Yummy, easy, impressive meals

Pretend someone is coming over in three hours. You don’t have time to hunt down a recipe and go on an elaborate shopping trip, but you can make a quick run to the grocery store. It’s someone you want to impress (you’ve never cooked for them before). You don’t have the time or inclination to try something new and exotic, and you don’t want to be at it for hours (either cooking or cleaning) but you want to cook something yummy.

What do you cook, and how?

My two submissions:

  1. Fish dinner

Get a couple of filets of something fry-able (I like tilapia). Marinate it in olive oil, vodka or vermouth, salt/pepper, garlic, assorted herbs and spices. Bread it (I use this divine product that is bread crumbs mixed with grated romano and parmesan, and Italian herbs, made by President’s Choice, yum yum), with maybe some cornmeal mixed in for crunch. (The cornmeal makes it particularly impressive, I find.) Fry in butter and garlic.

Meanwhile, dice an onion, jalapeño pepper, sweet red pepper, tomato, and some garlic. Even better if you can puree it but it works fine if you don’t. Now that I look at it, I might add a splash of red wine if I had some lying around. Slowly cook it until it becomes nice and saucy. A blob of curry paste makes nice seasoning; otherwise I’ve had luck with (believe it or not) a mixture of barbecue sauce and mustard.

If I’ve got the space and inclination I also chop some collards, and sautee with garlic and bacon.

Serve fish over saffron rice, with red sauce on top.
2. Veggie dinner

Sautee onions/garlic/ginger/chiles. Add a can of chick peas, a can of coconut milk (maybe less … use your judgment), a diced tomato, any other veggies you’d like (cauliflower and sweet potato are my favourites), maybe a cup of water, and curry powder or paste (amchoor (dried, powdered green mango) if you can get it! it’s particularly impressive and quite divine. yum. and don’t forget the cardamom!) Cook on medium-low for a half hour or so until everything is nice and soft and appropriately saucy.

Find some paneer (Indian cottage cheese; usually in South Asian grocery stores which are very common here. I am very lucky. You can use pressed, cubed, fried tofu instead).

Make the red sauce as described in the fish dinner above. If you are indeed using paneer (as opposed to tofu) you can make the sauce blazingly hot (add more/hotter chilis) because the cheese balances it out perfectly.

Cube the paneer and fry it until it’s golden brown. You will need to do this in a very hot (one or two notches below “max,” depends on your stove - if the cubes turn into puddles, it’s too hot! but still good. experience talking.) non-stick pan, or else in a good amount of (very hot) ghee or butter or other oil. (You have to keep stirring so it doesn’t stick, but you also have to be quite gentle so you don’t smush it when it’s in it’s melty stage. Paneer is tricky at first but so very, very worth it.)

Toss paneer with garam masala (and, if you’re like me, salt).

Mix paneer with red sauce. (Note that the paneer is best served super-fresh out of the pan, so do it last.)

I’d probably cook up some kind of greens to go with it too.

Serve with warm naan and/or saffron rice. Yum.

Hmm. If they’re easily impressed, I might make a curry. Simple and yummy, and fun to dress up with all the accompaniments, like raita, poppadums, chutney…

If they’re a bit more fussy, I’d probably make gado gado, delicious Indonesian salad with peanut sauce. Cubes of cooked potato, a mixture of steamed and fresh veg, bean shoots, crispy fried shallots and lontong, squishy rice cakes. Delish!

And, of course, my signature chocolate souffles for dessert. Also good as a breakfast food. :slight_smile:

For something light:

Buy a good tomato soup (typically the kind in a box)–of course homemade is better but this works in a pinch.

Fresh bread (my favorite is hoagie-sized ‘Dutch Crunch’ rolls) split in half (openface) spread with garlic mayo and put thin slices of mozzeralla cheese on top (must full cover top or bread will burn). Put under broiler for ~3 min until cheese turns brown and bubbly.

Serve with diced mellon.

Hmmmm…I’ve got two of these, both Weight Watchers! Neither takes more than half an hour, which is important to me when I have guests, and both are mind-bogglingly delicious, healthy meals.
Grilled Chicken and Tri-Colored Peppers with Chimichurri Sauce.
My god, it this stuff amazing. link to recipe. The chimichurri sauce tastes like life.
If I have a cilantro hater coming over, it’s *
Grilled Chicken with Garlic Sauce**
Mix some paprika, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper in a bowl, sprinkle it on some boneless skinless breasts and pan sear in an ovenproof skillet for 2 minutes a side. Add 12 cloves garlic, halved, or 2 Tablespoons jarred minced garlic and 3/4 cup of chicken broth. Put in 425 oven for 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. If you’ve used cloves of garlic, smash them with a fork and stir into the sauce. Serve sauce over chicken.

Rosemary Garlic Roasted Vegetables**
Slice assorted vegetables (asparagus, carrots and red bell peppers are good OR white potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnip and carrot if it’s cold out - either way add one sliced red onion) and put them in a 9X 13 baking dish. Add 1 Tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1 tsp dry rosemary or 2 tsp fresh rosemary, and 1.5 tsp jarred minced garlic. Mix and roast in a 425 oven (same temp as the chicken!), stirring every 10 minutes, until some of the vegetables have brown spots and your house smells awesome. Usually takes about 30 minutes.

and, with either of the above entrees,

Simple Couscous
Make couscous according to package directions but with chicken broth. Add some pine nuts and parsley to the boiling broth. (10 minutes, including time to bring the broth to a boil.)

I have to ask about the vodka/vermouth here. I’m having a hard time imagining what it does for the taste or texture. Is this a common technique?

My answer would be sauteed chicken with a sauce of butter/lemon/capers + a true potato gratin (Jeffrey Steingarten recipe). Fresh vegetables. Good wine.

Admit it, this is another Bacon Salt thread. :wink:

I, too, would go with a curry (a la araminty), but I’d go Thai rather than Indian (personal preference). Coconut milk, Thai curry paste, meat of choice, veggies of choice, simmered until done and served over jasmine rice. Bagged greens (the kind that brought us the E. Coli scare…but what are the odds on that happening twice?) with an asian vinegarette (rice wine, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, minced garlic and ginger).

Another approach: Salmon filets with a side of asparagus spears (my dinner last night…DELICIOUS and only six minutes to prepare). Fry them both in a bit of olive oil in a grill pan with a lid to aid steaming, and dress them both with melted butter and Bacon Salt (see…I knew it!).

Now I’m hungry.

I meant “rice vinegar”, not “rice wine.”

Stuffed porkchops
Green beans with bacon and onion

Porkchops - buy double cut chops, cut a slit through the meat up to the bone. For the dressing, combine torn bread, poultry seasoning, sauteed onions, an egg and melted butter, salt and pepper- stuff it in the pocket you made in the porkchops. Bake at 350 till done.

The beans are pretty self explanatory. Cook bacon and onions, when beans are done dump this on top and stir, then throw in a splash of balsamic and it’s done.

Add a loaf of french bread and I’m good to go.

Curry was take, so I’ll go with turkey kebabs.

There is a turkey farm nearby that sells marinated cubes of turkey meat. Skewer them, alternating green pepper, onion, pineapple, whatever else is laying around. Through them on the grill and make a pasta salad to go with it.

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie from one of the Moosewood Inn Cookbooks. Basically, all you need are: mushrooms, potatoes, soy sauce and cornstarch.

I just made this one last night for lunch today, just finished eating it, my co-workers wanted to know what gourmet resturant I bought it at, when I told them I made it, they were astounded, and impressed when I let them try some

one nice, thick steak (i don’t remember the exact type but it was one cut below Filet Mignon), 1" thick, cooked to Medium Rare in a cast-iron skillet

a veggie mix of onions, orange pepper, broccoli and a mushroom mix (Shitake, Portabello, and Snow) splashed with a little seasoned Wok oil

Cook steak to medium rare in the skillet, then cover and let rest, toss in the veggies, and let them sop up the steak drippings, add in wok oil to taste, and let the onions carmelize

slice the steak into strips, and toss with the veggies together in a microwave-safe container, refrigerate

bring to work the next day, nuke for 45 seconds and enjoy

Great thread!

And, uh, my contributions:

Chicken with spinach sauce and pasta:
Chicken breast or filet; put into relatively flat pan that also looks nice as serving dish and that will go into the oven. Enough per person as needed. Fry a little bacon (2 ounces, circa, per person) till it’s relatively crisp. Add chopped spinach (3-4 ounces per person) and enough cream and/or milk to create a thick sauce/thin stew. Pour over chicken. Bake at around 200 C until chicken is done - 25 min. I guess (?) Serve with pasta - preferably the fresh, spaghetti-like kind. Dunno what they call it, but fettucillini or something - or else just ordinary spaghetti.


Fresh salmon filet, generously dusted with freshly ground pepper. Fried. Served with potato wedges (made from scratch is best) or fried potato cubes. Served with a sauce made from red bell-peppers and a little onion, boiled till tender, pour out boiling water and puree with blender. Add a little water if needed and season with salt and pepper. If any vegetable is needed, steamed (in the microwave) broccoli would go well with this.


Fried salmon filet. Sauteed squash. Lemon spaghetti (or ‘fettucilini’): A bit of fresh grated lemon zest, a bit of lemon juice, a somewhat larger bit of olive oil - all mixed - and mix with freshly cooked pasta. Perhaps some green salad and Italian bread to add that little extra.

If I could get over my reluctance to use powder-made custard, I’d use that and serve creme brulee for dessert. But there’s always apple-crumble, or…

Danish buttermilk ‘soup’ - or, directly translated: “Cold-bowl”. Usually only served during the summer - people would think I was really weird if I served this in winter.
One egg, 1/3 cup of sugar. Whip till frothy. Add one quart of buttermilk and some vanilla. Can’t say exactly how much vanilla, but, say, as an example, almost one spoonfull of vanilla extract - and not more - ot two teaspoons of vanilla sugar. Something like that. Here, it’s traditionally served with very plain, tiny, hard-baked wheat bisquits, but fresh strawberries or other fresh, sweet berries/cubed fruit would be very nice, too. Go for sweet and soft like. Also, it’s nice to add a little plain yoghurt (but think of the sourness factor - maybe add more sugar) or some plain spoon-fulls of vanilla ice-cream (particularly nice IMO). Served as a soup and eaten with spoons. Fruit/bisquits is served on the side and put into the soup. It’s very quick and easy dessert - and I suggested it because it might be novel to many of you - and your guests. Would give you points for origininality at least, while still being very easy :wink: