Sustainable 30-Minute Meals
A stocked larder, a handful of fresh ingredients, a seasoned cast iron skillet, and a few oft-practiced culinary tricks are the elements required to consistently nail the landing of 30-minute, sustainably sourced meals on your dinner table.
For my purposes, a larder comprises both pantry and freezer alike. The quick weeknight supper prep requires that whole grains, dried beans, pasta, canned tomatoes, oil, vinegar, and a few pickled items are routinely sitting on pantry shelves. And the trick to making the variety of broths, local proteins, baked breads and flavorful butters stored in the freezer useful on any given night is remembering to pull them out of there in the morning so they will be ready to use by dinner time.
Being judicious about which few (never more than one or two) fresh food items you designate for use in your 30-minute meals cuts down on chopping time when everything goes as planned and minimizes food waste should your best laid plans go awry.
The enabling culinary tricks sharpened by successful weeknight cooks include preparing pots of local whole grains (farro, rye, or wheat berries) and local beans (cranberry, cattle, and soldier beans) on Sunday, creatively using scrappy food, employing a flexible sear and sauce maneuver, and understanding the double meaning for carry-over cooking.
Since time is short, here are 30 words or less describing each of five techniques designed to help busy cooks hit the 30-minute meal prep deadline on any given weeknight.
The Monday Night Potter
Sautéed onions simmered with four cups quick vegetarian broth, two cups each cooked beans and grains, and chopped leafy greens makes a hearty meatless meal. (See Cheese Rind, Bean, and Kale Soup)
Tuesday Sear and Sauce
Sear local meat in a hot skillet. Loose stuck-on flavor with interesting liquid. Slip meat and flavor boosters into sauce, and pan in the oven to finish. Serve with bread. (See Seared Haddock, Tomato, and Olive Stew)
The Midweek Topper
One pound grilled steak thinly sliced and served atop a salad made of yesterday’s bread, today’s raw vegetables, and a succulent dressing satisfies mightily. (See Steak, Asparagus, and Red Onion Panzanella)
Spectacular Sausage Skillet
Brown loose sausage, soften it and shredded carrots in white wine, first, and then milk, before stirring in canned, chopped tomatoes and cooked pasta for a speedy Bolognese substitute. (See Lamb, Bean, and Tomato Skillet Pasta)
Stir-fry without the piles of prep: Use one protein, a single vegetable, an unexpected sauce from pantry ingredients, and a pile of whole grains. It beats take-out Chinese. (See Lemon Honey Chicken and Spinach)