We’re all hungry. We’re all busy. As someone who has always loved to eat well (I grew up in restaurants with a bartender father), and has learned to cook without recipes (something my husband and friends envy), I LOVE dinnertime. I love the feeling of getting home after work or a day out, peering into the refrigerator, and realizing, “Yes! I have what I need for a simple, fresh, healthy meal.” My three stand-out favorite meals are easy (yes, even for you people who think they can’t cook), not time-consuming, and need few ingredients. These meals assume you have a basics on hand: Olive oil, salt, black pepper, lemons or lemon juice, and spinach or mixed greens.
Cheese Omelette with Greens – Not the traditional French one, but great for breakfast or brunch. I also love it for dinner, to mix-up the routine.
Ingredients: Eggs, Cheese (of your choice – I like this with sharp cheddar or creamy mozzarella), Spinach
Crack and scramble 3-5 eggs (4-5 for two people), beating thoroughly to achieve a few bubbles and adding in a splash (a couple tablespoons) of water. Add a pinch of salt and a couple grinds of pepper and give it one more stir.
In a frying pan or skillet over medium heat, pour a couple tablespoons of olive oil, and add in one large handful of greens (1 cup packed) for each person. Gently stir the greens until they begin to wilt, and spread them to cover the pan in an even layer.
Pour in the eggs. Give them a gentle stir, making sure the greens and eggs have stayed evenly spread. Turn the heat down to low-medium. Let this cook until the eggs are more solid than liquid, and will stay together if you try to lift the edge with a spatula. (Everything will cook into a lovely yellow-and-green circle, which you will fold in half at the end.)
While the eggs are cooking, grate your cheese (or take out your bag of pre-grated cheese, no judgment) and sprinkle a thin layer over the eggs.
Once the cheese melts and the eggs are mostly solid, but a little glossy, use your spatula to fold over one side of the eggs. Slide or lift with spatula onto a plate, and EAT!
Bonus Vegetable Points if you add another handful of greens on the plate and drizzle with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Fresh tomatoes make a great addition to this as well.
Spaghetti with Spinach and Artichoke Hearts – Affectionately known in my heart as “Stina’s Spaghetti” my college roommate and I used to make this at least once a week! I’ve always loved artichoke hearts, but recognize they may be an acquired taste; feel free to substitute with fresh tomatoes and basil, roasted red peppers, fresh squash, any leftover chicken or steak you may have.
Ingredients: spaghetti (or any pasta of your choice), artichoke hearts (drained and quartered), spinach, garlic, a lemon, parmesean cheese (I like to grate my own, but use what you like and what you have!)
Boil a BIG pot of water and cook your pasta according to the directions on the box. (Set. A. Timer. Mushy pasta is no good.) 🙂 Feel free to cook the pasta ahead of time, then add it at the end of the step below. I usually cook half a box of pasta for 2 people, a whole box for 3 or more, or if I want leftovers.
While the water is getting ready to boil, heat some olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-low heat. Watch the oil – when little ripples form, add in your garlic. Use 2-4 whole peeled cloves for a mellow garlic flavor, chop/press/smash as much garlic as your heart desires for a stronger garlic flavor. Let the garlic cook to get golden brown, (but watch it, so it doesn’t burn!) then add the drained, dry artichoke hearts. They’ll sputter. Stand back. 🙂 If you nudge the artichokes into one layer they’ll get a little brown, this is yummy! Add the spinach after a minute or two, and stir everything up until the spinach barely starts to wilt. Turn the heat to low.
Add the cooked pasta and a little more olive oil (if it’s looking dry) to the frying pan. Toss gently with tongs to coat the pasta in the garlicky-spinach-and artichoke-flavored oil. Grate parmesan cheese over the whole thing, add a little salt, and plenty of pepper. Toss again. Squeeze half the lemon over the whole thing, toss again. (If you’re REALLY feeling the lemon, zest it over the pasta first! If you’re feeling decadent, add butter! If you’re feeling spicy, add red pepper flake!) DONE!
Ingredients: about 1/2 to 2/3 pound inexpensive steak (shell steak, skirt steak, any of those cuts are great here, and they’re generally under $10, even here in NYC), spinach/arugula/lettuce of choice, fresh tomatoes, parmesean cheese, lemon, balsamic vinegar
Take the steak out of the fridge and blot it dry with paper towels (as dry as you can get it!) Salt and pepper the love out of it. I like lots of pepper, like 10 grinds per side, or about a teaspoon, and only slightly less salt.
Find your heaviest frying pan. You want something with a heavy bottom that will evenly distribute the heat. Heat your dry (no oil yet!) pan over medium-high heat. It’s ready for action when you drip a bit of water in and it sizzles and evaporates quickly!
Put a small knob of butter or small bit of oil into the pan. Lay steak into hot pan. It should sizzle and make some noise! You’re searing! Let it cook about 3-4 minutes or until the sides start to look cooked about half-way up, and/or the bottom side is getting browned. Time varies depending on thickness! Flip to the other side and let cook 2-3 minutes. Try this trick to see if the steak is cooked to your liking. Touch-test you-tube Take the steak off the pan and let it rest on your cutting board while you prep the salad.
Toss greens, cut tomatoes, and parmesean cheese together in a bowl or on a plate. Drizzle lightly with olive oil (about a tablespoon), a little balsamic vinegar (half tablespoon), and squeeze of half the lemon. Toss again.
Slice the steak across the grain and lay over the salad. YUM!