Michele Uravter, author of the "Monday to Friday Cookbook," says many of us may be dysfunctional cooks. "People have taken cooking class after cooking class and they still don't know how to cook," she says. She says she hopes her book will help them change by giving them what she calls the "power to cook" without being a slave to rigid rules. She sees the following recipe as a good example of how to transform a simple pasta into a one-pot meal by cooking the ingredients in sequence and saving time on cleanup. This batch is made big enough so you can serve the rest at a later date.
$ Orzo with salmon and asparagus Makes 6 to 8 servings
1 1/2 pounds salmon fillets, tuna fillets or fresh shrimp (peeled and deveined)
36 medium asparagus spears, fresh or frozen
2 cups fish stock or bottled clam juice and 4 cups water or 6 cups water
1 box (16 ounces) of orzo or ancini pepe
1 small bunch fresh dill or basil
6 small or 4 medium-size tomatoes
2 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
freshly ground black pepper
With tweezers or small pliers, pluck any stray bones from the salmon. Cut the fillets into 1-inch cubes. Break the tough ends from the asparagus and cut the spears into 1/2 -inch lengths.
Bring the stock and/or water to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add salt to taste and orzo, stir a couple of times, and cook partially covered for 4 minutes.
Add the asparagus, cover and cook until the asparagus is tender, about 4 minutes. Add the fish, cover and cook until it is just cooked through -- 3 to 4 minutes more. Drain in a sieve and return to the pot, off the heat.
Meanwhile, rinse and stem the dill and put the leaves in a food processor. Quarter the tomatoes and add them along with the oil, vinegar and pepper flakes. Process until pureed.
Stir the tomato sauce into the pasta and season to taste with salt and ground black pepper. Serve immediately in deep dishes.
The following recipe is an example of what Ms. Uravter calls a Sunday start-up dish." Ignore all instructions on the package that direct you to roast veal shoulder, she says, it must be cooked with some moisture to break down the connective fibers. Serve with baked potatoes, or yams, acorn squash and salad. It takes 5 minutes work and 2 1/4 hours no-work cooking time.
Braised veal Makes 6 to 8 servings.
veal shoulder roast, 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 pounds
1/2 cup dry white wine, chicken broth or lemon juice
salt and freshly ground pepper
Heat the oven to 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Set the roast, fat side up, in a roasting pan and pour the liquid around it. Cover with aluminum foil and set the pan in the oven.
Immediately reduce the heat to 375 degrees and cook until the roast feels tender when pierced with a fork, 1 3/4 to 2 hours.
Remove the roast from the oven and let it rest for 15 minutes before serving. Thinly slice the veal. Season the slices with salt and pepper and moisten with spoonfuls of the pan juices if they are not too fatty.
The second time around: When the roast is cool, slice off as much fat as possible, wrap the meat well and refrigerate for two to three days. Cut the leftover veal roast into 3/4 -inch cubes and reheat it in a Mexican corn and sweet potato saute.
The natural sweetness of the corn and sweet potatoes provides a contrast to the hot jalapenos and the tang of lime juice, according to the author. She suggests serving it with richly flavored meats, such as the veal cubes. The recipe takes 10 to 15 minutes of work and 25 minutes of no-work cooking time.
$ Mexican corn and sweet potato saute Makes 4 servings.
1 sweet potato
2 green bell peppers
2 ripe tomatoes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 package (10 ounces) frozen corn kernels, thawed
2 pickled jalapeno peppers, available in specialty stores or international section of the supermarket
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
6 green onions
2 tablespoons lime juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Peel the sweet potato and cut into 1/2 -inch cubes. Core and seed the bell peppers, then cut them into small dice. Halve the tomatoes and remove the seeds with a spoon; chop the remaining flesh into a small dice.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sweet potatoes, peppers, tomatoes and corn. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, seed the jalapeno peppers and mince. Mince the cilantro. Trim and thinly slice the scallions. Add the jalapenos, lime juice and cilantro to the skillet and continue to cook uncovered until almost all the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. (If you are going to use this recipe with veal leftovers, add the veal with the jalapenos, lime juice and cilantro.) Add the scallions and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot.