fbpx

One Pan, Two Plates: More Than 4 Complete Weeknight Meals for Two

Advertisement

If you have convection capability, use it. Convection cooking uses hot air to roast and bake. Foods brown and caramelize faster in convection mode, and your oven will preheat faster as well. To adapt these quick-cooking recipes to convection mode, just set your oven temperature as directed in the recipe and set the timer a few minutes less. Monitor the cooking until you get the hang of it.

Use a heavy skillet. A heavy skillet will allow you to use higher heat (which cooks faster, naturally) than most lightweight cookware. I recommend a 12-in/30.5-cm cast-iron skillet with a lid and an ovenproof handle so that it can go from stovetop to oven safely. Nothing cooks like a cast-iron skillet, and they’re often inexpensive to boot.

Purchase a large plastic cutting board. A larger cutting board, for example 18 by 24 in/46 by 61 cm, will give you plenty of room to cut all your fresh vegetables at one time, and if it’s plastic it can be washed in the dishwasher. 

 Invest in a sharp knife. Nothing will improve your kitchen life more than a sharp knife. For the kitchen freshman, I recommend a 7- or 8-in/17- or 20-cm Santoku, which is a Japanese version of the traditional European chef’s knife. If you have chef-size aspirations, go for a 10-in/25-cm classic chef’s knife. Once you get used to it, the extended length makes chopping less work and more fun. After use, just rinse the knife and dry it off. Don’t put it in the dishwasher, as that tends to dull the blade.

When you buy the knife, invest in a sharpening steel as well. The steel actually keeps your knife sharp, affording you fewer trips to the professional sharpener.

  • Three-Cheese Mac with CRISPY PROSCIUTTO
instagram/

There is nothing that delivers comfort and a little pampering like creamy, rich macaroni and cheese. I add crispy, fried prosciutto for its salt and hammy flavor, and because dinner is just usually more, well, dinnerlike for my husband if it contains a little meat. This version includes my top three cheeses: goat cheese, Parmesan, and Gruyère. For extra TLC, add a glass of wine, an extra log on the fire, and something chocolate for dessert.

……..
START TO FINISH 45 minutes

HANDS-ON TIME 25 minutes

serves 2


Salt
2 cups/225 g elbow macaroni
4 tbsp/55 g unsalted butter
6 thin slices prosciutto, cut crosswise into strips
½ cup/55 g panko bread crumbs
1½ tbsp all-purpose flour
1½ cups/360 ml milk, warmed in the microwave
⅓ cup/55 g crumbled goat cheese
⅓ cup/40 g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
⅓ cup/40 g shredded Gruyère cheese
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C/gas 4. Position a rack in the center.

2. Fill a 12-in/30.5-cm ovenproof skillet, preferably cast iron, with water up to about 1 in/2.5 cm from the top. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Add 2 tsp salt and toss in the macaroni. Stir gently once or twice so the pasta doesn’t stick.  

3. Reduce the heat to medium-high. You must cook the macaroni at a gentle boil only until it’s still just short of completely tender, because it will finish cooking in the oven. For example, if the box says to cook for 7 minutes, test the pasta after 5 minutes. To check, fish a piece out of the water (a slotted spoon makes it easy), run it under cold water, and bite it. It should still be chewy, but not tough. Drain the pasta in a colander set in the sink and run cold water over it to stop the cooking and keep it from clumping. 

 4. Add 2 tbsp of the butter to the pan and melt over medium-high heat. Add the prosciutto and toss it around in the pan until it’s crispy, about 2 minutes. Transfer the prosciutto to a plate. Put the panko in a small bowl. Pour the hot butter left in the pan over the panko and toss to coat.  

5. Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the remaining 2 tbsp butter. When the butter is melted, sprinkle in the flour and ¼ tsp salt. Cook, stirring, until the flour becomes foamy, about 1 minute. Whisk in the warm milk. Stir until the mix- ture is thickened and saucy, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and add all three cheeses, the nutmeg, and a grind or two of pepper, stirring until the cheeses are melted. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if it needs it. Stir in the macaroni and prosciutto until all of the mac is thoroughly coated and the pro- sciutto is evenly distributed. Smooth the top and sprinkle the buttery bread crumbs over the top. 

 6. Transfer to the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the juices are bub- bly and the top is lightly browned. If you have time to give it a few more minutes, the top will get even crispier. Scoop into warmed shallow bowls and serve hot.  

it’s that easy: Macaroni and cheese for two makes a simple yet lovely meal when paired with a green salad, crusty bread, and a glass of wine. I prefer to make and serve it in a cast-iron skillet, because the pan holds the heat so well. One time, I put the skillet on the table, set out two forks, and my husband and I devoured it right out of the pan. It was delicious that way because the cheesy sauce was oozy and hot throughout the whole meal. It was also fun to fight over the larger pieces of prosciutto with our forks . . . a kind of forky swordplay if you will. 

extra hungry? Pair this pasta dish with a simple salad if you’re craving a bit of green stuff. It doesn’t have to be complicated—just a handful of greens, a squirt of fresh lemon juice, and a glug of olive oil should do it. 

in the glass: It’s tough to find a low-priced white Burgundy, but they are out there if you look. Try to find Vincent Girardin Bourgogne. It’s a Chardonnay with lots of crisp apple to counteract the richness of the cheese, but it’s still light and is made without the profuse heavy oak that makes so many Chardonnays tough to pair with food.

  • Fresh Summer Pasta with TOMATOES, GARLIC, BASIL, and BUTTERY CROUTONS

Fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic, and pasta could be dinner every night at my house. Since you use fresh tomatoes, this dish should be reserved for that time of year when they are perfectly ripe and at peak flavor. It might seem like carb overload, but the crispy croutons add an addictive buttery crunch, so don’t even think about leaving them out. The amount of garlic, red pepper flakes, and basil is a personal thing, so be sure to tailor this dish to your taste buds.

……..
START TO FINISH 40 minutes

HANDS-ON TIME 20 minutes

serves 2

1 large tomato, cored and diced (see “It’s that easy”)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2½ tsp salt
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp unsalted butter
3 thick slices Italian-style bread, cut into 1-in/2.5-cm cubes (see “It’s that easy”)
10 oz/250 g fresh fettuccine
⅓ cup/10 g thinly sliced fresh basil leaves

1. In a large bowl big enough to hold the pasta later, combine the tomato, half of the garlic, ¼ tsp of the salt, the olive oil, vinegar, red pepper flakes, and a few grinds of black pepper and toss it all together. Set aside.

  2. In a 12-in/30.5 cm skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the bread cubes, the remaining garlic, and ¼ tsp salt and cook until the bread cubes are browned in the hot fat, turning them as they crisp, about 5 minutes total. They will soak up all the butter in the pan like sponges. (You may need to reduce the heat if they threaten to over-brown.) Transfer the croutons to a plate. Let the pan cool slightly before carefully wiping it out with paper towels.   3. Fill the skillet with water up to about 1 in/2.5 cm from the top. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the remaining 2 tsp salt and the fettuccine. Stir gently once or twice so the noodles don’t stick. Cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 3 minutes or according to the package directions. (To check, fish out a strand and bite into it. It should still be chewy, but not tough.) Scoop out about ¼ cup/60 ml of the pasta-cooking water and set it aside, then drain the pasta in a colander set in the sink.   4. Immediately dump the pasta and 1 to 2 tbsp of the reserved pasta water into the bowl with the tomato mixture and toss to coat the pasta thoroughly. Add the basil and croutons and stir to incorporate them into the mix. Taste and adjust the sea- soning. If it seems dry, add a little more pasta water. 5. Heap the pasta on warmed plates and eat with reckless abandon. The pasta cools really quickly and the croutons get soggy, so tuck in right away. 

 it’s that easy: Tomato skins can be incredibly tough! The easiest way to slice them is to use a serrated knife. After your first cuts, lay the tomato slices flat with any skin sides down; you shouldn’t have any trouble cutting them into cubes. The same thing goes for crusty artisan loaves of bread. Use a serrated knife to saw through the crispy crust and tender insides.

 extra hungry? A small salad of arugula with grated or shaved Parmesan will go nicely with all the basil in the pasta. You could toss in a few olives if you have them.

 in the glass: If you haven’t tried one lately, this dish is a great excuse to drink a dry, crisp rosé. The Coppola winery makes wine with a good price-to-quality ratio, and it is widely distributed, thus easy to find. Look for Francis Ford Coppola Winery Sofia Rosé. It has a crisp acidity but with enough fruit to complement the tomatoes, and enough spice to stand up to the garlic.

  • Fettuccine with  SCALLOPS, CARROTS, and GINGER-LIME BUTTER SAUCE

Fettuccine has such a wonderful chewy texture, especially when the pasta is fresh. Lucky for us, fresh pasta is easy to find these days in the refrigerated and frozen foods section of most well-stocked groceries and almost any Italian-foods store. I love to pair it with silky things like butter and scallops and, as in this dish, a touch of lime. The citrus and the spice of fresh ginger wake up the buttery carrots and embellish the noodles like a colorful scarf on a simple black dress. Speaking of simple, this dish is pretty basic. Once the carrots are cut, you’re just a few steps away from having dinner on the table in minutes flat.

……..
START TO FINISH 35 minutes

HANDS-ON TIME 25 minutes

serves 2
……..

Salt
10 oz/280 g fresh fettuccine
4 tbsp/55 g unsalted butter
1 shallot, minced

1 tbsp peeled and minced fresh ginger
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks (see “It’s that easy”)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
12 oz/340 g day-boat (also called dry or dry-packed; see Note) scallops, patted dry on
paper towels
1 lime, ½ reserved for juice, ½ cut into wedges for garnish
1 tbsp minced fresh chives

1. Fill a 12-in/30.5-cm skillet with water up to about 1 in/2.5 cm from the top. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Add 2 tsp salt and toss in the fettuccine. Stir gently once or twice so the noodles don’t stick. Cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 3 minutes or according to the package directions. (To check, fish out a strand and bite into it. It should still be chewy, but not tough.) Scoop out ½ cup/ 120 ml of the pasta-cooking water and set it aside. Drain the pasta in a colander set in the sink and run just enough cold water over it to stop the cooking but leave it warm.   2. In the same pan, melt 2 tbsp of the butter over medium-high heat. Add the shal- lot, ginger, and carrots. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté the vegetables until they are crisp-tender and lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute. Scoop the vegetables out of the pan onto a warmed plate (or cover the plate loosely with aluminum foil to keep warm).   3. Sprinkle the scallops with salt and pepper on both sides. Return the pan to medi- um-high heat and add the remaining 2 tbsp butter. When it’s melted and sizzling, add the scallops. Cook until browned on the first side, about 2 minutes (don’t try to move them sooner or they will stick and tear). Using tongs or a spatula, carefully turn them over and sear on the second side for another 2 minutes. They should be browned and slightly firm to the touch when pressed with a finger. Transfer the scallops to another warmed plate and cover to keep them warm.  

4. Still over medium-high heat, add half of the reserved pasta-cooking water to the hot pan and squeeze in the juice from the lime half. Add the pasta and toss for about 1 minute to heat it and coat it with the sauce. Add the vegetables and toss them with the pasta to warm them up. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if desired. If the mixture seems dry, stir in a little more of the reserved pasta water.   5. Mound the pasta onto warmed plates and top it with the scallops, dividing them evenly. Sprinkle with the chives, garnish the plates with the lime wedges, and serve hot.

  note: Seek out day-boat scallops, which are fresher and not chemically treated.  it’s that easy: To cut a carrot into matchsticks, peel it first and trim off the pointy and stem ends. Cut crosswise into pieces about 4 in/10 cm long. Cut a very thin slice from one long side of a piece so the carrot will sit on the cutting board without rolling. Cut downward, lengthwise, into ⅛-in/3-mm slices. Stack the slices flat-side up and cut the stack lengthwise into ⅛-in/3-mm sticks. Cut the sticks in half so that they are about 2 in/5 cm long, like matchsticks.Voilà! extra hungry? A beautiful, ripe sliced tomato dressed with salt, pepper, and a splashof extra-virgin olive oil would be perfect alongside this rich dish.   in the glass: Whites rule as an accompaniment to this scallop dish; a California Sauvignon Blanc from Edna Valley would reign supreme.

  • Linguine with CHICKEN, SPINACH, and FETA CHEESE


I had a friend in college who would wiggle in her chair whenever she was eating something really delicious. As an eater and a cook, I really appreciate that kind of enthusiasm at the table. I know Lynn would really love this pasta dish because it’s delicious, quick, and easy to pull together for a busy weeknight meal. She’d love the tender chicken, chewy pasta, salty cheese, and fresh spinach, which is irresistible by the way. Last but not least, the lemon in this dish is so bright with tart fruit; I know that it would make her smile . . . and wiggle a little bit in her chair.

……..
START TO FINISH 25 minutes

HANDS-ON TIME 25 minutes

serves 2
……..

Salt
10 oz/280 g fresh linguine
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced
Freshly ground black pepper
One 5-oz/140-g bag baby spinach
1 cup/115 g crumbled feta cheese
⅓ cup/75 ml lemon juice, plus more if needed

  • Skirt Steak Fajitas with PICO DE GALLO and AVOCADO

Fajitas make any day a party. They appeal to the control freak in me because they allow me to assemble everything on that warm tortilla just the way I like it (not too much meat, lots of avocado and salsa). If you haven’t tried skirt steak lately, you’re going to love it marinated with cumin and garlic and flash-cooked in a blazing hot skillet. The combo of lime-infused pico de gallo salsa, creamy avocado, spicy chiles, and cool sour cream ends a tough day on a bright note. Maybe even a fiesta.

……..
START TO FINISH 40 minutes

HANDS-ON TIME 25 minutes

serves 2
……..

2 limes
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 garlic clove, minced
½ tsp ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 oz/280 g skirt steak (see “It’s that easy”)
1 ripe tomato, cored and cut into small dice
1 small red onion, half cut into small dice, half thinly sliced

2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbsp chopped pickled jalapeño chiles (see Tip)
1 poblano chile, seeded and cut into ¼-in/6-mm strips
½ ripe avocado, peeled and sliced
Four or five 6-in/15-cm flour tortillas
Sour cream for serving

1. In a large zippered plastic bag, combine the juice of 1 lime, 1 tbsp of the vegetable oil, the garlic, cumin, ¼ tsp salt, and pepper to taste. Add the skirt steak. Mush the marinade around to mix well, squeeze out the extra air, zip the bag closed, and let the steak rest on the countertop while you prepare the other ingredients. (I like using a bag because the marinade really covers the surface of the meat, but if you’d rather just place it all in a casserole or shallow dish, that’s fine as well.)

2. In a small bowl, combine the tomato, diced onion, cilantro, pickled jalapeños, ¼ tsp salt, and a sprinkling of pepper in a small bowl and squeeze half the remaining lime into it. Mix the pico de gallo and taste for seasoning, adding more lime, salt, pepper, or jalapeño.

3. Heat a 12-in/30.5-cm skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 tbsp vegetable oil. When the oil shimmers, remove the meat from the marinade (discard the marinade) and add to the hot pan. Sprinkle the steak with salt and pepper and cook for about 4 minutes. Don’t move it—it’ll brown more nicely if left alone. Flip the meat over with tongs and cook it for 3 minutes longer for medium-rare, or 4 minutes for medium. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the meat to a cutting board to rest while you cook the veggies.

4. Add the remaining 1 tbsp vegetable oil to the hot pan and add the sliced onion and the poblano chile. Sprinkle the vegetables with salt and pepper and sauté until tender but still a little crunchy in the center, about 4 minutes. Squeeze the remaining lime half over the vegetables. Transfer the vegetables to a large platter and arrange the avocado alongside.

5. Carve the meat across the grain into thin strips and arrange it on the platter with the veggies. Warm the tortillas on a plate covered with microwave-safe plastic wrap in the microwave for about 30 seconds, then add to the platter.

6. Serve the platter of meat and vegetables and warm tortillas immediately. Pass the pico de gallo and sour cream at the table so the two of you can make your own personal fajitas just the way you like them.

tip: Small cans or jars of pickled jalapeños are readily found in Latino markets or the Latino section of supermarkets. it’s that easy: Skirt steak is a flavorful cut from below the rib.

It has long muscle fibers, so cutting it across the grain will make all the difference between a tender or chewy slice of meat. Just look at the meat and cut it across the fibrous lines, with your knife blade turned at a diagonal. Flank steak will work in a pinch, but it’s a thicker cut, so note you’ll need to cook it a few minutes longer.

extra hungry? Open a can of refried beans and warm them up in the microwave. Either load the beans onto your fajita or serve them alongside. in the glass: Just hearing the word fajita makes me want a cold Corona longneck plucked from an icy cooler. But if wine’s your thing today, try a Rioja from Spain. Marqués de Cáceres Rioja Crianza Red is easy to find and a bargain.