Caroline Wright has long been interested in helping people gain the confidence and knowledge to make a great, healthy meal inexpensively.
Wright is currently offering her inventive ideas, tips and recipes in her book "Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals." Her idea for the cookbook was inspired by her friends, she said.
"My friends were all 20-something New Yorkers who were all overworked and underpaid," Wright said by phone recently. She said she knew people really wanted to learn to eat better and cook more creatively as well.
"These friends - hungry, creative, and new to the kitchen - helped give me the confidence that the fresh and simple way I liked to create meals when alone after a long day was the way they wanted to cook, too," she writes.
"My driving philosophy is one that is common among many of the busy cooks I know: the willingness to look at dinner differently."
All the recipes in "Twenty- Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals" are layed out in Wright's special recipe format written in a narrative style with ingredients that are highlighted and various tips in red. Photos are also included.
Wright, who is not only a food writer and editor as well as food stylist and recipe tester and developer, said she has a crazy schedule like many home cooks today so she was always looking for better ways to get dinner on the table. "It's an occupational hazard that I don't get to cook entirely as much as I'd like," she added.
"I consider myself a seasonal cook," she said, adding her recipes are developed from that way of thinking.
In "Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals," home cooks will find recipes as diverse as Spring Green Salad with Poached Chicken and Buttermilk Dressing; Lentil and Tuna Salad with Kalamata Olives; and Panzanella with Green Olives, Mozzarella, Prosciutto and Tomatoes; to Merguez Burgers with Cucumber Dressing; Pasta Primavera; and Seared-Salmon with Orange-Rosemary Lentils.
According to Wright, "it's good to push the envelope whenever you can" in the kitchen and when coming up with recipes. That attitude is definitely your way at approaching dinner differently.
"The book is written for the encouragement of getting the cook in the kitchen and to know yourself and the market," Wright said.
In Wright's cookbook, a section titled "An Extra Two Cents' Worth," readers will find tips as simple as
• Get organized
• Consider seasonal swaps
• Don't stress
• Keep salad greens on hand
• Give your pantry a little love
The following recipes from Wright are featured in "Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals." (In the book, ingredients are highlighted and certain tips are in red but this format doesn't appear in the newspaper article).
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook 1 pound egg tagliatelle according to package directions. Drain the pasta (reserve 1/4 cup pasta water) and return it to the pot.
Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon salted butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 chopped garlic clove and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add 2 cups fresh peas (or frozen peas thawed); 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces; 21/2 cups quartered cremini mushrooms (8 ounces) (try oyster mushrooms and/or shiitakes too); and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the asparagus is tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Add 4 cups (8 ounces) baby beet greens (or baby spinach)to the skillet and stir until wilted.
Just before serving, toss the pasta with the vegetables and 1 cup crème fraîche or sour cream.
Stir in the reserved pasta water if necessary for the desired consistency. Grate Parmesan cheese over the pasta, if desired, and serve.
Seared Salmon with Orange-Rosemary Lentils
Combine 1 cup cooked or canned lentils, 1/2 cup fresh orange juice, (from 1 medium orange) and leaves from 1 small sprig fresh rosemary in a small saucepan. Place over low heat and simmer until warmed through, 2 to 3 minutes. Meanwhile, peel and segment 2 oranges. Stir the segments into the warmed lentils, and season with salt and pepper. Cover and set aside.
Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 4 salmon fillets (6 ounces each) and cook, turning once, until golden and just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per side.
Serve the salmon with the lentils alongside.
Merguez Burgers with Cucumber Dressing
Preheat a grill to medium-high heat or a grill pan over medium-high heat.
Meanwhile, place 2 teaspoons fennel seeds, 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, and 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds in a mortar and crush with a pestle.
In a medium bowl, combine the spices with 1 pound ground lamb, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon harissa paste (or 1 teaspoon chili powder and 1/2 teaspoon paprika), 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, and 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper. Oil the grill grate or pan. Form the spiced meat into four 1 1/2-inch thick patties and grill, turning once, until charred and cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes per side for medium doneness.
While the burgers are cooking, combine 3 sliced Kirby cucumbers, 1/4 cup Greek yogurt, and 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Serve the burgers on rolls topped with the cucumber dressing.
Or top with:
tahini + lemon juice + roasted red peppers + mint
Panzanella with Green Olives, Mozzarella, Prosciutto and Tomatoes
Tear about 10 ounces stale crusty bread (from a 6-inch loaf) into bite-size pieces.
In a large bowl, combine the bread with 1/3 cup green olives, pitted and cracked (about 8 whole olives); 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, torn into pieces; 4 ounces prosciutto, torn into pieces; 4 plum tomatoes, cut into rough chunks; 1 can ( 15 ounces) butter beans, rinsed and drained; and 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves. Drizzle the salad with 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar and 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, season with salt and pepper, toss, and serve.
Also try: stale crusty bread + grilled vegetables + chickepeas + pickled cherry peppers + red wine vinegar.