I have written before that I enjoy cooking elaborate meals on Sundays – a tradition of sorts that began when Renata and I started dating in the winter of 2005. When I come back from playing at church, we happily go to the kitchen and set to dice, mince and sauté to the sound of good music and a nice glass of wine.
Weekdays, however, are a different story. I make us a packed lunch on a daily basis, but I try to keep it simple, since I have little available time to dedicate to making these dishes (and no, I don’t want to wake up extra early to do so, either).
Taking the lead from New York Times columnist Mark Bittman’s Quick and Easy Recipes, I look for ingredients that will make cooking fast and simple. Bottled sauces and canned cream soups? Check. Frozen vegetables and fish fillets? Check. I want everything handy when I set to prepare these meals, and I do not want to spend any more time than I have to with the task.
When I go food shopping every week, I always include products that I can stock in the freezer for weekday use (no, I don’t buy TV dinners – I do have some pride), and I also plan what to cook way ahead of time. Over the years, I have created some original dishes based on recipes I’d seen before or by simply using common sense when combining ingredients I find in stores.
The one thing I don’t neglect, though, is flavor. Everything I make needs to taste good, even when I am cooking on the run. For these moments I have my trusty spice cabinet, where you can find tens of seasonings, going from Cajun to Indian and everything in between.
Here is something I prepared recently:
Pasta with broccoli and turkey kielbasa (serves 2-3, preparation time 10-15 minutes)
1 tbsp. olive oil
½ package cut pasta (I normally use penne rigate)
1 smoked turkey kielbasa, sliced (any smoked sausage works here)
1 14 oz. pack frozen broccoli florets, thawed
1-2 tsp. chopped garlic
1-2 tsp. dry basil
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
- Cook the pasta in salted water according to package instructions until al dente. Drain, reserving about 1 ½ cup cooking water
- In large skillet heat the oil and cook the kielbasa until browned. Add garlic and stir-fry until fragrant. Add broccoli and continue stirring until heated through. Add salt, pepper and basil.
- Toss broccoli-kielbasa mixture with pasta and reserved cooking water. Serve topped with drizzle of raw olive oil and grated parmesan cheese (optional)