Tuesday, July 14, 2009

This 10-ingredient shopping list will give you five days of meals

Evan SungMark Bittman.

Many people turn to unhealthy restaurant meals and takeout because they don’t have time to shop. In his latest “How to Cook Everything” segment on the Today Show, New York Times food writer Mark Bittman makes it surprisingly easy to cook a week’s worth of dinners with just a 10-ingredient shopping trip.

Mark assumes you’ve stocked your pantry with easy basics like spices, good cooking oils and vinegars, long-keeping carbs like pasta, rice and udon noodles, as well as soy sauce, garlic, lemon, butter and Parmesan cheese. With these staples, you can just pick up a few fresh ingredients every now and then, and “cook for days at a time,” Mark says.

Here’s a 10-ingredient shopping list that will give you five days of meals.

  1. Chicken breasts (4 boneless)
  2. Bacon (1/2 pound)
  3. Shrimp (1 pound)
  4. Spinach (1 pound)
  5. Tomatoes (6)
  6. Ginger
  7. Onions
  8. Asparagus (2 pounds)
  9. Button mushrooms (1 pound)
  10. Loaf of good country bread

Sound impossible? The ingredients can be easily combined, using oils, herbs and spices, to create the following five meals:

  1. Stir-Fried Chicken With Asparagus
  2. B.S.T. (Bacon, Spinach, Tomato) Sandwiches
  3. Grilled Chicken and Shrimp Kebabs With Vegetables
  4. Shrimp With Asparagus and Udon Noodles
  5. Pasta With Bacon, Spinach and Breadcrumbs

You can also see all the meals by checking out Mark’s Today Show appearance on the Bitten blog. And pasted below are the full recipes for each dish. And if you have a problem with bacon or any of the ingredients, feel free to substitute. (Mark notes that the amount of bacon used in these dishes is so small that he doesn’t fret about the fat content.)

Meal 1: Stir-Fried Chicken With Asparagus

Makes: 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes

Rice from the pantry for steaming or boiling
2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1/2 pound), cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch chunks or thin slices and blotted dry
1 onion, halved and sliced
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon grated or minced fresh ginger
1 pound asparagus, sliced into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Cook the rice while you prepare the chicken and vegetables.

2. Put a large, deep skillet over high heat. Add half the oil, swirl it around, and when it’s hot, add the chicken. Stir once, then let it sit for 1 minute to sear. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken has lost its pink color, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and lower the heat to medium-high.

3. Put the remaining oil in the pan (it should heat immediately) and add the onions, garlic and ginger. Cook for about 30 seconds, stirring, then add the asparagus. Raise the heat to high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the asparagus scorches a little in places and just starts to become tender, but not soft, about 2 minutes.

4. Turn the heat down to medium and return the chicken to the pan, and toss once or twice. Add the sugar if you’re using it, along with the soy sauce, and toss again. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and add 1/2 cup water. Raise the heat to high and cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan, until the liquid is reduced slightly and you’ve scraped up all the crisp bits of chicken and vegetables. Serve over the rice.

Meal 2: The B.S.T. (Bacon, Spinach and Tomato) Sandwich
Makes: 4 sandwiches
Time: 30 minutes

1/4 pound bacon (about 8 slices)
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
8 slices good quality rustic bread, toasted
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
1 to 2 cups spinach, washed and trimmed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Put the bacon in a skillet over medium heat and cook, turning frequently, until desired crispness, about 6 to 8 minutes.

2. Spread the mayonnaise on the bread and layer the bacon, tomatoes and spinach on top. Sprinkle the vegetables with salt and pepper and top with another piece of bread to serve.

Meal 3: Chicken and Shrimp Kebabs With Vegetables
Make: 4 servings
Time: About 30 minutes

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 lemons: one juiced; one cut in wedges
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh marjoram or oregano leaves or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 boneless chicken breasts cut into 1-inch chunks
1/2 pound shrimp, peeled
1 pound button mushrooms, trimmed but left whole
4 tomatoes, cored and quartered
2 onions, quartered

1. If you’re using wooden skewers (you’ll need at least eight), soak them in warm water while you prepare the ingredients. Heat a charcoal or gas grill or the broiler to moderate heat and put the rack about four inches from the heat source.

2. Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, herb and a sprinkle of salt and pepper in a small bowl; taste and adjust the seasoning. Marinate the chicken for a few minutes, an hour or even overnight. Thread the ingredients on skewers, alternating as you like.

3. Broil or grill, turning once or twice, until the chicken and shrimp are cooked through and the vegetables begin to soften, 5 to 8 minutes total (to check for doneness, cut into a piece with a thin-bladed knife; the center should be opaque or still slightly pink). Serve with the lemon wedges.

Meal 4: Shrimp With Asparagus and Udon Noodles
Makes: 4 servings
Time: 20 minutes

1 pound asparagus, trimmed and peeled
12 ounces udon noodles
2 to 3 tablespoons peanut or neutral oil, like corn, canola or grapeseed
1/2 pound peeled and chopped shrimp
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
Soy sauce, to taste
Sesame oil, to taste (optional)

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Cook the asparagus until the thick parts of the stalk can just be pierced with a knife, just a couple minutes. Remove with tongs and shock them in cold water to stop the cooking process. Cut into 2-inch lengths, and set aside.

2. In the same pot of water, cook the noodles until just tender but not at all mushy; drain, rinse and set aside.

3. Put the oil in a large skillet or wok, and turn the heat to medium-high. A minute later, add the garlic and cook until just fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring, until they turn pink, 3 or 4 minutes. Raise the heat to high, add the asparagus and noodles to the shrimp and toss a few times to blend. Drizzle with soy sauce and sesame oil if using, taste and the adjust seasonings and serve hot or at room temperature.

Meal 5: Pasta With Bacon, Spinach and Breadcrumbs
Makes: 4 to 6 servings
Time: 30 minutes

1/4 pound bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 or 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and slivered
1 cup of homemade breadcrumbs (from the leftover country loaf)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
Remaining spinach (about 3/4 pound), washed and trimmed
1 pound spaghetti or other pasta
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, or more as needed
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, optional

1. Put the bacon in a large skillet and cook over medium heat until it begins to brown and renders fat. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

2. Add the garlic to the bacon fat, and cook, stirring occasionally until just fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the breadcrumbs and red pepper flakes, if using, and continue cooking and stirring until the garlic is lightly crisp and the breadcrumbs are just golden. Remove the garlic and breadcrumbs from the pan and set aside.

3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Cook the spinach until it’s soft, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the spinach from the pan with a slotted spoon or small strainer, drain well, chop and set aside. Using the same pot of boiling water, cook the pasta.

4. While the pasta cooks, add the oil to the skillet and warm over medium-low heat. Add the drained spinach and toss well with the oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. When the spinach is warm add the bacon, garlic and breadcrumbs back to the pan and mix well.

5. When the pasta is done, drain it and add it to the skillet with the spinach, bacon, garlic and breadcrumbs; toss until well combined. If the mixture is dry, drizzle with a bit of olive oil; adjust the seasonings, and serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese if you like.

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