Quickest meals ever

Cynthia Stone
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Can a Saturday between two holidays be any more stressful? No one needs forgiveness for eating out today but I thought we could at least discuss a couple of options for feeding the family simply, quickly and tastily.

Red Pepper Tomato Soup

The TV chef who makes gourmet meals in 15 minutes makes me a little angry because I don’t believe for one second that I could produce anything he makes in 15 minutes. And the most aggravating thing he makes is a mess — I’m thinking 45 minutes’ worth of cleanup, at least.

This soup really is a 15-minute recipe from start to finish. Jars from the pantry can still make a fresh-tasting dish with the tiniest of special touches. Serve this with buttered toast or croutons from a bag or a purchased salad and you’ll get raves.

When buying red peppers in a jar, look for “flame roasted” on the label for superior flavour. This recipe needs about 3 cups or 740 ml in volume, but you can halve the recipe by using a small can of tomatoes.

Consider holding back a few basil leaves — tear them into pieces and float on top of each serving. You can also drizzle a decent olive oil on top.

If you have an immersion blender — a fantastic time saver in the kitchen — you can reverse the steps below. Heat everything up in the microwave or on the stove then puree.

This amount will make about 6 servings, more as a starter course.

1 28-oz. can whole tomatoes

2 370 ml jars roasted red peppers

1 small handful fresh basil leaves (optional)

1 clove garlic, peeled

1 tbsp. firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper (or white if you don’t want the black bits)

1/2 tsp. salt, more or less to taste

Throw everything except the salt in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth — unless you like it chunky, in which case you can stop whenever you wish. If you want that sort of texture you should mince the garlic before you put it in because big chunks of raw garlic are really off-putting.

Microwave or heat on top of the stove until bubbling hot — don’t boil too vigorously. Different brands of tomatoes and peppers have different amounts of salt, so season carefully, tasting as you go. Serve in mugs.

Thai Salmon Noodle Bowls

Fish is my absolute go-to when I’m in a hurry, and if I have a piece of fresh salmon in the fridge and fresh bread on the counter, the most likely outcome is a quick fry with bread and butter and maybe a few frozen peas and sliced pickled beets on the side.

This delicious meal in a bowl is a bit more ambitious but worth the few extra seconds. All in, it’s still dinner on the table in less than half an hour, and what a spectacular dinner it makes.

If you don’t have rice noodles on hand you can substitute regular spaghettini or vermicelli, but you have to boil those until tender, of course.

Frozen salmon fillets are never quite as good as fresh but they work in this recipe, just microwave them on the defrost setting until they are starting to soften — watch that the edges don’t cook and get hard. If they are vacuum sealed you can put them in the sink under cool running water — check the instructions on the package if there are any.

You should allow about 1 oz. of noodles per person, so you’ll need about half a typical package. Try not to break them up too much when you separate them dry, and don’t worry about keeping them in the pantry because they last forever.

This will makes 4 servings but can easily stretch by adding more noodles. The quantities of vegetables are entirely arbitrary — use as much or as little as you like. You can also use whatever you have on hand that you like to eat raw — radishes, celery, bean sprouts and snap peas are all great.

This is not soup but should be juicy. If it seems too dry add a little boiling water to the salmon mixture just before pouring over the noodles.

4 oz. rice vermicelli

1 cup chicken broth or water

1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

1 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. That chili paste (optional; more or less to taste)

1 tsp. soy sauce

1 large slice fresh gingerroot (optional)

1/2 lb. fresh salmon fillet (or thawed frozen)

1 tsp. sesame oil

1 cup thinly sliced or diced English cucumber

1 cup shredded carrot

1 green onion, chopped

Place rice vermicelli in a large bowl and cover with warm water. Allow to soak about 5 minutes or follow the instructions on the package; drain and set aside.

Combine chicken broth, vinegar, sugar, chili paste and soy sauce in a microwave-safe bowl. Smash the ginger with the flat of your knife blade and add to broth mixture. Cover and microwave until boiling hot; discard ginger. Cut salmon into bite-sized pieces and add to hot seasoned broth. Cover and microwave about 4 minutes longer, just until salmon is cooked through. Stir in sesame oil.

Divide rice noodles among large serving bowls and stir in cucumber and carrot. Pour broth and salmon mixture over the top, sprinkle on the green onion and serve.

Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John’s, NL, A1E 4N1.

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