Home Cooking: Three easy weeknight dinners with leftovers for lunches
As we head out of quarantine, many of us will find ourselves working full days and coming home perhaps too tired to cook the dinner we deserve.
That’s what became the inspiration for these recipes. Last week, I worked until 5, then headed to 6 p.m. Mass at St. Mary’s, and by the time I got home and fed the dogs, it was 7:45, and I was tired.
What I wanted more than anything was to throw a frozen pizza into the oven, put my feet up while it cooked and relax. But I also knew that my stomach would thank me if I took the same amount of time, with a little additional effort, and created a simple dinner using fresh ingredients.
Linguine with fresh spinach and garlic
So, I filled a big pot with water, threw in a big pinch of kosher salt, and when it came to a boil, I added enough linguine for my dinner and a leftover meal for my lunch at work the next day. While the pasta cooked, I grabbed a large frying pan, added a few swirls of extra virgin olive oil and two big handfuls of fresh spinach leaves.
While the spinach sauteed, I finely chopped two cloves of garlic. Once the spinach was just wilted, I added the garlic (so that it wouldn’t burn).
Next, I dipped a coffee mug into the big pot and retrieved a cup of pasta water. When the linguine was al dente, I drained it and then tossed the noodles into the frying pan with the sauteed spinach and garlic.
I added a few grinds of red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste, a little bit of the pasta water (just enough to create a sauce), a tablespoon of butter for richness and a generous grating of fresh Parmesan cheese.
The pasta was comforting, and the fresh spinach lightly sautéed with the garlic relieved my guilty conscience. I enjoyed half for dinner and the other half became the perfect room-temperature pasta for lunch the next day.
Salmon BLT and leftover salmon salad
The next evening, I preheated the oven to 400, grabbed two frozen salmon fillets, placed them on a sheet pan, spread them with hoisin sauce (or teriyaki sauce or soy sauce or BBQ sauce), and roasted the salmon for 15-20 minutes until it was cooked to my preference.
While the salmon roasted, I prepared my plate. I fried a couple pieces of bacon until crisp. On my favorite onion bun, I slathered mayo, then layered lettuce and tomatoes and the bacon. When the salmon was ready, I added that and served the sandwich alongside potato chips.
I could just as easily have cut up some sweet potatoes into french fry strips, sprinkled them with extra-virgin olive oil and my favorite southwest seasoning, tossed them onto the same sheet pan as my salmon, and put them into the oven at the same time. The thinly cut fries and salmon filets would have finished cooking around the same time.
I enjoyed one of the salmon filets in my BLT for dinner, and I saved the second salmon filet for my lunch, adding the salmon to a simple tossed salad. I packed it in an insulated bag with a small plastic container filled with ice cubes, providing effective cooling for the salad until lunchtime.
Bacon-wrapped chicken salad
This recipe was inspired by a picture I saw on my Instagram feed from The New York Times Cooking Community group. Honestly, the idea is so simple I didn’t even look at the recipe because the picture says it all.
Here’s my version: Take three or four chicken tenders per salad, wrap the raw tenders in uncooked bacon, place them on a baking sheet and cook in a 400-degree oven for 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the bacon is crisp.
Meanwhile, prepare your salad. Toss together your favorite salad ingredients, including greens, slices of avocado, tomatoes, fresh herbs and your favorite vinaigrette.
When the bacon-wrapped chicken is ready, allow it to cool for three minutes, and then cut it into bite-size pieces and toss together with your salad.
Once again, this is the perfect meal for dinner, and you can use leftovers for your lunch the next day. I would suggest not adding salad dressing to the portion you’re saving for lunch so that you don’t have wilted greens.
Don’t forget to add your homemade ice pack to keep the salad nicely chilled until lunchtime.
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Home Cooking” publishes biweekly on Thursdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson taught herself to cook after college when she discovered dinner parties were a cure for loneliness. Her latest cookbook is “A Year in the Mountains Cookbook.” She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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