Wednesday, May 12, 2010

simple meals for busy times

i've been a bit absent from this blog of late as we packed up nearly a decade of life in our home and moved across the country to new jobs and a new house on an old farm property. my new kitchen is a severe downgrade in comparison to the old one (we're going to remedy that, don't worry) and i'll admit to a mild depression over having to cook here amidst the pepto bismol pink color the last owner chose to paint the cupboards (seriously, who would think that color would look good in a kitchen?). since it's going to be about a year before we redo the kitchen, i'll be painting those cupboards in shades of teal leftover from my famous blue room over this coming long holiday weekend (ascension day makes for a four-day weekend in denmark).

one thing i found in the midst of the chaos that is a move is that our desire to eat was not lessened in proportion to how busy we now were. so i had to find ways to cook simple meals that required few dishes, as my selection of dishes, pots and pans got pared down as more and more of that stuff was packed down.

i came up with a couple of delicious solutions that were easy, but look deceptively like you slaved for hours. a pasta dish and veal parmesan. not necessarily to be eaten together, tho' you could if you were really hungry.

simple pasta with red pesto and zucchini ribbons
this pasta dish is super easy because you use those packages of fresh pasta you can buy in the refrigerated case in the supermarket, the best pesto you can find (also purchased from the supermarket and preferably from the refrigerated section not just a jar) and a single zucchini, sliced into thin ribbons using a potato peeler. it's super quick (the fresh pasta takes only 3 minutes). you simply toss the pasta, pesto and raw zucchini ribbons together in a big bowl and dig in. a very posh meal literally in minutes. i can see from my picture that i also tossed in a bit of asparagus that i cut into bite-sized pieces and threw in with my pasta for the last minute or so of the boil. just long enough that it's still green and brilliant. the zucchini cooks just enough from being tossed with the warm pasta, so you don't need to cook it at all.

the second easy dish i've made of late is a big pan of veal parmesan. on our last night in the old house, we invited our neighbors for dinner and i made this, making sure that i made enough for us to take a pan of it with us to the new house - it felt symbolically important to make food in the old house and bring it to the new one to eat the first day.

veal parmesan
you may be thinking that i'm crazy to say that veal parmesan is easy and you'd be right if i told you to spend six hours stirring up the perfect sauce from scratch, but that's not what i did, there simply wasn't time for that. i bought a jar of good quality tomato sauce - Dolmio classico organic to be exact.

veal parmesan

100 grams of very thinly-sliced veal weinerschnitzel per person - i have the butcher slice it for me as thin as he can (so thin he thinks i'm crazy)
1 jar good quality tomato (pasta) sauce
2-3 medium-sized onions
1 thinly-sliced eggplant (if you like it)
2 eggs
finely grated parmesan cheese

pound your veal with one of those meat-pounding thingies (mine came from ikea) - it's very therapeutic and relieves stress nicely. you want it to be super, super thin, like thin enough to read something through it if you laid it over a newspaper. 

mix the breadcrumbs and parmesan together and dip the veal in egg and your breadcrumbs. you can season the breadcrumbs with salt & pepper. i used Lawry's seasoning salt as well, but use whatever you like.

brown them up in a pan. while they're browning, slice the onions into small boats and put them in the bottom of an oven-safe dish. layer the veal on them as it gets done. put more onions between layers. if you like eggplant, layer browned eggplant slices together with the veal. cover the whole thing in the jar of tomato sauce and grate a bit of your favorite cheese over the top (we love prima donna at our house - it's an aged gouda with salt crystals in it). pop it into the oven at 175°C/350°F and bake for 30 minutes or so (depending how fast your oven is). serve it with some good bread and an arugula salad. it's very filling, so you don't need pasta with it, but you can serve pasta to soak up some of the good sauce.

make extra so you have some the next day. it's great cold put onto some good ciabatta bread as a sandwich, but it warms up very nicely again in the oven. we really thought it was the perfect meal on our first night in the new house, after a long day of driving and unpacking the truck. like most tomato-sauce dishes, it tastes even better the second day.

these are deceptively simple. make them the next time you want to look like a superwoman (or man). :-) and just pretend you slaved all day.


Lisa-Marie said...

I think you should come and live with me and cook for me. This blog and this particular post make me drool.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

That's the wonderful thing about summer meals. They are light, and easy. Just like the hours.

Bee said...

What an excellent house-warming meal! The veal is something I would never think to make myself. I'm only sorry that prima donna cheese - wonderful name -- is not available in England.

Now I really have no excuse for not posting . . .

Wind Spirit said... amazing and absolutely dedicated cook who is preparing meals the day before a move and planning ahead for a meal on arrival at your new home.


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