My quest for fast, delicious, from-scratch weeknight meals continues. There’s the night I teach and I have to prep dinner at lunch, and there’s the afternoon soccer practices when we spend a lovely hour at the park, and a ballet night that doesn’t get us in until after 6 pm. So prep time is greatly reduced, and some nights, dinner needs to be on the table in 10 minutes or less, otherwise, bedtime is hopeless. I need food that gets to the table fast; I need food that keeps at room temperature, or that won’t be compromised by the refrigerator.
Here’s what I’ve learned: planning is vital.
Fish tacos work, all kinds of eggs work, so does a roast chicken (if you’re home to cook it early), and quiche. Then there are all the things that you can prep on the weekend and transform over the week. When you can get 2 different meals out of one thing, it’s also economical.
This weekend I brought home a few pounds of Roma tomatoes from the farmer’s market, spread them on a baking sheet, sprinkled with olive oil and salt and threw in a few sprigs of basil just because I had it AND two whole bulbs of garlic. I roasted the heck out of them in a 200 degree oven. After several hours they were totally deflated-looking. By then, it was 8 or 9 o’clock at night, and I didn’t want to deal with them anymore, so I stuck them in a covered dish and stuck it in the refrigerator.
A few days later, I remembered the tomatoes when I needed dinner. I dumped them in a pot, squeezing the roasted garlic out of its husks, added a little salt, about a 1/4 cup of white wine and after simmering for a few minutes to blend the flavors, I used an emulsion blender to smooth it out. You could easily blend everything in a blender and then heat it slowly after. Also, you can use any kind of fresh, flavorful tomato. Early girls are good if you can still get them.
The result was a creamy, garlicky, deeply flavorful sauce we ate over pasta. The kids loved it.
Two nights later, the same (leftover) penne, mixed with extra sauce and baked with a topping of fresh mozzarella and grana, made a faux, super-fast, what-the-hell-am-I-going-to-cook-tonight lasagna, which I think they liked even better.
We’re still at the very end of tomato season here, any maybe you are, too. If you can find good fresh tomatoes anymore, you can still roast the garlic and blend it into a can of good San Marzanos. But if you can still find some tomatoes, load up, slow roast, and freeze the tomatoes whole, right off the tray once they’ve cooled. Or make this sauce and keep it in ziplocks next to your frozen pesto. You’ll thank yourself on one of those cold dark nights that are just around the corner.