How to Prepare Fast Entrees




by Hugh Carpenter and Terri Sandison

Time-Saving Equipment and Techniques

Grating and Shredding Cheese: Grate hard cheeses, such as Parmesan, using a hand grater or grating wheel, or cut into small pieces and, with the motor running, drop down the feed tube of a food processor. Shred softer cheeses, such as mozzarella, using a hand grater or the shredding blade of a food processor.

Grating Citrus Zest: Use the citrus grater or microplane called the "Great Zester.”

Juicing Citrus: For extracting small amounts of juice quickly, both reamers and squeeze juicers work well.

Peeling and Mincing Garlic: Remove the skin by using a rubber garlic tube. Mince by forcing through a garlic press or processing in an electric mini-chopper. Best garlic press: Zyliss.

Mincing Ginger: Peel ginger only if the skin is wrinkled. Wash and dry. Cut the ginger crosswise in paper-thin slices. Stand the slices on edge in a Zyliss Garlic Press and then press the plunger down, or mince in an electric mini-chopper. Best mini-choppers: Krups and Cuisinart.

Mincing Green Onions: Double the onions back and forth, then mince. Or tear into small pieces and, with the motor running, drop down the feed tube of a food processor.

Mincing Herbs: Gather the herbs into a bunch under your fingers, cut thinly, then mince. Do not mince herbs in a mini-chopper or food processor because the blade will tear and blacken the leaves.

Grating Nutmeg: Freshly ground nutmeg has the best flavor. To grate nutmeg, use a grater made specifically for the purpose. The fine holes of a cheese grater can also be used.

Pitting Olives: Two superior olive pitters we’ve used are the Westmark and Pedrini models.

Grinding Spices: Always use an electric coffee grinder that is used only for this purpose.

Knives: For an all-purpose knife, we prefer the Global Vegetable Chopper (Model #GF-36). It’s perfect for mincing, chopping, and slicing all meat, seafood, and vegetables. This knife should never be used for cutting through bones, which will ruin the blade. Other good all-purpose knives are European chef’s knives and the lightweight Chinese cleaver made by Martin Yan. You should also have several paring knives on hand, as these are extremely useful. Less frequently used but indispensable are a boning knife and a serrated knife.

Diamond Steel Knife Sharpener: A diamond steel is the best sharpening tool for maintaining knives or putting a new edge on a dull one. Any cookware shop can show you how to use the steel properly. Our favorite is the DMT Sharpening Steel.

Meat Pounder: Meat pounders are used to flatten boneless chicken breasts and veal scaloppine. The pounder should be smooth on the side that comes into contact with the meat.

Instant-Read Meat Thermometer: Of the dozens of meat thermometers, battery-operated ones with long probes are the most accurate and practical. The best thermometers are made by Component Design (CDN) and Poleer.

Poultry Shears: Poultry shears make trimming raw poultry or portioning cooked poultry a snap! The best brand is Joyce Chen.

Roast Salmon with Thai Coconut Sauce

Brian Streeter, the chef at Cakebread Cellars, showed me this wonderfully simple way to cook salmon. Cut into serving-size portions and baked in a very low oven, all the interior moisture and the intensely beautiful color of the fish are retained.

Serves 4



·          2 tablespoons finely minced ginger

·          1 cup unsweetened coconut milk

·          2 tablespoons white wine

·          1 teaspoon cornstarch

·          2 teaspoons Asian chile sauce

·          1 teaspoon curry powder

·          1/2 teaspoon salt

·          1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro sprigs or basil

2 pounds fresh salmon fillet (not the tail section), skinned and pin bones removed

1 lime, cut into wedges

Advance Preparation: To prepare the sauce, in a small bowl, combine all the ingredients, reserving 2 tablespoons of the cilantro, and mix well. Cut the salmon into 8-ounce pieces. (All of the ingredients can be covered and refrigerated for up to 8 hours before using.)

Last-Minute Cooking: Preheat the oven to 300 F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the salmon on the prepared baking sheet, making sure that the pieces do not touch. Place in the oven and bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the fish just begins to flake with slight pressure from a fork. Stir the sauce to dissolve any cornstarch that may have settled to the bottom and pour into a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a fast boil for 30 seconds. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Transfer the salmon to warmed dinner plates and spoon the sauce over. Garnish with the reserved cilantro and serve at once, accompanied by the lime wedges.

Menu suggestions: Store-bought pecan wild rice mix; avocado and arugula salad.

Pasta with Olives, Pine Nuts, Lemon, and Chiles

Serves 4

·          1/2 cup pine nuts

·          4 cloves garlic, minced

·          3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

·          1 cup heavy cream

·          1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

·          1/2 teaspoon salt

·          1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

·          8 ounces dried farfalle, radiatore, or your favorite pasta

·          3/4 to 11/2 pounds cooked meat or seafood

·          1 cup pitted imported olives, chopped

·          1 cup freshly grated imported Parmesan cheese

Advance Preparation: Preheat the oven to 325 F. Spread the pine nuts on a small baking sheet and toast for about 8 minutes, until golden. In a small bowl, combine the garlic and olive oil. In a separate bowl, combine the cream, lemon juice, salt, and pepper flakes and mix well. (All the ingredients except the pine nuts can be covered and refrigerated for up to 8 hours before cooking. Store the pine nuts at room temperature.)

Last-Minute Cooking: In a pot, bring 5 quarts of water to a rapid boil over high heat. Lightly salt the water and add the pasta. Cook according to the package instructions for about 12 minutes, until tender. Drain the pasta in a colander over a bowl and reserve 1 cup of the cooking water. Return the empty pot to high heat. Add the oil mixture and the meat or seafood and cook for about 30 seconds, until the garlic sizzles. Add the olives and the cream mixture and bring to a boil. Return the pasta to the pot and stir to combine evenly. If the pasta appears dry, pour in a small amount of the reserved cooking water and stir until the pasta is lightly glazed with the sauce. Transfer to warmed dinner plates, sprinkle with cheese and pine nuts, and serve at once.

Menu suggestion: Chilled asparagus salad.


From Fast Entrées by Hugh Carpenter and Teri Sandison. Copyright © 2002 by Hugh Carpenter and Teri Sandison. Excerpted by arrangement with Ten Speed Press. $17.95. Available in local bookstores or call 800-841-2665 or click here.