STORY AND IMAGES BY SYLVIA FOUNTAINE
As summer turns into fall, days grow shorter while time seems to travel at warp speed. With work ramping up and school back in session, it can be challenging to make time to put wholesome, scratch-made meals on the dinner table this time of year. So here are a few quick and easy weeknight dinners that can be made in 40 minutes or less and require very little hands-on time. Best yet: The leftovers are easily packable and make for tasty lunches during the workweek.
Roasted Cauliflower Pasta with Parsley and Toasted Walnuts
Serves 2–3 | 30 minutes
In season during the fall months, cauliflower becomes deliciously earthy and sweet when roasted. Together with the toasted walnuts, this fall inspired dish boasts more cauliflower than actual pasta, making it a healthy, veggie-forward meal. Feel free to substitute or include other vegetables like roasted broccoli, peppers, or root vegetables to the mix.
4 ounces bucatini pasta (or any similar pasta, gluten-free included)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted
1 garlic clove, finely minced
lemon zest from 1/2 lemon
chili flakes to taste
finely grated pecorino cheese (optional)
Preheat oven to 450°F
Trim and cut cauliflower into bite-size florets. Place on parchment-lined sheet pan. Drizzle with oil, then sprinkle with garlic, salt, pepper, chili flakes, and lemon zest. Lightly toss with tongs and spread out evenly. Bake until tender and golden, about 20 minutes.
While the cauliflower is roasting, cook the pasta according to directions. Drain and place in a bowl. Add oil, parsley, walnuts, garlic, and lemon zest. When cauliflower is done, add it to the bowl and toss. Sprinkle with chili flakes. Taste for salt.
Top dish with pecorino cheese (optional).
Quick Chickpea Biryani
Serves 4 to 6 | 40 minutes
Biryani is a fragrant and flavorful rice dish hailing from India, and varies greatly from region to region. This version is vegan and features chickpeas as the protein, minimizing the cooking time significantly. As it simmers on the stove, delicious aromas waft through the house.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, rough chopped
1 tablespoon ginger, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons cumin
1 tablespoon coriander
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon (or one cinnamon stick)
1/2 teaspoon cardamom (or 3 crushed cardamom pods)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 bay leaf
4 cups veggie stock or water
2 cups basmati rice
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 can chickpeas, drained, rinsed
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup cashews
In a medium or large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté, stirring often, until tender and golden, 5 minutes. Turn heat to medium, add garlic and ginger, and cook 2 minutes.
Add spices and bay leaf, and stir one minute. Add stock, rice, and salt. Give a stir. Top with chickpeas, raisins, and cashews. Bring to a simmer over high heat, then lower heat to low. Cover the pot with a thin dish towel, place the lid over the top of the towel, and bring the four corners of the towel up and over the lid. This will tighten the seal and keep the steam in, allowing the rice to cook more quickly and evenly. Simmer on low 18–20 minutes or until the rice has soaked up the liquid.
Turn heat off and let sit 5 minutes. Toss with a fork, taste, and adjust salt.
Cilantro Coconut Yogurt Sauce
1 cup yogurt (full fat)
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1 bunch cilantro
1 inch ginger, sliced thin
1/2 teaspoon salt
Blend all ingredients together in a blender.
Serve biryani with cilantro sprigs and a spoonful or two of yogurt sauce.
Quick Braised Lentils with Blistered Tomatoes and Kale
Serves 2 | 30 minutes
The last of summer tomatoes enliven this dish and, when blistered, add sweetness and brightness. Fall kale is plentiful this time of year, and pairs well with earthy lentils and crumbled goat cheese. To save time with this recipe, buy pre-cooked lentils, which can be found at many upscale markets.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, diced
2 garlic cloves, rough chopped
2 cups cooked lentils (Beluga lentils, black caviar, or French green. Do not use split lentils.)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon cumin
2–3 large handfuls baby kale
Optional additions: crumbled feta or goat cheese, drizzle of olive oil
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add tomatoes and salt, and cook for about 5 minutes, until tender and blistered, but not losing the tomatoes’ shape.
Carefully spoon tomatoes out of the pan and set them aside.
In the same pan, heat olive oil over medium heat and add shallot and garlic, stirring often, until tender and golden, about 3 minutes. Add cooked lentils, vinegar, salt, and spices, and stir to warm. If the mixture is dry, add a splash of water. Once the mixture is warm, add kale a handful at a time, stirring, tossing, and wilting. Taste and adjust salt.
Divide the lentil and kale mixture between two bowls. Surround with the tomatoes, and top with optional feta, goat cheese, or olive oil.
Hailing from North Africa, harissa is a spicy chili paste often used as a marinade or condiment for meats and vegetables. It varies greatly from region to region across Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco, but most variations include hot chilies, earthy spices and onion or garlic blended up into a flavorful hot paste that can be used in a multitude of ways, often becoming a base for curries, soups and stews. This dish takes just 10 minutes of hands-on time before going into the oven to bake. Mildly spicy and smoky, the quick harissa marinade is easy and simple — just stir it up in a bowl. The Green Harissa Sauce is optional, but delicious.
Serves 4 | 40 minutes
2 garlic cloves, finely minced or crushed
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder or chili flakes (optional)
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional, but good)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 medium sweet potatoes, 1 pound each, diced into 1/2-inch cubes
1 onion, sliced into 1/2-inch wedges
4 chicken thighs, skin on, bone in
Green Harissa Sauce (optional)
1 cup plain yogurt, full fat
1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon coriander
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
Preheat oven to 450°F.
Stir marinade ingredients together in a small bowl.
Place sweet potatoes in a medium bowl, add half the marinade, and toss to coat. Place potatoes in a single layer on one side of a parchment-lined sheet pan.
Place onion wedges next to the sweet potatoes, saving room for the chicken.
Pat the chicken dry, season with a pinch of salt and pepper, and place in the marinade bowl. Add the remaining marinade, coating all sides well.
Place marinated chicken next to the onions.
Turn oven heat down to 425°F, and place the sheet pan in the oven. Bake 30 minutes, but check after 20 minutes, rotating the pan if necessary.
While chicken is baking, place the optional Green Harissa Sauce ingredients in the blender and blend until relatively smooth, scraping down the sides if necessary.
Double-check that the chicken is cooked through before serving. For extra crispy skin, broil for a few minutes at the end.
Divide sweet potatoes and onions among 4 bowls and top with the chicken.
Garnish with cilantro and optional Green Harissa Sauce.
Sylvia Fountaine, author of Feasting at Home Blog, is a Pacific Northwest chef, recipe developer, and food photographer. Find more of her work at www.feastingathome.com