As much as people just love to hate on a certain someone who has created an empire making meals from (mostly) scratch that can be on the dinner table in 30 minutes or less, I have to admit – I quite admire her timely quest. Oh please – trust me – I can only dream to be the type that has all these extra hours loitering around on a weekday waiting to be used up for some whimsical purpose – like whipping up a slow-braised osso-buco, stopping in for a much needed mani/pedi/massage, or bopping over to an ohsostrenuous mid-day sesh at Physique 57.
Ya…that would be nice.
5:30am: Slap angrily at alarm clock. Snooze. Slap. Snoozeslap.
6:30am: Hop-scotch traffic on 8th Ave. Finally hail cab and check emails.
6:45am-5pm: Coffee. Client calls. Frantic trading. Lunch. More coffee. More calls. Bell rings. Exhale.
5:30pm: Reluctant gym and/or client cocktails. Run & sweat or chatter & schmooze.
7:45pm: Retrieve dry cleaning. Drop busted-up heels at cobbler. Walk pug. Think about dinner….groceries….do we have any?
8:30pm: Dinner….dishes (le sigh).
10:30pm: Face-plant-starfish into bed.
Rinse. Lather. Repeat.
Hey, I’m not complaining, for as they say – c’est la vie – such is life! It’s that hectic city schedule that I manage to simultaneously loathe and yet wouldn’t know how to live without. And city or country, I don’t know anyone who has gobs of extra time to create hyper-involved meals during the week. Like Ms. 30 Minutes or less, my criteria for weeknight dinners are minimal ingredients, easy prep and clean-up, and quick finish time from start to plate.
And, of course, keeping it fresh and healthy is a huge component. We are after all staring directly down the scary barrel of bathing suit season’s gun, and I know I’d prefer not to have whale songs chortling through my head whilst trying that adorable yet not-so-full-coverage two-piece at Anthropologie. The easiest way (I find) to keep quick meals light but still tasty is to rely on spices and fresh herbs to squeeze the most from the least – they are highly flavorful yet add no extra calories or fat. Big steaming bowls of noodles are one of my favorite things to eat, and this version with salmon poached in a light green curry broth is healthy, really (really) tasty, dirties only a couple of dishes, and relies on a small number of fresh ingredients.
The light broth is perfect for the delicate flavor of the salmon; it’s bold, without being overpowering, and has just enough heft to support the noodles and julienned veggies. I used soba noodles, which are made of buckwheat. They are light, gluten free, and high in magnesium and protein – all rare things to find in a noodle. This dish is slightly sweet without being cloying or overbearing, and has just the right amount of tingly spice.
This is such a great meal because it can be gussied up for guests or adapted infinitely for your everyday weeknight dinners. You can play with the seafood, adding in different types (shrimp, scallops, squid) or none at all (chicken or tofu instead), mix up the veggies (maybe some eggplant, mushrooms, or scallions?) and spice up the sauce (a dash of sriracha anyone?). If you aren’t in the habit of keeping light coconut milk and soba noodles on hand along with some curry paste and spices, you really should be – making a fantastic meal out of ‘wehaveNOTHINGinthishouse!’ is undeniably easier with them. Pick up fish and a couple of veggies, and you my friend are enroute to starring in your very own episode of 30 Minute Meals – no annoying catchphrases (“E-V-O-O” anyone?!) required.
Salmon & Soba Noodles in a Thai Green Curry Broth
1 package soba noodles
2 filets salmon (wild caught or organically farm raised)
2 – 14 oz cans of light coconut milk
3 Tbsp green curry paste*
1 red pepper, juilenned
20 green beans (a big handful, not exact) trimmed and cut into small pieces
20 snap peas (again, a big handful not exact), ends trimmed, cut into half width-wise
1 Tbsp fish sauce**
1 Tbsp agave nectar
Handful cilantro, chopped
Sea salt to taste
Lime wedges, for serving
equip: large skillet with lidPlace the curry paste in a large pot over medium high heat. Add in a half cup of the coconut milk, and whisk until there are no lumps remaining. Bruise the lemongrass with the backside of a knife (that is, use the blunt side of a knife to gently thwack the lemongrass to release it’s oils) and add it to the coconut milk curry paste mixture. Add in the fish sauce, agave, and the rest of the coconut milk and bring the mixture to a simmer.
Once simmering, add the green beans, snap peas, and red pepper strips, and simmer for 5 minutes to soften the vegetables and meld the flavors. Taste the broth and adjust for seasoning (add salt if needed).
While the broth simmers, prepare the noodles according to the package directions (this is generally just cook for 4 minutes and test strands for doneness – take care not to overcook). When cooked, drain the noodles and rinse them under cool water (to stop the cooking process) and reserve in a colander to the side.
Place the salmon in the simmering curry mixture and spoon some broth atop the filets. Cover the skillet, and poach the salmon for 6-10 minutes, depending on how you like your salmon cooked (6 minutes will be medium rare, 10 minutes will be cooked/opaque all the way through). Test salmon by flaking it gently with a fork and peering at the inside. When the salmon is cooked to your liking, stir in the chopped cilantro.To serve, place half of the soba noodles in each of 2 wide and shallow bowls. Place a filet atop of the noodles in each bowl, and ladle the curry broth and vegetables atop.
Garnish with additional coarsely chopped cilantro and lime wedges.
*If you are nervous about the heat level, start with two tablespoons and go up from there. You can find green curry paste in a well-equipped Asian aisle at specialty grocery markets, at asian markets, or on Amazon.com
**Fish sauce, as unappealing as it sounds, is a savory sauce made from fermented fish….sounds gross, but used sparingly (as it’s intended) the fish taste is undetectable. Like curry paste, look for it at Asian markets or find it here. Don’t be scared of it’s smell either – once in the broth it is not fish-like at all, it just adds a nice savory depth. If cannot find it or really just do not like it (please just try it!), you can omit it without any negative effect.