to 60 seconds until wilted. Remove pan from heat and allow to cool. Squeeze all the water you can from nettles, then roughly chop. Add ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes and proceed as directed above. Toss with pasta, or thin and drizzle over baked or grilled fish.

To make Lett’s mint-pistachio pesto, substitute mint for the basil and pistachios for the pine nuts. Substitute 2 tablespoons pecorino Romano for the parmesan and add 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest. Use to garnish spring vegetables, fish and shellfish.

© The New York Times

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