DEBORAH CROMBIE: I'm at that stage of a book where the last thing in the world I want--or need--to do is cook. I've finished the two previous books in London, staying for three to four weeks in a flat by myself, eating my favorite take-aways--Indian from Masala Zone, Italian antipasti from Carluccio's--yummy things from local delis, or even carton soups and prepared meals (what the Brits call ready-meals, and they are generally much better than things you get in the US) from the supermarket. Or sometimes I'd take my notebook and walk up to my favorite Notting Hill pub, The Sun in Splendour, for fish and chips, or a pizza at Pizza Express.
But for this book, I'm home, and must feed not only myself but Dear Hubby, who DOES NOT COOK. If asked, "What can we do for dinner tonight, honey?" he will answer, "Wendy's or Taco Bell?"
One cannot live on Wendy's or Taco Bell. Or at least I can't, although he seems to manage quite well when I'm away. So I thought I would solicit Recipes for Desperate Writers from my fellow REDS.
(Oh, and Happy Mother's Day to all you mums out there!!! I hope someone has fixed you dinner!)
ROSEMARY HARRIS: I know Hallie and Lucy will come up with some yummy recipes so I'm going to take the easier path - go to Trader Joe's! Their packaged balsamic chicken with rosemary is the best prepared food I've ever eaten. They also have very good frozen potstickers. Three minutes, a little soy sauce, nuke some frozen edamame and you're good to go.
LUCY BURDETTE: Wendy's or Taco Bell? Oh save us from those horrible options, Debs! Here's a go-to meal that couldn't be easier: take one chicken, clean innards out of the cavity, plop in a roasting pan. Drizzle a little olive oil on top, spread it around, add salt and pepper and a little rosemary if you have it. (You can get fancy with seasonings, but we're focusing on EASY, right?) Deliver to oven and roast at 350 for about an hour and a half. You can stick two sweet potatoes in for about the same time--just scrub, prick with a knife in a few places, and set them on a piece of tin foil. Add a salad or a few spears of asparagus (we like them best roasted about ten minutes) and voila, you're done. And you have half a chicken left over to make soup or sandwiches...
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Pasta Primavera! Get vegetables. Say--a zucchini and a yellow squash and a red pepper. Chop, toss with a bit of olive oil and basil, throw into the oven and roast for 10 mins. Or broil. Doesn't matter. Meanwhile, make pasta, drain. Here's the secret: put 3 tablespoons or so of olive oil in a bowl, add chopped garlic (you can use the kind in a jar) nuke in the microwave for 30 seconds, making infused olive oil. Dump the veggies into the pasta, dump the oil on top, mix, add Parmesan cheese and a few twists of pepper. Easy. Yum. And you can use any kind of vegetables!
JAN BROGAN: This is even easier than Hank's, so easy that Spike, my 22-year old son, has made it a staple in his tiny Brooklyn apartment which has almost no kitchen utensils. Buy and keep those 12-ounce boxes of frozen CHOPPED spinach in your freezer. Also make sure you have ground Parmesan in your refrigerator. Make a box of pasta, I like bow ties or the corkscrews, but any will do. While it's cooking, take the wrapping off the box of spinach, put the box on a plate and microwave it for six minutes. Drain the pasta, press the water out of box of spinach. Combine in the pot you cooked the pasta in. (or course, you toss out the spinach box) Add a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of butter. A cup of Parmesan and VIOLA, dinner.
Or if you want to be virtuous, skip the butter and just add olive oil. If you want to be fancy, you can add a small can of drained diced tomatoes, Italian spices or Oregano. Pepper. Herbs de Provence. Whatever.
RHYS BOWEN: I agree with so much of this. Roast chicken is a staple in our house--rubbed with Yoshida sauce, sitting on a bed of veggies. And with the leftovers we make chicken curry and then a thick veggie soup. For a really simple dinner I also love a big baked potato with cheese and broccoli on top.
And also a fan of Trader Joe's--Mandarin chicken, those same frozen potstickers,and a wonderful thin pizza called Tarte D'Alsace.
HALLIE EPHRON: Mmmm. Roast chicken. An hour and a half if it's small. If it's a "roasting size" (5-6 pounds), it'll need more like 2 hours. And I like to turn the heat way up to 450 when it first goes in and leave the temperature there for about 10 minutes to get the skin starting to crisp. Then turn it down to 350 for the rest of the cooking.
How about steak, tomato salad, and steamed asparagus? For the steak, quality counts. I pat fresh ground pepper into both sides of the raw meat a few minutes before cooking.
Pan seared steak: Heat a heavy pan (roomy enough for the steak) until water skips when you splash a few drops on it. Sprinkle the bottom of the pan with coarse salt. Smack the steak down in the hot salted pan and let it crust on the under side (about a minute and a half); turn it, and let it cook hot on the other side about 1 minute more. Turn the heat WAY down and cover the pan. Cook until the meat is as rare as you like it. Remove the steak. Swirl some red wine and butter in the pan and dump it and some chopped parsley and chives on the steak. What could be more delicious?
I leave the asparagus and tomatoes to your imagination. As with everything in the kitchen, the quality of the ingredients is what counts.
DEBS: You all are fab! Unfortunately, we don't have Trader Joe's here. But we do have CostCo, and I buy easy things like organic spinach and cheese ravioli, frozen shrimp, and jars and jars of CostCo brand marinara sauce, which is all lovely ingredients and is really cheap!
At least once a week we have whole wheat spaghetti with the marinara sauce, fresh grated Romano (CostCo again) and a salad.
I do love roast chicken in all the permutations, and you've inspired me to make my favorite this week: plop (Lucy's word:-)) a whole chicken in Le Creuset casserole, rub all over with good olive oil and chopped fresh rosemary, squeeze over juice of a lemon and add fresh ground salt and pepper; stuff cavity with another cut up lemon and rosemary sprigs. Cook. Serve with brown rice and steamed asparagus (yes, that's a big one in our house, too) and I eat mine with preserved lemon.
And thank goodness it's grilling season. We have a good gas grill, which makes for really easy dinners. We have a local organic meat market (so local that the owners actually own the ranch with the cows) so we've had burgers more often lately. There is absolutely no comparison between their meat and what you buy in the supermarket. I think now, however, I'm going to have to splurge and try Hallie's pan-seared steak....
Or I may just pack up and move in with Hallie until the book is finished...
PS: Any suggestions from our lovely readers would be appreciated, too! And now it's back to work on the book.
PSS: The second cartoon is by one of my favorite writers, Russell T. Davies, creator of Dr. Who. Now that's inspiring.